16. June 2019
You’re on a bucket-list road trip. You’re driving out in the middle of the wide-open country and taking in the scenery. An unforgettable sight catches your eye. You pull over and snap a picture. After you climb back into the car and turn the ignition, the car won’t start. Instead, it’s making this terrible noise. You check the car maintenance log, call for roadside assistance, and wait.
What do you have in your car that will keep you safe, prove vehicle ownership, and make you comfortable?
Being Safe (and Legal) on the Road
It’s difficult to determine what you need to actually have in case of an emergency. Maintaining the following collection of items can help make your road trip or commute much more pleasant.
What to Leave in Your Car, and Where to Leave it
You never know when things will go wrong. Plan for the worst by incorporating the following items in your car. All of these items, except the GPS and the first aid kit, should be kept in your trunk.
- First aid kit: Store a first aid kit under the passenger side seat. In the event that someone gets injured, you will have the supplies to treat them.
- Shovel: At some point in your life as a car owner, you will get stuck in the snow. Having a shovel in the truck will help you get out and save yourself from a whopping towing fee.
- Water: According to the Mayo Clinic, men need 3.7 liters of water per day. That’s about a gallon. Women need 2.7 liters. That’s a little under three-quarters of a gallon. To play it safe, store one gallon for each person who will be in your vehicle.
- Blanket: In times of cold weather, you need a blanket for protection against hypothermia.
- Sleeping bag: Store it in a stuff sack in case you do need to sleep in the back seat.
- Jumper cables: Even if you stay on top of vehicle maintenance, your car battery will probably need a jump at least once. More frequently, you will be the good samaritan, helping people who need a jump.
- Battery-powered charger: If you’re out long enough, your cell phone will die. Use a charger that doesn’t rely on your car battery and stay in communication.
- GPS: The coordinates from a GPS unit can help you share your location with towing companies, search and rescue operations, and law enforcement. Put this in a place that’s readily accessible, such as the driver’s side door.
- Non-perishable food: Protein bars, dried food, and nuts will keep you feeling full for long periods of time.
- Full gas caddy: As long as you keep it full, you’ll never run out of gas in the middle of nowhere.
- Swiss Army Knife: You never know if you’ll need a knife, a tweezer, or a pair of scissors. A Swiss Army Knife has it all in one light-weight tool.
- Satellite phone or spot device: There are many, many places without cell reception. A satellite phone or spot device (which uses a satellite signal) can call for help even in the remotest areas on Earth.
Never leave your legal documents in the glove box or another easily accessible place in your vehicle. It makes you vulnerable in the event of a vehicle burglary.
- Car maintenance log: If you haven’t kept track of how and when your car has been serviced, start immediately.
- Vehicle registration: Don’t leave this at home, ever. It’s critical for everything from speeding tickets to roadside assistance.
- Proof of insurance: Like the vehicle registration, don’t forget this. You risk getting a ticket, or worse, not getting roadside assistance.
- Two forms of identification: Bare minimum, you need your driver’s license with you and another form of state-issued identification.
- AAA and/or extended warranty: Roadside help is hard to come by. Get an extended warranty or AAA to get round-the-clock emergency service.
Smart Things to Have
Not everything in your vehicle needs to be safety-focused. You do need things to keep you comfortable and entertained as you wait for help.
- Reusable shopping bags: If you don’t keep them in your car, you will absolutely forget them when you go to the grocery store.
- Extra pair of athletic shoes: You never know if you will have to walk to a service station. Don’t forget to store running shoes or hiking boots under your seat.
- Sweatshirt and pants: Sometimes it gets cold as you wait for roadside assistance. Fold an extra pair of warm clothes into a snap-lock plastic container.
- Fresh underwear and socks: Stash an extra pair in a Ziploc bag and keep it in a place where they can’t get wet or dirty.
- Books and magazines: You might be waiting for a while. Save your phone battery and put analog reading materials in the back-of-seat pockets.