When the topic of Bug out vehicles is brought up, the most common denominator is large trucks or 4×4 off road vehicles. Its as if bugging out means mandatory travels through uncharted trails in the rain forest of Ecuador or fording the nearest river.
I happen to see things a bit different in this regard. When it comes to “Bug Out” vehicles, reality tends to be far less exciting and we learn that instead of going Indiana Jones in the nearest national park you’re more likely to be driving on a paved road stuck in traffic for hours as everyone tries to bug out at the same time. In this case, a reliable car with good gas millage makes more sense than a 30 year old EMP proof car.
I also like to make the distinction between Bug Out Vehicle (BOV) and SHTF vehicle (SHTFV). While a BOV is for getting you from your current location to a separate other destination during a crisis or emergency, the SHTFV is a car you use both for bugging out if required but also on more mundane, ordinary tasks. It’s the car you use during long term SHTF events were everyday life goes on, but there are more challenges and demands on regular basis.
Ideal SHTF Vehicle
For daily use or for evacuating, I’m a firm believer of what you have with you may be all you have during an emergency. That’s why your SHTFV should be a viable BOV if needed, besides an everyday driver. Its like a handgun in terms of defense: Its far from ideal, but the ability of being there when needed makes it of great importance. You may have 5 minutes to evacuate, or 5 seconds. You may leave for work and when you go back home there’s nothing there left for you and your family, not even the BOV you had fully stocked ready to go, and you’re stuck with your Prius because that’s what you used everyday so as to save on gas while the BOV 4×4 truck sits waiting until zombies attack. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, you wont get emails or text messages notifying you of SHTF events or other disasters. It just happens, and when it does what you have with you may be all you have to work with.
My priorities for a SHTFV would be the following:
1) Affordable: If I cant even buy it, then everything else matters little. The price of spare parts and repairs should also be within your financial means. This is the Achilles heel of most MOD/military vehicles.
2) Toughness: By this I don’t mean military style or hard use off road, but tougher than the ordinary sedan vehicle. Most light SUVs would fill this role well. The SHTV may be pushed into service for moving around gear, furniture, supplies, etc. More capacity than a basic car would be nice. Besides, during disasters and even due to economic factors, roads may be in far from adequate shape. This I’ve seen it myself very clearly. Well paved roads require more care and maintenance than most people realize. After a year of neglect roads are noticeably worse. After a decade of neglect you really need a truck or SUV unless you want to constantly replace tires, rims and suspension. Yet another point is security. Here I’m talking both about car accidents or having to push your way out of carjack attempts, who may cash against you on purpose so as to force you to stop your vehicle. A more solid vehicle is advice in either case.
3) Reliable: You’d be surprised to see how many fancy SUVs and trucks have a poor track record in terms of reliability. Inform yourself before making any purchase. Japanese cars are among the most reliable. Think Toyota, Nissan, Honda, and Mitsubishi. Reads plenty of reviews and talk with your mechanic
4) Commonality: This will mean easier to find spare parts and more mechanics that know how to fix your vehicle, or more literature available to learn to do it yourself. A vehicle that is more of an oddity will present greater challenges. If imports ever stop or become too expensive for your pocket, you may have to rely exclusively on the second hand and used spare parts market. The more popular the model, the most likely you are to find what you need.
5)Gas millage: The chosen vehicle must have good gas millage for two reasons. First, a car with poor MPG will rarely be used, this means its less likely to be in use when needed. Ideally, this vehicle would be your daily driver, used for commuting, taking the kids to school, etc. Second, if you ever have to evacuate and use it as a BOV, it will be able to cover more distance with whatever amount of fuel you have left or are able to come up with. An extra 5MPG efficiency may be the difference between getting to your evacuation location with your supplies or hardly getting close to it at all.
6) Ground clearance and AWD capability: I’ve been caught by roadblocks, protests or other forms of disturbance or civil unrest more times than I care to remember. People in first world countries just don’t have that sort of experience. It was years of dealing with that, sometimes three or four days a week. What I learned was that a)I want a vehicle that can go up the curb, over the sidewalk, bulevard or off road so as to escape trouble b)I want AWD so as to not get stuck while doing so.
7) Big enough but not too big: While the vehicle has to be big enough so as to carry people and gear, as well as have the mass so as to push an average sedan to some extent if needed, the vehicle shouldn’t be so big that its difficult to maneuver and squeeze through places so as to escape and avoid trouble. Everything you need and nothing you don´t.
For me, this boiled down to the Honda CR-V. It´s boring reliable if taken care of and fills nicely most of what I had in mind.