Question regarding a first chase vehicle.

Chase Handziak

Enthusiast
Feb 15, 2021
2
0
1
Midland, Michigan
Hello, I am looking to get my first car soon, one of the things I plan to use it for is storm chasing. The car I'm looking at is a 2018 Toyota Camry LE. Would this be a practical vehicle to use for chases? My main goal for chasing is to help the NWS in my area.
 

Drew Terril

Staff member
Reliability is the biggest concern, and Toyota defined checks the box on that. You'll have to be cognizant of roads in the area, as you won't want to end up on muddy roads on anything that doesn't have ground clearance, but it's a very reliable, economic option. Taken care of properly, you'll get a lot of miles and a lot of life out of it. I know a few guys who chase in older Camrys, and it's like I described; they try to stick to the paved roads and off the dirt ones if possible. If I didn't need a truck for things outside of chasing and didn't off road as a hobby, I'd probably have a Camry or Altima as my primary vehicle.
 
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Jan 7, 2006
562
651
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USA
www.skyinmotion.com
This may be oversimplified, but these are the main advantages (aside from obvious like cost and gas mileage) a chase vehicle can have, from my perspective.

1. Reliability
2. Space
3. Drivetrain: 4WD > FWD > RWD
4. Ground clearance

I've chased in FWD sedans in the past, and now a FWD SUV. The extra ground clearance of an SUV is definitely a real advantage that I've appreciated on numerous back roads, albeit not a requirement. In terms of risking marginal dirt and mud roads, 4WD would certainly help... but this is hotly debated for a good reason, because it can easily give you an unrealistic sense of confidence. How often do I forego a dirt road in my FWD vehicle that I'd really be justified in taking with 4WD? Probably not that often.

If you plan to stick to pavement all the time, then reliability and sufficient space for your equipment setup and passengers (if any) are probably all that matter.
 

Randy Jennings

Supporter
May 18, 2013
543
528
11
Things important to me in a chase vehicle: reliability, range (if it has a small tank or bad gas mileage you will be stopping all the time for gas and may miss stuff), and good tires/wipers/etc. Be careful about getting something too nice - you will chase more conservative and miss more if you have a nice pretty vehicle you are afraid to get dirty or hail on.
 

Michael Towers

Supporter
Jun 28, 2007
318
155
11
Machesney Park, IL
I chased in a Camry from 2005 through most of 2010 before switching to my Highlander. Never had a problem, comfortable drive, decent gas mileage and I always had confidence the car would get me through the day without breaking down. Posts above mention reliability, well my Camry was the epitome of reliability. It always started, never broke down and always got me to my destination. I never had engine or transmission work done or any other major repair for that matter. I ultimately gave it away to family at 442,000 miles and it’s still running today. The reason I bought my Highlander is because I wanted the extra space, higher clearance and superior off road access versus the Camry. After almost getting stuck in the muck in SW Kansas with a trailing supercell taking aim at me I vowed to never go off pavement anymore. That vow lasted less than a full day and I realized I needed a vehicle that would handle the off road better and be less likely to get stuck. Looking back on the last 10 years the switch really hasn’t paid off as much as I anticipated but I do recall a few chases where I was happy I had the Highlander instead of the Camry and a few others where I took a road I wouldn’t have if still in the Camry. Bottom line is that the Camry is an excellent car for chasing if you stick to the pavement but has limitations off road that made it less than ideal for me.
 
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Drew Terril

Staff member
i would advise a vehicle where the glass can be had rather cheaply...you may go though alot of it.
In all fairness, I've been chasing since 2006 and have yet to break glass due to hail. I simply don't have the desire to go diving through cores, and position myself accordingly.

I chased in a Camry from 2005 through most of 2010 before switching to my Highlander. Never had a problem, comfortable drive, decent gas mileage and I always had confidence the car would get me through the day without breaking down. Posts above mention reliability, well my Camry was the epitome of reliability. It always started, never broke down and always got me to my destination. I never had engine or transmission work done or any other major repair for that matter. I ultimately gave it away to family at 442,000 miles and it’s still running today. The reason I bought my Highlander is because I wanted the extra space, higher clearance and superior off road access versus the Camry. After almost getting stuck in the muck in SW Kansas with a trailing supercell taking aim at me I vowed to never go off pavement anymore. That vow lasted less than a full day and I realized I needed a vehicle that would handle the off road better and be less likely to get stuck. Looking back on the last 10 years the switch really hasn’t paid off as much as I anticipated but I do recall a few chases where I was happy I had the Highlander instead of the Camry and a few others where I took a road I wouldn’t have if still in the Camry. Bottom line is that the Camry is an excellent car for chasing if you stick to the pavement but has limitations off road that made it less than ideal for me.
The OP is in Michigan, so I don't think he'll have to deal with the muck that we deal with often.

I probably wouldn't chase in what I chase in if I didn't use my Titan for other things that have nothing to do with weather. And I'm to a point where I could probably downsize to a Frontier or Tacoma, but at only 136k miles (my first one went well over 300k miles), can't really justify getting rid of it unless I get a smoking deal on trade for something new. Plus I have it set up how I want it now and don't want to rework all that.
 
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Bobby Little

Supporter
Mar 18, 2013
50
57
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eagle, michigan
In all fairness, I've been chasing since 2006 and have yet to break glass due to hail. I simply don't have the desire to go diving through cores, and position myself accordingly.



The OP is in Michigan, so I don't think he'll have to deal with the muck that we deal with often.

I probably wouldn't chase in what I chase in if I didn't use my Titan for other things that have nothing to do with weather. And I'm to a point where I could probably downsize to a Frontier or Tacoma, but at only 136k miles (my first one went well over 300k miles), can't really justify getting rid of it unless I get a smoking deal on trade for something new. Plus I have it set up how I want it now and don't want to rework all that.
I would agree in Michigan you dont have to deal with much if any large hail. The dirt roads here ( i live in the mitten state) are usually in excellent shape. You wouldnt need clearance like you might out in Kansas, Oklahoma, etc.
 
Sep 25, 2006
285
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Denver, CO
stormdig.com
If you chase the high plains you'll need cheap glass. Never broke glass until I moved out here where the smallest supercells spit out VERY hard iceballs.

I've almost been stuck in wet grass so I love my AWD and once got high-centered in the path of a tornado after dark so I love my ground clearance. But by the time you need either on Kansas cake batter it's too late no matter what you're driving.

Agree with others on reliability and range...biggest thorn in my side on a chase has been one or both of those.
 
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Jan 16, 2009
667
693
21
Kansas City
It really depends on your budget to include gas prices (currently on their way up under Biden). I chase in a leveled Toyota Tundra because I use dirt roads a lot more than most chasers. This allows me to avoid the crowds and get to the exact point I want to be at in relation to the rotation/hail/etc. The down side of this vehicle is gas mileage which might require stops during chases without prior planning.

It sounds like you are just starting out in chasing so I would keep to paved roads where you can. BUT having the option to escape on a DRY dirt road is something I would highly recommend. That means a vehicle with some 4WD capabilities or at least AWD with decent ground clearance. You could also go with experienced chasers which will really help you learn.

If you get a car it limits you while chasing IMO (a lot of people do chase in them) so I would recommend an SUV is you can get one. A lot of chasers use the Toyota 4 Runner for example and it seems like a great balance between chasing needs and MPG.
 
Jan 16, 2009
667
693
21
Kansas City
In all fairness, I've been chasing since 2006 and have yet to break glass due to hail. I simply don't have the desire to go diving through cores, and position myself accordingly.
How the hell have you been so lucky LOL! I have lost a windshield almost every year since 2008. Luckily my insurance allows for one replacement per year. Positioning aside it is hard not to get hit at some point by a storm unless you remain way back.
 
Feb 19, 2018
81
33
6
Dunlap Illinois
How the hell have you been so lucky LOL! I have lost a windshield almost every year since 2008. Luckily my insurance allows for one replacement per year. Positioning aside it is hard not to get hit at some point by a storm unless you remain way back.
I've only lost one windshield due to hail on my '88 Chevy C1500 (and I wasn't even chasing in the specific vehicle at the time). Since we don't have inspection in Illinois, I just ignored it and eventually sold the truck that way.
 
Feb 19, 2018
81
33
6
Dunlap Illinois
Hello, I am looking to get my first car soon, one of the things I plan to use it for is storm chasing. The car I'm looking at is a 2018 Toyota Camry LE. Would this be a practical vehicle to use for chases? My main goal for chasing is to help the NWS in my area.
If you got the moolah to spend on a late model car to chase in, go ahead with the Camry, but if you are using it as your daily driver as well as, I wouldn't chase with it.

You don't want to screw up a car you are still making payments on, so I'd buy an older car outright just for chasing.

I'd pick up another older Camry of some sort just to chase with (Toyotas are pretty much indestructible).
 
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Reactions: James Hilger
Feb 19, 2018
81
33
6
Dunlap Illinois
Hello, I am looking to get my first car soon, one of the things I plan to use it for is storm chasing. The car I'm looking at is a 2018 Toyota Camry LE. Would this be a practical vehicle to use for chases? My main goal for chasing is to help the NWS in my area.
Also, unless you are willing to do work on a car yourself, I wouldn't pick up any high mileage vehicles (Like I have).

My I took my 340k '95 Suburban on my first real chase trip last year, and it stranded me after the transmission seal blew out.

I had to walk about a mile to a gas station to get fluid so I could limp it to an auto parts store so I could replace the seal.

Being broken down at the side of the road is dangerous (especially when storm chasing).

One time while not storm chasing, I broke down on my way home from high school (detention) and I pulled way over to the side of the road/put my hazards on. All of a sudden, a women going about 70 in a 55 crashed in the ditch righ next to me as I was inspecting my destroyed Ujoint. She came within inches killing me. She was okay, and her airbag didn't even go off, but the was obviously high/drunk. Anyways lots of stupid people other there, so be careful.
 

Drew Terril

Staff member
How the hell have you been so lucky LOL! I have lost a windshield almost every year since 2008. Luckily my insurance allows for one replacement per year. Positioning aside it is hard not to get hit at some point by a storm unless you remain way back.
Pretty sure I burn all my bad luck when off roading LOL! There's far more damage from trees and rocks off some barely visible forest trail deep in the Ozarks than there is from any kind of hail.

I'm pretty conservative in how I position myself though; big believer in the miracle of telephoto lenses.

If you got the moolah to spend on a late model car to chase in, go ahead with the Camry, but if you are using it as your daily driver as well as, I wouldn't chase with it.

You don't want to screw up a car you are still making payments on, so I'd buy an older car outright just for chasing.

I'd pick up another older Camry of some sort just to chase with (Toyotas are pretty much indestructible).
Lol you'd be surprised at the places my daily driver (and chase vehicle) has been. It's seen its share of farm duty (the main reason I bought a full size to begin with) with dents and dings from cattle, and I replace body panels almost every year that get damaged when following 4Runners on off road trails LOL.
 
Feb 19, 2018
81
33
6
Dunlap Illinois
Pretty sure I burn all my bad luck when off roading LOL! There's far more damage from trees and rocks off some barely visible forest trail deep in the Ozarks than there is from any kind of hail.

I'm pretty conservative in how I position myself though; big believer in the miracle of telephoto lenses.



Lol you'd be surprised at the places my daily driver (and chase vehicle) has been. It's seen its share of farm duty (the main reason I bought a full size to begin with) with dents and dings from cattle, and I replace body panels almost every year that get damaged when following 4Runners on off road trails LOL.
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Yea, I'm using my daily driver as a chase vehicle as well ('98 Suburban K1500) and I beat the hell out of it and it takes it.
20210207_091638.jpg
It doesn't get that great of mileage, but its reliable. It money was no object, I'd chase in my '74 GMC if I got it all put together with a 292 I6 (which I have) and a 4 speed OD Transmission (Currently has a 3 on the tree). The body is a hack job, so I wouldn't care about hail, but I would install some sort of hail gaurd, since windshields are kinda expensive for it.
 

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Chase Handziak

Enthusiast
Feb 15, 2021
2
0
1
Midland, Michigan
In all fairness, I've been chasing since 2006 and have yet to break glass due to hail. I simply don't have the desire to go diving through cores, and position myself accordingly.



The OP is in Michigan, so I don't think he'll have to deal with the muck that we deal with often.

I probably wouldn't chase in what I chase in if I didn't use my Titan for other things that have nothing to do with weather. And I'm to a point where I could probably downsize to a Frontier or Tacoma, but at only 136k miles (my first one went well over 300k miles), can't really justify getting rid of it unless I get a smoking deal on trade for something new. Plus I have it set up how I want it now and don't want to rework all that.
Thank you for your answer. I plan to start chasing in Michigan, but when I get my independent license in a few years I might go chase in the alley depending on how much money I have.