We all miss our earliest memories of surfing – old-school surfboards and surf wagons. Unfortunately, these days, wagons have gone uncool, old, and far-from-trendy. It also doesn’t help that while we know they’re still around, they are hard to find.
Surf wagons are the best cars for surfers, but now that we’re riding our vehicles not only for surfing but for other driving errands, too, it would be nice to find a car that can accommodate both – one that can bring us to the office on weekdays and the beach on weekends.
- What types of cars are good for surfers
- Can a surfboard fit in a small car
- Can I leave my surfboard in the car
- How fast can you drive with a surfboard on the roof
Table of Contents
What Types of Cars Are Good For Surfers?
From a practical perspective, any car that can take the surfer to the beach is the best choice. But, for a surfer who seeks adventure, comfort, and style, there is so much more you’d want out of your car.
The best car for surfers needs to be:
- Rugged and durable. It isn’t just the surfboard that will be subjected to long periods of salt air exposure, but the car, too.
- Can drive off-road. It should be able to let you be intrepid as you seek out uncrowded spots.
- Economical. It should be light on fuel as much as possible to help keep the environment safe and your bank account, too.
- Reliable. It shouldn’t cause you to get stranded in the middle of nowhere.
- Large. Big enough to rest and sleep in and accommodate your surfboards.
Top 5 Best Cars for Surfers Reviewed
We can only dream of living within walking distance to our favorite surf spots for most of us. Fortunately, we can go with the most practical alternative – getting a car that can serve us and our hobbies. The best cars for surfers are:
- Volkswagen Bus
- Ford Flex
- Subaru Crosstrek
- Toyota Rav4
- Jeep Wrangler
1. Volkswagen Bus
- Height: 6’4”
- Width: 5’8”
- Length: 14’.5”
- Wheelbase: 7’10.5”
- Engine: Volkswagen E-motor Flat-4 naturally aspirated petrol engine
The little outdated model of the Volkswagen bus still holds the top spot in most lists, including ours. It may not have as much power as most modern cargo vehicles, but you’ll understand why it is an ideal car for surfers just by looking at it.
The Type-2 Bus or 4-panel van trims has the doors on a sliding frame for easier access inside. This bus measures 177.4 inches in length and can carry a capacity of up to 2,200 pounds. Its retro appearance may turn some off, but you’ll know how this bus is the poster child of surf cars back in the day if you are in touch with surf life roots.
Finding a Volkswagen Bus nowadays can be a little challenging, though. Volkswagen has not imported these to the US since the 1970s. This means that even if you manage to find one, it could require you a few touch-ups here and there. You may also prep yourself to forgive its lack of power compared to the modern cars today.
|Long enough to accommodate surfboards||Maintenance can be challenging|
|Vintage looks and feels|
|Solid and robust body|
2. Ford Flex
- Height: 5.6’
- Width: 7.4’
- Length: 16.81’
- Wheelbase: 9.8’
- Engine: Gas V6 Double overhead cam
The Ford Flex looks like a minivan at first glance, but it is harder and more squared-off. It is more like a wagon that masquerades as a crossover. This car may not score as high as its competitors when it comes to fuel efficiency, but it makes up by having the best cargo holds.
Its boxy shape and flat-folding seats allow you to keep large items, including surfboards, in the back with no issues. You may also store your boards topside with no problems. Thanks to its long roof that can easily be outfitted with roof racks.
Moreover, the Ford Flex lives up to the surfer lifestyle with its large cabin area, complete with a great audio system where you can chill after a long day of surfing. Power is not a problem with its competent V6 engine.
|Can be easily fitted with roof racks||High fuel consumption|
|Plenty of cargo room|
|Spacious cabin area|
3. Subaru Crosstrek
- Height: 5.3’
- Width: 5.91’
- Length: 14.70’
- Wheelbase: 8.74’
- Engine: FB20B engine 182-hp 2.5-liter flat-four
The Subaru Crosstrek is one of the reasons Subaru is known as the outdoorsy car maker. It is a reliable, roomy, and solid wagon. You will have enough room for all of your surfboards and surfing gear. What’s best is, its roof rack is a standard.
Fitting a board inside the car is effortless, as claimed by many surfers who have tried to do so. A no-fuss surf car, the Subaru Crosstrek is excellent in offroading, too. Moreover, this eco-conscious vehicle has comfortable seats that passengers can enjoy.
A good amount of legroom to stretch out before making it to the shores comes very conveniently. Plus, it has handy hi-tech features, including a Wi-Fi hotspot. Nothing beats a car that combines utility and comfort.
|Comes with a standard roof rack||A little longer to park|
|Perfect for offroad|
4. Toyota Rav4
- Height: 5.58’
- Width: 6.08’
- Length: 15.07’
- Wheelbase: 8.82’
- Engine: Gas Inline 4 Double overhead cam (dohc)
One of the popular compact SUVs in the market today, the Toyota Rav4 serves double duty as your city car and your surf car. Toyota’s reputation in reliability guarantees that the Rav4 won’t leave you stranded. This reliability makes this car ideal for surfers who go on road trips in far surfing spots.
While it isn’t as big or spacious as most cars we’ve reviewed so far, the Rav4 makes up for it by providing a rack-ready roof. Environmentally friendly surfers will also love how economical it is, sipping just 4.8L/km and getting power from a 2.5-liter four-cylinder petrol hybrid.
The Toyota Rav4 also comes with a navigation system through its touch screen display. This function shares information about navigation as well as other details about the car too.
|Has multi-terrain drive modes||The navigation system can be confusing to use|
|Versatile and convenient|
5. Jeep Wrangler
- Height: 6.13’
- Width: 6.15’
- Length: 15.7’
- Wheelbase: 9.86’
- Engine: Gas V6 Double overhead cam (dohc)
A car with a reputation for go-anywhere fun, the Jeep Wrangler deserves a spot on this list. Its open-air appeal is unparalleled, thanks to its choice of removable tops. This makes any trip, whether to run an errand or a drive to the beach, as much fun.
The Jeep Wrangler is a full-on American approach to your ocean life. What makes it your ideal surf car is how you can customize it according to your needs. You can have it fitted with special offroading tires for your adventures with dunes.
This vehicle also allows you to take all the doors off and lower the windscreen for that beachy- buggy look. It is so beach-ready that it has a wash-out interior so you can open the floor drain valves, hose it down, and the water and mud that piled up can flow out.
|Highly customizable||More expensive than other surf cars|
|Plenty of room|
Can A Surfboard Fit In A Small Car?
Yes, a surfboard may fit in a small car. Most surfboards measure up to 8 feet and may work even in the smallest of vehicles. How? By placing them on the front passenger seat and laying it flat.
Surfboards are commonly placed inside cars, especially if the vehicle has no fitted roof racks. It is free and fast, but be careful because this option may not be allowed in some areas, and you might attract police to pull you over.
The best option is to install a rigid roof rack, roof rack protectors, and fastening straps. Having a roof rack is the safest and most effective way to transport your surfboard.
Can I Leave My Surfboard In The Car?
You can, but you should not. If you want your surfboard to last another ten years, you should not leave your surfboard in the car. The car’s interior, particularly on a hot sunny day, is like a greenhouse, with temperatures getting hotter the longer you leave your surfboard.
On an average sunny day, the temperature inside the car climbs from 80 degrees to 115 degrees. We can’t emphasize enough just how bad too much heat is for the surfboard.
To give you an idea – most polyester resin starts to soften at a certain degree noticeably. Once the temperature hits 130 degrees, the foam becomes unstable. A dark-colored surfboard can reach these temperatures in no time. Here’s a video from Andrew W., who shared his experience of leaving his surfboard in the car.
How Fast Can You Drive With A Surfboard On The Roof?
You should avoid going too fat when driving with surfboards on your roof. Most roof rack systems include the speed limit in the user manual, and you should always adhere to it.
Generally, if you are transporting a surfboard on the roof of your car, the maximum speed lies around 70mph. Going beyond this speed exposes you to risks such as roof rack breakage and surfboard falling, causing a severe hazard to other road users.
Surfing is a compelling reason to be at the beach, and your car shouldn’t be the reason for holding back. After all, It is the surfboard you will be surfing with and not the car.
If you are looking at hitting the beach every weekend or at least twice a month, the Volkswagen Bus gives you the freedom and ability to stretch out in the back or let your surfboard lay down inside.
Extreme locations are best with Toyota Rav4. Yet, you also can’t go wrong with Subaru. They are your all-rounder – immensely powerful, rock-solid engine and machine, and at a fraction of the cost of most cars.
Our list of the best cars for surfers that we presented are your options, but whatever car you have can work.
FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)
Q: Do you need a surfboard bag on a roof rack?
A: Ideally, your surfboard should be in a bag on a roof rack to keep and protect it from dings and dents. The padded surfboard bag offers protection from the tiedown straps that you will use to hold them down. Without the surfboard bag, the rails on your surfboard can get easily dinged or cracked.
The easiest option is a good “day bag.” It is light enough to be taken to the beach every day but padded sufficiently to offer protection and security while your surfboard is tied down on the roof of your car. A heavy-duty travel bag is still the best option, but it can be a little bulkier than your everyday bag.
Q: Can you carry two or more surfboards on a roof rack?
A: You can transport multiple surfboards on a roof rack. But, keep in mind that the more surfboards you carry, the more difficult transporting will be.
If you have to, make sure that you stack them on the roof according to height, starting with the most extended board at the bottom and the shortest on top. Your boars will naturally push further forward with each board you add on top, so it would be a good idea not to add more than three surfboards on top of each other.
Q: Which way should car surfboard face?
A: Place your surfboard waxed side down with your fins facing up. Its tail (fin end) should be pointing toward the front of the car. This placement is to have the flat tail area flowing smoothly along with the rocker toward the nose. With this, the wind will not get caught under the board. Instead, it will exert some pressure down the board and make it safer if you didn’t tie it down properly.
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G’day, my name is Rach Taylor and I’m the proud Founder of Surf Hungry. I am a former Australian Olympic athlete and Australian representative surf sports athlete. I’ve worked in the surf industry and lived at many of Australia’s best surf spots, sparking a life-long love of the ocean and a passion for surf sports which also rubbed off on my two young sons! I am also lucky to spend a lot of ocean-time in my favorite second home, Indonesia. In addition to SurfHungry I have founded several other websites in my areas of passion, namely coffee and rock climbing, and am also a regular rowing content contributor.