How to Turn Your Car into the Ultimate Prepper Vehicle

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Editors Note: Another guest contribution from Megan Ray Nichols to The Prepper Journal. If you have information for Preppers that you would like to share then enter into the Prepper Writing Contest with a chance to win one of three Amazon Gift Cards with the top prize being a $300 card to purchase your own prepping supplies!

In many survival situations, your vehicle may be one of your most valuable tools — if you’ve prepared it to be. In scenarios in which driving is possible and advisable, your car may be able to help you get to your bug-out location quickly and safely, again, depending on the general panic, the Golden Horde, road conditions and capacity. We have looked at the Golden Horde in the past so for this post we will concern ourselves with the vehicle preps.

You might have the ability to purchase a vehicle with the intention of making it your bug-out vehicle. You might also have to work with the vehicle you have, whether it’s a car, SUV, truck or cargo van. No matter what your situation is, here’s how to turn your ride into the ultimate prepper vehicle.

Qualities of a Bug-Out Vehicle

You need different things out of a vehicle in a survival scenario than you do in everyday life. If you’re buying something new or used, look for the following characteristics. If you’re modifying something you already have, make improving or compensating for these qualities your goal. The ideal prepper vehicle is:

  • Fuel-efficient — You want to be able to drive as far as you can on as little fuel as possible. You don’t want anything to force you to stop driving, and fuel may be hard to find
  • Rugged — You want a vehicle you can drive over a variety of terrains. Four-wheel drive is essential
  • Spacious — You have to balance this with fuel efficiency, but you need to make sure you have room for all the people and supplies you’ll have with you. Creative organization can help you fit more stuff in smaller spaces
  • Reliable — A vehicle that breaks down frequently will slow you down and waste precious time and resources
  • Easy to fix and maintain — Some cars are easier to repair, while others require more work. It’s easy to find replacement parts for some cars, while others require rarer, more specialized parts. Choose the former
  • Inconspicuous — In some survival scenarios, it’s best to have a vehicle that blends in relatively well. You don’t always want to advertise to everyone that you have resources they might want to steal
  • Affordable — Ideally, you want a vehicle that has the features you need, but won’t cost you a fortune to buy, fix and maintain.

You might also want a vehicle with fewer or simpler electronics. The electronics in many modern cars might not survive an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) event. An EMP attack could render a vehicle that relies on complicated electronics useless. Older vehicles, as well as modern ones that have simpler or EMP-hardened electronics, may be a better choice for this reason.

You should also consider whether you want a gas or diesel vehicle. While gas may be easier to find over the short term, you can make DIY biodiesel, so you could potentially run a diesel vehicle indefinitely.

Types of Vehicles

Some vehicles are naturally better suited to survival situations than others, but with some work, you can make anything into a decent bug-out vehicle. Here are the benefits and downside of some common types of vehicles and tips on how to transform each into the perfect prepper ride.

A Car

Your typical small to medium car isn’t the ultimate bug-out vehicle. With the right preparation, though, many can do what you need them to do. Plus, the supplies and equipment you bring and your skills behind the wheel make a huge difference.

Because of the small size of most cars, you can’t bring a lot of supplies, so you have to prioritize. You can also add some extra space with a cargo carrier that you attach to the roof of your automobile.

Although you give up cargo space, you gain the advantage of fuel efficiency. Most don’t do great off-road either, but you can find relatively compact all-wheel-drive vehicles.

An SUV

Many sport utility vehicles, or SUVs, make excellent bug-out vehicles because they drive well off-road, have lots of cargo space and are inconspicuous. They’re typically four-wheel drive and relatively fuel-efficient for their size.

The Jeep Wrangler makes an excellent prepper vehicle if you’re getting out of Dodge on your own or in a small group. They have less storage than other vehicles in this category but have the benefit of being extremely rugged. You can hitch a trailer to the back, but that makes it harder to cover rough terrain. If you’re traveling in a larger group or with more supplies, you may want to choose a larger SUV like the Ford Expedition, Chevy Tahoe, or a Toyota Land Cruiser.

A Truck

Trucks are similar to SUVs as far as bugging out goes, but they tend to emphasize ruggedness and hauling power more than cab space. While you can find some trucks with a lot of seats, this isn’t the focus for most models. They do, however, have tons of space for cargo. You can also easily add roof racks or haul trailers. If you want a tough vehicle with lots of room for cargo but aren’t traveling with a large group, a truck may be an ideal choice.

A Cargo Van

If you want the maximum amount of space for people and supplies while remaining relatively mobile, a cargo van may be your best option. While they’re typically not quite as rugged and can’t drive on rough terrain as well as SUVs and trucks, you get an incredible amount of space. With a cargo van, you can use van shelving to keep your supplies organized and maximize your storage space. If you take out some seats, there’s also plenty of room to lie down and sleep in a van comfortably or set up temporary living quarters.

The Right Supplies

Of course, having a vehicle won’t do you much good if you don’t have the supplies you need to survive. You should bring your bug-out bag — complete with food, water, tools and medical supplies — with you. It will be crucial if you have to abandon your vehicle for any reason.

You’ll also want to keep some supplies in your car so you’re ready to go anytime. No matter what type of vehicle you’re using, you should have some basic equipment for fixing and operating it, including a portable jump-starter, tire sealant to fix flats, a seat belt cutter and a windshield hammer. You may also want some spare fuel and a tow rope.

It would also be wise to keep some water and food, a sleeping bag, a first-aid kit, a flashlight, a pocket knife and other basic tools, a CB radio and other emergency supplies in your vehicle at all times. If you have a smaller car, you’ll have to prioritize space. With a larger vehicle, you can fit more.

No matter what type of ride you have, you can transform it into a bug-out vehicle that’ll serve you well in all sorts of emergency scenarios. Just consider the qualities of your vehicle, enhance them and compensate for them as best you can and adjust your plan according to the resources you have available to you. And remember, while the equipment you have is valuable, your knowledge, skills and attitude are even more crucial.

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Amy May
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Amy May

Good article, thanks. Your everyday vehicle is your best bug out vehicle, and it should not put a “prepper” target on you back. For most people in cities and suburbs, a 50/50 window van works as an everyday 5-seater car while having a large secure cargo area in the back. The 4×4 versions do not scream “off-road”, in fact this vehicle will not look odd in the parking lot of most office buildings or taking the kids/grandkids to sports practice.

mr.e man
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mr.e man

Your comms may die in a EMP or be stolen if not protected. I have a all in hand CB and the hand unit is stored in a EMP proof metal box when not in use. There are also 2 portable CBs , a 1000 channel scanner and 2 hand held ham radio units and chargers in the box. If some one has to scout the area they can communicate with the base vehicle. I have also been considering a small drone .

Ted Gordon
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Your tips are noted. Thanks for this valuable post.

gdebolt
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gdebolt

My bug out vehicle is a boat.

ed sylvester
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ed sylvester

Another good idea for newer vehicles would be to keep extra electronics, computer “brain” for the vehicle in a faraday cage/box to protect them from EMP damage and to just have spares.