What to Look For in a SHTF Vehicle

Most discussions about the gear you want to have around if society breaks down focuses on weapons and survival equipment, and a lot of that seems to be based on the assumption that most people will be on foot. The hard fact is that, pretty quickly, most of them will be – but not through choice. If you’re able to keep a vehicle running, though, you’ll have a massive advantage. With a set of wheels you can move much faster, evade pursuit and forage for supplies a lot more effectively. Of course, a lot depends on picking the right vehicle.

There are a few things you need to consider when choosing an emergency vehicle, but the main ones are mobility, sustainability and reliability. Get those three right and you’ll be well ahead of the curve. Let’s look at what you need to consider in every category.


The obvious choice is a 4×4 vehicle, and most people are going to opt for some sort of SUV. In general that’s the best choice, but not all SUVs are created equal. For example, do you want a Hummer? I would say no. It’s big and impressively mobile, but for its size it has a pretty poor load capacity and the engine is an absolute fuel hog. That’s not a big deal when you have the full logistics might of the US Army behind you, but when you’re relying on your own resources it becomes more of an issue. Instead, consider a smaller SUV like a Cherokee or Land Rover Defender – or even move outside the category altogether. A pickup truck can be a great choice, with massive load capability and good mobility. Don’t rule out station wagons either. Some of these are available with four wheel drive, but a good one with a powerful engine can still get around pretty well without it. I used to have a BMW 530D wagon and it had excellent mobility.


Modern vehicles are great, but if something goes wrong there isn’t a lot you can do to fix it. Any model where the first stage in diagnosing a problem is to plug a laptop into the engine is going to let you down sooner or later. For an emergency vehicle, you’re a lot better off with a well-maintained older model that you can repair yourself. Sophisticated engine management systems are a bad thing if you can’t fix them; avoid them if at all possible.


You don’t want to be relying on a vehicle you can’t keep on the road, so you need to consider how you’ll get supplies in the long term. The biggest decision is the choice of fuel. Diesels have more torque and lower fuel consumption, but the fuel’s less common in the USA. That could be a good or a bad thing; in an SHTF situation there will be less of it around, but there will also be fewer people trying to get their hands on it. Then there’s the point that, if necessary, you can run a diesel engine on cooking oil. As a fuel, it has a lot of advantages, and my opinion is that a 2.0 to 3.0 liter diesel engine is the ultimate choice for your post-disaster vehicle.

Everyone has different requirements, and some of these will dominate your decision-making process – if you have really cold winters, a diesel might not be the best idea unless it has a pre-heater, for example. You should stick to the three basic principles as closely as you can, though. That way, you’ll ensure that you have reliable transport that will keep on going when everything around you is falling apart.

Disclaimer: The content in this article is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the policies or opinions of US Patriot Tactical.

Fergus Mason

Fergus Mason grew up in the west of Scotland. After attending university he spent 14 years in the British Army and served in Bosnia, Northern Ireland, Kosovo and Iraq. Afterwards, he went to Afghanistan as a contractor, where he worked in Kabul, Mazar-e-Sharif and Camp Leatherneck. He now writes on a variety of topics including current affairs and military matters.
Fergus Mason

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1 thought on “What to Look For in a SHTF Vehicle

  1. In a true SHTF scenario the biggest considerations will be lack of fuel availability and infrastructure impedance. Both of these issues are extremely likely to quickly evolve into show stoppers, and anyone relying on personal motorized transportation who fails to have adequate fuel reserves (read inadequate range capability) and/or “runs out of drivable/navigable roads or into choke/check/ambush points” will be SOLX100, and ON FOOT very, very, very quickly. Re-routs will not prove reliable either. Plan on it. Prepare for it. And get in shape for backpacking and accurate/creative land nav with a big-ass ruck, because that is what you and yours will be doing when your bad ass truck runs out of gas, breaks down, gets stuck and/or encounters impassable roads/terrain. Most truck owners are woefully out of shape with BMIs of 30 and higher (68% of truck owners in the USA), so this will just be one big gear-grab fiesta for the FIT folks about 30 days after the ‘event.’

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