Football season is upon us and tailgate parties are coming with it. We looked the market to bring you the top 10 tailgating vehicles to buy this season.
The smell of parking lot brats is in the air, people are out wearing their favorite jerseys, and there’s that shirtless guy with the letter “D” painted on his belly looking frantically for his friend “fence”. Football is back and so are the tailgate parties. Whether it’s collegiate level or NFL, football fans are ready to come back to the stadiums in full force to celebrate their team, win or lose.
For those that haven’t experienced what a tailgate party is, it’s an event hosted in the parking lot of a football stadium where fans gather to eat, talk, and mess around before the actual football game. A lot of tailgating parties have the essentials like a grill, a stocked cooler, a football, and camping chairs, but the most important part of all is the tailgating vehicle itself. You can’t have a tailgate party without the tailgate.
With college game day and the NFL season coming up, we figured we should compile a list of the best tailgating vehicles available today. We’ve got trucks, SUVs, and even a van that would be perfect tailgating vehicles for your next football game.
The Ford F-150 is one of America’s most popular vehicles. It has the best towing capabilities in its class, a redesigned interior with that innovative center console/makeshift desk, and it has an available 12-inch touchscreen with the new SYNC 4 system – which is one of, if not the best infotainment systems around.
On the tailgating front, Ford provides the Pro Power Onboard system in the F-150’s bed which acts as a generator, allowing you to plug in phones, a flat screen television, and even an Xbox if you wanted to play a game of Madden before the real game. The Ford F-150 also has a Tailgate Step that comes out of the tailgate itself and makes getting into the truck bed much easier when loading or unloading for a tailgate party.
Ram has made large strides to try and get a larger piece of Ford’s sales, and the Ram 1500 is just as capable at towing as the F-150, so bringing a camper or trailer full of tailgating supplies is always an option. But it’s the Ram 1500’s bed that makes it such a great tailgating vehicle. To start, it has the exclusive RamBox system that adds helpful, lockable cargo space along the sides of the Ram 1500’s box that can be used for storing chairs, snacks, or even be used as a cooler thanks to the installed drain plug.
The Rambox also provides an outlet that can power whatever you need at the tailgate party. Then there’s Ram 1500’s tailgate that can open in the normal fashion or splits 60/40 to either side, allowing you to get into the bed easier even if you’re trailering.
While the Silverado can technically slot in here as well, the GMC Sierra 1500 offers some advancements over its Chevrolet cousin that makes it even more alluring as your next tailgating truck. First up, you’ll want to grab a Denali trim model so that you can experience a comfortable and luxurious ride to the football stadium. Diehard fans know that tailgating isn’t just for home games, sometimes you bring the fandom across state lines to an away game, so having a comfy interior is a must.
That Denali trim can also be coupled with the CarbonPro Edition which gives you a larger volume bed that’s also stronger, so damage from hauling tailgating supplies isn’t an issue. That CarbonPro Edition also adds an external KICKER sound system to the MultiPro Tailgate, allowing you to play tunes or for pregame show listening. Speaking of the MultiPro Tailgate, that thing is pretty nifty for hauling purposes or for a handy sitting position.
Nissan’s full-size truck doesn’t get too much love very often, but the Titan has some nice features for a tailgating party. You get capable towing power, a nice interior, and the Utili-track Channel System. What’s so great about some bed rail system you may ask? Well, Nissan provides an assortment of accessories that interact with the Utili-track Channel System, like a bed assist grip for helping get in and out of the bed, sliding tie-down cleats to adjust strap points where you need them, and even a KICKER speaker can slide on to help get the party going.
Another must-have is the Titan Box option. This option removes a bit of bed volume, but you gain two side locking cargo spots that can be used for storing tailgating supplies, snacks, or ice for drinks. Speaking of drinks, the lids to these cargo boxes have built in drink holders. An added plus to the Titan Box is that the 120-watt power outlet is still available for use at the tailgate party.
Speaking of trucks that don’t get any love, while the Honda Ridgeline isn’t the typical brawny truck, it hits a niche in the truck market that makes it a great option for tailgating. Inside is comfortable seating and great passenger space for being a mid-sized truck. Safety features like the multi-angle rearview camera helps the driver navigate in and out of those crowded stadium parking spaces.
The real fun is at the rear though, starting with the tailgate that can operate in normal fashion or swing out to the side to easily reach items farther back in the bed. Then, inside that bed is a locking underfloor cargo area that can double as a makeshift cooler thanks to an installed drainplug, perfect for tailgating drinks. The Ridgeline’s bed also features either 150 to 400-watt outlet, perfect for keeping a crockpot full of your homemade chip dip warm.
We’re leaving the truck options and moving into the SUVs, starting with Chevrolet’s land yacht, the Suburban. The Chevrolet Suburban gives you all of the power of the Silverado in the form of a people hauler. Inside is 144.7 cu-ft of total cargo room when all the seats are laid flat, with 41.5 cu-ft still available when all three rows are full of football fans. Those rear seat game goers experience plenty of passenger room and have access to two interactive screens with Chevrolet’s Rear Seat Media System. Stream pregame shows on one side or play NCAA 14 through the available HDMI port on the other side.
When you get to the parking lot, open up the rear to pull out all the folding chairs and plug in the tv to either of the two available outlets for up to 400 watts of power. The rear cargo area also features an underfloor storage that could work great for chips or jerky.
The Jeep Wrangler is a great off-roader, so nothing can stop you from making it to your favorite team’s game. Besides that, the Wrangler also offers a booming Alpine audio system that is sure to bring everyone over to your tailgate party. When they get there, you can open up the Wranglers swinging tailgate featuring the Mopar tray accessory that can hold all your grilling supplies.
The underfloor cargo hold is great for storing all the food, and there’s even two available outlets at the rear for phone charging or whatever else you may need. After the party, you may find that some tailgate goers left a mess around the Wrangler… Thankfully, the weather-resistant carpet is removeable, so clean up is as easy as remove, hose down, and let it drain out the one-way floor valves.
Another capable off-roader that will be the envy of everyone else’s tailgate party is the Toyota 4Runner. Toyota’s SUV can be outfitted as any overlander’s dream, which also means it is just as prepared for tailgating. The one to get is the Trail Special Edition that adds a sliding rear cargo deck to the rear of the 4Runner and even includes a Toyota branded cooler with tie down straps. That cooler is specially made just for Toyota and they’ve said it can keep ice frozen for up to 7 days. That’s super cool (pun intended).
Aside from that awesome cooler and helpful sliding deck, the Toyota 4Runner also features a unique powered rear glass that lets you get into the back without having to open up the rear if you wanted. If you do open up that rear, you can let everyone listen to the JBL sound system, plug in to the available outlet, and even host snack spots in the little trays over the wheel well bumps. Toyota also includes a handy first aid kit in the 4Runner, just in case the Buffalo Bills fan gets a scratch when he slams through a folding table.
Not too many people are fond of Ford naming their new EV after the Mustang, but the Mustang Mach-E itself is a great entrant into the electric segment and it’s made for tailgating. We have to start with that frunk (front + trunk) since that’s a special feature to EVs. The frunk takes the area where an engine may have lived and replaces it with more cargo space. The Mustang Mach-E’s frunk features two shallow cup holders and is great for use as a cooler for drinks, a space for 1000 Buffalo Wild Wings, or even a shrimp buffet. At least that’s what Ford had suggested last year, but I can’t argue with any of those options when it comes to tailgating.
Besides the tailgating possibilities that the frunk provides, the Mustang Mach-E also offers a wonderful interior with good passenger room and a massive 15.5-inch touchscreen with the new SYNC 4A system. Being that the Ford Mustang Mach-E is an electric vehicle, you may get preferential parking treatment at select stadiums that offer charging stations too.
The only van on the top 10 tailgating vehicles list is the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter. It’s not your typical family hauling minivan, nor is it a basic cargo van. The Sprinter is in a class of its own. It has an available 360-degree camera view that can be displayed on either a 7 or 10.25-inch touchscreen with MBUX installed. The Sprinter is also available with an electronically engaged 4×4 setup, so nothing can stop it from getting to the game. Being that this van is utilized for commercial work and in campervan settings, a multitude of power outlets can be installed around the vehicle straight from the factory or through readily available aftermarket means.
The Mercedes-Benz Sprinter can morph into whatever scenario the owner wants. It can be a traveling tailgate show with its ample interior space waiting to be filled with food, games, team banners, and turf flooring, or it can act as the vehicle to bring all the people to the tailgate parties with its 15-passenger capability. The happy medium is the Sprinter Crew that features seating for five with removable rear seating if needed and up to 370.8 cu-ft of cargo space.