car escape tool

Get Out Fast With The Best Car Escape Tool

car escape tool

Many preppers have a well-stocked vehicle, including a get-home bag, in case of emergencies, but in some situations, your vehicle can become the emergency situation from which you need to survive.

The thought of your car itself becoming a threat to your life is a scary one, but should it happen, you need to know what to do – and fast.

The very unexpected nature of car accidents can put you in a situation where there is an immediate danger of fire/explosion, entrapment, or even submergence (in the case of an accident in or near water) – you need to have the right car escape tool on you and know the proper way to use it.

Here at The Bug Out Bag Guide, we always have an eye out for preparedness and were inspired to write this article after a friend of ours told us how she always carries a seatbelt cutter in her EDC, right on her keychain. Her reasoning for this was that she wanted it accessible and on-hand at all times.

car escape tool

Her daily commute takes her over several bodies of water and, as part of her daily threat assessment, she identified a car accident involving water as a likely threat she needed to be prepared for. In case she ever needs to quickly free herself, reaching the ignition is a much surer bet than reaching something in the glove box; therefore, she keeps the perfect tool she’ll need in case of submersion right at her fingertips.

In case she ever needs to quickly free herself, reaching the ignition is a much surer bet than reaching something in the glove box; therefore, she keeps the perfect tool she’ll need in case of submersion right at her fingertips.

After hearing her story, it got us thinking: Knowing what to do in case of a car accident and having the right tools on hand is a preparedness measure most people need to take – there must be some great tips and tools out there we can share with our readers. So we went out, did the research, and came up with some great tips,

So we went out, did the research, and came up with some great tips, tricks, and recommendations that we’re very excited to share with you.

Assessing Vehicular Threats

When assessing what threats you are most likely to encounter while in your vehicle, it’s important to consider three distinct areas:

  1. Your usual commute
  2. Seasonal weather conditions
  3. Unpredictable situations

car escape tool

Assessing Your Commute

Much like our friend who inspired this article, you need to thoroughly consider all the possible threats you could encounter on your commute, such as flooding, steep cliffs, bridges, runaway truck zones, fallen rock zones, or stretches of wilderness or desolation. Taking a close look at a topographical map of the area you drive on a regular basis is a great way to get an idea of the possible emergency situations you may find yourself in.

Water can be a major threat and you should always be aware of waterways and areas that may become flooded during or following intense rainfall. Another thing to be aware of is that low bridges over small rivers and creeks are typically not designed to withstand substantial flooding, and if such bridges are on your commute, it is always prudent to map out alternate emergency routes.

If your commute includes large bridges, these pose less of a concern for flooding, but do anticipate bottleneck traffic in times of emergency. Hopefully, any accidents on a larger bridge will be contained to the bridge itself due to safety rails, but it is always wise to be prepared for water-related accidents.

Hopefully, any accidents on a larger bridge will be contained to the bridge itself due to safety rails, but it is always wise to be prepared for water-related accidents.

car escape tool
A bridge during rush hour can also delay the arrival of emergency personnel.

Traveling through mountainous regions presents its own set of threats and challenges. Typically, you will be traveling through areas with steep inclines that tend to have cliffs and winding roads with limited visibility. If there happens to be runaway truck zones, then there is potential for brakes overheating on declines.

If your commute takes you through long stretches of wilderness, you may be required to travel a significant distance on foot to reach civilization should an emergency arise and your vehicle is no longer operational. For more tips on assessing your daily threats, CLICK HERE.

car escape tool
Winding roads and steep terrain, as well as long stretches of wilderness, should be taken into consideration when assessing your commute.

Assessing Seasonal Weather Conditions

Depending on where you live, seasonal weather may present additional threats throughout different points in the year. Heat, rain, snow and wind all present unique challenges that should be addressed.

car escape tool
Precipitation reduces visibility and traction on the road.
  • Heat: Intense heat increases the risk of overheating, tire blowouts, and brake failure.
  • Rain and Snow: These elements make for hazardous driving conditions by reducing visibility and traction.
  • Wind: Wind can cause vehicles, especially large tractor trailers, to sway or lose control.

Assessing Unpredictable Situations

By nature, unpredictable situations are situations that can arise without warning and include emergencies such as collisions, tire blowouts, brake failure, belt failure, and car fires. While you can do your best to mitigate these risks by keeping your vehicle up to safety code with regular maintenance and inspections, there is nothing you can do to avoid these risks entirely, so it’s best to be prepared for them.

While you can do your best to mitigate these risks by keeping your vehicle up to safety code with regular maintenance and inspections, there is nothing you can do to avoid these risks entirely, so it’s best to be prepared for them.

In the case of fire, getting out as quickly as possible is your primary concern. You need to be aware of how to exit your vehicle in an emergency and have the tools on-hand to help you.

You need to be aware of how to exit your vehicle in an emergency and have the tools on-hand to help you.

car escape tool
You may only have seconds to react in extreme situations.

How To Use A Car Escape Tool

There are specific tools designed to assist in automobile emergencies. They work by providing a means to breach restraints and windows so you can quickly evacuate your car.  Remember, do not store your car escape tool in your glove compartment.  If your car rolls and your seatbelt locks up it will be difficult, if not impossible to reach.

Remember, do not store your car escape tool in your glove compartment. If your car rolls and your seatbelt locks up it will be difficult, if not impossible, to reach.

Instead, put it in a latched center console or mount it under the driver seat, to the driver side door, to the visor, or somewhere else that can easily be reached no matter what position the car is in after a crash.

Seatbelt Cutters

Seatbelts are an essential safety item designed to keep you safe. However, in some situations they can become an obstacle to your safety should you need to evacuate your vehicle quickly. In the case of an overturned or otherwise disabled vehicle, you may only have seconds to get out; if fire and water pose an added threat, the severity of the situation – and need for a quick escape – increases.

car escape tool
Hold the belt taut and pull the car escape tool away from your body.

A seatbelt cutter works best and fastest when the seatbelt is very taut. To operate a seatbelt cutter, grab your seatbelt and pull it away from your body to create tension, then hook the cutter and pull swiftly away from your body. Whether you cut the belt perpendicularly or at an angle makes no difference – do whichever is easiest for you.

car escape tool
Pull in a swift motion to slice the seatbelt. It’s a good idea to buy a yard or two of webbing to practice on.

Typically, the blade on a seatbelt cutter is recessed for safety and housed in a hook that guides the belt to the blade. There may be a protective cap as an additional precaution against cuts. There are seatbelt cutters with folding serrated blades, much like a pocket knife.


An episode of the popular TV series Mythbusters featured a vehicle submersion test, proving that when submerged, the pressure inside a car is too strong to open any of the doors until the vehicle is completely filled with water, which equalizes the pressure on the inside and outside.

You certainly don’t want to wait until your vehicle fills with water to get out and your windows (whether power or hand-crank) will not work when submerged. Your best bet in this situation is to break a window and exit through it. This is where having a car escape tool on-hand can truly be a lifesaver.

Your best bet in this situation is to break a window and exit through it. This is where having a car escape tool, with an integrated glassbreaker, can truly be a lifesaver.

car escape tool
The LifeHammer Original is a manual glassbreaker that you swing like a hammer. The long handle provides good leverage.

While there are many different options for glassbreakers, the tip material is usually made of steel, hardened steel, or tungsten carbide. The most common types of

The most common types of glassbreakers include manual and spring-assisted. A manual glassbreaker often comes as an added feature on pocket knives or tactical pens, requiring brute force to create a puncture in

Manual glassbreakers often come as an added feature on pocket knives or tactical pens, requiring brute force to create break glass. With a manual glassbreaker, you will want to hold the tool in your fist with the point toward your pinky and aim for the corner of the glass with a quick, hard, backhand jab in order to impact the window without going through it.

Spring-assisted glassbreakers pack their own punch and activate when pressed up against the glass. With no more force than is needed to press the tool up against the glass, a small metal tip strikes out and forcibly breaks the glass. This is an especially valuable feature when time is of the essence.

car escape tool
The ResQMe operates by pressing the end into the glass, which triggers a spring-loaded pin that strikes the window and shatters it.

Tips for effectively and safely breaking glass:

  • Aim for the side windows, not the windshield – by design, windshields are made to withstand a puncture without shattering and are extra tough to break through.
  • When breaking through a side window, aim for the lower corner about 4 inches from the frame rather than the center – this avoids pushing your hand through the glass and helps reduce the risk of injury.
  • To further protect yourself from injury, use your free hand to press against the glass and stop your other hand from going through the glass – this is especially critical in situations where you won’t have time to put on (or access to) safety gloves.
  • Always turn your head away from the glass when breaking it – this is of utmost importance when submerged as the water that will come rushing in will bring a wave of broken glass toward you (while a few cuts is better than drowning, glass in your eye can become a serious hindrance to your survival efforts).
car escape tool
If possible, avoid striking the center of the window. It is more difficult to shatter the window and there is a higher risk of injuring yourself.

Our Picks for the Top Vehicle Escape Tools

Best Overall Car Escape Tool

Our Top Pick: ResQMe Keychain Tool

The ResQMe Keychain Tool is our top pick as it works effectively while also being easy to keep on you at all times. Whether driving in your own car, riding with someone else, or taking public transportation, you can have it with you at all times.

car escape tool
Click to view the Res-Q-Me on Amazon.

Our Favorite Features:

  • Small, discreet, fits on a keychain, and has a quick-release – with just a tug, it is in your hand and ready for use
  • This is a spring-assisted tool and therefore easy to use with minimal strength – it is something an older child or elderly person can easily handle and comes with a tip made of hardened steel
  • Effective: We actually tested it out and what we found was that it took a few tries but luckily the pin rests instantly. On the third try, we were able to shatter a ¼” TruLite tempered glass. The reason it probably didn’t work on the first attempt was because we were holding a freestanding piece of glass and probably didn’t apply enough pressure to properly deploy the blade. In a real life situation, the glass would be framed and stable, making it easier to apply full pressure from within a vehicle.
  • We also tested the seatbelt cutter on Sterling 1″ tubular nylon webbing, the same type of material as a seatbelt, only twice the thickness. The Res-Q-Me sliced through in one motion.
  • The quick-release also serves as a safety feature to cover the blade on the seatbelt cutter to reduce risk of accidental injury

Best Mounted Vehicle Escape Tool

Our Top Pick: LifeHammer Evolution

The LifeHammer Evolution is our top pick as it comes with a mount that allows you to attach it to the interior of your car in an easily reachable location and making it readily accessible to the driver at all times.

car escape tool
Click to view the LifeHammer Evolution on Amazon.

Our Favorite Features:

  • This spring-assisted glassbreaker requires minimal strength to operate making it an effective tool for anyone, including older children and the elderly
  • The long handle provides a good grip for activating the trigger
  • The construction of the tool is quality and made from heavy duty plastic with a steel blade and ceramic tip
  • It comes with an adjustable mounting clip for securing the car escape tool to the door or center console for instant access, even in a rolled vehicle situation.

Best Multi-Function Vehicle Escape Tool

Our Top Pick: Spyderco Assist

This great tool features a folding pocket knife style and has a retractable carbide tip for breaking glass – simply squeezing the blade into the handle in its folded position will activate the glassbreaker.

car escape tool
Click to view the Spiderco Assist on Amazon.

Our Favorite Features:

  • The blunt-tipped blade is made of VG-10 steel and has serration that is specifically designed for cutting seatbelts (by folding the blade and handle together, you can also cut rope quickly)
  • The Cobra Hood opens quickly, providing access to the blade, with ample jimping for added control when the tool is open
  • The handle is made from durable FRN material offered in an ambidextrous (lefties rejoice!) design that fits well into the palm of either hand
  • As an added bonus, this tool also includes a survival whistle in the handle to help signal for help

Best Manual Vehicle Escape Tool

Our Top Pick: LifeHammer Original Emergency Hammer

This was our top pick as it is has a very sturdy plastic handle and the seatbelt cutter blade makes it virtually impossible to cut yourself on. It also comes with a mounting plate to secure it anywhere within reach of the driver’s seat.

car escape tool
Click to view the LifeHammer Original Emergency Hammer on Amazon.

Our Favorite Features:

  • This is a fixed double-sided hammer with hardened steel tips
  • The long handle provides for better leverage when cutting seatbelts and breaking glass
  • Effective: We also tested this one out and, while I was not expecting to be able to use this one effectively, after testing it out I was truly impressed with how efficient it was at breaking glass. After taking aim, we were able to shatter the same ¼” TruLite tempered glass with only one whack.
  • The LifeHammer seatbelt cutter also made it through the Sterling 1″ tubular nylon with no problem.

Our Favorite Car Escape Tools

Vehicle Escape ToolHow It Is UsedKey FeaturesPrice
Res-Q-Me Quick Car Escape Tool
Cut seat belts
Break windows
• Tough PVC plastic, with steel blade for quickly slicing through seat belts
• Spring loaded hammer exerts force when activated so anyone can operate it to break a window
• Keychain style is compact and always on hand, with a quick release clip
LifeHammer Safety Evolution Emergency Ceramic Auto Escape Hammer (Orange 2 Pack)
Cut seat belts
Break windows
• Flat head design puts the handle at 90 degrees for leverage when activating the hammer
• Seat beltcutter blade is deeply recessed for safety and for easily guiding the belt when cutting
• Includes mount and hardware for securing to the door or center console
Spyderco Assist with Carbide Tip FRN Combination Edge Black Blade Knife
Cut seat belts
Break windows
Cut rope
Signal for help
• Folding pocket knife design doubles as a rope cutter
• Serated VG-10 steel blade slices through seatbelts and other bindings
• Squeeze in the folded position to reveal retractable carbide tip for breaking glass
LifeHammer Original Emergency Hammer
Cut seat belts
Break windows
• Recessed seat belt blade protects from accidental cuts
• Double steel hammer heads for quick deployment no matter how it is oriented when you grab it
• Comes with a mounting cradle to secure close to the driver's seat
Click the images to view current pricing on Amazon.

A Word About Vehicle-Related Emergencies

When it comes to preparedness for vehicle-related emergencies, one of the most important skills you can have is first aid knowledge.

The first moments of a medical emergency are the most critical, knowing what to do can mean the difference between life and death. If you haven’t already, we highly recommend taking a first aid course to ensure your skills are up to date.

Having the proper skills and tools to deal with a vehicle emergency may not only save you but also someone else. If you see someone in trouble and stop to offer help, ensure you follow the proper procedures for assisting in an emergency. Always introduce yourself and offer to help, asking permission to treat adults and minors if emergency personnel have yet to arrive on the scene.

As an added cautionary note, always be careful not to put yourself in harm’s way when assisting someone else; if you become injured as a result of your attempts to help, not only will your skills now be useless but you will have added an additional complication to the emergency.


As with any survival skill, we truly hope you never have the opportunity to put your vehicle escape skills into practice, but if the situation should arise where you do need to make a speedy exit from your car, chance favors the well-prepared.

When choosing your ideal car escape tool, always keep in mind that when it comes time to use it, you will have very little time to both retrieve and operate it – accessibility and speed are of the essence.

Also, don’t just pick out a tool and leave it until you need it; try it out, get comfortable with it, and ensure you know exactly what to do should a situation ever arise where your life depends on your ability to operate it.

Your Thoughts

Have you ever experienced a vehicle emergency? Did you have tools on-hand that helped you address the situation? What are the must-have vehicle escape tools in your survival arsenal and where do you keep them? Let us know your thoughts in the Comment section below, thanks!

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bug out vehicle gear

What Bug Out Vehicle Gear Should YOU pack?

bug out vehicle gear

Note: This article was contributed by James Smith. Read more about him in the About The Author section below.

While having the most reliable and dependable vehicle to get you to your bug out location should be high on your list of needs – the gear that you bring with you in your vehicle is much more likely to mean the difference between extreme hardship and preparedness.

When packing your bug out vehicle gear it’s important to consider that your car may be a home on wheels of sorts for some time. In a SHTF situation, you will not be able to go shopping or seek medical attention and may even get stuck while you’re out driving.

bug out vehicle gear

Wrench-in-plan situations could include having to go off-road (or take an alternate route) to avoid a bottleneck, getting lost, camping overnight, getting injured or just something going wrong with your vehicle itself.

Needed bug out vehicle gear and considerations can be broken down into a few categories that I discuss in more detail below:

Tools and Equipment

bug out vehicle gear
Your bug out vehicle gear should include a tire iron or socket wrench for changing the tires, as well as other tools for maintenance and repairs.

You will want to make sure that you have the basic tools needed for minor repairs to your vehicle and other belongings. This can include vehicle replacement parts, tow cables, rope, straps, jumper cables and duct tape. Additionally, a fire extinguisher for emergencies may come in handy. Other indispensable items include a shovel, multitool, car jump starter (check out our favorite, The Anker PowerCore Car Jump Starter), and heavy gloves.

bug out vehicle gear

bug out vehicle gear

Shelter and Clothing

Fuel should be treated as a finite resource so you will not want to run the engine any more than is necessary for driving. While it is tempting to crank the heat when parked, a better option is to pack extra layers and bedding to keep everyone warm. Ensure that you add a roof top cargo carrier to your vehicle and pack your extra weather appropriate clothing, shopping bags, hiking boots/shoes, and hand warmers.

bug out vehicle gear

All of these things that will help you stay warm and beat hypothermia should you get stuck and take longer to get to your bug out location. Plan to include a tent, tarp, and sleeping bags in your bug out vehicle gear if it will take you some time to reach your ultimate destination.

bug out vehicle gear
You probably won’t have access to these along the way so it’s extra important to conserve fuel in your bug out vehicle.

Fire and Lighting

Always carry multiple flashlights and various lighters, matches, and strikers. These items are essential for warmth, preparing food, and sterilizing water. You will also need to be able to see to access gear, make repairs, read maps, and scan the area for danger.

Flashlights and fires make excellent distress signals that are visible over long distances, should you need to send out for help. A tactical flashlight, such as the Nitecore P12 Tactical Flashlight (pictured above), offers extra features for breaching and self-defense.

Signaling and Communication

To communicate with others and receive whatever transmissions are being sent, be sure to pack a radio and batteries or a reliable wind-up radio, a cell phone or prepaid phone with car adapter, portable CB radio, two-way radio, and whistle. Of course, make sure you know how to use them, and spend time practicing as much as possible.

best emergency weather radio


bug out vehicle gear
Digital navigation can be very useful but often not as reliable as a printed map.

One of the most important things to stock in your bug out vehicle is proper navigation gear. Be sure you know both where you are going and all of the possible ways to get there. Prepare for unexpected detours and pack a GPS device, paper maps (both road and topographical), and a compass.


Plan to keep plenty of extra water inside your vehicle – enough for you and your family to get to your bug-out location then add on a few extra liters or gallons person. It’s helpful to have a durable yet pliable water container/bladder that can be collapsed when not in use and be sure to carry water purification tablets and durable metal cups.

bug out vehicle gear
The wide fill port makes it easy to fill and to clean the Camelbak 100oz Antidote Reservoir. Click the image to view details on Amazon.


Pack and carry extra food at the rate of 2500 daily calories per person. Pack up a stove and basic kitchen as well. If you have a knack for it – and live in an area where it would be useful or practical – consider packing up a fishing kit as well.

bug out vehicle gear
The Emberlit Stove uses wood so you don’t need to worry about storing fuel. It also folds flat, making it a great addition to your bug out vehicle gear. Click the image to view on Amazon.

First Aid

A proper and complete first aid kit is essential, and there are plenty of pre-packed ones on the market. They range from basic small first aid kits that include wound dressing and cleaning supplies –to more elaborate medical kits that also include blood pressure cuffs, stethoscopes, splints, scalpels, and suture kits. Get what you believe is best for your family’s budget, but remember that it’s always better to err on the side of being over-prepared than under.

Also, don’t forget the toilet paper, feminine hygiene products (if needed) and any important prescription medications.

Safety and Protection

Pack up flares and a good multipurpose knife. Road flares are made to burn in inclement weather, and they are easy to get going, don’t require the same finger dexterity that a finger and match does, and they burn for a really long time. If you are stuck in a dire emergency that you can’t work your fingers to light a fire flares would do the trick – and they work nicely as a torch as well.

bug out vehicle gear

A multipurpose knife is a must-have in any vehicle bug-out bag.  One top choice would be a KA-BAR Full-Size, Straight Edge – a true war-horse of a knife that many United States Marines call their one and only.

Premade Auto Emergency Kits

A quick and easy solution to have your car stocked with survival supplies is to get a premade auto emergency kit. They serve as an excellent foundation to get your car stocked with supplies and then you can build up from there by adding any additional items you see fit.

Pre-made car kits are a helpful (and economical) starting point for building your bug out vehicle gear. This kit from TopGear includes jumper cables, work gloves, basic first aid, and much more. Click the image to view a full list on Amazon.


We recommend the Always Prepared 65-Piece Roadside Assistance Auto Emergency Kit.

Extra Bug Out Vehicle Gear Considerations

Depending on your route and possible hiccups native to your unique location and geographical area you may want to consider any additional water and land specific needs. These might include packing up life jackets, life rafts, paddles, off-road tires, ice scrapers, and wrenches.

Also, ALWAYS make sure you have a car jump starter with you. It can easily save your life! Check out my favorite jump starter, The Anker PowerCore Car Jump Starter. It can even charge your phone or other devices!


Planning ahead for any unforeseeable situations can save you a lot of headache figuring out what to do to solve the problem in the moment. Being well prepared with the bug out vehicle gear you need will give you the peace of mind that your whole family deserves.

About The Author

James Smith is a survivalist, who loves to write about survival skills and techniques. He has extensive knowledge about different survival kits and other survival supplies which he loves to share with others by writing blog. Follow him on twitter @jamessmith1609.

Your Thoughts

Is a bug out vehicle part of your survival plan? Do you have one stocked and ready to go? (We’d love to see photos!) Share your tips and ideas in the Comments section below, thanks!

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best bug out vehicle checklist

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!

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