16 essential items you should always have in your car
Get peace of mind when you need it most
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No one ever wants to end up stranded on the side of the road, especially during a massive winter storm or other types of inclement weather. From flat tires to dead car batteries, common car emergencies can happen when you least expect and be a source of extreme anxiety for new and seasoned drivers alike.
Fortunately, you don’t have to drop hundreds of dollars to get prepared for these types of worst-case scenarios. Here are some of the best car essentials you should have in your vehicle at all times, including first aid kits, thermal blankets, and so much more. You might not always be able to predict an emergency before it happens, but with these top-rated and affordable items, you can be proactive and create a survival kit for inside your vehicle that's comprehensive enough to cover all the bases.
1. A first aid kit to treat injuries
Whether it’s a little cut or a more serious wound, injuries happen on the road all the time. Having a first aid kit like this one from Swiss Safe, which we’ve recommended in the past, can help you stay safe and treat emergencies wherever they come up. This 4.7-star rated kit comes fully stocked with virtually everything you’ll need too, like bandages, gauze pads, disposable gloves, and so much more. "Great kit. It has everything I need and the little travel kit is a bonus," wrote one of the nearly 8,000 Amazon reviewers who enjoyed this highly portable kit.
2. These thermal blankets to help you stay warm
It’s hard to imagine a scarier scenario than getting stranded in your car during the dead of winter. In freezing cold temperatures, having thermal blankets can literally be a lifesaver, which is why this four-pack should be at the top of your must-buy list. Made out of dual-sided aluminized mylar, these emergency blankets retain up to 90 percent of your body’s heat and can block out rain, snow, and other moisture while you wait for help. Even better, this set has a 4.7-star rating on Amazon and more than 8,000 positive reviews, with one shopper noting: "Just a MUST have for any individual or household... love that they can be cut, arranged, and utilized to individual needs and scenario."
3. A multitool that can tackle any situation
When you’re in a bind, a versatile multitool like this one from Gerber can make a big difference. More than 9,000 reviewers on Amazon rave that this item, which has a 4.7-star rating on the site, is worth the investment because it’s like having a whole toolbox at your disposal, and it's more affordable than other popular multitools. You get a lot with this lightweight yet tough tool, from a wirecutter to a set of needle-nose pliers, and even a can opener, a.k.a the kind of crazy-good functionality you need in a crisis. "The tools are easy to retrieve and stow, blades seem sharp, and the lock feature is a nice plus," described one Amazon shopper.
4. This car charger that won’t ruin your smartphone
If you’ve ever traveled anywhere by car before, chances are you’ve used a car charger to keep your phone from conking out en route. That said, a lot of car chargers are absolutely awful for phones, delivering a temporary battery boost while simultaneously depleting your battery’s overall power over time. This one from Anker has more than 35,000 positive reviews and a 4.7-star rating from shoppers who insist that it won’t mess up your device. Another perk? It’s tiny and it really gets the job done.
5. A jump starter that can power more than just your vehicle
If there's one item you add to your wishlist ASAP, the BUDDYGO car jump starter ought to be it. This heavy-duty car accessory has a 4.6-star rating on Amazon and is a game-changer in more ways than one. It's ideal for all kinds of vehicles with 12-volt engines, as well as motorcycles, lawn mowers and more. More than 2,600 Amazon reviewers swear by it, with one raving: "So nice and convenient. I did not have to go get the other car to connect jumper cables. Nope just popped this on and she started right up!"
6. This ultra-dependable and portable flashlight
In need of a little extra illumination? Named the best portable flashlight for its rugged durability and superior value, this popular option from Olight sheds a lot of light on the things you need to see the most. It's waterproof and has a resilient aluminum body, so you can even use it for self-defense if needed. Close to 1,000 Amazon reviewers say it's a great option, with one noting: "The Olight S2 Baton is a small versatile light. This light fits easily in the palm of your hand and has a good feel."
7. A bag of cat litter for better tire traction
It might seem weird, but lugging around some cat litter in your trunk is one of those cold-weather hacks that could end up paying off in a big way if you ever get stuck in the snow or ice (or even mud) and your tires need extra traction. Non-clumping cat litter is the best kind to use, so don’t be afraid to stock up this winter.
8. This set of escape tools you’ll hopefully never have to use
No one wants to think about being trapped inside a car after a wreck, but it can happen. When you need to get out fast but you’re stuck, this two pack of escape tools from VicTsing has a 4.7-star rating on Amazon and can make all the difference by helping you to break through glass and slice through seatbelts with ease. With close to 9,000 positive reviews on the site, it's one of the most popular options on the market right now. "As a firefighter of 32 years (retired) I’ve used this tool many times and it works flawlessly," described one reviewer. "If you need to [extricate] yourself or come across an accident where a quick extrication is required, [it] will be a very handy tool."
9. These jumper cables to save you from a dead battery
Every driver should have a set of jumper cables in their car, but not enough of us do. These 20-foot cables from Cartman have a 4.8-star rating on Amazon and are surprisingly high-quality considering how cheap they are compared to other options you might find at a brick-and-mortar store. Copper-clad yet still fortified, these jumper cables could definitely bail you (or someone else in need of a jump) out of a bind, and close to 8,000 Amazon customers consider them a stellar purchase.
10. An easier way to build a fire
You don't need to start a fire in your car of course, but if you're ever in a situation where you have to build one nearby, a flint starter like this one has a 4.6-star rating on Amazon and can make it easy to build a fire for survival. This comes with a flint rod and a striker, which also doubles as a bottle opener. You won’t need to be a boy scout to get the hang of this since it’s designed to be used by both experts and total novices, according to the more than 1,000 Amazon reviewers who have tried it. "You must make sure to really take off the black covering on the flint to get some sparks," advised one Amazon reviewer. "Also, make sure you practice and or watch videos or read guides if you haven't done it before. It's fun to have and use."
11. This handy duct tape for anything that might go awry
There’s a difference between good duct tape and bad duct tape, but Gorilla Tape is in a category all its own. As the best duct tape out now, this 4.8-star rated option offers amazing holding ability and can hold back leaks for several minutes at a time. According to more than 12,000 Amazon reviewers, this duct tape also tears well yet offers immense adhesion, so much so that for minor car repairs, it’s certain to hold up well enough to get you home or to your mechanic.
12. These bungee cords to strap everything in place
You may not need to strap things down all the time, but when you do, these bungee cords are really helpful to have in your backseat. This 24-pack has a 4.7-star rating on Amazon and more than 10,000 positive reviews. The cords themselves are color-coded based on length, so it’s always easy to find the right one whether you're keeping your bumper on or stashing luggage on the roof. "They're stronger than the other bungee cords that I have. These bungees don't stretch excessively like others do," described one Amazon reviewer.
13. A personal water filter for safer drinking water
Designed to filter up to 1,000 gallons of water, the LifeStraw can help get rid of 99.99% of waterborne bacteria and waterborne protozoan parasites, and while it doesn't protect against viruses, it's an absolutely awesome item to have in your car in case you get stranded somewhere. More than 60,000 Amazon shoppers are completely obsessed with it, especially on account of how slim and ultra-portable it is, which makes it easy to stash in a backpack and take along for a hike, too. "This thing is no joke! I took it backpacking on Maine's Bigelow range. When I ran out of the water I brought, I was A-ok with this," described one Amazon shopper.
14. An ice scraper for better navigation after snowstorms
After a major snowstorm, ice and snow can stick to your car, making it impossible to navigate the roads safely. Heavy-duty scrapers like the best-selling ice scraper/snow brush combo change all that, removing the toughest bits of ice and snow without leaving any scratches behind on your car. More than 12,000 Amazon reviewers gave this winter car cleaner a 4.7-star rating, and many were quick to point out its durability and the "comfort grip" handle.
15. This stress-free kit to fix your flat tire
Take the hassle out of repairing a tire with this kit from Slime, which comes with a sealant and inflator that can quickly plug a leak so you can get safely to your destination. Designed to fit easily in your trunk, this 4.5-star rated kit is compatible with most standard tires and is great in a pinch until you’re able to get to a service station or off the road. "Great for all of us with newer vehicles that don't have a spare tire, [it's very] simple and quick. It takes care of a flat in about 10 minutes," noted one Amazon reviewer.
16. A pack of roadside flares for better visibility
Stuck on the shoulder of the road in the middle of white-out conditions and anxious that no one will see your car or know that you're in need of assistance? These Tobfit LED road flares can be incredibly useful during distressing situations such as these. Equipped with nine different flashing modes, this 4.6-star rated pack can be spotted for up to a mile, even in low-visibility weather, and projects light outwardly by 360 degrees, so other drivers will get a heads up, too. More than 2,200 Amazon shoppers give them a thumbs up, with one describing the flares as "very bright" and easy to "stick to the car," while others say that they're durable and easy to store in a trunk, so you have them with you at all times.
Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.