Two Letters Re: Vehicle Recommendations?

Mr. Jim,
You perfectly encapsulated a modification I just did to the kit I carry in my vehicle. While I knew better, it still took reading “One Second After” to set me thinking: How do I get home if the car dies? Your reference: “My personal circumstances are unusual, since I live at my retreat year-round. So the gear that I keep in my vehicle is more of a “Get Me Back Home Kit” rather than a “Get Out of Dodge Kit” is perfect.

I have carried a pretty decent vehicle breakdown kit for some time, but I did so in a document box. It then occurred to me: You will have to walk, dummy. So I bought a cheap, “Remington” brand backpack from Wal-Mart, and everything got transferred. It’s not “Military” looking, in keeping with ominous rumblings about that stuff in various “Memos,” but rugged enough to get me home.

Excellent way to encapsulate that notion. That’s how I will start referring to it as with students and family. Thanks, – Jim B2


Thank you again for your excellent blog. You are definitely saving lives and saving dollars.

When our Nissan expired, we had a long discussion about what to buy for our general use/SHTF vehicle. The criteria we settled on were:

  • Size – The vehicle must be big enough for the entire family, plus guests (we made a mistake here, by not accounting for two college student siblings, who recently moved back to the area), plus cargo.
  • Engine – Diesel is preferable to gasoline or propane for a number of reasons in every area except for availability of parts and costs of repairs. For diesels, pre-2007 is a requirement (for bio-diesel compatibility). For all engine types (with the possible exception of hybrids), older is generally better. Buy used.
  • Chassis – The question here is balancing fuel efficiency (which translates to range) vs. pulling power. Performance requirements vary based on your location. Ideally you should buy the smallest size available that will meet your hauling and performance requirements, maximizing your fuel efficiency. This also will reduce your final costs. A trailer hitch is a must, even for smaller cars, but can be added after-market for little cost.
  • Reliability – Reliability is a must. Do your research before you buy.
  • Cost – Don’t take on debt buying more than you need. Forego leather seats and satellite radio to stock up on spare parts and mechanic’s classes. A lower cost vehicle also lets you practice doing all the regular maintenance yourself without fear of putting yourself $20,000 in the hole.

I rarely see it mentioned, but for many people, it’s worth considering cargo vans. You can pick them up on the cheap, well-maintained, with plenty of cargo space. The downside is poor off-road performance, but this isn’t as much a concern for people near or in the cities, and can be addressed separately.

Do research on alternative fuels for your vehicle. Diesels can draw on a number of fuel sources, most especially bio-diesel. Many gasoline engines can accept ethanol. But both require production, which is difficult to impossible without the proper equipment and knowledge. Figuring out how to fuel your generator when your tank has run dry is going to be a painful lesson in preparation.

Our thoughts and prayers are with you and yours. – Dieselman