12 Things You Should Keep In Your Car For Emergencies

Snowy, icy winters make for especially treacherous driving, so you usually see lists like this published when the first storms of the year hit. That’s not quite fair, though. Emergencies come up in any climate and at any time of year. You may not need all of them year-round, but here are a dozen things that can help you out in an emergency on the road.

Consumer Reports put together this list, which is focused on cold-weather needs like sand to dislodge a stuck car and

  • Hazard triangles (or flares)
  • Jumper cables
  • Flashlight
  • Roadside-assistance membership (which is not, strictly speaking, a thing, but it’s still important
  • Tow rope
  • Duct tape
  • Small shovel and bag of kitty litter or sand
  • Windshield scraper, emergency blanket, and hand warmers
  • Did they miss an item that you find indispensable? Share it in the comments, or let us know at tips@consumerist.com. Maybe in future we’ll post a Consumerist-Enhanced version of this list!

    12 emergency items for the road [Consumer Reports]

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    1. ZLoth says:

      What about a first aid kit?

      What “everyone” should be also carrying is a cigarette lighter to USB adapter, a USB battery, and microUSB cables (as well as iPhone cable). What I noticed from the Facebook “SnowedOutAtlanta” is that people had dying cell phones, but were stuck in their cars without a charger!

      • theoriginalcatastrophegirl says:

        well a lot of those people were running out of gas too, so they would eventually have no way to charge from the car anyway. USB battery would be the most important bit there

    2. theoriginalcatastrophegirl says:

      i also keep heavy stuff in my SUV when driving in icy/snowy weather. we don’t get a lot of it and i’m in an area where the biggest hazard is the melt/freezing to ice slick of the road that happens most afternoons after a snowy night. i keep a big, heavy, container of kitty litter, but also usually some wood because it’s both heavy and may be needed for traction. and some jack stands, assorted heavy things that i might have had in the car for months… etc.
      it’s nice to be the only person who can get out of the neighborhood when the road is a 3 inch thick sheet of ice. and it’s fun to hear it crunch as i drive over it.

    3. citking1 says:

      Granola bars or some other dense energy food.

      Extra clothing

      A spare wagon wheel and tongue (only if taking the Oregon Trail)

    4. SuperSpeedBump says:

      I’ve always felt that US Drivers should be required to carry and deploy 3 road triangles around disabled vehicles, and every person outside the car should be required to wear a reflective vest at all times.

    5. JoeBlow says:

      Well, as the list is paying particularly close attention to cold weather needs, you could supplement that emergency blanket (which should probably be part of a general first aid/preparedness kit) with a spare coat, and probably an old pair of boots. I used to keep a change of “junkyard” clothes in my trunk; old boots, old coat, old jeans, and a workshirt. If you left your house in loafers, expecting to drive from garage to parking nearby work, you may not have dressed sufficiently for a disabled automobile situation. Also, reflective vests are cheap, and if we’re talking about snow emergencies, visibility may mean the difference between life and death. You could also keep a new, empty jerry can in your car in case you have to hoof it to the gas station.
      You’ll probably also want a jug of low temp wiper fluid. I had a half gallon of the summer bugwash frozen solid in it’s jug. When snow is freezing to your windshield, you’ll be glad you have it. Also, if you get a used car, and it came with crappy floormats, keep them in the trunk if you replace them with all-seasons. They are slightly more effective than kitty litter, though once you get unstuck, the kitty litter is easier to drive away from without feeling like a litterbug.

    6. kjh says:

      Don’t forget water.
      And a bowl/pet food if you have your pet with you.

    7. Cara says:

      I keep a first aid kit in a pencil box in my glove box. It has bandaids, common medicines (allergy, headache, kids meds), tissues, some pencils and a pad of paper, a non-perishable snack, scissors, and a few other small things that’s generally good to have on hand in case I leave the house without something.

      In the back of my van I keep a backpack filled with a change of clothes for each of us, rain jackets, plus a towel. We’re in Florida, so I generally don’t need to worry about the cold, but I think I might take JoeBlow’s suggestion of including extra shoes. I almost always wear sneakers, but there’s been a number of times when they’ve gotten wet from having to splash through puddles.

      We have roadside assistance with our insurance company. It costs us around $10 a month for both vehicles, and for the coverage we get, it works out to being a far better deal than AAA. We actually had to use it this last Monday when my husband went to fill up gas and then the car refused to start. Until then we never needed it, so I was really glad that I had the foresight to get us signed up for it, the issue was a breeze and neither one of us was terribly worried or stressed over it.

      Down here, we’re told not to store bottled water in your car due to the heat and the plastic. I’ll need to look into that and see if it’s still a worry. Otherwise I’d love to leave a case of water in the trunk and drink it rather than buying drinks at gas stations or fast food joints.

      If you have kids, I’d recommend adding a couple of coloring books or puzzle/maze type books to any emergency kit, so kids have something to do in case there’s a delay.

      • furiousd says:

        I’ve wondered about the car insurance roadside assistance. I’ve suspected they outsource to AAA but I’ve never asked or seen anything confirming or refuting this. The pricing structure where you are may be different, but where I am it works out to $120/year for AAA Plus for two people per year. That doesn’t include the 15% discount I get through work, of course it would depend on the coverage level you’re getting and the prices where you are. I picked AAA Plus for comparison since you indicated $10/month ($120/year)

        • Cara says:

          It would have cost us $160 through AAA for two people, at a slightly less-nice plan. Plus, we really like having it directly on our insurance plan, so it’s one less bill we have to worry about.

          AAA does offer coupons and discounts throughout the year, so if you wait and jump on that, you might save money. Although from what I can recall the discounts is only on the bare bones plan?

          It’s awesome that you can get a corporate discount, too! That definitely makes a difference. So really, do the math, do a good comparison of the available plans, and decide which is best for you.

          At the end, you really should have *some* sort of plan, since just one use of the plan could more than pay for an entire year (or more!) of coverage.