Surviving SHTF in Your Car

Bugging out is a central idea in prepping, and serious preppers are constantly refining, inventing and debating which procedures are best suited for keeping themselves and their families alive when the time comes to hit the road during a major disaster or some other crisis.

For many preppers, making use of a motor vehicle’s speed and cargo capacity to ferry themselves and their gear to a selected bug-out location features centrally in their plans.

ford truck

But one spin on this option that they might not have considered is actually surviving the duration of an SHTF event in their vehicle.

It might sound a little odd, but your average motor vehicle has many positives for this task. Vehicles are flexible, highly mobile, and allow you to carry drastically more gear and provisions than you could on foot.

So long as you have fuel and a clear route of travel you can reposition on demand and quickly, a process that will take considerably more time, and dramatically more effort to do the same on foot.

Any vehicle also makes sense as a central fixture of a camp at any bug-out location, providing generally weatherproof shelter for multiple people while still allowing you to get away quickly if called for.

Before you view your car as nothing more than a taxi to get you to a BOL, give this article a read, since we will be providing much information for surviving a SHTF event in your car.

Bugging Out: The Necessities Don’t Change

No matter who you are, no matter where you live in, no matter what kind of situation you are facing, you will be forced to deal with and provide the exact same survival requirements. These are the true fundamentals of survival.

Genuine needs, real needs never change: I’m talking about shelter, water, food and security. Of course, you will also need clean air to breathe, but that is usually taken for granted.

How you provide for all of these things is completely up to you. Some preppers plan to bug-in, staying home where they have all their well-stocked shelves and defensive accoutrement ready to sustain them.

This is generally a good idea, but sometimes you don’t get a choice in the matter, as the situation might become so dangerous and so untenable that you are better off getting out of there.

For those who face the dire choice of leaving their fortified and provisioned home behind, or those who are already living on vulnerable ground or amidst a shaky, risky situation, bugging out is a better (or perhaps their only) choice.

The idea that greener pastures, not to mention safer ones, are just around the next bend that will furnish the things someone needs to survive if only they are skilled enough to obtain them is central to prepping.

It is here, during a bug-out, that a vehicle takes on an entirely new level of importance.

Compared to bugging out on foot, using a vehicle for the purpose will ensure that you can travel faster, with generally better security while carrying significantly more equipment, supplies and provisions then you could otherwise.

Time often equals life in a crisis situation, and saving your energy and your effort for the other necessary tasks of survival instead of spending it on locomotion is generally a winning strategy.

But you can take this idea several steps further by relying on your vehicle as a sort of mobile camp, in a way, and you don’t even need a larger vehicle like an RV or truck to do it.

How Your Vehicle Can Fulfill Your Survival Requirements

Almost any automobile can afford you many advantages when it comes time to an evacuation, and can enable you to survive living solely out of the vehicle with a good plan and a little bit of foresight.

Have a look at the list of pros and cons below. We will break them all down further in the next section:

Vehicle Advantages

  • Excellent Carrying Capacity – Compared to hauling supplies on your back, any vehicle will enable you to carry dramatically more equipment and bug-out supplies.
  • Mobility – A vehicle affords you far greater speed, range and climbing capability with exponentially less exertion than on-foot movement.
  • Weather Protection – A vehicle in good shape provides very good to excellent weather resistance from wind and rain, and some protection from cold. Assuming you have fuel, its climate control features might be a boon!
  • Power Supply – A functional vehicle will ably charge all small devices with the necessary adapters, and can even run small appliances like air compressors and refrigerators.
  • Transport Capacity – If anyone in your family or group is injured, infirm or just less able, a vehicle will move them all the same with no additional exertion required on their part.
  • Greater Work Capacity – A vehicle can tow, push and pull with force far outstripping any human.

But every rose has its thorns, and despite all the advantages that vehicles can afford you they do come with some distinct drawbacks that you will need to be aware of and work to minimize if you want to survive SHTF in one:

  • Fuel is a Necessity – Without fuel, the only thing your vehicle can do for you is provide rapidly diminishing battery power and some shelter from wind, rain and cold. It’s utter dependence on fuel of one form or another means your plots and plans will hinge on storing enough and resupplying when required.
  • Terrain Restricted – Compared to a human on foot, any motor vehicle, even the most capable of off-road rigs, will be confined to the places it fits, and further restricted by underlying terrain. It is comparatively easy to immobilize a vehicle, especially off road.
  • Required Secondary Skills – Truly relying on your vehicle means you must be able to take care of it. That means spending time, money and effort on both the skills and the tools to effect hasty, field repairs, lest you suffer a show-stopping breakdown when you can least afford it.
  • Visible / Noisy – When it comes to security, staying unseen and unheard can go a long way toward keeping you safe. It is much harder to hide an automobile or to move discreetly in one, and their engines can be heard from a significant distance away.

Regardless of these drawbacks, the capability that a car can afford you when the time comes to survive in a SHTF situation is often invaluable, especially when compared to bugging out on foot, and trying to survive a rapidly changing situation on the ground.

If you play your cards right, and work to minimize these drawbacks, your vehicle may very well become your mobile sanctuary.

In the following sections we will examine all these advantages and disadvantages in detail so you may best take advantage of or avoid them, and also provide you with more tips to help make you ready for a vehicle-borne bug-out.

Breakdown of Vehicle Advantages for Survival

Carrying Capacity

Obviously, any vehicle is capable of carrying quite a lot more cargo than a human on foot, no matter how strong your back is or how big your bug out bag is.

This attribute takes on a whole new level of significance when you consider just how much you will need in terms of equipment, survival supplies and provisions for surviving any length of time out in a world currently experiencing chaos.

Assuming you have not done much in the way of multi-day hiking or deep expeditions out into the wilderness, ask any prepper who has, or who has better yet done a bug-out dry-run on foot.

They will tell you that a bug-out bag fully laden with supplies can easily top 50 lbs or more, and some of your most essential provisions like water and supplies for security like firearms and ammunition are darn heavy.

These are things you have to have if you want to have an honest chance of survival, and so will everyone else in your group compounding the logistical burden even further if certain members are not as capable as others.

A vehicle that is operational can greatly alleviate the strain, providing ample internal and external cargo room along with the brute mechanical power needed to move it with a little more than a press of the accelerator.

Even so, your average vehicle cannot carry absolutely everything you want plus the kitchen sink. You’ll still need to develop a load plan, check the total weight, and then upgrade the vehicle and drive accordingly to compensate if heavily laden.

Action Items

  • Plan load according to requirements/number of people in group.
  • Determine gross weight of vehicle when loaded; upgrade suspension and brakes as necessary.
  • Learn how to handle a heavily loaded vehicle.


Perhaps a vehicle’s single, greatest strength. Any vehicle not mired in bad conditions or stuck in gridlock will take you farther, faster and with much, much less effort than going on foot.

When you are in a time-is-life situation (as so many true SHTF events are) the speed of a vehicle will translate into a much better chance of getting out of the danger zone before things turn against you, or reaching minimum safe distance when peril is imminent.

Range is part of mobility, and in a head-to-head contest a vehicle blows any mere mortal out of the water so long as it has a reasonably clear path.

Even a gas-guzzling SUV or pickup truck can go for over a hundred miles in a single day on a single tank of fuel, taking you far from harm when the chips are down, or enabling you to reach distant locations in a reasonable amount of time.

This can also afford you the capability to get to family/group members quickly when the chips are down.

Journeys that would take many grueling hours of travel on foot can be accomplished in a short time by a vehicle, and this level of mobility is a boon that you should definitely try to take advantage of if at all possible in a crisis.

Action Items

  • Assess what BOLs and routes are made viable due to vehicle mobility.
  • Determine range under worst-case scenario conditions so you don’t overextend.

Weather Protection

So long as your vehicle is in good repair, all you’ll need to do to gain protection from wind, rain, a degree of protection from cold and possibly even sweltering heat is climb inside, shut the door and relax.

For all but the most spartan vehicles its body work and weather sealing will keep out rain and wind water, allowing you to stay high and dry. This is an important consideration when you understand that simple exposure is one of the biggest killers in any emergency situation.

A vehicle provides a certain amount of protection from cold also, even when it is not running.

It will definitely keep snow and frigid wind off your back, but it also forms a proper shelter that is more easily heated by both body heat and other methods, allowing you to raise the ambient temperature using little more than your own body, and perhaps a couple of candles.

Of course, if your vehicle has a functional heater you will stay toasty as long as the engine can still provide power.

While oftentimes not the best idea, your vehicle can even give you some protection from the heat in the form of shade. With the windows down or doors open for ventilation you can get momentary respite from the sun’s singeing rays.

Obviously you should not shelter inside a closed car on a hot day since it functions in essence like a solar oven.

It can provide all of these attributes with virtually no more extra effort. Compared to setting up a tarp, tent or some other temporary shelter, this will save you even more time and energy.

Power Supply

For all but the most traditionalist preppers, electronics of various kinds are integral to their SHTF survival plans.

Everything from flashlights and headlamps, smartphones and GPS, drone batteries to UV sterilization wands, so much of what we depend on to survive in this modern era is completely dependent upon electricity.

Naturally, a considerable amount of planning and effort goes into providing the requisite power for these hungry devices.

Thankfully modern preppers can rely on such field-ready contrivances as solar recharging systems, power banks and even miniature hydroelectric turbines and windmills to generate and store electricity when far from home and the grid.

But as nice as these modern wonders are, none compare to the on-demand power in abundance made possible by a vehicle.

The electricity supplied to a vehicle’s outlets by its battery, itself charged by the alternator whenever the engine is running, can all but guarantee a steady supply of electricity so long as you have fuel to run the engine.

If care is taken to supplement the vehicle’s batteries, one can even run certain electricity gobbling appliances as air compressors and small refrigerators, to implements that can make all the difference depending on your requirements.

A compressor can run air-powered tools or just inflate your vehicle’s tires. A refrigerator can keep food fresh or life-saving insulin viable.

Action Items

  • Determine what adapters are required for devices included in your bug-out kit.
  • Consider the installation of additional power points in vehicle.
  • If heavy-drain equipment required, enhance vehicle power system with higher capacity battery.

Transport Capacity

Another boon provided by vehicles is their ability to carry passengers of any age or ability, and in spite of otherwise hobbling injuries.

If you stop to consider how many people you have in your family right now that you are responsible for, if your family is like most people’s, you’ll probably have a mix of young and old, fit and out of shape, healthy and ill.

It does not take much imagination to see how trying to get all of these people out of danger on-foot during an emergency will turn into a practical and logistical nightmare.

Those worries will be a thing of the past with a car, so long as your vehicle has ample room for your passengers plus the necessary cargo. All they need do is climb aboard, strap in, and sit back.

This is the height of efficiency compared to attempting, vainly, to devise an on-foot route that is navigable by all members of your family or group as they are shortcomings and all.

Obviously, there are risks to this method, not the least of which is that any emergency or accident involving the vehicle will imperil everyone aboard, and trying to extricate those people from the vehicle in a time-is-life situation can be harrowing.

Even so, the return-on-investment when it comes to ensuring everyone is able to evacuate regardless of fitness or capability is priceless.

Action Items

  • Determine max passenger capacity of vehicle for short trips.
  • Determine max passenger capacity of vehicle for longer trips with cargo.

Work Capacity

Sometimes you just need brute force; to push something, to pull something or to tow something. With enough raw manpower you can do anything, or you could cheat and use… Horsepower!

When you need to move something seriously heavy or break something that could otherwise resist the puny attempts of men, your vehicle can serve as an excellent piece of heavy equipment capable of getting the job done so long as you use a little caution and common sense.

There are all kinds of situations where this might come in handy in a survival situation, like knocking down or pushing through barricades, retrieving another stuck vehicle, or even pulling or hoisting another stuck vehicle through the use of recovery gear.

In grave extremes, a vehicle can also easily plow through a hostile, violent crowd of people that would otherwise spell certain death for survivors on foot trying to pass them.

All sorts of options for heavy work open up to you when using a vehicle by itself or in conjunction with simple machines.

You should not imperil your vehicle needlessly, but done cautiously it’s just another advantage to recommend a vehicle as your primary SHTF survival strategy.

Action Items

  • Consider adding winch and/or straps to your vehicle.
  • Simple block and tackle pulley with strong rope can enable serious lifting.
  • Adding front and rear bull bars or reinforced bumpers can protect vehicle from bumps and nudges.

Vehicle Disadvantages for SHTF

That takes care of the advantages. Now how about the disadvantages? These are not necessarily showstoppers, but you would be foolish to ignore them and would be wise to work toward mitigating or eliminating if at all possible.

Depending on your precise plans and other factors, some of these might make a vehicle your second or even third choice for surviving a SHTF event. It is all about context:

Fuel is a Necessity

Your vehicle, no matter what kind it is, will require fuel of some type or another in order to operate. It could be gasoline or diesel, it doesn’t matter: if you don’t have it, you aren’t going anywhere.

This is no different from any other day, but your vehicle’s crucial reliance upon fuel means it must factor very highly in your planning if you want to attempt to survive a crisis in it. Generally speaking, the farther you want to go no more fuel will be required.

Fuel economy is a subject entirely unto itself, but other factors involved in the calculation include power of the engine, gearing, load, idle time, road conditions and more.

For your purposes you should principally be concerned with how far you have to go and how easy or difficult the travel conditions are.

A big, V8 SUV that must endure heavy traffic on congested roads will be getting fuel economy in the single digits. A performance optimized 6-cylinder sedan carrying a light load over an open highway at optimal speed will be able to go several hundred miles without stopping to refuel.

Keep in mind that even sitting idle with the engine on will sip more fuel than you’re probably expecting over time. This will be of particular importance if you are relying on the vehicle to provide air conditioning or heating for ambient weather conditions.

Since fuel is one of your most critical resources when relying on a vehicle, you must make plans for procuring more, and also for extending your vehicles “up time”, are there by the installation of expanded, high capacity fuel tanks or by installing external carriers for fuel cans.

Obtaining fuel will likely not be as easy as you are expecting in the aftermath of a major disaster.

Action Items

  • Analyze your vehicle’s range based on varying conditions.
  • Perform a cost-benefit analysis regarding installation of an expanded fuel tank.
  • Consider carrying additional fuel separately in specified, heavy-duty containers to extend range and runtime.

Terrain Restrictions

The vast majority of consumer vehicles are highly dependent upon paved or at least smooth and graded road surfaces for swift, certain travel.

Beyond this, the rubber tires that wheel vehicles are dependent on are surprisingly fragile and vulnerable to deflation. Almost everyone has experienced the aggravation or even the minor emergency unto itself that happens when we get a flat on the highway.

This scenario could take on grave new significance if it happens while trying to escape from a major situation with family or group in tow.

You can absolutely count on the roads you are used to traveling upon being made at least partially impassable by the events you are fleeing from, be it a natural disaster or man-made havoc.

Debris, detritus and wreckage will clog roadways and form a significant hazard to flesh and rubber alike.

Human agitators might deliberately season roadways with caltrops, spike strips or other implements designed to puncture the delicate tires of vehicles in order to discourage or prevent passage.

Special run-flat and even “airless” tires that function normally when punctured are a specialized (and expensive) option that can guarantee mobility even when ventilated with sharp objects.

And don’t get too confident in the idea that you can depart the roadways entirely and just take off cross country, winging it.

Even specialized off-road vehicles find cross-country travel challenging, extreme conditions due to seasons, recent weather and other velvets are highly variable, and it is very easy for wheeled vehicles to become stuck even on well-traveled unimproved paths.

You can improve your chances of successfully bugging out in a vehicle going off road or cross-country, but you would be well-advised to invest in significant upgrades to the vehicle suspension, drivetrain and other systems in order to enable this, and it also calls for significant experience and its type of driving and navigation in all but the most pedestrian settings.

Action Items

  • Devise alternate bug-out routes in case primaries are made impassible.
  • Learn off-road driving techniques, and routes.
  • Vehicle recovery skills and equipment are a must; prepare for stoppages!

Required Secondary Skills

As a prepper you should be very comfortable with the idea of taking care of things yourself. That is why we all do the things we do, after all!

It is certainly a good idea to be able to take care of things such as changing the oil, changing the tires, replacing fluids and so forth- but it is absolutely crucial if you truly want to be able to rely on it as an integral part of your SHTF survival plan.

Most of us can afford to outsource expertise to professionals as we go about our lives and day jobs, and we simply take the car into the shop when that dashboard light comes on, or when it starts making an unusual noise.

You won’t be able to do that during a major crisis. If any parts breakage occurs that incapacitates greatly hinders your vehicle, you must be able to take care of it, or at least patch it up, so you can get moving again. This requires a not inconsiderable amount of know-how, and you had better start learning now.

How to Change a Tire | Change a flat car tire step by step

If you want to keep your vehicle on the road and rolling you should know how to change a tire, but also replace a tire on the rim or patch a tire that has been punctured.

You should be able to change all fluids, and also know you harvest them from other vehicles as well as what other varieties can work in a pinch.

You must be able to replace all major components that are likely to break, or at least ones that are able to be replaced in field conditions without the benefit of a lift or hoist.

There is much more besides these, and learning how to best affect these hasty repairs in a variety of settings and conditions; it won’t be as easy as it is in your home workshop!

This is one case where the knowledge does almost no good without the appropriate tools.

A comprehensive but compact mechanic’s tool set containing all the sockets, ratchets, wrenches, pliers, jacks, mallets and other tools you might conceivably need is a necessary part of your vehicle survival kit, and this will take up a room like anything else you carry, and also contribute to the vehicles maximum gross weight.

Action Items

  • You must learn how to perform at least basic repairs and parts replacements in order to be “SHTF Ready” in a vehicle.
  • A comprehensive toolkit and common spares must be part of your vehicle equipment complement.
  • Endeavor toward being able to make repairs in “field” or roadside conditions without benefit of a shop.

Vehicles are Noisy and Highly Visible

There are no two ways about it: any motor vehicle, except perhaps electric vehicles, are noisy, highly visible and will attract considerable attention, especially during situations where people are desperate to escape or obtain supplies.

All the attributes we have discussed that make it so attractive for you and yours make it doubly attractive for people who have not prepared and are willing to do anything in order to survive…

There is very little you can do to reduce the noise your vehicle makes except turn it off or install a highly-efficient muffler system. Loud and braggadocious performance pipes are not a positive attribute in a survival situation.

You aren’t impressing anyone, and you sure as hell aren’t scaring anyone. Using basic direction finding and listening skills, it is entirely possible for someone to ascertain your general heading or vicinity just by listening for the sound of your motor in the distance amidst the silence of a world gone quiet.

Hiding a vehicle visually is somewhat easier, at least when it is stopped and can be accomplished through a variety of camouflage methods to include painting, terrain masking, constructing of blinds and a variety of other simple techniques.

This will become especially important when you have stopped to make a temporary or semi-permanent camp, since it is a much easier thing to spot a vehicle silhouette, color or shiny surfaces from any distance compared to smaller human habitation or equipment.

You must be prepared to face down people who want the vehicle itself or just its contents in the aftermath of a major disaster.

People will be able to see the gear stacked high that you carry, or if they cannot they might assume the fact that you have a working vehicle at all is a worthy enough prize to risk trying you.

Since you will not, much of the time, be able to effectively reduce or conceal your presence while operating the vehicle, this means you must be prepared for the worst.

Action Items

  • Be prepared to hide vehicle with camo tarps or netting.
  • Learn how to field-improvise camo paint, or keep some handy for quick “day before” paint jobs.
  • Understand that a working vehicle might put a bullseye on your back.

Vehicular Survival and Sustainment Considerations

Some of your survival and sustainment procedures will change when relying predominately on your vehicle in a SHTF context, but some of them will not.

Below you will find additional advice, cautions and modifications to typical readiness considerations in the context of vehicle-borne survival:

Long Term Sustainment in a Vehicle

Your long term sustainment requirements are not particularly altered by the presence of your vehicle. Typically, in fact, they are made much easier!

Shelter and sleeping arrangements are one we have already touched on, and so long as your vehicle is not completely crammed with your bodies and gear it is an easy thing to lower the seatback, fold out a bench or climb into the bed or cargo compartment for some decent-quality shuteye.

Obviously sleeping in your vehicle will rarely be as comfortable as your bed at home, but often beats sleeping on the ground!

On that note, some vehicles, notably pickups and SUVs, can be equipped with rooftop tents or camper modules that will make setting up a proper, comfortable camp a snap, and are an easy way to extend your sleeping “quarters” for passengers who would otherwise have a tough time getting some rest in a cramped vehicle.

Even so, while the close confines of a vehicle might make for humid and fragrant sleeping arrangements, it is still entirely possible to do without these modern niceties in a real emergency.

Important Note About Sleeping In a Vehicle: Most of us are aware of the danger posed by carbon monoxide, or CO, generated by any combusting materials; car exhaust is full of it, hence why you should never let your vehicle run in an enclosed space like the garage.

CO intoxication can take effect quickly and incapacitate or even kill you, so you must treat it seriously.

Where some preppers go astray is in downplaying the threat of CO in outdoor environments; not buttoned up, not a problem, right? Maybe, maybe not.

CO can still be a major threat in a sealed cabin (doors closed, windows up) since anything that causes exhaust to back up at the tailpipe, like snow, for instance, can result in CO entering the cabin where your vehicle’s weather sealing will do a good job of keeping it bottled up until it kills the occupants or is vented.

This is especially dangerous when sleeping, since CO is such an insidious killer; a drowsy feeling followed by unconsciousness is one of its effects, and extremely dangerous to sleepers for this reason.

Ensure you always allow for ventilation if sleeping in your vehicle while the engine is running!

Food and water procurement are made much easier by a vehicle, since both will afford you the opportunity to carry additional hunting and fishing gear, or water cans, that would otherwise be superfluous in a BOB or left behind for weight considerations.

One should be careful to park a good distance away from any hunting prospects though since the sound of a running engine will easily spook game.

The searching and scavenging of materials is likewise unaffected by your vehicle, since it will only extend your range and speed, making your “foraging” area bigger than it might otherwise be on foot.

This might become doubly necessary since you might be searching for “field expedient” spare parts after your supply runs out! No worries, since you are guaranteed to find plenty of immobilized, wrecked or otherwise abandoned vehicles after a major disaster of any kind.

The only consideration when it comes to employing your vehicle for this purpose is that you may need to leave someone to secure it if you are rummaging far from where you park it. More on that in a bit.

Performance and Defensive Driving Skills

Obviously, actually driving your vehicle is going to be a big part of using it for SHTF readiness, and it pays to know what you are doing when the time comes to get a little froggy; it isn’t going to be like your Monday morning commute, most likely!

You could be contending with roadways clogged with debris, jammed with traffic or blocked by unruly bands of rioters or marauders. Freezing in place or waiting for your turn is not going to be an option when seconds count and lives are on the line.

Your first order of business is to understand how to avoid roadblocks and other obstructions that would stall your forward progress. To do this, you must start understanding and practicing (where you can) the utilization of alternate routes and paths.

Just because your vehicle belongs on the pavement does not mean you cannot hop up on to a sidewalk, jump over a curb or island, or barge through light obstructions like gates and fencing.

Start thinking about where your vehicle can physically go, not where you have always driven. I cannot tell you how many times I have watched people get mired in a bad situation during an emergency because they tried to drive like they always had.

Gridlock traffic is different. Ideally, you do not want to get so webbed in, you have no chance of egress, so if you notice a sea of cars ahead, you likely want to take the first available exit, detour, ramp or whatever so you can try for an alternate route.

If you are sure of it, you might hop onto a shoulder, sidewalk, or even try for the middle grass divider of a major highway. Be cautious that you do not “run out of road” doing this since you’ll definitely be SOL in that case!

One timely and topical issue a vehicular survivor might well be forced to cope with is a road full of, or flanked by, rioters.

This is a scary scenario and one that can lead to tragedy if you halt, get stuck, or allow people to start swarming on your vehicle. There are a couple of methods for coping with this.

First, don’t stop. Ever. The end. If you have a path that is otherwise clear, with “clear” being defined as free from obstructions that your vehicle cannot push, drive over or otherwise move through, then you keep rolling.

If your life is in danger, bump people out of the way or run them down by applying steady accelerator pressure to roll along at about 15 MPH.

You don’t need to blast people at high speed to get past them, as such an impact might set off your vehicle’s crash sensors and cut off the engine.

Ffurthermore, this is unnecessary: it never fails that some unthinking fools think the can prevent an automobile’s passage by leaning into it, even en masse, but these people are wrong.

Second, if dealing with a roadblock made from heavy obstructions or vehicles, don’t attempt to blow through it like you see on TV unless it is actually just a cart full of stuffed animals. This is another way to wreck your car and injure the occupants.

Look for a way to reverse out and get away from the roadblock, or if that is impossible or untenable then a way to slip around it; most improvised roadblocks will not completely block a road.

If they do, try to push through the roadblock at its weakest point. For vehicles, this means the end of the car opposite the engine, which is its heaviest part.

Last, treat your vehicle with a modicum of respect whenever possible: ramming and blasting over obstructions might set off crash sensors that will kill the engine, as mentioned, and can also result in damage that means your escape will be short lived.

If you need to perform dynamic, rough maneuvers attempt to do so in a way that will not result in a skid, serious collision or other adverse effect.

Safety and Security

Probably the biggest changes to your survival plans will come in the safety and security procedures, both the vehicle’s and your own. Since the vehicle is your combination sleeping quarters, supply room and of course conveyance, you will need to keep it safe.

This is easier said than done. Keeping yourself safe from harm while in the cramped cabin of any vehicle is another can of worms.

Let us first consider physical safety while occupying a vehicle. This could be imperiled by people or by events.

Generally speaking, you want to keep a good, compact fire extinguisher inside the cabin of the vehicle at all times since a vehicle fire will not only strand you, but destroy all of your possessions needed for survival as well.

Seat belts are a contentious issue, since many preppers see them as a greater hazard than benefit when it comes to SHTF survival. The idea of being tangled up in a seatbelt after a crash or during an attack has kept many preppers awake at night.

On the other hand, a seatbelt is likely the only thing that is going to save your life if you are involved in any kind of significant crash. What to do?

My attitude is simple: Seat belts off when at slow speed or rolling though a congested area where people might be the primary hazard. Seat belts on when at high speed or travelling cross-country.

Simple, and makes best use of your equipment’s safety features, while mitigating secondary risks.

Self-defense against humans is another biggie preppers worry over. Bottom Line Up Front: You are either driving, or shooting, not both.

You are not Jason Bourne, and sure as heck not John Wick. Trying to drive and shoot means you’ll do both poorly, and either crash or shoot yourself, or your vehicle.

If you are driving, drive. Let passengers do the shooting, if they can and it is required. If they cannot, use the vehicle to get away from a threat quickly or as a weapon itself.

Keeping the vehicle safe when you are not in it is tricky; essentially, you cannot, unless it is guarded and/or well-hidden. Vehicles attract attention, no two ways about it, and are themselves seen as prizes or loot-boxes by opportunists.

If your vehicle, resplendent with all your gear and supplies, is left unattended and unguarded it is vulnerable! You cannot count on any vehicle security system, even armored bodywork and windows to resist a determined attempt to get in.

Lastly, there is one more vehicle survivability factor that you should keep in mind, even it is a fringe threat: EMPs. EMPs, or electromagnetic pulses, can be generated by natural cosmic phenomena, or as a byproduct of a nuclear warhead detonation.

However they occur, they are speculated to fry absolutely anything with a computer chip or circuit board.

That means the vast majority of modern vehicles, so dependent on computer-controlled everything, will be done for, and will require extensive repair and refit to work again at all.

Older vehicles, especially those that rely on carburetors, are far more likely to resist these effects. If you want a truly comprehensive level of readiness, you should consider one of these older models, and keep it in tip-top shape.


A vehicle can be an excellent choice for surviving a SHTF scenario if you work hard to maximize its advantages, and work equally hard to minimize its disadvantages.

The passenger carrying capacity, cargo hauling capability and sheer power, range and speed of a vehicle make it indispensable for escaping disasters or dealing with the aftermath.

Don’t think you can only try to escape on foot, or that your vehicle will not be viable: with the right plans and the correct preparation, it might be just the ticket to whisk you and yours out of danger.

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