Whether you’re planning a day trip with the kids, a week at a big house on the shore, off-roading in the dunes, or a romantic drive up the coast, there’s a car to fit your needs. Here’s our list of cars that we think make great beach-ready options for just about everyone. Do you have any of them in your automotive lineup?
The Jeep Wrangler could very well be the ultimate beach car. Since its arrival in 1986, pop culture has portrayed it as THE car to drive to, on, and at the beach. And that honor is well deserved. With multiple features and models, Wranglers appeal to everyone from teenagers looking for an affordable ride to hard-core off-roaders who want more modern tech in their vehicles. It may not be built for luxury, but the standard 3.6-liter V6 with 285 HP powers the majority of Wranglers on the road and is paired with its practically legendary off-road capabilities. What does this mean? Well, getting to the beach, and driving ON the beach, are no issue for most versions of this classic. And because it is available with both two-door and four-door options, depending on your space needs, you’ll find plenty of room and storage for extra people, towels, coolers, umbrellas, and other beach needs. Interior materials are designed to be easy to clean and stand up to sand and just about anything else you can throw at it. A floor plug makes it even easier to clean it out at the end of the trip. When it comes to technology, some models even have an available 4G hotspot built in1 so you can even stay connected while you’re enjoying the sand! It might not be the smoothest ride, but if you’re looking for a classic beach car, it’s hard to beat a Wrangler.
Toyota Land Cruiser
Picture this: you’ve rented a fancy beach house on the coast. But to get to it you have to go off road, AND you need to tote all the kids + luggage and supplies for a week.
The legendary Land Cruiser is a great choice for just this kind of extra-special beach trip. With comfort and storage for the entire family (hello foldable 3rd-row seating and standard seating for eight) getting to that remote beach house shouldn’t be an issue, especially with the always-on 4WD. Most newer years come with an 8-speed automatic transmission and lots of infotainment options (keep the kids busy on the drive!). And while most people probably won’t take this exceptional vehicle off-road in the sand much, it’s perfectly capable of handling itself with class and panache if you take it for a moonlight drive along the shore.
Looking for a different type of luxury off-road capabilities? The Lexus LX may lack an updated look, but it’s hard to beat when it comes to comfort, elegant interior appointments, off-road capability, and reputation. Like its sibling, the Toyota Land Cruiser, it comes with a standard V8 and multiple terrain settings, so pretty much any type of road you throw at it is no issue. Additionally, it can tow 7,000 pounds when properly equipped2, so bring your boat with you! It’s reportedly a tad more luxurious than the Land Cruiser, so if you’re looking to be seen at the beach, this is a great choice.
For the more practical, the Subaru Outback is a great beach-ready vehicle. Comfortable, usable seating for four adults, standard AWD, and lots of cargo space make it the perfect car for adventures. It also includes loads of tech features, so you can feel good about hauling friends, children, or pets (or a combination!). It may not turn heads, but it’s easy to clean, can handle almost anything from roads to sand, and you’ll have room for all your snorkeling gear, beach chairs, and umbrellas. It’s like a crossover—but smaller, nimbler, and less SUV-like.
A minivan? For the beach? Yes, you read that right! Because, when it comes to a day at the beach with the kids, there is no better choice for that day trip than a minivan. Sure, you won’t be taking it off road, but if you’re just going to sit on the sand and watch the waves, the Pacifica is a fantastic choice. It’s loaded with features to make driving to and from the beach fun. Need to take a surfboard or two? Spring for a slightly upgraded model with those amazing stow-and-go seats. They’ll make it a snap to fit in. Want to take the jet ski? Again, not a problem. It’ll tow 3,600 pounds when properly equipped2! And, if you’re looking for the best possible beach Pacifica, go for the Limited with a vacuum built in! It’ll be super easy to clean out all that extra sand that seems to multiply on the trip home. And, don’t forget the optional remote start, so you can make sure it’s nice and cool when you’re ready to go after a hot day on the sand.
There’s a reason a lot of Ford Flexes are sold in California — it’s a great people mover for getting to the beach! With a futuristic, boxy look that is currently trending in SUVs and crossovers, the unusual-looking Flex comfortably seats six-seven adults, or a combination of people, surfboards, coolers, and other beachy needs. And while it may be short on the frills usually found in some higher-end vehicles, it is exceedingly practical. In addition to all that space for cargo + passengers (83.2 cubic ft), some trim levels (like the Limited) have fun features like a built-in fridge for long trips. In addition, storage cubbies, cup holders, and bins abound throughout, giving both adults and kids plenty of space to store electronics, books, toys, and other small items.
Imagine cruising the Pacific Coast Highway at sunset in this cute convertible with the top down! The iconic Beetle may at the end of its current iteration, but you can still get one of these fantastic cruising cars from CarMax. The interior and exterior both are fun, funky, and have a style all their own. And, while this car is all about beach style, you’ll still have plenty of room for gear and accoutrements for a day trip to the beach or up the coast (it’s got almost 15 cubic feet in the trunk, and 30 cubic ft with the back seats folded down). You won’t be off-roading in the Beetle convertible, but you WILL be the epitome of beach-cool.
Beach tailgating? With a Honda Ridgeline, you’re all set! It drives like a car, has storage (and off-road capabilities) like a truck, and the seating and usable space of an SUV. The bed has plenty of room for coolers and equipment, and the extra storage tub in the floor of the bed is the perfect place to transport all the fixings for your tailgate, on ice! And, since it’s got a quick-drain plug, clean up is a snap. Spring for the RTL trim, and you’ll get an in-bed speaker for your beach music too! Want to bring the lounge chairs? The Ridgeline’s bed is 64 by 60 inches, so you’ll be able to bring all kinds of furniture and fold-flat tables with you. And to add extra help, the dual-action tailgate makes getting pretty much anything you can think of (that will fit) in and out of the bed. Combined with a towing capacity of 5,000 lbs when properly equipped2
(depending on the trim package you choose) you can tow your smoker (or even a boat) for the perfect tailgate at the beach.
Two minivans on a beach cars list? Definitely! It’s got an optional built in vacuum (goodbye sand!), and 2018-2019 Touring and Elite trims come with a camera equipped with night vision trained on the back to keep an eye on the kids no matter what time you leave. There’s even an optional remote start (again, get that cabin ready to go after a long hot day in the sand). Entertainment options keep the kids occupied no matter how long the drive, and the sliding seats can be adjusted to bring kids closer to their parents, or give more storage room in the cabin (but can’t quite match the Pacifica’s stow-and-go utility). However, it will comfortably get you to and from the beach with all the kids and their sand toys, AND help you keep an eye on them at the same time.
Chevy Corvette Convertible
Sometimes, you just want to cruise in style, the wind in your hair and the scent of salt water on the breeze. And it doesn’t get more stylish than a Corvette convertible. It may not be useful off-road, but it’s as close to a supercar as you can get without spending hundreds of thousands of dollars. If you are looking to see and be seen in your beach town, you’ll be in the spotlight in this gorgeous two-seater, no matter which trim level you choose.