If you drive a vehicle regularly, you should have it stocked with a vehicle emergency kit. The size and scope of that kit depends on your goals, the storage space of your vehicle, and of course, your budget. But with enough prep time and dedication, you can create and store a vehicle emergency kit that can keep you prepared for anything from a flat tire to a total societal collapse.

What should be included in a vehicle emergency kit?

Your First Assessment

Before you start buying and assembling items for your vehicle emergency kit, you should take an initial assessment.


  •       Types of threats. What types of threats are you most worried about? Most drivers will be concerned about things like flat tires, traffic collisions, and medical events occurring during driving. You may also be concerned about natural disasters, active shooter situations, and other types of emergencies. You’ll need different types of supplies for different situations, though there is considerable overlap.
  •       Scale of threats. Next, you’ll need to think about the scale of threats you want to contend with. Are you mostly concerned with everyday emergencies like fender benders? Or do you also want to be prepared for potentially cataclysmic events?
  •       Vehicle. You’ll be somewhat limited in your emergency kit accumulation, based on the size and scope of your vehicle. Bigger vehicles offer more storage, and therefore more ways to be prepared. If you drive a smaller vehicle that’s already stocked with items that take up space, you’ll have to be more discerning about the items you include.
  •       Budget. Of course, you’ll also need to think about the budget. You can get a decent roadside emergency kit together for a few hundred dollars, but you may want to spend a bit more to make sure you’re prepared for anything.

Staple Items for a Roadside Emergency Kit

A basic roadside emergency kit is a great place for most drivers to start.

  •       A jack and a spare tire. Every vehicle should be equipped with a jack and a spare tire. Make sure to evaluate the spare tire regularly to ensure it’s properly inflated – and familiarize yourself with tire changing best practices.
  •       Basic tools and duct tape. Even if you don’t consider yourself a car expert, basic tools and duct tape could be enough to help you repair small issues and get back on the road.
  •       Repair kits. Specific repair kits, like a tire repair kit, are also worth including. If your tire is punctured, you may be able to patch it with this type of product.
  •       Flares and visual indicators. Flares, reflectors, and other visual indicators make your vehicle more visible. This is good if you need to signal for help, and it’s important for preventing further accidents.
  •       A fire extinguisher. A small fire extinguisher can suppress flames in a dire situation.
  •       Jumper cables and a jump box. Jumper cables can help you start your car if your battery has died, and a jump box can bail you out if no other car is available.
  •       A first aid kit. A basic first aid kit can help you with a variety of medical needs, and it contains its own selection of useful items, including bandages, gauze, sterilizing agents, and tools for applying first aid. The exact contents will depend on your budget, medical needs, and available space.
  •       Extra food and water. Every vehicle should also have some extra food and water at the ready. Even a granola bar and a bottle of water per person is a good place to start.

Seasonal Items

There are also some seasonal items you’ll need to consider if you’re driving in winter weather.

  •       Clothes, blankets, etc. It’s a good idea to have some extra clothes, including hats, gloves, and mittens, as well as some extra blankets. If you’re stuck for a while, you’ll want the extra warmth, even if your vehicle is running.
  •       Kitty litter, sand, etc. Kitty litter and sand are two of many options for increasing traction in snow and ice. Even powerful, properly equipped vehicles can sometimes struggle in these conditions; better traction could be the solution.
  •       A shovel. Similarly, it’s useful to have a small shovel available to clear out extra snow.

Above and Beyond the Basics

If you want to build an emergency kit that goes well beyond the basics, or if you just want to make sure you and your family are prepared for any conceivable emergency event, it’s a good idea to take a survival skills course and develop your own knowledge and abilities. 

Learning first aid, connecting with other survival experts, and gaining more tactical experience can all help you make smarter decisions in what to include in your vehicle emergency kit.