Search Cars for Sale

Items Everyone Needs in the Car

A little preparation can prevent tremendous hassle on the road when things don’t go as expected. Use this list of items everyone needs in the car to equip yourself for speed bumps on your road trips, daily commute, and errands.

You count on your vehicle for reliable transportation, but mishaps happen. Stay safe and be prepared with a collection of essentials to keep in your car.

What You Need for Car Trouble and Maintenance

  • Jumper cables – A dead battery is never convenient. Keep a set of booster cables in your trunk to reduce the frustration of needing a jump. Learn how to jump a car battery if you don’t already have this crucial skill.
  • Comfortable shoes – You will be happy to take off your business shoes or heels and slip on a pair of old sneakers when you need to walk for help or gasoline.
  • Flashlight – Select an LED flashlight to keep in your car for nighttime breakdowns. Use it to see what you’re working on or to alert passersby to go around you.
  • Car manual – Keep your car’s owner’s manual in the glove compartment and order a replacement if it is misplaced. It has troubleshooting tips to help determine what’s wrong with your car when it isn’t working properly.
  • Duct tape – A roll of duct tape may come in handy for a quick fix on the road.
  • Multitool – Most motorists don’t need a complete toolkit in the car. A multitool doesn’t take up much space, and you can use it to tighten loose screws or bolts and to perform many other basic tasks.
  • Work gloves – A sturdy pair of gloves will keep grease off your hands and protect them when making roadside repairs.
  • Cleaning wipes and rags – Car trouble can be messy. Wet wipes, paper towels, and clean rags can help you get by until you wash up properly. These are also good to keep in the car for everyday spills.
  • Emergency signage – Reflective orange triangles will warn passing drivers of your disabled vehicle.
  • Tire pressure gauge – Get in the habit of checking the air pressure in your tires when you fill the gas tank. Proper inflation maximizes tire lifespan, helps ensure proper vehicle handling, and improves fuel economy.
  • A note about tires: Be sure you have a plan for how to deal with a flat before it happens. Know how to change a tire. Regularly check the spare tire to ensure that it’s inflated correctly and that the car jack and tire iron/lug wrench stored in your trunk are in working order. Also, keep a pressurized-can sealant or tire-sealant kit for a quick roadside repair.

What You Need for “You Never Know” Situations

  • Blanket – Some of the things to keep in your car have several purposes. A blanket can keep you warm. You can place it on the ground to protect your clothing while changing a flat tire. Use it to wrap up and contain your emergency vehicle supplies.
  • Plastic bags – Repurpose grocery sacks and use them for garbage, muddy shoes, or sick passengers.
  • Toiletry kit – Bad weather or accidents can close a highway for hours. For whatever reason, it might be necessary for you to spend the night in your car unexpectedly. A complete kit like you’d have for vacation isn’t necessary. Still, you’ll be glad to have basic sanitary and hygienic supplies when you need them.
  • Hidden cash – Twenty $1 bills can go a long way if your wallet goes missing when you’re out-and-about. Also, consider keeping a roll of quarters in the glove box for toll booths or children’s lemonade stands.
  • Non-perishable snacks and water – If an unplanned delay keeps you isolated on the road, you and your passengers will appreciate something to eat. Choose edibles that don’t melt and have a long shelf life, such as dried fruit, nuts, granola, and beef jerky.
  • Disposable rain poncho – A lightweight plastic covering will help keep you dry if you must be in the rain to jump-start your car or walk for assistance.

What You Need For Emergencies

  • External cell phone charger – You can’t use your cell phone to call for help if its battery is dead. Keep a small external charging device ready to use when you’re traveling.
  • First aid kit – Purchase a pre-made kit or assemble a box of first aid necessities to handle minor physical mishaps that can happen at any time. Check the kit regularly to restock used supplies and ensure that the remaining contents are usable and have not expired.
  • Whistle – Use a whistle in remote areas to let others know you need assistance.
  • Emergency escape hammer – These small tools will shatter car windows and cut seat belts in emergencies.
  • Small fire extinguisher – According to a National Fire Prevention Association report, vehicle fires accounted for about 212,500 incidents or roughly 16% of the fires reported to United States fire departments in 2018. Mount a small extinguisher inside your car to keep it from rolling around. Remember, the purpose of automobile fire extinguishers is to save you and passengers first, and then the vehicle.

Related Stories and Car Tips:


What am I Required to Keep in my Car?

The law requires you to have your valid driver’s license when you’re driving. Vehicle registration and auto insurance information must be in the vehicle.

How Should I Store Emergency Supplies in my Car?

Most roadside emergency gear can be kept in your trunk. Use a crate or storage container to help prevent things from sliding around and to keep essential items easily accessible.

What are the Most Important Things I Need to Have in the Car?

You can’t be prepared for every type of situation, but you can have a basic car emergency kit that includes a spare tire, jumper cables, a first aid kit, and anything else you think might come in handy. Always keep registration information in the vehicle.

Chris Hardesty
Chris Hardesty
Chris Hardesty is an author specializing in general car tips and electric vehicles. He spent more than 25 years in newspapers, including leading editorial research efforts at The News & Observer in North Carolina, The Mercury News in California, and Newsday in New York. After that, he was an online news editor at The Wall Street Journal before moving to the Atlanta area. He didn’t have a... Read More about Chris Hardesty

Sign up for Autotrader newsletters

The best cars and best deals delivered to your inbox

Email Address 

Where You Can Buy

Loading dealers...

Leave a Comment

Most Popular Articles

Best New Cars for 2022

Here is our list of the best new cars for 2022 (presented in alphabetical order by manufacturer).

2020 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid: First Look

The 2020 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid jumps to the head of the hybrid class.

Best Car Deals: December 2022

This month's best new car deals include several attractive offers for qualified shoppers.

Search By Style

More Articles Like This