The streets of GTA Online are perilous, with players wantonly donating high explosives to their fellow man with alarming generosity. In such an environment, protection is key, and when you need to get from point A to point B, it's usually helpful if travel time isn't multiplied by your vehicle being destroyed several times. Some aspects of vehicle durability are much more than meets the eye however, and we're here to help.
Reddit user Eagle_Kitty_Cat put together a helpful guide and spreadsheet which provided us with plenty of data. Beyond giving players numerical metrics as to what vehicle can take how much of a beating, this also reveals that there are underlying mechanics of GTA Online that players don't normally have insight into.
One of the main takeaways from the testing is that, curiously enough, some vehicles change their stats based on whether anyone is sitting in them. As the spreadsheet shows, several vehicles get an armor boost if they are occupied. This snippet of the game's design is likely linked to balance, however it is an interesting tidbit of information to keep in mind.
From a tactical point of view, this can be useful in PvP as instead of shooting more ammo into an occupied vehicle, you might want to wait until your opponents get out, but stays close enough to be caught in the blast radius of the explosives you use. That way taking both them and their vehicle out will require fewer resources.
When it comes to explosives, the weapons can be categorized roughly into two tiers: high-powered explosives and low-powered explosives. All hand-held weapons sans the Homing Launcher fall into the high-powered category (meaning RPG, Grenades, Grenade Launchers, Sticky Bomb, Pipe Bomb and Proximity Mine). On the flip side, all vehicle mounted explosive weapons are low-powered, as is the Homing Launcher.
While technically filed under high and low-powered, respectively, the Rhino Tank's shells and the Valkyrie's explosive cannon can be considered separate, since the gaps between them and others in the categories are vast. The Rhino's shots are significantly more powerful, while the Valkyrie's are peas.
This is another interesting bit of gameplay balance. You'd think that weapons mounted on military vehicles would have more destructive power than handheld weapons, however with the notable exception of the Rhino, the exact opposite is true in GTA Online. The reason behind this is that vehicles have significantly greater armor and resilience than players, being squishy mortal humans.
For the sake of balance, players would require significantly stronger weapons than the vehicles to have a fighting chance, otherwise PvP would turn into 'who reaches the vehicle first' instead of a proper battle. While the weapons on a vehicle can still shred a player in seconds, the basic concept is that players are susceptible to damage but deal out a lot, while vehicles are highly resilient but less capable in offensive terms.
We also mentioned how some vehicles change their stats based on whether they are occupied. Thing is, the number of players inside is irrelevant - having more people sit inside won't boost the armor further. The number of vehicles that adhere to the rule is also very limited. This property or stat, dubbed "active armor", is only present on both variants of the Insurgent, the recently released Duke O'Death and the special vehicles introduced in Import/Export.
The Armored Kuruma is even more of an odd one out, since that too possesses active armor, but only when fired upon by the Valkyrie's cannons. This means that any other explosive affects it the same way, regardless of whether anyone is inside, however it takes more Valkyrie shots before destruction if it is occupied. We'd love a run-down of the thought process behind that very specific design decision. It's fascinatingly random.
On the other hand, all regular vehicles, armored vehicles from Executives and Other Criminals and all aerial vehicles have the same durability when occupied as they do when they're empty. It's important to note that most helicopters have laughably low endurance ratings and can be taken down with a few shots from the revolver, so don't lull yourself into an illusion of safety when flying one.
You can view the full spreadsheet here (for just the Gunrunning vehicles, check this one instead), giving you exact damage numbers on all vehicles and explosive types. The takeaway from the whole thing is that the occupied Insurgent HVY and occupied Ruiner 2000 are the sturdiest vehicles in the game. Oddly enough, the Rhino Tank is only a mid-level entrant with several vehicles outclassing it, even though it's a freaking tank.
The power relations between weapons also put things into new perspective. The ever-feared grief machine known as the Hydra has a pretty weak loadout, all things considered. While the magnitude of damage isn't all that matters and the Hydra gains much from speed and maneuverability, it's interesting to see it is about as powerful as the Homing Launcher.
Even after the nerf, the Rhino Tank remains the most destructive tool in GTA Online with the highest damage output - though this might change with the release of the gunrunning update soon. While under most circumstances, the tank hasn't the strongest armor on the block, things change with vehicle explosions.
When other vehicles explode near you, the damage dealt falls into the high-powered explosive category for each tested vehicle except the Rhino. While other vehicles usually take 1-4 explosions with the two champions (Insurgent HVY and Ruiner 2000) taking 9, the otherwise rather fragile Rhino can take 24, and it's the only ride that won't be set on fire because of it.
Resistance to regular weapons fire is also an interesting variable to toss into the equation. Some vehicles only sport limited protection, while others are fully proofed. More are completely susceptible to regular bullets. It's interesting to note that neither of the two most-armored rides are bullet resistant to any degree. The armored Kuruma, on the other hand, is bulletproof, meaning it's probably a better choice for Contact Missions as you'll face explosives less frequently when doing PvE.
When it comes to PvP, things depend on what aiming style you're playing with. While up to this point the Insurgent HVY and the Ruiner 2000 were running head to head, the Insurgent takes the cake in PvP as it is a great choice in both cases, regardless of player skill. It's also a fantastic vehicle whether you're pushing the attack or playing in a more defensive manner, whereas the Ruiner 2000 doesn't shine in PvP at all unless you're defensive.
It's quite clear that GTA Online's metagame is far more particular than one would assume at first glance. The armored Kuruma is the best vehicle for PvE, the Insurgent HVY is the best for PvP and the Rhino is a great choice if you want to cause damage but don't need to worry much about explosives coming at you.
We're already anticipating what kinds of changes will be brought to the game with the upcoming gunrunning update, which has been teased to introduce a wide array of militarized vehicles. Here's a few ideas as to what that could mean - but in the meantime, we'll stick to our trusty Insurgent HVY.