Who doesn’t love a fun day in a sweet ride at the beach? Planning a trip to the beach is easy, but choosing the right car for activities that might involve driving through sand can pose its challenges. Do you want to haul some personal watercraft or a boat? Are you taking your kids and their friends on a beach day? Or maybe you and your partner just want to cruise the boulevard.
For every adventure, ranging from taking the family to your local state beach to tackling sand, here are our picks for the best vehicles to take to the beach.
What to look for in a beach car
When looking for the best beach car, it’s important to find one that can handle various needs. For example, you may need a vehicle that can handle going off-road but want one that also looks good while doing it. You’ll also need a vehicle with decent towing capacity and torque if you plan on bringing a personal watercraft or boat.
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2022 Ford Bronco Sport
Expert Rating: 4.6
Starting price: $28,265
Max. cargo space: 65.2 cu ft
If you’re looking for an SUV that can do it all, then you’re in luck. The 2022 Ford
Bronco Sport is designed to look good and work hard. It offers impressive off-road capabilities thanks to its standard five G.O.A.T modes. The G.O.A.T (Goes Over Any Terrain) modes can be activated whenever you want. This system allows you to go over any terrain you can think of, including — you guessed it — sand. It also comes standard with 4-wheel drive.
Outside of playing in the sand, the Bronco Sport offers good cargo space with a maximum of 65.2 cubic feet with the seats down, enabling you to fit two upright mountain bikes back there and a cooler full of food and drinks. Speaking of a cooler, the vehicle comes with a built-in bottle opener, perfect for beverages at the beach. In addition, the Bronco Sport comes standard with a peppy turbocharged 3-cylinder engine or an optional turbocharged 4-cylinder.
2022 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited (4-Door)
Expert Rating: 3.9
Starting price: $34,045
Max. cargo space: 72.4 cu ft
The Jeep Wrangler Unlimited is another all-terrain vehicle that can tackle the shifting sand on the beach. Off-road capability aside, the Jeep is still one of the best beach-friendly vehicles out there. Its removable doors and roof allow you to soak up every ounce of sunshine you could possibly want.
When it comes to driving off-road, the Wrangler Unlimited can get you in and out of any beach corner you desire. Once there, the standard 4WD and V6 engine will have little issue managing any sandy surface. When you combine the freedom you have inside the vehicle and the Jeep’s capabilities, the Wrangler is among the best for a day at the beach.
2022 Ford F-150 Raptor
Expert Rating: 4.7
Starting price: $69,905
Max. cargo space: 51.9 cubic feet
The Ford F-150 Raptor is an absolute animal. It’s a high-power, high-speed pickup truck that brings off-road capabilities.
Ford gave this F-150 model a 450-horsepower twin-turbo 3.5-liter V6 engine that also packs 510 lb-ft of torque, making it great for hauling your equipment to the beach in the truest sense of the word. The Raptor has a max towing capacity of 8,200 pounds, meaning hooking up a trailer with a small camper or a pair of personal watercraft would be no problem for this truck.
When it comes to its off-roading abilities, the Raptor also stands out. It comes standard with 4WD and seven different terrain management settings that you can turn on depending on the terrain. If you want to arrive in style while bringing all of your gear, the Raptor definitely gets the job done.
2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz
Expert Rating: 4.2
Starting price: $24,440
Max. Bed Volume: 27 cu. ft
Debuted in the summer of 2021, the 2022 Hyundai
Santa Cruz has a starting price of $24,440. That’s for a front wheel-drive Santa Cruz SE powered by a 2.5-liter engine. You can also get all wheel-drive for a reasonable $1,500 extra if you need extra traction for your beach or off-road adventures. SEL Premium (starting at $36,130) gets you 281 hp with a 2.5L turbo 4-cylinder engine. It also offers a digital key, so if you don’t want to take your key fob to the beach, your phone will help you get in.
Once you’re at the beach, you’ll have plenty of space in the underfloor cargo storage area under the rear seats. You can stash your purse or wallet, a laptop or whatever and hit the waves.
The pickup truck tows up to 3,500 pounds, but this number jumps up to 5,000 pounds if you upgrade to AWD in the SEL Premium trim level. With a combined 23 mpg, the Santa Cruz can get you where you’re going without many stops if any.
2022 Land Rover Defender 110
Expert Rating: 4.0
Starting price: $53,500
Max. cargo space: 78.8 cu ft
The Land Rover Defender 110 can take you from the mountains to the beach with ease. The British manufacturer built this SUV with off-road enthusiasts in mind. It has standard features that include terrain modes — including sand — and a turbocharged 2.0-liter engine that’s good for 296 horsepower. An available turbo 6-cylinder engine brings even more punch. However, if you want even more power, you can opt for an optional supercharged V8 engine that comes with 518 horsepower. The Defender also comes standard with 4WD to make getting around in the sand that much easier.
The Defender makes it easy to transport the whole family. It has 7-person seating in the 4-door model, while the 2-door Defender 90 can seat five or — uniquely — up to six thanks to an available 3-person front bench. It also comes with lots of cool things that make driving one that much better, like the ladder that helps you reach the roof. You can also protect the interior floors with optional thick, deep-sided rubber mats. This makes cleaning after a day at the beach that much easier.
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2022 Mazda MX-5 Miata
Expert Rating: 4.8
Starting price: $27,650
Max. cargo space: 4.6 cu ft
MX-5 Miata might be the perfect couple’s car at the beach. And of all the cars on this list, the Miata may be the most fun to drive. First and foremost, it’s a roadster, the perfect car for a sunny day.
On top of that, it has amazing handling made to hug corners. It is quick, and its rear-wheel-drive architecture helps give it that extra kick when accelerating. That makes the driving experience in the Miata refreshing and fun. But you’ll need to pack lightly when taking this vehicle to the beach since trunk space is limited.
The Miata provides a great driving experience thanks to its athletic chassis and what’s under the hood. It comes stocked with a 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine that allows you to enjoy the ride in this small, sporty car. It puts out 181 horsepower and 151 lb-ft of torque, making it a vehicle with enough power to keep you happy when driving with the top down.
All in all, the Miata is a great choice for driving to the beach on a great, sun-filled day.
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2022 Ford Mustang
Expert Rating: 4.5
Starting price: $27,470
Max. cargo space: 13.5 cu ft
If you’ve ever been to a beach, you probably spotted a few Ford Mustangs in the parking lot. This is because the Mustang is a fantastic beach vehicle for many reasons. For starters, it’s an American icon that can get you anywhere on almost any terrain.
The Mustang is a classic muscle car and a great driving machine that can get you to your destination in a hurry. Unless, of course, you want to slow down. Its sporty look will surely catch some eyes as you drive near the beach. The base model comes with a turbocharged 4-cylinder engine that cranks out 310 horsepower and 350 lb-ft of torque when behind the wheel.
If you are looking for even more power, the GT version features a V8 engine that will have beach goers hearing you before they ever see you.
While the coupe is fun, if you want a little extra sun, you can opt for the convertible starting at $32,705.
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2022 Subaru Outback
Expert Rating: 4.6
Starting price: $27,645
Max. cargo space: 75.7 cu ft
When not driving on asphalt, the Subaru
Outback has no problem tackling whatever ground is beneath it. The Outback comes with standard all-wheel drive, as well as 8.7 inches of ground clearance. There’s no question why the Outback is one of Subaru’s best-selling vehicles. This Subaru is somewhat of a mutt — half wagon and half SUV — and offers qualities of both. Its roomy cargo space and easy-to-use roof rack make bringing beach umbrellas, kayaks, or anything else you might need to quickly and easily haul to the beach. It’s a vehicle built for adventures.
The standard AWD allows power to go to every wheel, making driving over sand a reality. As for its performance, it comes with a 2.5-liter flat-4 engine, but this can be upgraded to a turbocharged engine if you want more punch. However, the standard engine can hold its own with 182 horsepower and 176 lb-ft of torque. It has great off-roading capabilities, so if you have to go through a forest or travel an unconventional path to the beach, the Outback can get you there.
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2022 Toyota Sienna
Expert Rating: 4.7
Starting price: $35,285
Max. cargo space: 101 cu ft
The all-new Toyota
Sienna is the ultimate beach-going minivan — and it boasts a hybrid powertrain as standard, allowing great fuel efficiency. For starters, this is one of the sportiest and sleekest minivans on the market. If you truly want the entire family to relax all the way to the beach, the Sienna will help make that happen. It seats eight passengers comfortably, and because it’s a hybrid, you won’t have to stop as often for gas on the way.
Available features like a rear entertainment system, 4-zone climate control, and seven USB ports can keep everyone on board powered up and happy. The Sienna’s optional 1500-watt power outlet will let you power a slow cooker, use small appliances, or inflate an air mattress. Now that’s handy for a beach trip.
The Sienna uses a gas-electric powertrain with 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine that produces 245 horsepower, plus it nets fuel economy of 36 mpg combined. You’ll also be impressed with this hybrid’s quick response off the line thanks to its electric motor. Furthermore, it’s available with all-wheel drive.
This minivan wouldn’t be the best choice for actual driving on the beach, even if you opted for all-wheel drive. It’s not for off-roading either. However, getting to the beach and bringing your family and friends along will be much easier in the Sienna, with its spacious cargo space for beach chairs, toys, an umbrella, and a cooler.
2023 Subaru Solterra
Expert Rating: N/A
Starting price: $44,995
Max. cargo space: 30.3 cu ft
Want to bring even more sun to the beach? The fully electric Subaru Solterra is just the car for you. The name literally means “sun” and “earth” in Latin, which is an ode to this environmentally friendly car. Along with being great for the planet, the Solterra works well for the beach. With a standard AWD on every trim level, you will have no trouble getting to your destination, whether that be on or off-road.
If you are worried about the Solterra’s performance — rest easy. The electric SUV comes with 215 horsepower and 248 lb-ft of torque. While the exact towing capacity has yet to be released, it is expected to be able to tow a few thousand pounds.
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With the Solterra, you will have duel electric motors, which are necessary for the standard all-wheel drive. You will have a maximum range of 228 miles with the Premium version, so pack your bags. Even if you need to make a pitstop, a Level 3, or DC fast charger, can get your EV to 80% and back on the road in just under an hour. A standard home charger will take you about 9 hours.
Best beach cars
1. Ford Bronco Sport
2. Jeep Wrangler Unlimited
3. Ford F-150 Raptor
4. Hyundai Santa Cruz
5. Land Rover Defender
6. Mazda MX-5 Miata
7. Ford Mustang
8. Subaru Outback
9. Toyota Sienna
10. Subaru Solterra
This story originally ran on KBB.com.