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Best Car Escape Tools: Be Prepared When an Emergency Strikes

No matter the emergency, there’s a tool to help you overcome it.

With decades of combined experience covering the latest news, reviewing the greatest gear, and advising you on your next car purchase, The Drive is the leading authority on all things automotive.

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BYElijah Nicholson-Messmer/ LAST UPDATED ON September 8, 2022

A car escape tool is one of the rare purchases you hope to never use. For that very reason, many drivers think buying one in the first place is unnecessary, but a simple $10 tool could make the difference between life and death in a bad wreck. But with existential level stakes, you don’t want to simply buy any car escape tool. You want the best, most reliable, user-tested options out there. That’s where we come in. Through scouring forum posts, industry research, and user reviews, we did the groundwork for you in finding the best tools available on the market. From affordable, minimalist glass breakers and seatbelt cutters, to multi-tool level escape flashlights and knives, we found the best car escape tool for every situation.

Best Overall

Resqme 2-in-1 Keychain

Summary
Resqme’s 2-in-1 keychain tool is truly prolific thanks to its time-tested reliability, streamlined design, and budget-friendly price.
Pros
  • Most positively reviewed tool on the market
  • Spring-loaded, stainless-steel tip reliably breaks glass
  • Stainless-steel blade quickly slices seatbelts while maintaining user safety
Cons
  • Spring mechanism can fail
  • Few uses outside emergency situation
Best Value

Swiss Safe 5-in-1 Hammer

Summary
Swiss Safe’s two-pack of 5-in-1 hammers offers the essential functionality you need for a competitive price.
Pros
  • Low-cost two-pack can equip two vehicles for the price of one Resqme tool
  • Seatbelt cutter and Tungsten steel tip for breaking glass
  • Reverse hammer feature adds greater functionality
Cons
  • Hammer design is less effective than spring-loaded design
Honorable Mention

StatGear SuperVizor XT

Summary
Designed by a New York City paramedic, the SuperVizor XT is one of the most minimalist, ergonomic options available on the market.
Pros
  • Ergonomic design with grippy rubber handle
  • 440c stainless steel seatbelt cutter and carbide tip for breaking glass
  • Included visor sheath keeps the XT easily within reach
Cons
  • More expensive than the Resqme tool
  • Hammer-type design can be less functional than spring-loaded design
Best Car Escape Tools: Be Prepared When an Emergency Strikes

Summary List 

Honorable Mention: StatGear SuperVizor XT

Best Escape Knife: Kershaw Barricade

Best Escape Flashlight: NPET T10-5

Why Trust Us

Our reviews are driven by a combination of hands-on testing, expert input, “wisdom of the crowd” assessments from actual buyers, and our own expertise. We always aim to offer genuine, accurate guides to help you find the best picks.

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Our Methodology

When it comes to car escape tools, you’re primarily evaluating two basic functions: breaking a window and cutting a seatbelt. Just about every escape tool performs reasonably well for the latter of those functions, but design and build quality can greatly affect a tool’s glass-breaking ability. When making our picks, we tried offering a variety of different escape tools, each with a different emphasis. From there, we employed The Drive’s review methodology to pick the best option for each category. We focused largely on user reviews. Does the tool do everything it claims to? Does it stay together long enough for a user to test it? We also considered research from AAA about what designs are most effective in car escape tools.

Best Car Escape Tools Reviews & Recommendations

Specs

  • Country of Origin: United States of America
  • Weight: 0.704 ounces
  • Size: 3 x 1.25 x 0.67 inches

Pros

  • Guided seatbelt cutter with stainless-steel blade
  • Spring-loaded glass breaker with stainless-steel tip
  • One-year product warranty
  • Sold in nine different colors

Cons

  • Lacks many features available on other escape tools

Over years of production, Resqme’s 2-in-1 keychain has become the tool many people think of when they think of a car escape tool. The simple, straightforward design provides a seatbelt cutter and a glass-breaking spike. The stainless-steel seatbelt cutter is semi-concealed in the tool’s plastic housing to protect users against injuring themselves with the blade during an emergency. Resqme opted for a spring-loaded design for their glass-breaking, stainless-steel tip.

This design allows users to simply press the device directly against the window until the spike is released, giving the Resqme a greater variety of situations it can be used in, be it a rollover, fire, or water immersion. The tool can be attached to your keyring by its blade cover for quick, easy access in the event of an emergency. Resqme also offers a mounting kit for your rearview mirror or sun visor for $4. At just $9, the Resqme 2-in-1 tool is simply the best car escape tool on the market, offering everything you need and nothing you don’t.

Specs

  • Country of Origin: United States of America
  • Weight: 11.3 ounces
  • Size: ‎5.91 x 4.17 x 2.17 inches

Pros

  • Guided seatbelt cutter with steel blade
  • Tungsten steel glass-breaking tip
  • Low cost at $5.50 per hammer
  • Flat hammer head for more day-to-day use

Cons

  • Hammer design not as versatile as spring-loaded design

If outright value is your top priority, then the two-pack of Swiss Safe 5-in-1 hammers is one of the best options out there. At $11 for the pack, each hammer costs just $5.50, giving you the ability to equip multiple vehicles with escape tools for a low cost. Swiss Safe opted for a hammer design for their tool rather than the spring-loaded design found on the Resqme tool. Research has shown this design to be less versatile than the spring-loaded option.

Water immersion, for instance, can stop the user from generating the speed and force necessary for the hammer to break the window. Still, the glass-breaking tungsten steel tip is capable of breaking tempered glass in a variety of scenarios. The hammer also features a guided seatbelt cutter with a steel blade. On the reverse side of the hammerhead, there is a small, flathead hammer feature that makes the Swiss Safe tool more useful for day-to-day applications.

Specs

  • Country of Origin: “Imported,” according to StatGear
  • Weight: 3.2 ounces
  • Size: ‎2 x 1 x 4 inches

Pros

  • Solid 440c stainless-steel body and seatbelt cutter
  • Carbide, glass-breaking tip
  • Low-profile, nylon case for sun visor
  • Ergonomic rubber coating

Cons

  • More expensive than Resqme or Swiss Safe options
  • Hammer style, glass-breaking design not as versatile as spring-loaded design

StatGear’s SuperVizor XT is the most ergonomic, sleek, minimalist escape tool on our list. A solid piece of 440c stainless steel compromises the entire body of the tool, with a hook-style blade for seat belt cutting and a hammer-style window-breaking carbide tip. A rubber coating provides a low-profile but comfortable grip. The XT also comes with a secure, low-profile case that wraps around a sun visor for easy access in an emergency.

Founded by a New York City Paramedic, StatGear makes an assortment of EDC (everyday carry) tools, offering a 90-day warranty on all of their products. As noted, the hammer-style function of the glass-breaking tip is less versatile than the spring-loaded alternative, but its solid steel construction does offer greater durability than many of the plastic-ridden escape tools on the market.

Specs

  • Country of Origin: China
  • Weight: 4.5 ounces
  • Size: ‎0.55 x 8.5 inches

Pros

  • 3.5-inch 8Cr13MoV stainless-steel blade
  • Carbide glass-breaking tip
  • Guided seatbelt cutter
  • Lifetime manufacturer warranty

Cons

  • More expensive than the Resqme, Swiss Safe, or StatGear tools

With most escape tools offering just a glass breaker and a seatbelt cutter, it can feel like you’re spending money on a tool you might never actually use. If you’re looking for something with more day-to-day applications, the Kershaw Barricade offers not only a glass-breaking, carbide tip and seatbelt cutter, but it also features a 3.5-inch, 8Cr13MoV stainless-steel blade.

Kershaw includes a black oxide to aid corrosion resistance and a torsion bar for fast deployment of the blade. Having a standard blade makes the Barricade a far more useful tool for day-to-day tasks, but it is not meant to replace the included seatbelt cutter. During an emergency situation, you run the risk of accidentally cutting yourself by using a traditional blade while cutting a seatbelt, that’s why Kershaw still includes a guided seatbelt cutter in the bottom of the Barricade’s handle. Lastly, it includes a lifetime warranty from Kershaw, an offer unmatched by any of the other escape tools listed here.

Best Escape Flashlight
NPET T10-5
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Specs

  • Country of Origin: China
  • Weight: ‎13.9 ounces
  • Size: ‎8.98 x 2.95 x 2.01 inches

Pros

  • 1000-lumen, six-mode LED light
  • Loud alarm call
  • Power bank for phone charging
  • Glass-breaking tip and guided seatbelt cutter

Cons

  • Most expensive option on our list

Much like the Kershaw offering, NPET’s T10-5 escape tool includes additional features that make it a more versatile tool for users on a daily basis. Namely, the T10-5 offers a multi-function, 1000-lumen LED flashlight. With an adjustable focus and six working modes, it can produce anything from a blue and red warning light to a concentrated high beam, illuminating up to 700 feet away. Of course, it is still an escape tool, so it includes a guided seatbelt cutter and hammer-style glass-breaking tip as well. The T10-5 can also produce a loud, alarm call or even function as a power bank for your phone. At $42, it is the most expensive escape tool on our list, but with its multi-function flashlight, alarm call, and phone charging capability, it’s also the most versatile.

Our Verdict

If you’re looking for the best, no-frills car escape tool then the Resqme 2-in-1 Keychain is easily one of the best options on the market. If you want an even more affordable option for a couple of vehicles in your household, you can’t go wrong with the Swiss Safe 5-in-1 Hammer.

The Laminated Glass Problem

Modern cars have traditionally used a combination of laminated glass, commonly for front and rear windows, and tempered glass, for side windows. Laminated glass is useful because it can maintain its integrity even after the glass itself cracks thanks to the plastic layer between the two panes of glass. This is helpful for a couple of reasons. First, it doesn’t create individual pieces of loose glass that become a hazard to passengers. Second, and most importantly, it can help prevent passenger ejection during an accident. It’s for this second reason that new safety standards, such as Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard 226, are pushing vehicle manufacturers to include laminated glass for side windows. Of roughly 350 2018 models, 115 now have laminated side windows installed. This is a 67 percent increase since 2008.

When it comes to car escape tools, laminated glass poses a problem. The same resiliency that makes it effective against ejection makes it virtually unbreakable by consumer-grade escape tools. In AAA research on car escape tools, every tool tested failed to break a pane of laminated glass. For this reason, AAA recommends that in the event of water immersion, passengers should not attempt to break their laminated windows, but rather follow the air bubble in the car until the pressure equalizes and you’re able to open the door. You can find which of your car’s windows are laminated or tempered by reading the sticker attached to the glass.

From the perspective of escaping a car, the proliferation of laminated glass may seem like a bane to safety rather than an aid to it, but accident statistics would suggest otherwise. In 2017, there were a total of 20,800 fire and water submersion-related crashes, resulting in 10,800 injuries and 1,872 deaths. That same year, there were 21,400 occupants fully or partially ejected from a vehicle which resulted in 11,200 injuries and 5,053 deaths. With ejection posing a fatality rate 2.6 times that of fire and water immersion-related crashes, the increased usage of laminated glass seems to be a net benefit, even if it makes the glass-breaking capabilities of consumer-grade escape tools largely ineffective.

Things to Consider Before Buying a Car Escape Tool

Storage

Among all the factors to consider when buying an escape tool, storage options might not seem like a particularly critical one. But, the best design doesn’t do anything for you if you can’t easily and quickly access a tool after an accident. Smaller escape tools are often designed to be clipped onto a keychain or stored in your pocket, while others are meant to be stored in a glove box or attached to a sun visor. If you will be frequently changing the vehicle you’re driving or riding in, it would be beneficial to look for an escape tool that can stay on your person. But, if you exclusively drive one vehicle, then a sun visor attachment can be a useful way of keeping your tool readily accessible in your vehicle

Hammer vs. Spring-Loaded

The glass-breaking feature on escape tools comes in two main designs. First, a hammer-style design relies on the user to swing the tip with enough force to break the window. This design is generally effective, but it loses functionality in the case of water immersion when the added resistance stops users from swinging the tip fast enough to break a window. Second, a spring-loaded design only requires that the user press the tool against the window until it releases the tip and a spring shoots it into the glass. AAA research has shown the spring-loaded design to more reliably break glass, but some users still prefer the simplicity of the hammer-style design.

Added Features

A glass-breaking tip and seat belt cutting blade are generally considered the only two essential features of an escape tool, but depending on your exact situation, it could be worth looking for an escape tool with added features like an alarm call or whistle, flashlight, knife, pepper spray, or power bank. With these extra features, your escape tool can double as a self-defense device or simply a convenient tool for day-to-day uses. When considering these additional features, you want to spend some time considering what your specific situation could benefit from. If you’re frequently driving in remote locations then you will want to look for different features than, say, someone who frequently takes taxis or Ubers to their destination in a metro area.

Car Escape Tool Pricing

For a simple escape tool with nothing more than a glass-breaking tip and a seatbelt cutter, you can expect to spend anywhere from $5 to $15. Prices can vary significantly once you start including additional features. Across all of the escape tools listed here, prices ranged from $5 up to $42.

You can save yourself money by first considering what features your specific situation would require or benefit from. If you don’t have any use for things like a flashlight, knife, or alarm call feature, then save yourself the bulk and cost and look for a more minimalist escape tool.

FAQs 

You’ve got questions. The Drive has answers.

Q: Where should I keep my escape tool?

A: The storage location for your escape tool depends on your situation. If you’re only ever in one vehicle then you can reasonably store it in the vehicle itself with something like a sun visor holder. But if you’re frequently in different vehicles then you would be better suited to keep it on a keychain in your pocket or bag.

Q: What do I do if my car has laminated glass?

A: Because consumer-grade escape tools are incapable of sufficiently breaking laminated glass, AAA recommends following the air pocket in your car until the pressure equalizes if it is submerged in water, allowing you to open the doors to escape.

Q: Does an escape tool work underwater?

A: A hammer-style escape tool would likely not work underwater because of the added resistance stopping users from generating the force needed to break the glass. However, a spring-loaded tip should work equally well underwater as it does above ground.

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