It’s reported that 70% of drivers aren’t ready for emergencies. The number is almost certainly higher for younger, inexperienced drivers.
When I was a teenager and received my driver’s license, I didn’t carry anything in my car for contingencies. That was before I slid into the ditch during a snowstorm, got lost in a bad part of town, and had a dead battery at 1 a.m. in the morning in a spooky, deserted parking lot.
As someone who has had more than their fair share of mishaps, I humbly present you, “things to have in your car, teenager!”
What Kind of Things Do You Have to Worry About?
Part of this depends on where you live, as concerns in snowy Cleveland are obviously different than in hot and sunny Phoenix or out in a rural area. That said, common problems include:
- Low or flat tires
- Dead batteries
- Running out of fuel
- Mechanical problems
- Storms / bad driving conditions
- Accidents / health issues
- Animal attacks / run-ins, and
- Theft / assaults.
Without question, having your phone and the ability to call 911, friends or family, or roadside assistance (a cheap option on most insurance policies) is the most important thing.
However, you still need an emergency car kit.
DIY vs Pre-Packaged Emergency Kits
Pre-Packaged kits are available and usually range from $20-$60. These kits typically consist of two components: first aid and roadside assistance (e.g., flares, jumper cables, traffic cones, etc.).
Compact and well packaged in nylon or plastic carrying cases, these kits are highly convenient and best suited for drivers in “normal” risk environments.
On the other hand, DIY emergency kits can be:
- Tailored to local weather conditions and driving habits
- Personalized for individual needs (e.g., having a particular medical issue or pets)
- Modularized (e.g., a tool kit for the trunk and an easy to reach medical kit under the seat).
DIY kits can also be higher quality, since you can buy pieces individually.
Recommended Pre-Packaged Kits
The Kolo Sports Premium Car Emergency Kit is a great starter option for less than $45. It includes 125 pieces and is extremely well reviewed.
The roadside assistance part includes jumper cables, 3-ton tow rope, gloves, warning triangles, flashlight, light sticks, rescue blankets, ponchos, seatbelt cutter and a bonus tool kit just to name a few items. The first aid kit focuses on the basics – adhesive bandages, alcohol wipes, first-aid tape, Q Tips, etc.
This particular kit is very popular with few reported problems.
For those wanting a more robust kit, the Auto Club Premium Emergency Kit has 185 pieces and also gets extremely good reviews.
It basically has everything that the Kolo kit does but also includes premium items like an air compressor, emergency food and water, and a more extensive first aid kit.
Recommended DIY Kits
The point of DIY kits is that they can be customized. Here are the absolute basics in my opinion:
- First-aid kit (Swiss Safe is one of the best for the money)
- LED light
- Multi-purpose tool (I have a LEATHERMAN and it is one of the best purchases I ever made)
- Road cones and flares (minimum of three 30-minute flares, one for the side, front and back of the car)
- Utility knife
- Jumper cables
- Phone charger
- Emergency cash.
The above list can be supplemented with the the following as needed for your personal situation.
- Blankets / ponchos
- Bottled water
- Car fluids (engine coolant, motor oil)
- Fire extinguisher
- Food (protein bars)
- GPS (for older model cars)
- Ice scrapers
- Kitty litter (for better traction)
- Paper towels
- Tire sealant (e.g., Fix-a-Flat)
- Tire compressor pump (see our article here)
- Tool box and tool kit.
Look through the above list and see which items are most relevant for you and your situation. You can always start with the basics and add items over time.
There are hundreds of DIY videos on YouTube. Here is a short one that does a good job focusing on the car / mechanical aspects. This is the area where most young drivers are the least familiar.
Most people don’t think about being in an emergency, but it happens to drivers every day. Being prepared not only provides peace of mind but can literally save your life.
It is well worth the small investment to create a well stocked auto emergency kit.