30 Essential Things You Should Keep In Your Car

30 Essential Things You Should Keep In Your Car

Some of us keep absolutely nothing in our car boots, while others have enough packed to live in their cars for weeks. Somewhere in between is this list of 30 things we think every car owner should always have on hand.

You can buy packaged emergency safety kits, but the DIY approach is more satisfying, and you probably already have many of these items lying around. It’s not just about emergencies or safety either. Below I’ve separated the checklists by category.

Car Repair and Maintenance

30 Essential Things You Should Keep In Your Car

There’s nothing like breaking down at the side of the road and realising the spare tyre has a flat from the last time it happened. (True story.) To keep you up and running, keep these in your boot:

  • Spare tyre (in good condition), along with a tyre jack and tyre iron, because, without them or someone else to help you, the spare tyre is useless. Here’s how to change a tyre, in case you need a refresher. Also, if your wheels require a special security key, make sure that’s always in your car too.

  • Tyre inflater and sealer, like the Fix-a-Flat, which can plug a leak (and help you avoid using the above tools) just enough to get you to the auto shop.

  • Jumper cables, because dead batteries happen to the best of us. We have a crash course on how to jump-start a car, but you should familiarise yourself with your engine just in case things are a little different. Alternatively, you can pack an emergency battery booster so you don’t have to rely on a Good Samaritan coming along.

  • Your car’s manual, which should be in the glove compartment already.

  • Tyre pressure gauge: As Jalopnik points out: checking tyre pressure on a regular basis can improve handling, increase fuel economy, promote tyre longevity and even save lives.

  • Duct tape and WD-40. Seriously, check out these 10 heroic duct tape car repairs.

  • Car repair information. A business card for your auto repair shop, the number for AAA (if you’re a member) and car insurance claim forms should also be stored in your glove compartment.

Safety and Survival

30 Essential Things You Should Keep In Your Car

You might already have an emergency go bag or kit set up. If you spend a lot of time in your car and it’s always nearby when you’re home, you could just keep that kit in your trunk — or create a second, lighter version.

In any case, your safety supplies should include:

  • First aid kit

  • Torch

  • Multi-tool (here are our five favourites)

  • Matches or other fire starter (Bonus: a candle in a can for winter emergencies)

  • Energy bars or MREs (the instant food that heat up with just water)

  • Water bottles

  • Weather radio

A few car-specific items:

  • Seat belt cutter and window breaker. Keep this in your glove compartment, not in your boot, obviously.

  • Flares or reflective triangle, so you don’t get hit at the side of the road in the dark.

  • Maps. Yes, the paper kind.

Convenience and Comfort

30 Essential Things You Should Keep In Your Car

In addition to the basics above, you might want to keep these things around also:

  • Paper towels or a hand towel

  • Tissues or a roll of toilet paper

  • Pencil and paper

  • Umbrella

  • Spare change/emergency money

  • Recycled shopping bags for those impromptu shopping trips.

  • Blanket, which comes in handy not just for keeping warm in emergencies, but also at the park or at the beach.

  • Change of clothes: also an emergency item, in case you get drenched in rain.

  • USB mobile device charger

This isn’t an exhaustive list, and your needs might vary. While it might sound like a lot, all this stuff doesn’t take up too much space. Jalopnik’s OppositeLock blog shows us your car might have good hiding places to stash all of your just-in-case items.

Photos by Scott & Elaine van der Chijs, State Farm, bradleygee.


  • Dear Iifehack, I would – no crave- to know the 30 most important thing I need to keep in the 30 most important things, so I can start planning what I need.

    For example all 30 things kits in cars recommended ! :

    survival bag in car, first aid kit in car, mini fridge in car, lifehacker indulgence in car kit, GF handbag in car, hitchhiker kit in car, geek kit in car, in my glove box in car, date kit in car, Angus’s inspiration kit in car, kids travel kit in car, anti nuke kit in car. Beer (30) kit. Etc

    Ideas :
    On pushbike kit, inlaw dispatch Emergency kit, smartphone top 30 kit. Cocktail kit, elevator pitch avoidance kit.

    • Only in the event of a car fire, which are *incredibly* rare, and those which do happen tend to develop slowly enough for any occupants to stroll away to a safe distance. If they’re not in a fit state to leave the car, e.g. unconscious or seriously injured, the chances are that they’re pretty much a goner in a car fire. Fires develop in engine bays, not in the passenger compartment, so they’ll be unable to tackle the source.

  • A few more essentials are a satellite phone, a solar charger, a fire striker i find more useful then matches because it still works when it gets wet and also a proper survival knife and the most essential piece of kit for any off roaders or bush bashers is a GPS device.

  • Just on the spare tyre, make sure that you can actually remove the wheels currently on the car – it used to be fashionable (read: lazy) for mechanics to fasten wheel nuts on with an air wrench, which often meant it was near impossible to remove by hand – you’d strip the nut or bend the tyre iron before it would loosen.
    Also, make sure the tyre iron you have is a decently solid one, not like those 4 spoke KMart versions where you can easily spool the head off them.

    Throw a packet of Panadol in the glove compartment.

    I’d suggest replacing the paper towels with a bar towel, if you can still get them. Just the right size , great of wiping your hands, cleaning up drink spills or making an impromptu bandage wad. Oh, and rolled up, can be a make shift pillow.
    Also, throw in half a dozen tampons in the first aid kit., primarily for wound dressing, though useful if your missus gets caught short too.

    I’d also go for the emergency jump start pack, being self reliant is a much better option, though keep the starter cables for just in case.
    That said, I heard from one auto electrician that jump starting some modern day vehicles can cause problems with the electrical systems – I really have no evidence to back that assertion up with, so add salt accordingly.

    And above all, keep any cash out of sight. I had some turd gargler break into my car, causing $500 of damage, for a mere $12 in coins.
    I certainly wished I had a sturdy tyre iron to unloosen his nut with..

  • 1. Disposable plastic cups, plates and cutlery.

    2. Bottle of water to wash hands with.

    3. Wide mouthed, screw-top container to pee in. A female-shaped funnel attachment improves capture.

    Men can use 3 sitting down on car seat. Women can squat in front seat footwell.

    4. A FUD (Female Urination Device) such as P-Mate for going in the bush without revealing posterior.


    5. Roll of suitably sized, reliably liquid confining plastic bags to poo in.

    I find that kneeling on the passenger seat facing backwards is best for 5.

    6. When we’re travelling we take a pop-up shower/change/toilet tent to make it easier and more private for 3 and 5.

    However, when in populated public areas and you can’t find a toilet, such as on the docks in Split in Croatia, as happened a few years ago, so you can’t put up 6 we have a twist and fold front windscreen sunshade and side window covers made out of cardboard to provide privacy for 3 and 5.

    When away from the car I carry an opaque plastic drinking bottle, a Bunnings one actually, in my backpack. If you can’t find a toilet, such as happened on a 16km walk through Imperia in Italy earlier this year, a male can sit on a park bench away from the crowds, covering his lap with a jacket and have a pee.

    This probably wasn’t necessary in Italy (or France) because a guy can go almost anywhere but if you did so in UK or Oz you would get arrested.

    My partner reckons she could use it too in an emergency but she hasn’t done a trial run at home.

    I suggested that she might need to use her Go-Girl FUD hydrophobic silicone rubber, shake to dry, funnel to improve directionality.


    • Holy crap! (no pun intended)

      You really spend a lot of time thinking about toilet related topics Werd.

      I’ve always found I’m either in civilisation where I can find a toilet, or I’m out in the back of beyond where I can go in the bush. I can’t imagine ever taking a shit INSIDE my car!!!!

      • We are retired, but not so old that we have lost control if that’s what you’re thinking.

        For the last 6 years we have spent 4 months each year in Europe and another 2 or 3 months in Oz, NZ or USA touring by car.

        In Europe public toilets are very rare so it is important to be prepared.

        I have the location of a large number of supermarches (even small ones usually have toilets) and hypermarches and McDonalds and other fast food and other chains that have toilets loaded as POIs (Points of Interest) on my Microsoft Autoroute satnav system so we can find them. I hasten to add, in case you think I am fixated on toilets, that this isn’t the primary reason the POIs are loaded. They are there so we can buy food or get free Internet access.

        A lot of McDonalds stores have PINs on the toilet doors so you either have to loiter until someone comes out, find a receipt on an unoccupied table, beg a receipt or actually buy something.

        Earlier this year while travelling in Italy we found that cemeteries are a good place to look for toilets.

        Despite all these techniques sooner or later you have to have a pee where you can’t find a toilet. That’s when the screw top container is a great “relief”. We probably use it once or twice per week.

        I have only had to use the poo technique twice in 6 years.

  • Chalk.

    If you’re in a minor accident you can mark the locations of the wheels of all vehicles involved on the road surface, and then move them out of the traffic.

  • Do keep in mind that every extra item you’re carrying around is going to cost you fuel…

    If you’re not driving away from populated areas, you can get quite a lot of this stuff just by getting out of your car and going for a short walk. It’s worth going over this list and assessing what you really need to be carrying, rather than just overloading your car on the off chance.

  • I can’t believe you or no one else mentioned having a bottle of motor oil! Your car may be tight and never leak but you don’t know when or where you could blow a ring or somethin. Obviously make sure it’s the correct type for the engine (look at manufacturer’s recommendation) Just my 2 Cents

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