Best cars for surfers

Whether you’re a fair weather summer surfer or hit the waves every week of every year, we've rounded up the best surf-friendly cars

Gavin Braithwaite-Smith
Jun 30, 2020

At BuyaCar, we understand that your wheels are of secondary importance to your surfboard. We also understand that a wood-panelled American station wagon or a retro Volkswagen Beetle would be your choice of transport for the next run to the sun.

But unless you live a few miles from the beach or can afford to spend your life in the slow lane of the A30 into Cornwall, you’re going to need something a little newer. So we've come to the rescue with the best surf-friendly machines that work equally well in the real world. Trust us, an original VW Beetle is not the most refined vehicle on the motorway and it's not the most practical car for a surfboard anyway, with the boot under the bonnet and the engine where you'd expect the boot to be...

In our book the best car for a serious surfer is something that can get you to the coast without fuss - coping equally well with boring motorway bits and windy roads to the coast - leaving you free to concentrate on where to catch the best waves.

Stick with us, because we’ve got a Ford for Fistral Bay, a Dacia for the Devon coast and a Suzuki for Sennen Cove. Other surfing locations are available. In all cases: just add a roof rack to create the ideal look for a surfer car - or sling your board in the back with several of the larger models.

Best cars for surfers

1. Volkswagen Caravelle

We had to start with a Volkswagen. A van with a ‘Vee Dub’ badge is almost part of the Cornish furniture in the summer, as surfers flock to the coast to ride the Atlantic waves. Put simply, surfers and Volkswagen vans go together like jam and cream on a scone. It’s jam first, obviously.

The Volkswagen Caravelle can trace its roots back to the first VW camper of 1950. First there was a ‘window bus’, then the ‘Samba’, before it became the Caravelle. It’s still based on the humble Volkswagen Transporter van, but it feels far more upmarket, maybe even a little luxurious.

There are short wheelbase and long wheelbase versions, along with a choice of front- or four-wheel-drive. The 2.0-litre diesel engine is more than up to the task of powering the surf wagon, but a twin-turbocharged version is available for those who want to be first to the beach.

Other van-based people carriers are available, but none offer the same combination of badge kudos and a feeling of luxury. It’s not the cheapest option, but the Volkswagen Caravelle is the one you want.

2. Suzuki Jimny

In 2010, Suzuki supplied nine red Jimny 4x4s to the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) for beach patrol duties. With a yellow surfboard strapped to the roof, the Jimny did a passable impression of David Hasselhoff in a pair of swimming trunks as it made its way across the beach.

If it’s good enough for the RNLI, it should be good enough for us mere mortals. The previous-generation Suzuki Jimny was powered by a 1.3-litre petrol engine, which makes it surprisingly economical, if a little slow on steeper hills. You can expect up to 39.2mpg on a long run to the sun.

Thanks to a proper 4x4 transmission, with high and low ratios, the Jimny is more than capable of heading further afield than the vast majority of small SUVs. We'd wager that this must be the most unstoppable small car on a beach with its proper four-wheel drive system, chunky tyres and light weight. If mountain goats could surf, they’d choose a Jimny.

3. Mitsubishi L200

The Mitsubishi L200 is another vehicle with a link to the RNLI. If you’ve surfed in Devon or Cornwall over the last few years, you'll have noticed the white L200 beach rescue vehicles with a surfboard strapped to the roof.

The four-wheel-drive system is perfect for the sand, with the L200 also boasting excellent load-carrying and towing capabilities. Crucially, the L200 has a strong reputation for reliability, backed by Mitsubishi’s excellent five-year/62,000-mile warranty.

We’re recommending the previous-generation L200, because there’s plenty of choice, with prices starting from around £250 per month. The driving experience is a bit crude - though it's still decades more civilised than an old Beetle - but there’s room for five adults in the double-cab and there’s a good level of equipment, especially on the Barbarian models.

MITSUBISHI L200 BUYERS' GUIDE

4. Ford Ranger

If you want a pick-up that’s a little more car-like, the Ford Ranger should be near the top of your shortlist. Sit in a modern Ford commercial vehicle and you could mistake it for a family hatchback. The Ford Ranger is no exception.

Even the entry-level models boast electronic high and low range gear selection, hill descent control, and a wading depth of up to 800mm, which could be useful if you’re faced with a rapidly rising tide. Little wonder the RNLI relies on the Ranger to keep our coastlines safe along with L200s and Jimnys.

It’s as easy to drive as a standard car, while a new 2.0-litre EcoBlue engine, introduced in 2019, delivers an excellent combination of performance, punch and economy. Although the regular cab will be fine if it’s just you and your board, the double cab offers seating for five.

If you can stretch to the mildly bonkers high-performance Ranger Raptor, you’ll be the envy of the beach car park. With its wider wheelarches, beefed-up bumpers, all-terrain tyres and upgraded suspension, it’s as tough as it looks. Just watch out for those width restrictions and narrow Cornish lanes.

FORD RANGER BUYERS' GUIDE

5. Dacia Logan MCV Stepway

Right, it’s time to take a step back and consider the bigger picture. We started this feature by saying that your surfboard is more important than your car, and if this is the case, the Dacia Logan MCV Stepway could be the car for you.

The Dacia Logan MCV is Britain’s cheapest estate car, with the Stepway benefiting from raised ground clearance, black wheel arch and underbody protection, and roof bars, making it the perfect small wagon for heading to the coast with a roof rack and surfboard.

It boasts a 573-litre boot, which is larger than the far bigger Volvo V90, so you’ll struggle to find a more capacious car for such a small price. Indeed, 19-plate examples start from less than £10,000.

Not that this means you’ll be slumming it on your way to the coast. Air-conditioning, hill start assist, rear parking sensors, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard across the Logan MCV Stepway range.

DACIA LOGAN MCV BUYERS' GUIDE

6. Volkswagen Beetle

We offer no apology for including a second Volkswagen on the list of cars for surfers. The Beetle is based on the Volkswagen Golf, but it substitutes practicality for retro-inspired styling and a touch of individuality. It's also far, far better to drive than the original Beetle, even if it doesn't quite have the same flower-power credentials.

There are hints of the original Beetle on the inside, though, such as a vertical glovebox and a dashboard that is colour matched to the exterior on most models. We’d shun the 2.0-litre diesel in favour of the 1.4-litre petrol, as it makes the Beetle a delight to drive and offers close to 50mpg, so your fuel bills should be equally small.

Prices start from around £9,000, but it might be worth finding another £6,000 for the Beetle Dune. The raised ride height, 18-inch alloy wheels, chunky wheelarches and Dune decals make it the best looking version of all the modern Beetles. It was too expensive when new, but this isn’t a problem if you buy a used example via BuyaCar.

VOLKSWAGEN BEETLE BUYERS' GUIDE

7. Citroen C4 Cactus

Not all family hatchbacks are created equal. The Citroen C4 Cactus is a little different, which will be immediately obvious when you clap eyes on the plastic body panels. They’re called ‘Airbumps’, and they’re designed to protect you from parking dings - and wayward surfboards.

Most models come with roof bars, so adding a roof rack and a surfboard will be easy, while the softly-sprung suspension will help to smooth out the long journey to the coast. Opt for the 1.6-litre BlueHDi 100 diesel engine and you’ll spend more time at the beach and less time filling up with fuel.

For a slightly tenuous link to surfing, you should choose the Rip Curl special edition. It adds all-weather tyres and a Grip Control traction system to help the car tackle snow, mud, ice and coastal car parks. Standard C4 Cactus prices start from £110 per month, but you’ll need another £45 per month for the Rip Curl if you want the car to match your wetsuit.

CITROEN C4 CACTUS BUYERS' GUIDE

8. BMW X5

Our final car for surfers is the BMW X5. Aside from the premium badge, stylish interior, excellent build quality and the way it drives, why have we chosen the X5 over a host of other upmarket SUVs?

It’s all about the split tailgate, which is a useful platform for loading heavy items. But more than that, it’s also a place to sit while you change out of your wetsuit and into your ‘civvies’. If it’s raining, the top half of the tailgate will double up as an umbrella, too.

Seven-seat versions are available, which is handy if you’re thinking of opening a surf school, while the optional air suspension will smooth out the congested roads on your journey home from the coast.

Surf’s up, but BuyaCar used car prices are down.

BMW X5 BUYERS' GUIDE

 

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