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What You Should Keep in Your Trunk

Person opening the trunk of their midsize car
Piya Sukchit/Shutterstock

The trunk of your car is for more than just groceries; it’s an ideal place to keep the things you need in case of emergency, as well as your spare tire. Do you have the right stuff stashed in your car?

Even the smallest car trunk has some space for the things you should always have in your car. If you don’t have a trunk, these can be stashed in your hatchback or behind the seat in your truck. Use your glove box too, if it’s not full already.

Get creative if you have to—the idea is to make sure your car is safe no matter where you’re traveling.

Gear For Maintenance and Repairs

You may or may not have a spare tire in your trunk. Some vehicles have them secured underneath the body, while others have them attached to the back. While your car probably came with a spare tire, you should still check the air pressure and condition of it once in a while. A spare tire that’s flat or deteriorated is of no use in an emergency, after all.

Aside from the spare, your trunk should be home to a tire jack and a tire iron—both things you need for properly changing a tire. You should also keep a bottle of sealant, which can help you in a pinch if you’re dealing with a tiny hole in the tread (not the sidewall) and you don’t have a spare handy. Having a spare is ideal, and tire repair shops will tell you they’re not fans of fix-a-flat liquid sealers, but if you’ve got a leaky tire and no spare, it’s better than having a flat tire and no spare.

Keep an emergency kit in the trunk of your car that contains jumper cables, a tire pressure gauge, tow straps, a flashlight, and gloves. You can put together your own kit or purchase one. A bottle of WD-40 and a car repair manual will come in hand as well. WD-40 helps with frozen locks and more.

Gear For Safety

You shouldn’t go anywhere without a first aid kit in your vehicle (and you should restock it as you use it).  Your kit should have bandages, gauze, alcohol swabs, antibiotic cream, scissors, and medical tape. You can build your own kit for first aid or buy one filled with everything you need.

In addition to standard medical supplies, you should keep emergency medicine or treatments you require on hand. An Epi-pen in the glovebox or your trunk first aid kit, for example, is worth its weight in gold when you realize you left the one you usually carry back at home.

Other safety items that should be in your trunk at all times include:

  • Snacks: If your car breaks down in the middle of nowhere, you’ll be happy to have something to munch on to keep your strength up. Shelf-stable granola bars or bags of nuts are great and offer some energy-boosting protein.
  • Bottled Water: Getting stranded with no water is a rough situation to be in, keeping some in the car will ensure you’re hydrated regardless of how stressful your automotive adventure ends up being.

In the winter some other things can come in handy for safety as well:

  • Warm Clothing: Keep a spare hat and gloves, and even an extra coat or sweater in the trunk. The extra warmth will come in handy if you’re ever stuck in a blizzard. It’s not a bad idea to toss your winter boots in too—walking a mile to the nearest intersection or service station in a warm coat, but thin dress shoes isn’t much fun.
  • Ice Scraper and Snow Brush: You will often find these both in one handy device. And old canceled credit card may also be useful for dealing with frozen gas tank covers.
  • Sand or Kitty Litter: Both of these are good to help you get out when stuck on ice or in the snow, and both add extra . During the winter this excess weight can help you slide less on icy roads.
  • Traction Pads: On the cheap side of things, you can keep some cardboard or carpet scraps in your trunk to slip under your tires to get extra traction on snow. If you live somewhere that getting stuck in slush and snow is relatively routine, though, you might want to buy a set of dedicated traction pads to keep on hand. They’re like the old carpet scrap trick but far sturdier, and they offer more grip.

Some items, like the smartphone, are better kept in the glove box. However, keeping an old one with a battery pack in your emergency kit as a backup is useful too.

Gear For Convenience

Safety for you and your vehicle aren’t the only things to think about when you’re packing your trunk for an easier ride. Think of your comfort, especially if you spend a lot of time on the road, for work or pleasure.

A few things that will make life easier if they’re waiting in your trunk when you need them include:

  • An Umbrella: You never know when it’ll start raining.
  • Reusable shopping bags – If you don’t keep them in the car it’s easy to forget to take them when you need them, and there are times when you’ll need them and don’t even know it.
  • A Blanket: A blanket is great for stops at beaches and ball games, not just for emergencies.
  • Spare Clothes: You can never know when you’ll need to change, like when you spill your coffee on the commute to an important meeting. In addition to a spare pair of dress clothes, you might consider throwing some old shoes and a set of old yardwork-grade clothes in there. We don’t know about you, but if we’re helping a friend with an unexpected project, it’s nice to have work clothes to change into.

Some items that can be both in your glove box and in your trunk (it never hurts to have extras) include pen and paper, tissues (toilet paper is great for face and bottoms), and a phone charger.


Don’t underestimate the ability of your car’s trunk to become an essential compartment for the things you need while you’re on the road, as well as the things you hope you’ll never need.

Yvonne Glasgow Yvonne Glasgow
Yvonne Glasgow has been a professional writer for almost two decades. Yvonne has worked for nutritionists, start-ups, dating companies, SEO firms, newspapers, board game companies, and much more as a writer and editor. She's also a published poet and a short story writer. Read Full Bio »

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