holding up a map in a car

What essential items should you always keep in your car?

By carrying a few essential items in your car, you can save yourself a lot of trouble. A spare pair of sunglasses, a handy flask and an ice scraper will go a long way. So, whether you’re setting off on a big road trip or just preparing for everyday situations, take a look at our guide to essential items to keep in your car.

drivers navigating using a map

Road map

We’ve all become reliant on satellite navigation systems to plan out our journeys. But what happens if the technology fails? This is particularly important for long road trips when there may not be anyone around to ask for directions. 

Also, if you find yourself broken down and lost, a physical road map will help you find the nearest town or petrol station. Take a look at AA’s selection of maps so you’ll never be without a backup on your journey.

Breakdown service contact details

It’s not always the first thing people think of, but making sure you have the contact details for your breakdown service written down somewhere will be a huge help. If your phone has died, and a passing driver stops to help, having the number ready could save you from spending an unnecessary amount of time stranded at the side of the road.

Water

This may sound obvious, but bottled water could keep you going for some time if you’re stranded. It’s important to keep bottled water in the car in case you break down, but also for topping up the radiator or windscreen-washer bottle if needed.

If you’re driving on a hot day and hate the plastic taste left behind by numerous water bottles, check out Chilly’s bottles. James Butterfield, founder and managing director, said: “Chilly’s bottles are perfect for car journeys as they keep drinks ice cold and are not affected by the outside temperature. Meaning however hot your car gets, you have an ice-cold drink to come back to and throughout your drive!”

driver wearing sunglasses

Sunglasses

Unpredictable British weather means you’re often switching between window wipers and sunglasses, so it’s crucial you keep a spare pair in the glove compartment. If you’re caught out by low sunshine it can be extremely difficult to see the road, even with the visor.

First-aid kit

A first-aid kit is essential for drivers. If you find yourself in the unfortunate situation of dealing with an accident, you will at least have some medical supplies to begin dealing with the situation. Aside from accidents, it’s always handy to bring a first-aid kit on your journeys, especially if you’re travelling as a family. Pick one up online from First Aid Warehouse.

Non-perishable food

Having access to food if your car breaks down can not only lift your energy but also your spirits. Store an emergency stash of cereal bars, nuts, crisps and dried fruit in your glove compartment to help keep you going, should you need it. Even if it’s not an emergency, it’s always good to know there’s some food available to avoid people getting stressed on a long car journey. 

Nakd and Trek bars by Natural Balance Foods are the ideal accompaniment to a long drive. Tuck into salted caramel, peanut and Bakewell tart flavoured bars, which are all wheat and dairy-free.

Loose change

Keeping a small amount of loose change in your car can be extremely helpful. While many larger car parks across the UK allow drivers to pay over the phone, smaller car parks in towns and villages might not. Keep a stash of loose change in your glove compartment and refrain from keeping it in plain sight.

Waterproof jacket/hi-vis jacket

Picture this: your car breaks down, it’s raining, and you need to get out to change a tyre. What could make this worse? Not having a waterproof jacket!

It would be a good idea to keep a spare one in the boot, preferably something hi-vis if you’re on a busy road, in case of emergency. Dickies Workwear has an excellent range of such clothing.

Ice scraper

This is probably one of the cheapest yet most helpful items on our list. When the windows of your new lease car are covered in frost, you’ll be glad you spent £2 on this handy tool. It’s fairly flat so you can store it pretty much anywhere in your car.

Torch

If you’re stranded in your car in the middle of the night, a torch is an absolute essential. You’ll inevitably need to assess the situation/damage and, if you have a flat tyre, a torch will be very handy.

ice scraping a car windscreen

Other handy items

Duct tape

Duct tape can be the answer to many car issues when you’re on the road. Don’t underestimate the power of this cheap and easy material. By quickly fixing broken mirrors or other exterior issues, you can travel safely to the nearest garage. Just don’t rely on it as a permanent solution and keep the paintwork of your lease vehicle in mind.

Reusable shopping bags

By keeping a few stylish tote bags or other eco-friendly shopping bags in your car at all times, you’ll save money in the long run and also help the environment. They’re also useful as temporary rubbish bags if you are on a long journey.

Car key lock/ surfboard lock

Heading to the beach? Finding a safe place to leave your key can be a nightmare. With Surfdome’s handy car key locks, you can enjoy the sand and sea, safe in the knowledge that your car is secure. If you’re carrying a surfboard and want to explore the area, use a surfboard lock to keep your board safe.

Blanket

Whether it’s for spontaneous picnics or in case of emergency, blankets are essential. Imagine you’re cruising down the road on a sunny day and find a prime picnic spot; well now you’ll be ready to go! Equally, in the unfortunate event that you break down somewhere, especially if it’s the evening, you’ll be glad you stashed away that cosy blanket.