The Ten Best Vehicles for an Apocalypse

Monday, November 16, 2020

#Functional Safety    #Quality

Even before a ravaging pandemic and extreme weather events became commonplace, one in seven people worldwide believed a reckoning would occur in their lifetime. The popularity of movies or shows like Mad Max or The Walking Dead are a reflection of society’s obsession. Be it the end of the Mayan calendar, the measurements of the Giza Pyramid or the return of Comet Kohoutek, people have theorized and sought to measure its arrival. Most religions, in fact, contain a portion of the theology (termed “eschatology”) which concerns the final events of history, usually with good triumphing over evil (e.g. the Conquering Messiah). And now with multiple, coincident markers, Apocalyptic Anxiety is on the rise. “Since the pandemic began, a lot of our customers have been inquiring how to prep their vehicles to survive an apocalypse,” said Keith Canete, the Lead ASE-Certified Master Automotive Technician at the mobile car-repair company,

Therein, some like Canete have begun to consider criteria and preparedness with unusual use cases in mind. “Doomsday prepping is not just for an apocalyptic scenario, but also for hurricanes in the South and severe snowstorms in the Northeast,” stated Canete. “We’ve all come to expect creature comforts of hotels and Ubers, but the truth is that a natural disaster can quickly wipe out access to all of that. Just look at what happened during Hurricane Katrina or during the Loma Preita Earthquake in 1989 in California. No one expected their entire world and shelter to be wiped out in minutes, but that is the sort of thing you can prepare for by having a vehicle that will allow you to escape safely. It’s just plain practical and can bring peace of mind, even if your area isn’t currently experiencing extreme weather or civic unrest.”

Canete has used the following criteria to evaluate all vehicles:

· Serviceability: In the event of repairs, you cannot bank on a master mechanic being available. 

· Quality: The vehicle needs to avoid repairs on its own.

· Off-roading: Obstructions to infrastructure may require the need to leave common roadways so “the ability to forge high water and large boulders without compromising the vehicles critical systems.”  

· Cabin Storage: Being able to carry supplies such as food, fuel, backup batteries, child supplies, water would be important. Daryl’s vintage Triumph motorcycle looked cool, but impractical. 

· Availability of Service Parts: It’s great if vehicles are easy to repair in theory, but only practical if parts can be found.

· Aftermarket Parts: Some vehicles can be made even more robust for off-roading with suspension modification kits, bumpers with winches, and custom tires (e.g. 31 to 40” wheels for all-terrain treads).

· Safety: High-speed collisions become a greater threat with more wildlife and less bumper-to-bumper traffic, so it's advisable to add roll cages designed for protecting occupants from roll over hazards while maintaining the structural integrity of the vehicle.

So without further ado, here are the Top Ten Vehicles you should consider for doomsday planning: 

#10: 1951-Current Toyota Landcruiser FJ J40 J70

While the Toyota does well in categories like quality, safety and off-roading, it suffers under a few of the other key criteria. “While Toyotas, Nissan and Land Rover are all excellent vehicles for off-roading, it may be a little harder to get parts for those specific vehicles if you’re in a situation where parts can’t ship overseas.”

#9: 1999-2015 Nissan Xterra

Xterras are some of the only SUVs truly outfitted for off-roading straight off the line. Nissan though, has traditionally had quality problems – as documented by JD Power over multiple years – which includes ‘nightmare’ defects with hard-to-fix radiators and transmissions.  

#8: 1989-2004 Land Rover Discovery

Once again, Land Rovers utilize quality suspension and have very structural rigid frames build for handing rugged terrain. “The difference between these vehicles and a luxury SUV like a BMW or Audi is that the vehicles that made this list are true utility vehicles made for off-roading, whereas your average luxury SUV is a lovely, glorified grocery getter.” Although the 2020 Discovery was awarded the maximum five-star NCAP rating, some earlier models had lower ratings with models like the 2003 only receiving two-stars for rollover.   

#7: 2021 Ford Bronco 4-Door

With fantastic versatility and compatibility of aftermarket items, the new Bronco restores to the Ford brand an all-world, all-apocalypse competitor. It probably would have scored higher on the list, but its newness causes a lack of safety rating information as well as low service-part availability.

#6: 2005-Current Toyota FJ Cruiser

Once again, quality and safety lifted this Toyota contender with the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) having awarded the FJ Cruiser its “Top Safety Pick” accolade. Once again, imported service parts might be more difficult if travel is restricted.

#5: 1987-2001 Jeep Cherokee

As said best by Canete, “Jeeps aren’t built with luxury in mind, they’re made for utility and they’ve been trail-rated proven over the last 50 years.” Chrysler certainly loses to some other brands in historical quality, but makes up for it in multiple other categories. “While somewhat undervalued this model is a tried and true four-wheel drive that offers a less expensive option to tackle the trails.”

#4: 2007-2018 Jeep Wrangler JK

In similar fashion, Canete lauds the Wrangler. “Jeeps are iconic in doomsday prepper communities because they’re built to be abused by the road and it’s easy to repair them. They’re also the ideal vehicle in a doomsday scenario because they have universal components that you can acquire more easily domestically.” This particular vehicle is the most modern model, designed with four doors, helpful for families on long trips.

#3: 1944-1985 Jeep CJ

With some of these models being particularly old, standard logic would be a concern about service parts, however the opposite is true. “In particular, Jeeps make the top of the list in terms of serviceability and availability of parts.”

#2: 1987-1995 Jeep Wrangler YJ

This model is the first redesign of the Jeep with a modern fuel-injected engine and a longer wheel base that make for a more stable ride. It's off-road capability, trunk storage and versatility were big reasons why the Wrangler climbed towards the top of the heap. Maybe the biggest ding against this off-road beast is the low frontal crash rating (two stars). 

#1: 2018-Current Jeep Wrangler JL

The most recent Wrangler tops the list for several upgrades over the previous versions: better safety (e.g. four stars), improved quality (e.g. Jeep jumped to the #11 brand in the 2020 JD Power Initial Quality Study (IQS) ratings as opposed to being bottom five in a few years, e.g. 2015) and improved ability to install improvements such as 35” tires with little to no modifications.

Final Note

Although many product planners are foreseeing electrification despite the changing landscape of the coronavirus, it was very intentional that no electric vehicles made Canete’s list. “In a doomsday scenario, you likely won’t have access to electricity or charging stations. In fact, in a worst-case scenario like a nuclear explosion, most cars’ silicon parts may be entirely obliterated. For anyone interested in hardcore doomsday prepping with impenetrable vehicles, go for a 1971 or older Jeep Wrangler. They are completely analogue and don’t contain any silicon wafers like modern cars. They wouldn’t be impacted by electromagnetic pulses or ‘emp waves’ that are emitted during a nuclear explosion.”



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