Storing items in your car is a delicate balance. On one hand, you want to be prepared for common encounters and conceivable emergencies. On the other hand, you don’t want to overload your vehicle and take up valuable cargo space.
So today, we’re dedicating this post to the essentials. Not all of these items will be needed for all seasons, circumstances, and cities, so audit out what’s not applicable to you. Also, many of these items are pretty compact and can be stored in any car with some smart vehicle organization.
Here are our car essentials:
60+ Things to Keep in Your Car
Everyday Car Essentials
No matter who you are, you’re bound to have a few vehicle messes. A cordless vacuum is the perfect way to always keep things tidy.
There are lots of times you need a trash can in the car. Whether it’s a fast food wrapper or a used tissue, a lot of our trash just ends up on the floor of our vehicle. A car seat trash can will keep everything neat by giving you a place for your waste.
This stuff really comes in handy as dust accumulates in vents or crumbs collect in your carpet. This wad of slime will pull it right up.
Spills happen, this car interior cleaner is suitable for all surfaces in your car aside from glass—including your leather seats. It even comes with a cleaning cloth!
Sticky, dirty, or germy hands are no match for some hand sanitizer. We like these Babyganics pump bottles because they’re easy to use one-handed while driving and they’re safe for sensitive hands.
These paper towels are thick enough to get most quick cleaning jobs done. This is a much better alternative to hoarding fast-food napkins, in our opinion!
Traditional tissue boxes don’t fit well in vehicles. However, these cylinder ones fit perfectly in car cup holders. However, if you don’t have a lot of extra cup holders, you can also get this refillable tissue box that fits on your visor.
It seems like chapstick is never on hand when you need it. Having a few designated car Chapsticks is always a good call.
Jotting down phone numbers, reminders, due dates, and other quick notes in the car is much easier with these handy spiral notebooks and pens.
Of course, a phone charger is a necessity. Make sure you get one with the appropriate adapter for your brand of phone.
A digital tire pressure gauge will give you a quick and clear read on your tire pressure level, so you know if you need to stop and fill up before it’s too late.
Multitools come in handy all the time. Opening packages, tightening screws, filing down jagged nails, and opening stubborn bottles can all be done with a versatile multitool.
You never know when you’re driving down the road and something important falls off your vehicle. Duct tape can keep a bumper or mirror in place until you get to a mechanic.
Projectiles are a huge safety hazard in a car crash. Because of this, it’s important that you keep everything hard and heavy strapped down. Bungee cords are useful to keep in your vehicle to strap down anything that might become a projectile.
Along that same line, a trunk organizer is a great place to keep all your essentials that you’re worried could become projectiles. Plus, it keeps everything neat and tidy.
Reusable shopping bags help you reduce waste at checkout and ensure you always have somewhere to put loose items.
Having your auto insurance and registration loose in your glove compartment is just asking for it to get torn, lost, or accidentally thrown away. A folder keeps it accessible and makes it much easier to stay organized when you get new documents.
Extra Cash and Change
Many parking meters have card options now. However, change is still good to have on hand just in case! We also recommend some cash in case you forget your wallet or there’s an issue with your debit or credit card.
Emergency Car Essentials
First aid kits aren’t so much for what happens in the car, but more for what could happen at your destination. A basic first aid kit with things like bandages and gauze pads will make sure you can mend basic cuts and bumps.
These packets of survival drinking water are perfect for easy emergency preparation. You can get quite a few at a decent price and keep plenty in your car without taking up much space in your trunk organizer.
Drinking water from a packet probably won’t always be practical in an emergency. This collapsible water bottle is both practical in terms of storage and use.
If you’re ever stranded without food for a while, some protein energy bars are perfect to get you through until help arrives.
If you have a dead battery, jumper cables will get your vehicle running again with the help of another driver!
If you’re worried about the possibility of no other driver being available, a portable jump starter can give your vehicle the boost it needs to get restarted without another car.
A spare tire in your vehicle is great, but it’s not very useful without the right tools. You’ll need a lug wrench, car jack, and wheel wedges to get the job done. You should also make sure you know how to change a tire.
If you have a flat tire, driving to a gas station might not be possible without further damage to your vehicle. This portable air compressor will get you right back up and going again.
At the end of the day, if there’s a hole in your tire, you’re not getting very far even with an air compressor. This Fix-a-Flat device airs up and patches your tire temporarily, so you can get it properly repaired without using your spare or paying for roadside assistance.
A cell phone charger will only work as long as your car is running. In an emergency, you may need to charge your devices after you’ve run out of gas or your vehicle has become inoperable. So, we recommend keeping a charged-up battery pack in your emergency kit.
These escape tools are essential for any driver. They simply clip to your keys and most days they’re just going to be an accessory on your keychain. However, if your car is ever submerged in water or you need to get out of your vehicle fast, the tool can cut the seat belt and break the window quickly.
Extra light is always welcome in emergency situations, especially if changing a tire late at night or walking to a nearby gas station after you’ve run out of fuel. This flashlight is rechargeable, has a handy strap, and it doubles as a lantern!
Rain ponchos are useful if you have to do any work outside your vehicle while it’s storming and wet.
When you’re broken down, it’s important to stay visible. These glow sticks can help!
These reflective triangles will also help keep your vehicle visible if you’re broken down on the side of the road.
If you’re caught in a storm, it’s important to keep up to date with the weather. This crank radio is powered by you (or solar energy, so no matter what, you can stay informed. You can also charge your phone and use this as a flashlight!
Car Essentials for Winter
Ice scrapers are emphatically a must. The last you want to do when you’re rushing out of the house to get to work is sit and wait for windows to defrost. An ice scraper will get the job done fast. (Just don’t forget to push snow off the top of your car as well!)
Traction is an issue when it comes to winter road safety. If you slide off the road, you may find yourself stuck unless you have something like this to get your tires moving forward.
Another way to get better traction in icy conditions is with a set of tire chains.
Even with traction, a pile of snow in your way will prevent you from getting back on the road. A small folding shovel like this will allow you to dig yourself out of any snow obstacle.
This wool blanket is super warm, and it’ll provide your family with protection from the cold while you wait for assistance if your car breaks down in frigid weather.
Disposable hand warmers are great to go in your shoes or gloves in cold conditions.
Car Essentials for Summer
Dark fabrics that retain heat make up a significant portion of car seats. The padding and buckles can get very hot! This car seat cooler can bring the temperature of the seat back down to a manageable level for your little rider. (You could use these on adult seats as well!)
To prevent the car seat from getting hot to begin with, use a sunshade like this!
You can also prevent those front seats from getting so hot using a windshield sunshade.
In really high temperatures, the car AC just can’t keep up. A cooling towel around your neck or your kid’s lap will help keep everyone cool.
In certain vehicles, getting cool air from the AC to the back seats is difficult. This device is a lifesaver for getting air circulating through the entire car! Here’s more on car safety for hot weather.
Though you can’t get sunburned through a car window, UV rays can still get through and damage skin. It’s a good idea to have everyone wear sunscreen while in the vehicle.
Car Essentials for Moms
Even if all your kids are potty trained, when they gotta go, they gotta go. A portable potty will allow you to make do no matter where you have to pull over.
Sun glare through the window isn’t only bad for your child’s skin, but it could be irritating, contributing to your child’s distaste for the car seat. Add window shades to keep them safe and comfortable. Here’s more on what to do if your child hates their car seat.
Car seat mirrors allow you to monitor your rear-facing children while you drive. Not all car seat mirrors are safe (they could become projectiles).
When you have kids, even quick trips can result in minor and major messes. Having wipes always handy will prevent lots of headaches!
If something spills while you’re out and about, it’s best to treat the stain right away. Keeping a small bottle of stain remover in your car could save your kiddo’s clothes.
Whether it’s car sickness or a sudden run-in with the stomach flu, vomit bags will save your upholstery, your child’s clothing, and the smell of your vehicle!
Wet bags are unquestionably useful for keeping things like soiled or wet clothes contained until you get back to your house to dispose of them.
The UnbuckleMe is simply a device that makes releasing the crotch buckle on a car seat much easier. So, if you struggle with that clip or you want your older children to have a quick exit in an emergency, the UnbuckleMe is a must.
Having extra diapers in your car can undeniably help you in several situations. If you forget to pack them in your diaper bag or a trip gets extended, these extra diapers could save you!
Whether your child gets too excited at the sight of a mud puddle or has a complete diaper blowout, extra clothes are always a good idea.
Keeping snack containers in your vehicle is smart. That way, if you get snacks or fast food while running an errand or embarking on a road trip, you can put the food into a safe, spill-proof container.
Before allowing eating in the car seat, read our post on the safety of car seat snacks.
A large changing mat can also be a changing pad, a play mat. a picnic spot—or anything else you need it to be when you’re in a bind.
A thin blanket is great for swaddling a newborn, covering a napping toddler, or warming a chilly big kid. Keep a couple on hand all the time. Here’s more on safely bundling up your children in their car seats.
Having special “car seat only” toys will keep vehicle rides exciting for your child and peaceful for you. Again, be cautious of potential projectile risks by only choosing from our car seat-safe toy lists.
A trunk organizer is practical for some of these items, for other items, however, you are closer to the front seat. An extra caddy is perfect for car seat toys, vomit bags, wipes, and other essentials.
These essentials will protect you from mishaps and emergencies.
We spend a lot of time in our vehicles. In a lot of ways, they have to become a second home—especially if you have children. Use the limited space to store essential items we use (or may use) on a day-to-day basis.
Above all, we hope this list helped you curate a car kit that will give you peace of mind and solutions to everyday needs. For more vehicle safety advice and car seat tips, browse the Safe in the Seat blog. We’re here to help!
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