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The 10 Best Surf Cars Ranked for 2024

It is hard to claim one car to be more adept for surfing.


The most iconic, of course, are your late 1900s Volkswagen models that every surfer has dreamed of traveling coast to coast, searching for the perfect, uncrowded break.



You can practically live in these wheeled beasts. The best surf cars take into account power and all-terrain capabilities, potential living space, and storage for all the boards in your quiver, and more.


The 10 Best Surf Cars


Option 1: Subaru Cross Trek 2024

 

Cost: Running you a mere $25,000 for the base model and $32,000 for the high-end Wilderness model.


These top-of-the-line safety vehicles have symmetrical AWD (all-wheel drive) and your latest CarPlay for Android and Apple, allowing for easy music and navigation.




They both have a 16.6-gallon tank. The Base model has an estimated 34 Highway/27 City MPG (miles per gallon), and the Wilderness runs at 29/25 MPG.


Not only are safety features regarded as the best in class, but the towing capacity is also 3,500 lbs. This is your go-to vehicle for adventuring to a spot but knowing you won’t be sleeping in your car.


Option 2: Volkswagen Westfalia Vanagon 

 Cost: $25,000 - $50,000


Known as the Vanagon in North and South America and the Transporter in Europe and Australia, this is your iconic wake-up-at-the-beach, pull-the-curtain-back-and-go-surf camper van.


Made from 1979 until 1992, this is a 4-5 speed manual or 3-speed automatic transmission system.


They have both gas and diesel options, but the MPG stays relatively low compared to modern cars, at an average of 12-18 MPG.


The 1979 to 1982 models had air-cooled engines, while the 1983 to 1991 models had a water-cooling system.


The roof pop-up camper is ideal for those looking to not have to check into any surf hotels or Airbnb’s.

Option 3: Toyota Tacoma 2024

 Cost: $31,500 for the base model 


Toyotas are known for their reliability; you could literally toss them off a cliff, and the engine will still run—okay, that might be a bit of an exaggeration, but these beasts will never break down on you if you keep up with maintenance.





The 2024 Tacoma has a 2.4 L 4-cylinder engine with 8-speed automatic and 6-speed manual transmission options. It packs 326 HP and 465 lb.-ft of torque.


The towing capacity ranges from 3,500 to 6,600 lbs., depending on the model.


The luxury of this car is the truck bed, which is 5 to 6 feet long and can hold all your camping gear, boards, propane stoves, and more. This monster will get you anywhere you want to go.


Option 4: Toyota 4-Runner 2024

 

Cost: $41,000 for the SR5 base model.


The SR5 has a 4-liter V6 engine and is 4x2. It features a 3-speed electronically controlled transmission system.


The high-end model, TRD, is priced around $55,000 but is 4x4 and equipped with a part-time 4WD system, as none of the 4-Runners have a full-time 4WD system.





While the 4-Runner does not have a truck bed, the trunk space can accommodate everything you need and more, and it includes a built-in factory rack to strap down your boards.


Option 5: Toyota Land Cruiser 2024

 

Cost: $55,000


Versatility is key when it comes to the Land Cruiser; it is perfect for both adventures and heading to your local break.


It features a full-time 4WD system with an 8-speed automatic transmission. The powertrain is a 2.4 L 4-Cylinder i-Force Max Hybrid. The MPG sits at an average of 25.





The best thing about the Land Cruiser is the CRAWL and multi-terrain select system, guiding you through all your obstacles. The CRAWL system is your cruise control system but for off-roading.


Option 6: Subaru Forester 2024

 

Cost: $27,000


The sister car to the Cross Trek, the base model runs at 33/26 MPG with a 2.5 L 4-cylinder engine, packing 182 HP and a towing capacity of 1,500 lbs.


The Touring is the highest model for the Forester, priced at $37,395, and has a 31/26 MPG with a towing capacity of 3,000 lbs. It features a continuous variable transmission.





The difference between the Cross Trek and Forester is that the Cross Trek prioritizes fuel economy over horsepower, all while packing more power than the Forester. The Forester still has the same safety features that you see in the Cross Trek.


Option 7: Volkswagen Type 2 Window 

 

Cost: $20,000 - $70,000


This is the iconic Volkswagen Bus, your hippie camper on wheels. The mileage is around 12 MPG, and it has rear-wheel drive (RWD) with a manual transmission.





The best makes of this car were from 1965 to 1975, and keep in mind that the 1959 model had a problematic engine, leading to a recall.


If you are planning to take this beauty on thousand-mile journeys looking for your next barrel, keep in mind that they can break down, as they are less reliable than the Westfalia Vanagon model. It still is the perfect daytime cruiser that can fit everything you need and up to 7/8 people.

Option 8: Honda Element 2011


Cost: $10,000 - $36,000


This is one of my all-time favorite surf/adventure cars.


While only a four-seater, the backseats have the ability to fully flatten to make a sleeping area or can be flipped to the sides to make room for camping supplies, boards, or even a mattress if you want to get a comfy shut-eye.





It is a 5-speed automatic with Realtime 4WD.


The mileage is around 25 for the highway and 20 for the city, all while having a 2.4 L 4-cylinder engine that packs 166 HP and a 1,500 lbs. towing capacity.


Not to mention, it has a 15.9-gallon tank, giving you a range of 360 to 375 miles per tank.

Option 9: Jeep Wrangler 2024

Wrangler 4xe Cost: $50,000

Wrangler Gas Cost: $31,000


In 2024, there are two options for the Wrangler: the 4xe, which is the Electric or EV model, and the classic Wrangler that still runs on gasoline.





The 4xe has a charge range of 370 miles, with 270 HP and a 3,000-pound towing capacity.


Right out of the factory, it comes with a built-in offroad towing wrench attached to the front bumper. It still maintains the classic 4WD but has a new 8-speed automatic transmission.


While expensive, the EV version allows for extensive power and capabilities to get you anywhere you want to surf, all while not emitting carbon dioxide.

The gas Wrangler has a 6-speed manual transmission packing a 3.6 L V6 engine. It gets an average of 23 miles on the highway, 17 in the city, and has a 17-gallon tank.


Any of these options will make it a breeze to get to any unknown or mystery break.


Option 10: Honda N-Van 

 

Cost: $6,000 - $14,000


The Honda N-Van is the Japanese version of your Honda Element; it transforms into the perfect camper van with plenty of space.


Honda began making this model in 2018 and continues to do so today. It is a 5-door van with a 6-speed manual transmission, front-wheel drive, and a 4WD drive system.

It has a small tank of 6.75 gallons but is extremely fuel-efficient as it runs on petrol and averages 58 miles per gallon.





It features the English style of driving on the right-hand side. I included this one on the list for those of you surfing in England or Asia, but it can be imported to the United States.


What to Consider When Buying a Car for Surfing

There are two types of true surf cars: the powerful and diverse off-road vehicles capable of traversing any terrain in their way.

These are meant for adventurous missions when you're exploring new breaks and uncertain about the obstacles ahead.


Examples include Toyota, Jeeps, and Subarus.


The other type is the camper van/surfboard garage on wheels.


These units can be converted into mobile homes that offer a fair amount of adventuring, but they aren't suitable for driving through dunes, over rocks, or through shallow rivers.


They are designed for picturesque surf trips, making travel affordable while providing extensive storage space for all your essentials.




The Bottom Line: Surf Cars

All the cars on this list are dream surf cars, with some standing out more than others, especially the Volkswagen models, which are iconic symbols of counterculture.


You can't go wrong with the reliability and performance of these cars, and each one will get the job done.


Even if you can't afford these cars for your day-to-day options, they make excellent choices if you have to rent a car while on a surf trip.


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