| Car Life
an animated car with a box of important things being loaded in the trunk

What are good things to keep in your car? The first 15 below are the most essential, but you may find the other items to be useful as well. Share in the comments what you think is important to keep in your vehicle!

Why They’re Good Things to Keep in the Car

  1. Emergency Flares: If you get stuck in the middle of a road at night, handheld flares (a universally understood emergency signal) will help warn other drivers of your presence. Rain or fog, they operate in all environmental conditions.
  2. Triangle Reflectors: Fluorescent orange triangle reflectors help make you visible by day and reflect light from vehicle headlights at night. Properly place the triangles around you with the emergency flares to keep everyone doubly safe.
  3. First Aid Kit: Whether you brush against poison ivy on a camping trip, bump your head while changing a flat tire, or get a papercut on a map, a well-prepared first aid kit can come in handy when you need it.
  4. Flashlight or Headlamp: Any roadside emergency can be trouble, but it’s potentially double trouble at night. Arm yourself with a trusty flashlight for looking under the hood or wherever you need to see. Or even better, go hands-free with a flashlight cap or headlamp.
  5. Jumper Cables: Imagine your car’s battery is dead and you need a jump. Another vehicle is willing to stop, but no one has jumper cables. Not an ideal situation! Instead, always keep a set of jumper cables in the trunk to get you, or an unprepared driver, back on the road. Or, spend more on a jump starter box, or booster pack, a powerful battery that can jump-start a car on its own. Plus, you can charge all your electronics, like phones and laptops, with it! Or, for a few dollars a month, you could get Roadside Assistance with your Direct Auto policy. It covers jump starts for dead batteries and more.
  6. Escape Tool: Hopefully, you’re never in this situation, but if you become trapped inside of a vehicle, a 2-in-one escape tool with a seatbelt cutter and window breaker can set you free. Keep it in your glove box or center console for easy access if ever needed.
  7. Tool Kit: A small tool kit can come in handy when you need to change a fuse, replace a tire, or do some basic under-the-hood repairs. It could even be helpful for non-automobile jobs wherever you go. Who knows when you might need to fix a missing screw on your sunglasses or something else?
  8. Sunglasses: When the sun is shining bright, pulling your car’s visor down helps block the light, but sunglasses are what you need for protection against glare. For improved visibility and a safe driving experience for all, always have a pair of shades on hand. You’ll look cool wearing them too!
  9. Blanket: From summertime picnics to chilly car breakdowns on the highway in winter, you’ll be happy to have a blanket for every season. Plus, they’re great at protecting seats from animal hair, muddy passengers, or anything you may transport in your car. You might also consider a mylar emergency blanket or “space blanket” to be extra prepared for an emergency!
  10. Cell Phone Charger: How would we survive without our cell phones? Sure, we joke about our reliance on them, but in an emergency, they are critical — and a dead battery won’t make your phone very useful. That’s why it’s wise always to keep a cell phone charger in your car, whether it charges through a USB port in your car or a solar-powered cell phone charger in case your car won’t start.
  11. Tire Changing Kit: If you don’t have Roadside Assistance (Psst! You can get Roadside Assistance for only a few dollars a month with a Direct Auto policy! It covers tire service, 24-hour emergency towing, and more.) you’ll want to keep a spare tire and tire changing tools on hand to be able to change a flat tire. You may also want a tire sealant like Fix-A-Flat or Slime to patch a tire on the fly.
  12. Printed Maps: With technology so readily available at our fingertips, most of us rely on map apps on our smartphones to navigate us. However, if your phone dies when you’re in an unfamiliar town, a printed map can save the day. Plus, with Roadside Assistance added to your Direct policy, you can even request free maps and travel routes with the plan’s concierge benefits.
  13. Umbrella: You’re sitting in your car parked a block away outside of your destination, and it’s pouring rain. If only I had an umbrella, you think. Fortunately, that imagined situation doesn’t have to happen! Just keep a spare umbrella in the backseat of your car to ensure you stay dry whenever the unexpected thunder cloud rolls into your plans.
  14. Pen & Notebook: Good ole ink to paper is always a good thing to have around. Maybe you need to jot down some directions or the contact information of your tow truck driver or locksmith who’s coming to assist you.
  15. Owner’s Manual: For most of us, our car’s owner manual came in the glove box, and it’s been there ever since. But in case yours didn’t, or you took it out once and left it in the garage or elsewhere, make sure you put one in the glove box. This little book comes in handy to tell you things like what a particular light means on your dash that you’ve never seen before, what the ideal tire pressure is, and how to troubleshoot problems like changing a flat tire or jumping your car.
  16. Non-Perishable Snacks: If you get stuck in traffic, break down by the side of the road, or run out of gas, having snacks on hand will help curb your appetite or the “hangries” (getting angry because you’re hungry). Granola bars, chips, crackers, dried fruit, fig bars, and nuts are great options. However, note that even non-perishable snacks will perish eventually, so watch the expiration date.
  17. Water Bottles: Having water on hand to keep you hydrated is always a good idea! However, it’s not a good idea to keep plastic water bottles in your car in the heat. Studies have found plastic bottles in heat can release harmful chemicals into the water, and leaving a plastic water bottle in your car could even start a fire! Instead, use metal or glass bottles that are sturdy enough to withstand extreme heat and freezing conditions.
  18. List of Emergency Contacts: Nowadays, most people don’t memorize phone numbers, nor do they store certain contact details in their phone, like for their auto insurance company. However, if you’re ever in a place without cell phone reception and can’t search online for a phone number you need, or if your phone died and you’re without a phone charger (see #10), you’ll at least have your paper version of contacts.
  19. Tire Pressure Gauge: When a tire is very low, it’s obvious to see it needs air. But slightly low tire pressure isn’t always visible. That’s when you need a tire pressure gauge. There are three types of tire-pressure gauges: stick, digital, and dial. Check your owner’s manual (See #18) for the manufacturer’s recommended air pressure. Driving below it isn’t recommended as it can cause a blowout and more, not to mention lower your gas mileage.
  20. Duct Tape: You never know when someone will rear-end you in a parking lot, causing your bumper to drag on the ground, or you’ll accidentally knock your side-view mirror off on a tree. So many things can break, and duct tape is an easy, quick-fix until you find a more permanent solution.
  21. Fire Extinguisher: Most people think it’s unnecessary to keep a fire extinguisher in their car since car fires don’t happen very frequently. But an estimated 171,500 highway vehicle fires did occur in the U.S. from 2014-2016, according to the S. Fire Administration. That’s significant. A car can catch fire for various reasons, including short circuits, leaking fluids, faulty fuel delivery systems, and gas cans.
  22. Weather Radio: Depending on your lifestyle and the city’s weather conditions, a weather radio could be a useful backup to your car radio and cell phone. With its battery backup power or emergency crank, you’ll be able to stay informed of severe weather no matter what.
  23. Plastic Grocery Bags: Having a few of these in your car always comes in handy for throwing away garbage that builds up in your car, picking up after your dog, or putting wet bathing suits and dirty boots in.
  24. Reusable Tote Bags: When you go grocery shopping, take a few reusable tote bags with you into the store to use as shopping bags. After you unload, toss them back in the car where you’ll see them so you don’t forget to use them on your next trip!
  25. Tissues or Wet Wipes: Whether you need to blow your nose after a sneeze or wipe the ice cream off your child’s face, you’ll always be prepared if you keep tissues or wet towels in your vehicle. For a reusable option, keep some handkerchiefs in the glove box.
  26. Rock Salt, Sand, or Kitty Litter: If you live in a wintery climate, rock salt, sand, or kitty litter can help you get traction should you find yourself stuck in the snow. Sprinkle a little under your tires to give them something to grip and get back on the road.
  27. Portable Air Compressor: Most gas stations have air pumps, but with a portable air compressor, you can always inflate or top off your tires no matter where you are.
  28. Tow Strap: A tow strap is for towing one vehicle behind another — and not to be used for anything else (they can be dangerous). But if you have a car you think might break down, and you know how to use a tow strap properly, it could be a smart thing to keep in the trunk of your car.
  29. Coloring Book or Cards: This one might be more for the kids, but it could also be for you. If you’re ever stuck on the side of the road or waiting for a locksmith to help you get the keys you locked in your car, some entertainment can help alleviate any boredom from waiting around.
  30. Loose Change: Tolls, parking meters, payphones (yes, there are still 100,000 payphones in the U.S.), trips to the laundromat, small purchases. As you can see, there are many reasons to keep a roll of quarters or some change in a hidden but easy-to-access spot in your car.
  31. Reflective Safety Vest: Changing a tire or walking along the side of a highway can be a dangerous situation. Wearing a bright orange reflective safety vest will make it easier for other drivers to see you.
  32. Windshield Wiper Fluid: The technician will typically top off your windshield wiper fluid if you go somewhere to get your oil changed. Even so, you don’t want to be in a situation where you can’t see out your windows. It’s not an essential item, but an excellent extra item to have around when you need it.
  33. Antifreeze: Antifreeze prevents water in your vehicle’s radiator and engine from freezing in cold temperatures and overheating in hot weather (or any temperature, really). Overall, it regulates the engine during extreme temperatures. There are all sorts of antifreeze, red, blue, yellow, pink, and so on, so check your user manual for instructions, including proper storage and safety precautions!

Did you know? Adding Roadside Assistance to your Direct Auto Insurance policy covers quite a few roadside emergencies. For example, Roadside Assistance can help you change a flat tire with your good spare, jump-start your car, offer certain mechanical first aid, and more. Call us at 1-877-GO-DIRECT to learn more!