Best Car Emergency Kits: Be Ready for the Road

Stay prepared with these top kits

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Being on the open road during an emergency can be dangerous if you aren't well-prepared. Break downs, flat tires, medical issues, or nearly anything can come up and derail your plans, putting you or passengers potentially in harm's way at the same time. That is why a good auto emergency kit is good to keep around in a vehicle for when you need it the most. Best of all, you don't have to make your own kit to stay safe. Instead, there are plenty of options out there to consider if you want something you can easily stick in your trunk or under a seat for the next time you are stuck on the side of the road. Here's a look at some of the best car emergency kits available today. 

  • Best Overall
    First Secure 90-Piece Kit
    Summary
    Summary
    The best general-use emergency roadside kit to buy if you want a good range of automotive and medical supplies. 
    Pros
    Pros
    This 90-piece kit keeps everything contained in a small case that is compact enough to fit in the trunk without taking up too much space.
    Cons
    Cons
    The air compressor lacks the punch of other automotive tire inflators. Periodic recharging is also required to make sure it works on the road. 
  • Best Value
    Lifeline 42-Piece Kit
    Summary
    Summary
    The type of emergency roadside kit to buy if you already have a first-aid kit in your vehicle.
    Pros
    Pros
    Good range of automotive repair tools like jumper cables and tape. Designed for temporary fixes.
    Cons
    Cons
    Lacks medical supplies. Doesn't have typical fastening tools most automotive parts require to be tightened or loosened.
  • Honorable Mention
    Aootek First Aid Car Kit
    Summary
    Summary
    Lacking automotive tools, this roadside emergency kit is all about first-aid and unforeseen medical emergencies.
    Pros
    Pros
    Offers a large range of medical supplies in a small case. Fits almost anywhere inside a vehicle.
    Cons
    Cons
    No automotive repair tools or supplies. Some of the general tools aren't all that sharp or useful.

Why Buy a Car Emergency Kit

  • Be prepared. The whole point of an emergency kit is to have the tools and supplies needed to make repairs or address injuries right then and there. Emergency kits are really beneficial when you have small issues that can quickly grow in severity if you don't attend to them quickly.  
  • Save time on the road. Good preparation means you can handle issues more quickly. If you experience a breakdown, for example, you may find a quick fix in your emergency kit instead of having to call roadside assistance and waiting for someone to come help. While you can't prepare for every potential issue, you can get a good head start with the right kit. 
  • Keep others safe. The real benefit of an emergency kit is the number of people you can help with a single case. In other words, emergency kits benefit everyone in a vehicle. If you have a family or carpool regularly, it's a smart idea to have even a small kit around to keep everyone as safe as possible.  

Types of Car Emergency Kits

General Use

A general-use emergency kit is one that combines enough supplies and tools to handle the most common issues that can come up while driving. In general, these kits will include some basic tools, automotive-specific supplies, and basic medical supplies to cover a range of potential issues.

Medical

Also known as a first-aid kit, medical emergency kits pack more supplies meant to treat minor injuries and issues. Supplies can include basic bandages, medicines, disinfectants, and other things you're likely to find at a local pharmacy. Individual-specific supplies like inhalers or medications can also be included in this type of kit.

Automotive

While you can't carry an entire garage around with you, some basic automotive tools can get you out of a roadside pinch. Automotive-specific kits may include things like jumper cables, air compressors, tire pressure gauges, flat tire kits, and other supplies or tools you are likely to need in a typical automotive emergency.

Top Brands of Car Emergency Kits

AAA

The American Automobile Association (AAA) is a collection of automotive clubs all around North America. As a non-profit, the association offers a lot of roadside assistance services to members and has become synonymous with fixing roadside emergencies. As a result, it's only natural that the company offers basic emergency kits like the 64-Piece Premium Kit.

Lacking the broad product selection of other competitors, P21S has largely focused on automotive detailing products since starting production in 1984. Based on the roots of the German automotive industry, P21S is largely known for making high-quality waxes that many purists enjoy over quick and simple waxing solutions. The P21S 12700W Carnauba Wax is one example of the company's dedicated waxing products.

Car Emergency Kit Pricing

  • $25 and under: Most emergency kits under $25 tend to be limited to only automotive or medical supplies. These are good to consider if you want a little boost in automotive preparation.
  • $25-$50: There are plenty of combination emergency kits in this range that includes automotive and medical supplies. Smaller kits that are under 50 pieces are also common.
  • $50 and above: In the premium range, emergency kits include more pieces and more advanced tools like air compressors. If you are willing to spend the extra money, this is a great range to consider to have everything you may need for an emergency.

Key Features

Tools and Supplies

Arguably, the most important thing in any emergency kit is what it carries. The contents, made up of various tools and supplies, will determine how versatile the kit is in an emergency situation. The range of tools and supplies will depend on the type of the kit and any additional accessories you may purchase for it. It's important to find the right kit for your needs, so pay attention to what each option offers.

Case

With many pieces comes the need for storage and organization. A good case needs to be small, portable, and durable enough to protect everything inside. Emergency kit cases vary in size, but most are small enough to fit in a truck or other cargo space. Soft cases are the best for a lightweight, portable option, but if you need something that can survive a few falls, check out some hard case options as well.

Other Considerations

  • Size: The size of a kit is usually dependent on the number of tools and supplies it offers. Small kits tend to have around 25 pieces, usually focused on either automotive or medical use. 
  • Storage: A car emergency kit is not useful if you can't actually keep it in a vehicle. Storability comes down to the size of the case and needs to be balanced with the number of accessories it offers. If you have a small vehicle, it's smart to buy one or two smaller kits that can easily fit underneath a seat. Larger vehicles can fit larger cases.

Best Car Emergency Kits Reviews & Recommendations 2019

Best Car Emergency Kit Overall: First Secure 90-Piece Kit

First Secure 90-Piece Kit
Amazon

First Secure's 90-piece emergency car kit has the emergency gear necessary to address almost anything that could happen on the road short of major automotive failure. The kit comes with several helpful pieces, including a first-aid kit, jumper cables, a flashlight, seatbelt cutter, and more. The inclusion of an air compressor and tow straps also helps when it comes to automotive repair.

Everything is contained in a large, durable case that is still small enough to fit into cramped locations around the vehicle. The internal organization is enough to keep the most important items within easy reach after opening the case. Given the case's size, it's also portable enough to take with you for other activities like hiking and biking.

The included air compressor is good enough to handle minor roadside tire repairs, but it doesn't move a large amount of air quickly. As a result, it will likely take some time to get a tire up to the desired pressure. Like other electric compressors, it also will need to be charged periodically to keep it powered enough to work on the road. 

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Best Value Car Emergency Kit: Lifeline 42-Piece Kit

Lifeline 42-Piece Kit
Amazon

With 42 pieces in a small case, Lifeline's Premium Road kit is small enough to fit nearly anywhere in a vehicle, yet large enough to address some common roadside issues. Lacking the extensive medical supplies other kits offer, this emergency kit is focused more on automotive maintenance than anything else. If you already have a first-aid kit, this would make a good addition.

The case holds a number of common automotive repair tools like jumper cables, tape, a screwdriver, and some zip ties. While the kit lacks pieces for permanent automotive repairs, the included pieces are more than enough to address minor issues with a temporary fix. The case is small enough to fit under a seat if desired.

Beyond the lack of medical supplies, the major downside to the kit is a lack of common fastener tools you may need to tighten different parts. With the screwdriver alone, there may be some limitations in what parts you can replace or repair. This may warrant including a basic socket wrench set if you expect to have more extensive issues on the road with an older vehicle.

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Best Car Emergency Kit Honorable Mention: Aootek First Aid Car Kit

Aootek First Aid Car Kit
Amazon

The Aootek First-Aid Survival Kit is a good inclusion for your vehicle if you don't need much in terms of automotive tools for spontaneous repairs. Instead, this kit is focused on first-aid, coming with a number of pieces to treat common scrapes and minor injuries you or a family member may encounter on the road. Since there aren't any large automotive tools to hold, the case is also smaller than other emergency kits.

The medical supplies include basic bandages, cotton swabs, and wraps. A flashlight, folding knife, compass, and a multitool round out the more useful inclusions you can use even if there isn't a medical emergency to address. The case is compact enough to fit nearly anywhere in a vehicle, and it is easy to carry around during other activities if desired.

While the range of tools and supplies is good, some of the pieces are better than others. For example, many of the cutting edges on the multitool and folding knife are either flat in design or too dull to really dig into hard materials. The same is true for other items on the multitool like the can opener, saw edge, and the screwdriver. The included flashlight will also require an AA battery before use.

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Tips

  • If you want to add your own automotive tools to a preexisting emergency kit, but something with medical supplies to expand. This will give you everything you need for basic medical emergencies.
  • You can always use your own case for an emergency kit. This will let you pick the case that has the space you need for the items you want to bring with you while driving.
  • The best emergency kits are tailored to your personal needs. Don't hesitate to add and remove different things from a kit you purchase, especially if you have issues you are likely to come across while driving.
  • Choose a large case if you want to carry large items like tow ropes, ice scrapers, safety vests, large pliers, fire extinguishers, large rolls of duct tape, or an emergency blanket.
  • You can also pack personal items like a jacket or a rain poncho to be ready for bad weather. An extra charger is also a good addition for electronic devices.

FAQ

Q. What is the best place to keep an emergency kit?

A. The interior of your car is the most accessible place. While a trunk has more room, you can reach a kit in your car more quickly.

Q. Can I add extra accessories to an emergency kit?

A. Of course. The only limitation is the amount of space the case offers. If you have the room, add specific accessories you think will be most useful to you and other passengers.

Q. What's the difference between a first-aid kit and a car emergency kit?

A. In general, the only difference is the automotive-specific tools a car emergency kit may include. First-aid kits tend to be general-use (not specific to a car) and focused on medical supplies.

Final Thoughts

A good general-use emergency kit you can add to your vehicle setup today is the First Secure 90-Piece Kit since it mixes a little bit of everything.

If you can do without the automotive tools, check out the Lifeline 42-Piece Kit as a value purchase.

Give us your thoughts on what makes a good emergency kit for your car in the comments below.