The Best Cars for Surfers: 9 Cool Rides in 2023
For us surfers, it’s not all about riding waves – the excitement also comes from the hunt and the journey to get to the surf.
This search for the perfect surf spot often takes us down meandering coastal roads, exploring dirt tracks and over sandy beach paths.
The vehicle you choose becomes as important as the board you ride (well, almost).
And it’s not just about transportation – storage, convenience, and sometimes even a place to chill after a long day battling Mother Nature.
In this article, we dive into the best cars if you’re a surfer – all have their plus points and I think you’d be stoked to own any of the cars on the list.
Kitting out your surf car
Getting the right accessories for your surf wagon will make life so much easier.
Roof racks will securely transport multiple boards at once so try to invest in a good rack and good-quality roof straps. Brands like Yakima and Thule offer systems to fit most factory and aftermarket roof racks. Install foam blocks to prevent board damage.
Cargo boxes provide lockable storage for gear you don’t need while surfing. Consider a trailer hitch for times when more room is needed.
Protecting boards and gear
Always tie down boards and equipment securely to prevent shifting and damage during transport.
Use boat trailer straps or specially designed surfboard tie downs. It’s also a good idea to keep your boards in their own boardbag – it will stop little dings from small knocks while in transit and also protect the interior of your car from getting covered in surf wax.
A cool little product I’ve seen recently is a portable shower – great for rinsing gear (and yourself) outside your car before packing up.
Handling wet and sandy situations
Surfing involves constant wetness and sandy bodies.
Even if you have the best changing poncho, you are going to get sand and seawater in the car.
A good tip is to invest in a few storage buckets that fit nicely into the trunk of your ride – Stash wet wetsuits in here, beach towels and other surfing bits and pieces.
Try to vacuum your interior frequently to stay ahead of the game when it comes to sand build up. Oh and bring a bag for trash and super sandy items.
The Best Cars for Surfers:
1. Subaru Crosstrek
New Price: $22,245
Used Price: $13,000-$18,000
MPG: 28 city / 33 highway
The Subaru Crosstrek is a top pick for surfers due to its rugged design and all-wheel-drive capability, ensuring easy access to both well-trodden and off-beaten beach paths.
It has a very roomy interior and roof rack as standard making it super easy to transport surfboards and gear. The Crosstrek’s elevated ground clearance means driving over sandy or dirt tracks becomes less of a challenge.
All these features, combined with Subaru’s reputation for reliability, make the Crosstrek a favored choice for those who chase the waves. Pick up a used Crosstrek for a smidge over $10K.
2. Volkswagen Vanagon Westfalia
New Price: N/a
Used Price: $20,000-$25,000
MPG: 16 city / 20 highway
Ok, a classic surfer choice here, but for good reason! The Volkswagen Vanagon Westfalia is a great choice for surfers, capturing both the spirit of adventure and the practical needs of the beach-bound traveler.
Its iconic pop-top gives you somewhere to sleep or to store boards making multi-day surf trips or early dawn patrol sessions way more fun.
The interior has a tonne of places to store boards and wetsuits, and there are a load of cubbies to put your surf wax and other essential gear – you can just leave it all in the van so you don’t need to pack and unpack every time you hit the surf. Splash out on the four-wheel drive version for those road trips to Baja and beyond!
3. Honda Pilot
New Price: $32,250
Used Price: $15,000-$20,000
MPG: 20 city / 27 highway
The Honda Pilot is an often-underestimated gem in the world of surfer-friendly vehicles.
With its spacious interior and three rows of seats, it offers ample space for surfboards, either inside the car with the back rows folded down or mounted on top with a roof rack. Depending on the engine, you have an option of a V6 which ensures you have enough power to venture off the beaten path, while its smooth ride quality guarantees a comfortable journey to remote surf spots.
The Pilot also features an intelligent all-wheel-drive system, making drives on sandy or slippery terrains less daunting. Coupled with Honda’s renowned reliability and an array of modern tech features, the Pilot provides surfers with both practicality and peace of mind, making it a reliable companion for those oceanic adventures.
4. Ford Transit Connect
New Price: $32,000, but soon to be discontinued
Used Price: $12,000-$20,000
MPG: 24 city / 28 highway
The Ford Transit Connect is an incredibly practical vehicle for surfers.
Unlike traditional surfer vans, the Transit Connect has a really small footprint but doesn’t skimp on space inside.
Its customizable interior allows for the transportation of multiple surfboards, wetsuits, and other essential gear, all while ensuring they remain secure and organized.
Twin sliding doors are awesome – making the process of loading and unloading surfboards a breeze.
Its relatively high roofline is not just beneficial for interior space but is also ideal for attaching external roof racks or carriers. With decent fuel efficiency and Ford’s trusted durability, the Transit Connect serves as an efficient and reliable workhorse for surfers on the move.
5. Toyota Rav4
New Price: $26,050
Used Price: $10,000-$15,000
MPG: 28 city / 35 highway
The Toyota RAV4 is a classic in the category of compact SUVs and is really well suited to the everyday surfer.
Its blend of versatility, fuel efficiency, and durability makes it a great companion for those who hit the beach on a regular basis.
With a huge cargo area, the RAV4 can comfortably accommodate surfboards, especially when the rear seats are folded flat. And if you need to carry passengers AND surfboards, you can split the rear seats and just fold one section allowing 1 or 2 passengers in the back.
The vehicle’s all-wheel-drive variants ensure steady performance on sandy or wet terrains, giving surfers the confidence to explore those spots off the beaten path.
Plus, with Toyota’s longstanding reputation for reliability, you can be assured you’re not gonna break down in the middle of nowhere.
6. Jeep Wrangler Unlimited
New Price: $30,000-$50,000
Used Price: $15,000-$30,000
MPG: 21 city / 26 highway
As cheesy as it sounds, the Jeep Wrangler is more than just a vehicle; it’s an embodiment of adventure and freedom, resonating deeply with the ethos of surfing.
This rugged vehicle, renowned for its off-road prowess, allows surfers to get to really inaccessible spots, be it rocky coastlines or loose sandy beaches.
The longer wheelbase in the Unlimited variant provides additional cargo space, making it easier to accommodate boards, camping gear, and a tonne of other supplies.
The removable doors and top add to the fun of a coastal drive, letting you feel the ocean breeze and the sun as you head to your favorite surf spot.
And it goes without saying that they are built super tough, made to be used and abused!
7. Honda Element
New Price: N/A
Used Price: $8,000 – $15,000
MPG: 20 city / 25 highway
The Honda Element stands out as one of the most uniquely designed and functional vehicles, making it a favorite among surfers.
Its boxy shape isn’t just for aesthetics; it translates into an incredibly spacious interior, perfect for stowing away surfboards, wetsuits, and other beach essentials.
A standout feature is its water-resistant seats and rubberized flooring, making post-surf clean-ups a breeze; you can literally hose down the interior after a sandy and salty day at the beach – pretty cool!
The Element’s wide-opening suicide doors ensure easy loading and unloading of gear, while its flat-folding seats provide flexibility in cargo arrangements. With a reliable Honda engine under the hood and available all-wheel drive, it’s well-equipped for both city commutes and beach adventures.
8. Toyota Tacoma
New Price: $30,000+
Used Price: $15,000 – $25,000+
MPG: 20 city / 23 highway
The Toyota Tacoma, another Japanese entry is well known for its rugged looks and reliable drivetrain. Seriously capable off-road, this truck will get you almost anywhere you need to be.
This mid-sized truck has a loading bed spacious enough to hold multiple boards, camping gear, and any other equipment a surfer might need for a weekend getaway – use a tailgate pad if you need to carry longboards and let them hang over the end of the tailgate.
The Tacoma’s four-wheel-drive system means even the most secluded beaches are within reach, and its high ground clearance it’s easy to navigate rocky terrain.
9. Subaru Forester
New Price: $24,795
Used Price: $10,000 – $15,000
MPG: 26 city / 33 highway
The Subaru Forester is a classic surf wagon – the quintessential adventure vehicle which makes it a top choice for the everyday surfer.
Renowned for its standard all-wheel-drive system, the Forester confidently navigates varied terrains, from paved coastal roads to sandy beach trails.
Combined with its generous cargo space, with a wide and square-shaped opening, makes it easy to slide in surfboards or stack them alongside other beach gear.
One of the Forester’s great features is its panoramic sunroof – pretty nice when you are exloring a new location on a sunny day.
Pretty good ground clearance for off-roading combined with its compact footprint, the Forrester is a great option for surfers who want the ‘swiss army knife’ of cars.
What is the best hybrid SUV for surfing?
The Toyota RAV4 Hybrid is a top pick for a hybrid SUV for surfers. It provides all-wheel drive capability, great fuel efficiency, and ample cargo space to transport boards. The rear seats fold flat to accommodate longer boards.
What is the best Baja surf vehicle?
For surf trips in Baja California, Mexico, a Toyota Tacoma or Ford Ranger pickup truck are good rugged and reliable choices. Their 4WD systems can handle sandy terrain, the truck bed provides secure board storage, and ground clearance helps on rough dirt roads.
Can I fit a surfboard in a Subaru Outback?
Yes, a surfboard can fit inside a Subaru Outback with the rear seats folded down. Up to an 8 foot board can fit diagonally from the rear liftgate into the front passenger footwell. Foam blocks or towels can help protect the interior.
How do you attach a surfboard to a Subaru Outback?
Subaru Outbacks have factory roof rails, allowing crossbar roof racks to be installed. Surfboard mounts or pads can then be attached to securely transport one or more boards on the roof. Always tie them down tightly with specific surf straps.
Will a surfboard fit in my car?
It depends on the size of the surfboard and interior dimensions of your vehicle. Longer boards 8 feet or more may only fit diagonally in SUVs or vans. Boards 7 feet or under have a better chance fitting in sedan trunks. Measure your board and interior space first to be sure. Hatchbacks and wagons provide more load flexibility than trunks.
How do you transport a surfboard inside the car?
When transporting a surfboard inside a car, lay it diagonally from the rear of the vehicle into the front footwell. Pad the dashboard and use towels or foam blocks to prevent board movement and protect the interior. Stand the board vertically if needed to fit shorter vehicles. Always secure it tightly so it doesn’t shift.
About the author:
Matt Hapgood is a father, surfer, and entrepreneur. He has worn many hats in his career, from being a removal guy in Vancouver to teaching elementary kids in the UK, as well as a parking valet in the French Alps. He’s the founder and main contributor to MattHapgood.com and is currently living in the Algarve, Portugal.
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