Best Bug Out Vehicle Checklist

best bug out vehicle checklist

If you are one of the millions of people who own a vehicle you should seriously consider integrating it into your bug out plan.

However, this can be more complicated than simply throwing your bug out bag in your car and hitting the gas.

  • How can the particular advantages of a vehicle evacuation be maximized?
  • How can we eliminate any negatives?
  • What is the best bug out vehicle checklist to maintain?
  • What is the best bug out vehicle for YOUR survival situation?

We will walk through each of these points and demonstrate how to effectively incorporate a bug out vehicle into your bug out plan.

Bug Out Vehicle Advantages

1.  Greater travel radius

A vehicle will allow you to travel further faster.  This should be explored as part of bug out planning.  Is there a better location further away?  Just because you can travel further doesn’t mean you have to.  Take the best bug out location option, not the furthest.  If you can defend a closer location better or cache more supplies there, consider these factors.

2.  Carry more supplies

A vehicle can carry more supplies and survival tools than a person can lug.  This is great as a properly planned bug out vehicle checklist can make your ride a mobile bug out location.  However, it is important to avoid the temptation of packing EVERYTHING.  The goal is to find a balance.  Bring survival gear that will extend your independence and raise your odds of survival, not everything imaginable.  As always, focus on multi-use items.  Additionally, you should not consider even the best bug out vehicle to be a mobile bug out bag.  You should always have a full bug out bag packed and at hand in the vehicle in the event that you have to ditch it quickly.

3.  Additional shelter

Your vehicle can shelter you from rain and wind even if you are out of gas.  If it is running it can also provide heat or cooling as needed.  This makes it a powerful ally.  If a storm is hitting you can simply take cover in your vehicle rather than having to set up a survival shelter.  It can also be slept in with no additional modifications.  If you are in a pinch you can even cook on the hot engine with proper preparation (how to video below).  This will greatly raise morale and increase your odds of surviving.


Bug Out Vehicle Disadvantages

1.  Can create dependence

Planning to have the best bug out vehicle for your survival situation is fantastic but you should not consider it as an answer to all potential problems.  You still need to plan your bug out assuming that you are going to have to ditch your car, and all the niceties it brings at some point.  You may run out of gas or run into an impassable road.  Either way if you planned on driving the entire way to your bug out location you are going to need to improvise.  Even with the best bug out vehicle you will need to hone those survival skills and plan on hiking to your destination in order to guard against uncertainty.

2.  Not as versatile as traveling on foot

Foot travel is more energy intensive than driving but it is also more versatile.  Imagine you have your bug out vehicle checklist planned and packed and when SHTF you go on your merry way to find that everyone else has the same plan.  You are now faced with miles and miles of traffic.  Is this still the fastest way to bug out?  What if rubble and debris cuts off a vital road?  When planning your bug out route consider if going on foot is a more direct means of travel as you can cut through terrain rather than having to stick to a road or trail.

3.  Additional complications

Traveling by vehicle provides serious advantages as we mentioned above.  However even the best bug out vehicle also adds additional complications and costs in volume, weight, and money into your bug out plan.  Consider this addition as a whole when assessing what is the best bug out vehicle for your survival situation.

Best bug out vehicle

The Best Bug Out Vehicle

The ideal bug out vehicle would have the following qualities to maximize the advantages of a vehicular bug out while minimizing the challenges present:


A no-brainer when picking a bug out vehicle.  This will vastly increase your options when bugging out.  A non-4WD car will quickly break down if forced to drive off road.  Having a 4WD bug out vehicle will enable you to pass over far more terrain and reach safety faster.

Modular interior

Unless you are planning on bugging out in an RV you will want to modify the interior of the vehicle to be more suitable for survival.  This may mean taking out seating to allow more storage or making it convertible for sleeping in.  It is important to note that although you will want to customize the interior of the vehicle you want to do as little tinkering with the engine and drivetrain as possible.  Customization in these areas make repairs and sourcing replacement parts far more difficult.  Reliability is key with a bug out vehicle, having stock parts that you may be able to scavenge is an essential element of this.

Diesel engine

A diesel engine has many advantages over a gas model.  They are generally more fuel efficient for one.  Additionally, they allow far greater fuel flexibility, being able to run on home heating oil, kerosene, and some jet fuels.  This significantly increases scavenge potential while on the road.  Diesel fuel also has a far greater storage lifetime than gasoline.  With the addition of commercially available fuel stabilizers diesel fuel will last more than 10x longer than gasoline.

Good gas mileage

Having a gas guzzler for your bug out vehicle is a good way to shoot yourself in the foot.  Gas will surely be in short supply and you may not even have the time or opportunity to scavenge additional supplies while on the move.  Look for a vehicle that is rated for at least 23-27 MPG to ensure gas efficiency will not be a problem while making your evacuation.  Higher MPG would be better but may be hard to find for a vehicle that has good storage capacity.  Check out this site for a list of all car models with mpg ratings.

Easy to repair

Reliability is key with when trying to find the best bug out vehicle.  Having stock parts that you may be able to scavenge is an essential element of this.  Choosing a vehicle that is widely used and has commonly available parts is ideal.

Trailer hitch

This opens up options for including a bug out trailer as a part of your bug out plan.  A trailer allows more cargo space overall without sacrificing passenger seats, which is great if you have a family travelling with you.  Additionally, a trailer can be ditched once the supplies within have been used up to improve gas mileage.

Brush guard

This should be partnered with any vehicle you intend to take off-road.  It will save your front end and radiator from damage and also improves your ability to ram trees in the way or doors that need opening.

Manual transmission preferred

This isn’t required but it sure helps.  Manual transmissions increase reliability, improve gas mileage and are easier to fix and replace than an automatic transmission.  They also allow you to push start a car if an ignition is burned out or you lose your keys.

Bug out vehicle checklist

So what additional items would you want on your bug out vehicle checklist to increase your odds of success?  Note that this is in addition to your bug out bag, which you will be bringing as well!!!  Here is a list of items that will maximize the advantages present in a vehicular bug out situation:

  • Extra fuel containers

  • Siphon Pump

  • Tow Straps

  • Seatbelt Cutter/Window Breaker (see our comprehensive guide on these by clicking HERE) 

  • CB radio

  • Tire chains

  • Jumper Starter



  • Can of Fix-A-Flat

  • Basic tool kit – Pliers, wrench, screwdrivers, duct tape, stanley knife, cable ties

  • Power inverter – To charge any electronics you may have on the go

  • Winch

  • Extra oil

  • Spare keys

  • Spare tire – not a doughnut!

What else can I do to make my bug out vehicle great?

  • Beyond stocking up your bug out vehicle checklist be sure to service it regularly.  There is no point in having the best bug out vehicle in the world if it is unreliable or won’t run when you need it!

  • Make sure you have a reliable Jump Starter!  This is easy and can save your life!  This is the one I strongly recommend.
  • Practice driving your intended bug out route to see if your car is up to the task.  This will also help you identify any difficulties along the way and point out any modifications you may need to make to either the car or your bug out plan.

  • If you choose to use a manual transmission vehicle make sure all the adults in your bug out party know how to drive it.  As with any aspect of your bug out plan, redundancy is key.

  • Add vehicle inspection and testing to your regular bug out plan reviews to make sure your bug out vehicle still fits into your strategy.


As you can see, there are a lot of options for finding the best bug out vehicle for your survival situation.  Understanding them and what works best is an important step towards adding a car or truck to your bug out plan.  Adding a bug out vehicle checklist to your bug out bag essentials will additionally help you maximize the advantages of bugging out in a vehicle.

It is important however to not depend on any one thing in your bug out plan for your survival, including a car or other means of transport.  Keep flexible and be ready to continue your bug out on foot if need be.  Please also check out our printable Bug Out Vehicle Checklist Graphic below which you can download and print to have with you when you are preparing your bug out vehicle:

Best Bug Out Vehicle Checklist

Your Thoughts?

Do you have any items you would add to this bug out vehicle checklist?  What do you think would make the best bug out vehicle?  Please let us know in the Comments Section below.  If you thought this post was helpful please Like, +1, or Tweet it using the social media buttons at the top of the page, thanks!


Chris Ruiz

My name is Chris and I created this site to help ordinary people prepare for the uncertainties of the modern day world. I believe that a well-prepared society is the best safeguard against any natural or manmade disaster.

20 comments on “Best Bug Out Vehicle Checklist

  1. I like the way you created a checklist for people, ive been reading a lot of the top posts on bug out vehicles and I think your post sums up the vehicle side perfectly. I would like to add that bicycles and motorcycles can have a HUGE advantage in that they can maneuver through traffic locked roads. Granted you may want to have your 9mm handy, but at least you will be able to get out of the city. We all know that cities are going to be hell on earth during SHTF.

    Thanks a lot for your contribution to the community.

  2. Good list of ideas. I built two and I am selling my gas model.
    1987 Chevy 4×4 with a 454 out of a fire truck, Hi Torque Cam, Headers, Carbed but can also install fuel injection. I have a new kit.
    Custom built 4 spd auto, with shift kit, Kevlar bands, pan holds extra gallon of tranny fluid, and Hvy duty Torque convertor.
    4 core Hvy Duty radiator, Hi CFM elect. fan. brakes, bearings and seals.
    4:10 factory gears, geared lockers front and back. 16×32 10 ply tires. M/S
    4 inch lift kit, track bar in read, Hvy duty torsion bars front and rear, tow package
    About 7000 miles on rebuild, have receipts,
    Best Regards,
    North Idaho

  3. Thank you, it is. I use to build off road rescue vehicles and raced off road for about 9 years. Body could not take the beating anymore, so I became the event medic.
    Best Regards, Rick

    1. Hey Lynn,
      Why would they come after preppers versus any other group? Seems like an even better reason to prepare…

    2. Lynn,
      I have had the government coming after me for decades. They have not got me yet. Do not fear them. God is our only way out of this mess.
      I raised up one of the largest Militias East on the Mississippi, did it right, even had great front page news paper stories in the 90’s.I am also a founding member of Oath Keepers.
      Great story on the net- Priest River ID, Vet John Arnold, and how Oath Keepers, State Reps, Sheriff and 100’s came to his aid.
      VA was coming to disarm him. The VA did not expect this to happen.

      I was told in 2013 by a friend from church that while he was in a meeting at Fort Bragg North Carolina, he heard my name. Not knowing why I would be there, he turned and saw an aerial photo of my farm on the wall.
      My friend told me that I was to be removed. Long story short, we found explosives hidden in my wood shed and the On Star on my Hummer had been activated so I was being tracked.
      Our Patriot Sheriff got involved and verified that this man was at Bragg the times he said he was, so I took his story as truth.

      What that means; I have been targeted and I am still here. Don’t be afraid, Be Prepared – Be Prayerful – Be Thankful – You are an American.

  4. We acknowledge this is a ‘scenario”. Yet from a realistic standpoint. next time you are on an Interstate, think about what would happen if ONLY the electricity goes out.
    How many cars around you would stop in a matter of minutes due to fuel starvation?
    How many would stop on the road?
    Even with 4WD how many would you get by?
    If you were in the city, how many?
    Would your vehicle continue to run if an actual EMP hit?
    Yet how many of you are placing your survival on a vehicle?
    Don’t be fooled by sites who are trying to sell you a “bill of goods”.

    1. Hi Cheryl,
      Thanks for taking the time to help others by adding to the discussion. I agree that just planning to bug out in your car is a recipe for disaster. Even if none of the problems you mention crop up you will still eventually run out of gas. Because of this it is essential to have your BOBs with you, or your car BOB packed and make abandoning your car and continuing on foot a part of your plan.

      Good luck prepping.


  5. Thanks for taking the time to put this all together.

    One’s garage can be turned into a Faraday Cage to protect the vehicle(s) and other electronics which one can also get a Faraday Bag for each or multiple items. If one is out for a “Sunday Drive” and an EMP hits, one is going to hope they are close enough to home to get there, or smart enough to have brought their GHB or BOBs. I was in a small mid-western town when I kept passing this couple when I was on my way to work (usually never in the same direction). This couple were always walking a certain path (no sidewalks) and she was wearing high heels! Everyone NEED comfortable walking shoes for – WALKING! Keep a pair in the car. Matter of fact, keep a change of comfortable clothing for the season and maybe a light jacket & umbrella in case of a change in the weather! Keep drinking water in your vehicle! A fire extinguisher, – wait! That is just what the author went over! I can not tell you how many people I have run into who were ill-prepared to go from road to sidewalk for that season or conditions that was in progress!

  6. Good thoughts. Good article. I would add flexible 50 watt solar panel and bought/built power bank. Lithium powered tools can be a great asset (the chainsaw comment) . But a good axe is probably a more viable solution for a journey. (Less to break down, Murphy O’Meyer always around). I would add a plug kit for tires and on board compressor. The EMP comment is a conundrum. If you can drive a pre 80’s vehicle, you don’t really need to worry about it. No fine circuits. Otherwise, it’s never going to happen when you car is safely parked in your Faraday garage. I do like the comment about taking a bicycle.

  7. In regards to the best bug out vehicle, I think it has to fit the situation. If there is no fuel or very little then small engines on mopeds or bicycles will rule and if there is no fuel or very little and costly, then regular bicycles will be the best transportation.
    For some people a canoe, kayak or small boat may be the best choice. Small vehicles are good as backups for large, heavy fuel consuming vehicles.
    On the subject of cars, I feel too many overlook their usefulness. Most people will bug out in their cars and not be going off road. I think interior mods and maybe a few mechanical ones can make a car better serve it’s purpose and they can drive over dirt roads, gravel and grass if the ground is not extremely soft or bumpy. Consider the old Volkswagens. None of them had 4wd, but they could tackle crappy roads. Having a 4wd truck is not a guarantee one can cross every stretch of land or backwoods unless it can hover of fly.

  8. One thing to plan for is if you are using a vehicle for bugout or evacuation, understand how loading your vehicle impacts your gas mileage… you need to know what your worst case gas mileage will be compared to the length of the trip… In addition you want to plan alternate routes around bottlenecks or obvious areas of congestion… Whether SHTF or just a natural disaster… 170 miles can turn into 350 miles pretty quick.

  9. What I really want to see is a Bug-Out-Vehicle with bikes that have kit on them that are carried by the vehicle and with personal Bug-Out-Bags in your vehicles as well. So if something happens and you have to abandon your vehicle (ie. stuck in river) you still have bikes; if something happens to your bikes (ie. stolen) you still have your backpack; and you have a waterproof bum bag on with your most essential items that you sleep in and never take off so you are still good even if you BOB is stolen/lost/confiscated. That would be tertiary insurance in case you have the worst of luck. Please could someone make a post about what to take for a Bug Out Bike, as they seem to be the most reliable, and have the best versatility versus speed ratio, as you can lift them over obstacles or haul them up mountains using a pulley system. I am not sure what to pack for a bike though.

    1. A Rokon bike2 wheeled can go over almost any terrain and floats on water

      I would love to see a high speed capacity design but recommend it

      There is a Russian manufacturer making a knockoff version for about 1/3 of the price yet I have found it difficult to get one in the us

      A well planned and savvy build set of saddle bags would offer the best options for hauling all your gear

      Two of them can fit in the back of a short bed pickup and a special camper shell could be designed to optimize the 4 wheel bug out to ditch it 2 wheel to backpack and finally fanny pack essentials

      I think that a super packed Med kit should be included in each stage of a multi vehicle bug out plan

      Also extra food water arms ammo power sources small cash and convertible intrinsically valuable items ie gold coin silver dollars master herb kit and things to trade or give to others for bartering and friendship development

      Being able to help another while bugging out might just be something many people miss

      Charity never faileth

      God Bless

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