Looking to find that perfect vehicle for your beach condo, home, or vacation spot? With all the sand, rain, potential hurricanes, and conditions you’ll experience at the beach some makes and models perform better than others.
I personally have one of the vehicles mentioned on this list (so I’m biased here), but today I thought I would list a few other options I’ve seen and encountered while living at the beach.
In this post, I’ll list a few good makes and models for your next beach vehicle. Keep in mind, that some vehicles are perfect in certain conditions, while others are great for reliability among other things.
I’ll break down a handful of solid beach vehicles to consider to help you decide which one is right for you based on your needs. Keep in mind, this is no exhaustive list and these are simply prioritized for their power, reliability, and ease of repair when exposed to sand and the elements.
1. Jeep Wrangler
It’s no surprise the Jeep Wrangler makes just about every list when it comes to off-roading or beach use.
I personally own one of these and can tell you practically it is one of the best choices for leaving at a beach home and not worry about it.
The Jeep community is probably the largest around in this category, and parts are readily available. Not to mention, they are some of the easiest vehicles mechanically to work on due to their simplicity and all come with 4WD. I’m a fan of the TJs and CJs personally, and these are perfect to keep at the coast.
There are several online Wrangler communities to know about if you considering one for beach use, like WranglerTJForum.com, WranglerJKForum.net, WranglerYJForum.net, and many more.
The Jeep community: perfect for advice sand and beach mods
Jeep Wranglers have these 2 to 3-letter model naming codes, which basically groups them together by body style. Since they change the body styles every few years, the communities are formed around this system. Starting from oldest to newest: CJ, YJ, TJ, LJ, LKU, and JL.
I personally have a TJ Wrangler, and for less than $10,000 you can’t really go wrong with having one of these for beach use. There are also entire companies (like Quadratec) created around Jeep Wranglers that continue to supply aftermarket parts, tops, and mod ideas specifically for Wranglers.
You can also find a pretty large pre-owned and new aftermarket parts presence on marketplaces like eBay.
2. Toyota 4Runner
If you are looking for a solid option that is versatile enough to carry quite a few passengers, but also designed for beach driving, look for further than a Toyota 4Runner.
Much like the Jeep community, the 4Runner community is equally as passionate, and these vehicles have plenty of cargo space and offroad features like 4WD, locking rear differential, and what’s called “Crawl Control” for the TRD offroad.
These also have a great resale value. As an example, the Kelly Blue Book value on a 2008 4Runner still commands anywhere from about $12,000 to $20,000, depending on the package.
3. Chevy Silverado or Ford F-250
Okay, so whether or not you fall into the Chevy or Ford camp, both these models are great choices for offroad driving, so I won’t go into too much detail.
Not on this list, Ford F-150s is still a great choice, since they do get better gas mileage and are slightly more affordable being they come with V6 engines. However, if you plan to tow a boat, you may want to step up to an F-250.
Silverados or F-250s: great for towing a boat
For Silverados, these will typically come stock with 5.3L or 6.0L V8 engines, so if you’re looking for something with a little more power for pulling a boat, this is a great choice.
This is also the case for the GMC Sierra, which is essentially the same truck.
Both great for cargo space and parts availability
If you’re looking for something to bring a cooler, a surfboard, and a pretty comfortable ride across just about any terrain, these are both excellent choices. Their plastic bedliners also are really easy to spray off from experience.
The parts availability and knowledge the average mechanic has of either truck is unmatched considering these two are consistent #1-2 best-selling pickups in America.
You won’t have a problem finding a ton of tutorials on YouTube for adding offroad modifications you may desire.
4. Ford Bronco
The Bronco is another American classic perfect for beach use, due to its open cab design. If you can manage to find one of these prior to 1996, you can find these with V8 engines, which are great to have, especially if you plan to take one on the beach.
As for the newer Broncos, these are still 4WD, and several packages come lifted if you prefer modern features.
Older Ford Broncos: the perfect leave-at-the-beach vehicle
Besides the Jeep Wrangler, these older Broncos are some of the most popular choices for beach use among surfers due to their removable hardtops and aftermarket soft tops you can find.
The older models have become quite collectible (especially those in the 70s, due to their styling), but are quite powerful vehicles and generally pretty simple to work on.
If you’re looking for something with power, an American classic, and something that has the potential to become collectible look no further. These are great to leave at the beach or slowly modify over time if you just want something capable, stylish, but something you don’t have to worry about keeping spotless.
5. Suburu Forrester
If you’re looking for a modern surf wagon, the Suburu Forrester is a dependable option that gets around 33 mpg on the highway. Some have even managed to fit a 9-foot surfboard with the headrest and seats folded down, it’s also 4WD, which is a nice perk.
Obviously known for reliability and safety, this is also a great choice if you are entertaining families at your beach home, since it seats 5 a bit more comfortably than a Wrangler, for example.
While not the best for beach driving, as long as you have enough ground clearance, these can drive on sand so long as it is not too deep, and tires are properly deflated.
6. Jeep Grand Cherokee
When it comes to beach vehicles, the Wrangler and Grand Cherokee are two solid options, simply due to the number of modifications and the community you become a part of when owning these vehicles.
The Grand Cherokee Latitude and Trailhawk are both good choices, with the Trailhawk coming from the factory pretty much ready for beach driving.
You can also find Jeep Grand Cherokees with optional 6.4L V8 engines (which is insane!), and all the power you will really ever need. If you also plan to do a bit of highway driving at the beach, these are a bit more roomy and accessible than many Wranglers.
7. Hummer H3 or EV
If you’re looking for something tough and built for terrain, look no further than the GMC Hummer. If you can still find one of these in good condition, they are a great option, considering the build quality on these.
GMC has also started to produce the Hummer EV, which will be one of the first vehicles in this class, and something worth paying attention to if you desire something larger for beach use, due to its size.
If you’ve got the money for one and love the ruggedness of these, check out the video below:
8. Toyota RAV4
For a fun beach vehicle on a budget, look no further than the RAV-4.
The reason I like this one is that you can find them with the TRD offroad package much like the Tacoma (which is also a decent choice in the beach category).
These also have a Mud & Sand mode, so clearly some thought has gone into beach driving for Toyota as of late.
9. Chevy Tahoe Z71
While it may not be the first vehicle you would consider taking on the beach, if you’re looking for something spacious and has a ton of power to get you just about anywhere, the 5.3 liter or 6.0 liter V8 really can’t be beaten.
If you have kids and are looking for something versatile you can also take to the dunes, I would recommend the Z-71 offroad package, as well as oversized tires.
If you need something to leave at the beach, these vehicles are simple to work on, easy to install lift kits on, and one of the most comfortable and spacious vehicles you can buy for the money in my opinion.
10. Volkswagon Baja Bug
For that retro, yet affordable option, what’s being called the Baja Bug is a great choice for a beach vehicle.
These are built from modified Volkswagon Beetles, essentially creating some sort of a dune buggy. They can be quite fun on the beach assuming the sand isn’t too deep, and a perfect cruiser for driving around beach towns.
When it comes to ideal beach vehicles, I don’t recommend cars due to their low ground clearance, but these are the exception. Of course, if you aren’t planning to take a car out on the beach, there are other great options to go with.
11. Chevy Blazer
Whether you decide to go with a mid 70s Chevy Blazer or a newer model, Blazers are also great options due to their ruggedness and removable cab.
Like the older Broncos, the K5 Blazers among others have become quite collectible, with early 80s Blazers going for anywhere between $20,000 and $30,000 on the private market.
One Final Note
If you plan to take your beach vehicle on the sand, be sure to check out my post Guide: the Best Tire for Driving on Beach Sand, where I break down everything you need to know (like deflating your tires) for driving on the beach.
At the end of the day, when selecting beach vehicles, it comes down to a couple of different factors, including:
- Number of passengers you will likely be transporting
- Driving on the beach
- Driving through muddy or sandy parking lots
- Desired ground clearance
Deciding what beach vehicle is right for you
For me personally, a good beach vehicle is one that gets used a lot. If you have a place at the coast, it’s a good idea to select a model that is both reliable and has a decent-sized online community that will be able to help educate you on any repairs or things to watch for.
If your budget is a key concern, and you’re looking to stay under $10,000, I’d recommend any of the American brands that are 4WD, simple to work on, and are common in order to ensure a good selection of pre-owned parts.
Most American brands with SUV or truck options will have a fairly large community of both owners and mechanics who service them, so in my opinion, you really can’t go wrong.