What Are the 100 Essential Items to Keep in Your Car?

Date Modified: Dec 12, 2023
Edited by Riley Morgan
Fact checked by Avery Montgomery
Listen minutes

The saying “expect the unexpected” rings true on the open road. Whether you’re heading out on a long road trip or just navigating daily commutes, a well-stocked car is your ticket to a smoother ride.

In this guide, we'll walk you through an extensive list of car essentials that cover everything from safety and emergencies to convenience and entertainment. With these items on hand, you'll be ready for whatever the road throws your way.

Safety and Survival Car Essentials

Did you know that 90% of drivers don't have first aid supplies in their cars?

Safety and survival car essentials graphicThe following list zeroes in on safety and survival essentials designed to equip you for unforeseen challenges on the road, ensuring a safer and more secure journey:

  1. First Aid Kit: Contains medical supplies for initial injury care, including bandages, antiseptics, and tools, enabling prompt and effective medical attention.
  2. Flashlights and Extra Batteries: Provides portable light in the dark for breakdowns or checks, ensuring visibility and safety during nighttime situations.
  3. Reflective Warning Triangles: Alerts other drivers of hazards when placed around your vehicle, reducing collision risks during emergencies or breakdowns.
  4. Basic Tool Kit: Equipped with wrenches, screwdrivers, and tools for minor repairs, such as tightening loose bolts.
  5. Jumper Cables: Useful for jump-starting your vehicle in case of a dead battery or assisting others in need.
  6. Tire Pressure Gauge: Measures tire pressure for safety, efficiency, and prevention of blowouts.
  7. Portable Water Filter:  Filters out contaminants and purifies water from various sources, safeguarding against dehydration and waterborne illnesses.
  8. Multi-tool: A versatile gadget equipped with pliers, wire cutters, and an array of other tools like screwdrivers, knives, and bottle openers.
  9. Emergency Escape Tool: Includes a seatbelt cutter and window breaker for rapid exits in life-threatening situations or when assisting others.
  10. Emergency Contact Numbers: Contains contact information for rapid assistance in urgent situations. Contacts include personal phone numbers and information for professional services like local authorities.

What to Keep in Your Car for Emergencies 

Emergencies on the road have a knack for arising when least expected, making preparedness non-negotiable for every driver.

What to keep in your car for emergencies graphicThe following essentials list can help you navigate unexpected situations and stay safe until help arrives:

  1. Thermal Blankets: Retains body heat, providing much-needed warmth in chilly conditions to fend off hypothermia.
  2. Bottled Water and Non-Perishable Snacks: Ensures hydration and energy during delays or emergencies.
  3. Portable Phone Charger: Charges phones on the go, maintaining connectivity in crises. Some chargers may come with solar power options.
  4. Cash in Small Denominations: Provides practical payment in places without electronic options.
  5. Loud Whistle: Alerts others in emergencies, aiding rescue in remote locations. It is helpful for situations where calling for help proves difficult.
  6. Portable Air Compressor: Temporarily reinflates flat tires, aiding mobility until a more permanent solution is found.
  7. Rain Poncho: Shields from rain, enhancing comfort during unexpected showers, especially while addressing car repairs in the rain.
  8. Basic Medications: Includes allergy treatment medication, fever reducers, pain relievers, and other over-the-counter essentials. 
  9. Maps or GPS Device: Provides navigational tools for guidance in unfamiliar areas or during emergency stops.
  10. Roadside Assistance Contact Details: Includes professional services such as AAA (American Automobile Association), towing services, and personal contacts like friends or family who can offer immediate assistance in case of breakdowns or emergencies.

Car Maintenance and Repair Necessities 

Many drivers understand the importance of regular car maintenance. However, a survey revealed that 64% of drivers postpone necessary vehicle maintenance, which could lead to unexpected issues on the road. 

Car maintenance and repair necessities graphicThe following list of maintenance and repair essentials is designed to equip you for minor car troubles, ensuring your vehicle runs smoothly and stays road-ready:

  1. Spare Tire, Jack, and Lug Wrench: This can help in the case of a blown tire, especially if there is no way to get to a nearby mechanic.
  2. Spare Fuses: Prevents power surges that could lead to electrical fires.
  3. Duct Tape and Zip Ties: Offers a temporary fix for various car issues like a leaking exhaust pipe or a broken bumper until proper repairs can be made.
  4. Motor Oil and Funnel: Maintains engine health by topping up oil efficiently.
  5. Coolant and Antifreeze: Regulates engine temperature, preventing overheating or freezing.
  6. Windshield Washer Fluid: Maintains clear visibility on the road by keeping your windshields clean.
  7. Spare Car Key: Prevents lockouts, offering an alternative entry method.
  8. Transmission Fluid: A lubricant that not only tops up fluid levels but also ensures proper cooling and smooth operation of your vehicle's transmission system, preventing wear and addressing issues such as gear slipping and overheating.
  9. Brake Fluid: Ensures safe and efficient braking to prevent brake system failures.
  10. Replacement Bulbs for Headlights and Taillights: Ensures visibility in case of a burnt-out and can prevent you from being pulled over and getting a ticket.

Communication and Navigation Essentials 

Being prepared while on the road goes beyond having a full tank of gas; it's about having the right tools at your fingertips to navigate the unpredictable.

Communication and navigation essentials graphicThe following essentials ensure you're well-equipped to communicate, navigate, and stay informed during your road adventures:

  1. Fully Charged Cell Phone: Useful for emergency calls, navigation, and real-time traffic updates.
  2. Car Phone Mount: Securely holds the phone for hands-free navigation and calls, promoting safe driving.
  3. Paper Map or Atlas: Backup navigation tools for GPS downtime, ensuring you have a way to navigate if digital systems fail.
  4. GPS Navigation System: Provides real-time directions for efficient routes and prevents you from getting lost. Popular options include Google Maps, Apple Maps, and Garmin GPS devices. Some systems even provide real-time alerts about road accidents and driving conditions. Note that these systems may require a signal or data connectivity, and some may come with a subscription cost.
  5. Hands-Free Bluetooth Device: Allows safe calls while driving, helping you adhere to safe driving laws.
  6. Pen and Paper: Useful for notes and directions in non-electronic scenarios.
  7. USB Car Charger: Keeps your devices powered throughout your journey, especially during long drives.
  8. Portable Wi-Fi Hotspot Device: Offers Internet connectivity on the go. It is especially helpful in areas with little reception or great distance from any towns. Note that this device requires a data plan for operation.
  9. Roadside Assistance App: Provides quick access to help through mobile apps, a digital lifeline in case of emergencies. Popular apps include AAA Mobile, Urgent.ly, and Honk. Ensure you have this app downloaded and set up before embarking on your journey.
  10. Compass: Navigational aid for remote areas or when GPS issues arise, helping lead you in the right direction. 

Car Essentials for Comfort and Convenience 

Comfort on the road is a necessity that transforms tiresome journeys into enjoyable adventures.

Car essentials for comfort and convenience Here are some essentials that add a layer of ease and convenience to your travels:

  1. Car Sunshade or Windshield Cover: Shields your vehicle from direct sunlight when parked, preventing the interior from overheating, protecting the dashboard from fading, and maintaining a cooler ambiance for your return.
  2. Sunglasses: Guards your eyes from harmful UV rays and glare, improving visibility on sunny days, reducing eye strain, and enhancing overall driving safety.
  3. Tissues or Paper Towels: Serve as a quick solution for spills, wiping surfaces, or cleaning hands, ensuring a clean and tidy environment inside your car.
  4. Trash Bags: Offers a designated place for waste, preventing clutter and aiding in proper waste disposal, which keeps your car clean and organized.
  5. Reusable Water Bottle: Encourages hydration, saves money, and reduces plastic waste by providing a sustainable way to carry water during long drives.
  6. Travel Pillow: Provides neck and head support during long journeys or rests in the car, promoting comfort and helping prevent neck strain.
  7. Hand Sanitizer: Kills germs on your hands to promote hygiene, especially useful during pit stops and meals when soap and water aren't readily available.
  8. Portable Car Vacuum Cleaner: Helps maintain cleanliness by allowing quick cleanups of spills and debris.
  9. Portable Seat Cushion: Adds extra support and comfort to your driving experience, reducing discomfort during long hours on the road.
  10. Non-Slip Dashboard Mat: Keeps items in place on your dashboard, preventing distractions from items sliding around and aiding in maintaining organization.

Each season presents unique road challenges. In fact, weather-related conditions contribute to nearly 21% of all vehicle crashes in the U.S.

Seasonal and weather-related essentials graphic This curated list of car must-haves for varying weather will help ensure your comfort and safety as you navigate through the seasons:

  1. Ice Scraper and Snow Brush: Clears ice and snow from windows and body, ensuring visibility and safety in cold weather.
  2. Snow Chains: Enhances tire traction on snowy or icy roads, improving vehicle stability in winter conditions.
  3. Winter Gloves and Hat: Keeps you warm, preventing frostbite during cold weather and outdoor activities.
  4. Sunscreen: Shields skin from harmful UV rays, reducing sunburn risk while driving in sunny conditions.
  5. Bug Spray: Repels insects, preventing bites and discomfort in areas with high insect activity.
  6. Warm Blanket: Provides comfort and warmth in chilly weather, essential for emergencies and comfort.
  7. Portable Fan: Offers heat relief in hot weather by circulating fresh air inside the car and beating the summer heat.
  8. Rain Gear: Ensures you stay dry during downpours, with a raincoat and waterproof footwear enhancing comfort as you step out into the rain.
  9. Hand Warmers: Generates heat for warm hands in cold weather, preventing discomfort.
  10. Window Defogger Spray: Clears window fog for clear visibility, reducing accident risk in foggy conditions. 

Documents to Keep in Your Car 

Having the right documents in your car isn't just about obeying the law; it's about navigating unexpected situations and enjoying planned endeavors.

Documents to keep in your car graphicHere’s a checklist of documents to keep on hand for a smoother driving experience:

  1. Driver's License: Serves as your legal permit to operate a vehicle, which should always be kept within reach to present to law enforcement if you are pulled over.
  2. Vehicle Registration: Proves your ownership of the vehicle and displays information like the vehicle's make, model, and year, which is necessary during traffic stops and accidents.
  3. Auto Insurance Card: Provides details about your insurance coverage, including the policy number and contact information for your insurance company. Driving without insurance can lead to financial and legal penalties in case of accidents or when asked by authorities.
  4. Parking Permit: Facilitates hassle-free parking at designated locations like universities or workplaces, helping you avoid parking violations.
  5. Disabled Parking Permit: Displays your eligibility for accessible parking spots, ensuring hassle-free parking in designated areas.
  6. Toll Pass or Transponder: Streamlines payment at toll booths for those frequenting toll roads, preventing delays and ensuring a smooth travel experience.
  7. Vehicle Emissions Inspection Certificate: Demonstrates compliance with environmental regulations in areas with emissions testing requirements, ensuring you avoid penalties.
  8. Fishing License: Affirms your adherence to fishing regulations.
  9. Hunting Permit: Ensures compliance with wildlife regulations for hunters.

Car Essentials for Kids

Ventures with youngsters demand a tad more foresight.

Car essentials for kids graphic The items listed below cater to the little ones' necessities, ensuring their journeys are safe and snug:

  1. Baby Wipes or Wet Wipes: Cleans hands and surfaces, ensuring hygiene during travel.
  2. Diapers and Changing Supplies: Ensures diaper changes on the go, maintaining comfort for babies.
  3. Snacks and Drinks: Provides sustenance and prevents hunger during long journeys.
  4. Portable Entertainment (Books, Toys): Keeps kids engaged and entertained, reducing boredom and distractions to drivers and enhancing road safety.
  5. Sunshade for Child Seats: Shields kids from direct sunlight, preventing discomfort.
  6. Extra Clothing: Offers backup outfits for accidents or spills, ensuring cleanliness.
  7. Baby Sunscreen: Protects kids from sun exposure, preventing sunburn.
  8. Car Seat Protector: Keeps car seats clean and protects against spills or accidents.
  9. Travel Potty (for Emergencies): Addresses bathroom needs, ensuring convenience during long drives.
  10. Comfort Items (Blanket, Stuffed Animal): Provides comfort and familiarity, helping kids feel at ease. 

Car Essentials for Teen Drivers 

Embracing the road as a teen driver is a journey of independence filled with excitement. Yet, every newfound freedom comes with a responsibility. With the right preparation, the road can be a safer and more enjoyable arena for our young drivers

Car essentials for teen drivers graphicHere's a toolkit of essentials aimed at equipping them with the knowledge and awareness they need as they navigate the pathways of driving:

  1. Teen Driver Contract (if applicable): Cultivates a sense of responsibility by setting clear road rules and expectations between parents and teen drivers.
  2. List of Emergency Contacts: Ensures a quick connection to family or guardians during unexpected situations, providing a safety net in times of need.
  3. Road Safety Manual: Offers guidance on safe driving practices, enhancing teen drivers' knowledge.
  4. Emergency Roadside Kit: Equips teen drivers with basic tools and supplies for handling minor roadside emergencies.
  5. Basic Car Maintenance Guide: Provides guidance on routine car maintenance tasks to keep the vehicle in good condition. 

Car Essentials for Fun/Entertainment/Camping 

More Americans are answering the call of the wild, with 58 million households camping at least once in 2022.

Car essentials for fun, camping, entertainment graphicAs the allure of outdoor adventures grows, having a well-stocked car can elevate your experience. Here are some essentials for a memorable journey:

  1. Camping Gear (Tent, Sleeping Bags): Enables outdoor camping adventures, providing shelter and warmth during overnight stays.
  2. Portable Camping Stove: Cooks meals during camping trips, offering a convenient way to prepare food.
  3. Fishing Gear: Equips fishing enthusiasts with the necessary tools for a relaxing fishing experience.
  4. Outdoor Games (Frisbee, Ball): Provides entertainment during outdoor activities, promoting fun and camaraderie.
  5. Camping Chairs: Offers comfortable seating for outdoor relaxation and gatherings.
  6. Bluetooth Speaker: Enhances the outdoor experience with music and audio entertainment.
  7. Picnic Blanket: Provides a clean and comfortable surface for picnics and outdoor gatherings.
  8. Binoculars: Allows close-up observation of wildlife or distant scenic views.
  9. Camera: Captures memorable moments and scenic views during the journey.
  10. Travel Journal: Records travel experiences, thoughts, and memories for a lasting keepsake.
  11. Hiking Boots: Ensures comfortable and supportive footwear for hiking adventures, providing stability and grip on various terrains.
  12. Hammock: Offers a comfortable and relaxing way to unwind in the great outdoors, perfect for napping or stargazing.
  13. Backpack Cooler: Keeps food and beverages cold while on the go, ensuring refreshing treats during your outdoor escapades.
  14. Outdoor Movie Projector: Sets up outdoor movie nights under the stars, creating a memorable entertainment experience.
  15. Adventure Board Games: Offers entertainment and bonding opportunities with friends and family during downtime.
  16. Telescope: Allows for stargazing and celestial observation during camping trips, enhancing your connection with the night sky.  

Bottom Line

From safety and survival items to comfort and entertainment, these 100 car necessities cover all the bases. Whether you're facing an emergency, embarking on an adventure, or simply going about your daily routine, having these items on hand will make your journey smoother and more enjoyable.

Customize your car essentials list based on your preferences and needs, and remember that preparedness is key to a stress-free experience on the road.


Insurance Consultant
Frederik Stapleton, an Insurance Consultant with over five years of experience, joined TrySmartly in 2022. Renowned for his deep understanding of insurance products and risk management, he crafts insightful articles to guide readers in making informed decisions.