We may be entering the coldest part of the year, but for many sports fans, sporting events are just starting to heat up. Whether you spend your Sundays tailgating outside of an arena or shuttling your kid’s team to and from games of their own, having a car that supports your athletic – or athlete-adjacent – activities sure is nice. Today, we’re covering some of the best cars for tailgating and sports activities at any budget. 

The Ford F-150: A Platonic Tailgating Ideal

Starting off this list with anything other than a pickup truck would feel weird – c’mon, the tailgate is built in. For most, the phrase “tailgating” evokes coolers and a portable grill set up next to (or in) a truck bed. 

When it comes to the best pickup truck for your buck, you’ve got plenty of options – for example, the Chevy Silverado 1500 comes with a configurable tailgate, making it a frontrunner. But we had to go with the classic Ford F-150

The F-150’s a workhorse – there’s a reason it’s the most popular vehicle in 19 U.S. states. They’re relatively affordable, to boot – a 2015/2016 F-150 can run you from $30-40,000. 

You get a lot of bang for that buck. A powerful engine, plenty of passenger room, and a bed that’ll hold whatever you need for your tailgating extravaganza. New models, like the 2021 F-150, can even be used as a mobile generator with the Pro Power Onboard system. 

Want to take it up a notch? The new Ford F-150 Lightning may have lower towing capacity than its gas-powered counterpart (10,000 vs. 14,000 pounds), but it’s a great alternative for truck lovers who’d like something a little more environmentally conscious. With a smoother ride than a traditional F-150 and a range of up to 230 miles on a single charge, it’ll get you where you need to go. 

People tailgating for a game.
If you want to bring a grill to the tailgate, something that can haul it – like a truck or SUV – is a must.

Best Car for Tailgating with the Family: The Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid

Vans come with more usable (or let’s say, safely usable) passenger space than pickups, making them a great vehicle for sports-lovers. Whether you have to get your kid’s soccer team to practice or want to carpool to the game with seven friends (and with gas prices right now, we wouldn’t blame you!), it’s hard to go wrong with a van. 

Once again, we’re spoiled for choice – great vans abound. However, if we had to pick one, we’d go for a Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid. The Pacifica boasts a slew of user-friendly features, from blind spot monitoring to rear door and climate controls, ensuring passengers stay comfortable (and safe) no matter their seat. In addition, it’s one of the only hybrid minivans on the market, bringing a ton of fuel efficiency to a heavy vehicle that can seat up to eight passengers. The Pacifica can do it all. 

Looking for something else? We’d like to recommend the Honda Odyssey. Sure, it may be the classic “mom van,” but there’s a reason it’s so ubiquitous – it’s a great car. It has all the bells and whistles you need, heated seats and backup camera included. A V6 engine makes for better handling than you may expect, so it’s not just fun to ride passenger in. 

For Tailgating with the Family (But They’re Older Now): The Jeep Grand Cherokee L

Let’s say you’re not exactly a fan of the minivan or truck aesthetic. The next logical place to turn would be an SUV – and once again, we’re spoiled for choice. 

If you want to go all out, you may want to check out a classic Range Rover. They may not be the most affordable, but the suite of quality-of-life options Range Rovers offer is impressive. For example, a 2019 Range Rover has blind spot and lane departure monitoring systems, a backup camera, and a full navigation and infotainment system. Heated seats and a seat memory system also ensure that you experience maximum comfort every time you get in for a ride. 

That said, not everyone’s in the market for a Range Rover – which is where our pick, the Jeep Grand Cherokee L, comes in. A more budget-friendly SUV alternative, the Grand Cherokee L comes with a lot of the same amenities, like navigation, infotainment, blind spot monitoring, and seat memory. Seven seats allow room for the whole family, and a premium sound system makes it just as good for dealing out pre-game hype music as post-game brews. Add in the ability to get one with four-wheel drive and/or a V8 engine, and you’ve got an SUV that’s good for more than just game day. 

For When You Just Need to Bring Yourself: The Subaru Outback

Some people bring a truck (or a van, or an SUV) to the tailgate, loaded for bear – the grill, the brews, the speakers, the table and chairs, you name it. If you’ve got friends who live for tailgating, you may find yourself occupying a coveted social position – that of the person who gets to show up and enjoy the fruits of their labor. If tailgating is mostly a “me” (or “me and my plus-one”) event for you, something like a station wagon or medium SUV may be in order. 

Following that theme, we had to go with a classic midsize SUV recommendation – the Subaru Outback. Like minivans, they’ve become synonymous a certain crowd – hikers, bikers, and the southwest U.S. – and just like minivans, there’s a good reason for their popularity. 

Early 2010s Outbacks are hardy as a rock and incredibly affordable, making them a great choice if you’re looking for an everyday vehicle. Newer models, like the 2019, also come equipped with all the amenities you’d expect – blind spot and lane departure monitoring systems, Bluetooth for hands-free calling and music, a backup camera, and an infotainment system to boot. Combine a spacious ride with the four-wheel drive and ease of use that make Outbacks so popular, and you’ve got a fantastic vehicle to comport yourself to game day in. 

There you have it! Four of the best cars for tailgating. Looking for your next ride, or just interested in keeping up with the auto industry? Stay tuned!

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