Before heading out on the road, it is important to make sure that you have everything needed for every realistic scenario that you may face. Odds are, you will not use the majority of these items on a day to day basis. But when you really need these items you will be glad that you have them.

Below are a list of essential items that you will want to keep in your car at all times as well as some practical items that will come in handy from time to time.

License and Registration

If you are ever pulled over by a police officer, this will be the first piece of information that they will ask you to provide them. If you are unable to provide these documents, you could receive a fine. While most individuals keep their license in their wallet or purse, many choose to keep their registration in the vehicle. Regardless of where you keep your license and registration, it is a good idea to take a picture or scan each document so that you have a digital copy available in the event that either are lost.

Insurance Card

Importantly, you should keep an up to date insurance card in your car’s glovebox. This may contain information on your car insurance policy as well as phone numbers that you can call in the event of an accident. Your insurance plan may have roadside assistance coverage – if this is the case you will really want to keep this card handy in your vehicle so that you can call for much needed assistance. It’s a good idea to keep your insurance card in a easy-to-access folder in the glovebox. You will receive a new insurance card about every six months, so it’s important to swap out your old insurance card when a new one comes in the mail.

Bonus Tip: Most car insurance companies now have online apps. It’s still a good idea to have a physical insurance card in your car in case you can’t log into your app or you don’t have your phone with you.

Phone Charger

Keeping an extra phone charger in your car can come in handy in a wide range of scenarios. For example, if you try to start your car and find out that it has a dead battery, the last thing you’ll need is a dead cell phone battery. Keeping a phone charger in your car will allow you to go to a nearby restaurant or shop to keep your phone charged so that you can make the necessary calls to get help.

Tire Gauge

When you low pressure warning light comes on, you’ll want to a visual inspect all of your wheels and check the tire pressure. To do that, you’ll need a reliable tire gauge. Tire air pumps found at gas stations may provide tire pressure readings, but they are notorious for being inaccurate or they don’t work at all. Keeping a tire gauge in your car will help ensure that you are driving on tires at the manufacturers recommended pressure for both safety and mechanical reasons.

Road Map

If you don’t have a phone charger, your phone, or you are driving through an area with bad cell reception. Having a printed map can make a big difference.

Bonus Tip: Some smartphone map apps like Google Maps allow you to download offline maps to your phone. If you frequently drive through an area that receives poor cell reception, this will allow you to pull up directions without a cellular connection.

 

Spare Tire

Most cars come with a spare tire, which are located in the trunk of your car. Some spare tires are designed for single use, so it’s a good idea to check to make sure that your spare tire is in good shape and can be used when needed.

Jack

You will need a jack in order to change a flat tire on your own. Check to see if your car has a jack already. Car manufacturers often place them next to the spare tire and they are known to be difficult to locate. Before you find yourself on the side of the road searching for your jack at night, check to see where it is located before heading out on the road.

Flashlight

You won’t want to rely on your phone battery as a flashlight in an emergency situation. Keeping a flashlight in your car will allow you to inspect your engine, wheels, and interior of your car at night. It’s also a good idea to keep a few extra batteries in your car in case the batteries in the flashlight die.

Jumper Cables

Jumper cables allow you to bring your car battery back to life in most situations. With jumper cables, you can also be the hero for any other car that needs a jump. It is equally important to know how to jump start a car using cables, which this video demonstrates.

How to jump start a car:

Window Breaker / Seatbelt Cutter

You hope that you will never need to use this tool, but in the case of an emergency a window breaker and seatbelt cutting tool could save your life. Most are small in size and can be purchased for under $20. Some are even small enough to fit on your keychain. You can find these in many auto supply stores or online.

Extra Sunglasses

We all have a pair of not-so-great sunglasses that we prefer not to wear. Keep those in your car at all times. If you’re driving on a bright sunny day and the sun is low in the sky, this can be an essential item to help you drive safely.

Image credit:

Q4RadioGuy, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons