The Best Vehicles for Professional Photographers: What Do You Drive?

The Best Vehicles for Professional Photographers: What Do You Drive?

I always had a strong love/hate relationship with the New York City subway, never picturing I would be driving again. But now that my work is having me travel more frequently, I find myself in the market, looking for that perfect vehicle. The first thing I did was a search for "Best Vehicles for Professional Photographers" on Google, with no luck. So, after further work, I wanted to share my findings and knowledge with you, so when you start looking for that perfect photo-mobile, you know just where to start! 

To develop this list, I evaluated each car on price, gas efficiency, storage space, and popular ratings. Below are the best rides on the market that will give you the most bang for your buck and help you get from point A to B.

Honda Element

Price: $22,075 (No longer being made, but can be found used.)
MPG: 20 city / 25 highway

If I had to think of a dream car, I couldn't think of a better model than the Element. It is a pity that Honda stopped making these back in 2011. But don't worry! You can still get one of these at used car dealerships. Due to the fact they are no longer being made, they still retain their value pretty decently even after a lot of miles. I contacted a couple dealerships to ask if they had one and was able to find quite a few. The Element offers a very utilitarian feel. I like to think I'm Indiana Jones when I drive one. With a generous 75 cubic foot cargo capacity, it is perfect for storing a softbox in-between gigs without having to take it apart and reassemble for every shoot. This model is highly rated by users and is perfect for off-roading to remote shoots and loading large loads with its hinged rear doors.

Honda CR-V

Price: $23,745
MPG: 26 city / 33 highway

Nothing grinds my gears more than having to stumble to the car carrying 40-50 lbs bags and then having to set down all the equipment I've gathered to fumble for keys. The CR-V can automatically lower or raise the tailgate for hands-free access, and that, ladies and gentlemen, is music to my ears. To put the cherry on the cake, the Honda CR-V proudly sports a backup camera, but with a twist. It has three different views: normal, top-down, and wide for those extra tough parking situations.

Jeep Wrangler

Price: $23,895
MPG: 17 city / 21 highway

Jeep Wrangler is one of the most capable vehicles you could want for city road and off-road situations. Inside the Wrangler, you’ll enjoy ample storage space, and in newer models, you’ll also get the comfort and convenience of heated, leather-trimmed front seats. This is a solid classic that time and time again has proven to be a truly reliable ride, not to mention it's always a nice feature to be able to shoot without leaving the car on an especially beautiful day with the doors off and not worry about windows messing up your shot.

Toyota Prius

Price: $24,200
MPG: 58 city / 53 highway

If you consider yourself minimalist and find you don't use much space but need a car that can get you everywhere from Los Angeles to the Big Apple, the Toyota Prius is the car for you.  Being one of the more affordable gas efficient rides out there, it is also a huge plus for its tiny size and being able to squeeze and park anywhere. A big perk for this small ride is being great for the environment and having a small impact on gas emissions. I would highly recommend this car if you do a ton of driving and you are looking to cut back on the dough you spend on gas.

Chevrolet Spark EV

Price: $25,120
Battery: 82 miles per charge

Trying to reduce your carbon footprint in the world? The Chevrolet Spark EV operates entirely with an innovative electric propulsion system drive unit paired with a lithium-ion battery. A standard 120V cord plugs into any household outlet to charge your ride and provides a range of 82 miles each time, with a savings of $6,250 over five years. It's ideal for smaller back and forth distances and not an unreachable price point compared to the $60,000 for a Tesla. You can save the world with a smaller dent in your wallet.

Ford Transit Connect Wagon

Price: $24,825
MPG: 22 city / 29 highway

For my commercial photographers out there, this is perfect for hauling large loads for big production shoots. If you need to pick up props, clothing for models, or even catering, it's all going to fit, plus room to spare. This ride is even perfect for the landscape photographer who might spend the night camped out in his car; with a fixed panoramic sunroof, it gives you quite the view at night. Second row bucket seats fold flat to fit bigger items like pelican cases and light stands. Considering the space, the gas mileage is a steal. You may not win style points, but your client will respect you when the productions go seamlessly.

I tried to cover some of the popular models here in the US that you can easily find at most dealers. If you drive something not listed and you're a huge fan of your ride, be sure to share in the comments section!

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Stephen Kampff's picture

"the Honda CR-V proudly sports a backup camera"

I know 'experimental photography' is all the rage, but this is taking the piss

Nick Viton's picture

Backup cameras will become mandatory by 2018.
Then we can all be experimental videographers.

Stephen Kampff's picture

That video is so damn funny ha

Simon Patterson's picture

Hilarious video! Thanks for linking that!

I used to drive a VW Rabbit which is a hatchback and I have to say, it's astounding how much you can fit into a hatchback. I drive a (much more fun) AWD sedan now and trunk space hasn't (yet) proved a major issue, but I anticipate I'll run into problems here and there eventually. That's what my roof basket is for!

Levi Arnold's picture

I have a Ford Escape that I had wrapped and it's been incredible. Great gas mileage, massive space when you fold the seats down and a killer sounds system. Taken it to Mississippi, Iowa and Nebraska and D.C (I'm in Indiana), driven it through cornfields, blizzards, dust storms, hail and floods without a single issue.

I second that! I have a 2009 model that has taken every bit of abuse I could give it.

Levi Arnold's picture

I got it custom wrapped by a company here in Chicago. It's got my business name, website, number, etc on the outside to make it stand out. I was originally all black.

Fritz Asuro's picture

My Mazda-6 2015 and Chev Camaro SS 2015 are perfect!

Miguel Quiles's picture

I'm with you on the Camaro. I have a 2013 RS convertible that does the job quite nicely :)

Tom McGehee's picture

Subaru Outback - to me the best automotive value on the market. AWD, great gas mileage, great resale value, and lots of room

Subarus really have the best AWD out there. Any photographer who lives with snow needs to consider a Subie. Add studded snow tires and it gripes on snow or ice like a tank. So much room, too. Going to sell my truck for another one.

Keem Ibarra's picture

I agree! Subaru's are great. I myself have a Subaru Forester 2016 and it's amazing. I also have 2 other friends that own either a forester or a crosstrek.

steve carrillo's picture

Any photographers out there use the prius? I've been thinking of getting one but i'm afraid it might not be enough power to lug some light duty stuff around. Maybe i'm overthinking it?

David Stephen Kalonick's picture

Hey Steve, I have a Prius and I can fit a small studio and assistant no problem. I drive like a mad man and average 43 mpg. I did pre-order the Model 3 Tesla. For some effed up reason Ohio doesn't allow the Prius plug-in, so I'll be moving on.

steve carrillo's picture

Thanks for your response! That's kind of strange that Ohio won't allow the plug in Prius. I appreciate your feedback

Jonathan Lobb's picture

Fun article, but I would suggest that an early 2000's model Toyota Landcruiser will easily best both the Element and the Wrangler. As an added bonus you also have ample space to use it as an impromptu camper. When I was shooting horseshows to earn a living many years ago I spent many, many nights in the back of mine. Love my Landcruiser.

David Moore's picture

it is amazing how much you can fit in a Scion FRS/Subaru BRZ/Toyota 86, plus its fun as heck to drive.

Nick Viton's picture

Range Rover Evoque

Liam Doran's picture

For outdoor adventure you can't beat a Toyota Tacoma! I have a four door long bed and its a great truck for the western states outdoor shooter

Justin Haugen's picture

I loaded up my 350z to the gills with location shoot equipment for a year before i picked up a beater Sentra that wasn't much more hospitable to all my gear.

Now I'm carting much more equipment comfortably in a Scion XB. The 2008 and up models can accommodate so much, they're very spacious and one of the more affordable cars missing from this list.

Acura MDX. Big and spacious and fair on the gas, well better than my last Tacoma.

GMC Savanah 3500 or Chevy Express 3500
Price: $36,000 (Chevy)
MPG: Don't ask.
Fantastic cargo capacity. Remove the passenger seats and carry even more gear.

I would think that the Jeep, Prius, and Spark are short on cargo capacity needed for a shoot.

Ryan Cooper's picture

All way too small for me. I'm currently driving a Yukon (aliases: Tahoe, Escalade) and often find myself wishing I had a Yukon XL (aliases: Suburban, Escalade XL). Being able to transport the creative team and all the gear I need in one vehicle is such a nice thing to have. ;)

Also, power is a consideration, at least for me living near the rockies. I used to drive an Aztek and fully loaded with people and gear that thing really struggled to go up the highway when its a pretty steep uphill. My Yukon has no such problems.

Michael Kormos's picture

I think the Aztek struggled with a lot of things :-) Its looks (and sales figures) led to its ultimate doom.

Ryan Cooper's picture

For what it was, it was actually a really good SUV. More than anything it was the appearance that people didn't like which killed sales numbers. I used to work on the GM marketing team back then, at the time it had the highest consumer satisfaction scores of any vehicle they made.

I'd say its lack of power is really just a reflection of any SUV with a small V6 back then, not really specific to that vehicle.

Douglas Snyder's picture

I have an aging Suburban that I love for location shooting. Most of these suggested vehicles seem way too small unless your just taking a few speedlights.... Looked at the newer Surbans but mileage and price are daunting.

Ryan Cooper's picture

Ya, they get a decent boost in mileage around 2006 but they still are rough no matter how you slice it.

Michael Kormos's picture

Drove the Element for two years. I can attest that it drives the way it looks, like a toaster on wheels. However, due to its short overall length, it's easy to park in tight NYC spaces, and the fact that the rear seats fold up, you've got ENORMOUS cargo capacity.

I used my Landcruiser to haul my studio lighting gear, and my Civic Si hatchback when I was just shooting run and gun style event photography.

Currently, I feel bad for taking my Scion xB to all these terrible places off road, so I'm going to get a Subaru Forester instead. And for longer trips, we have a pair of Corollas, which have more than enough trunk space.

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