65 Car Essentials – What Should You Keep in the Trunk of Your Car?

Planning a road trip soon—or just want to make sure you have what you need for an outing or a day of errands?

back of car filled with bikes gear and travel supplies - essentials for the car road trip

You probably already have some of the car essentials you need in your trunk. But chances are good there are some oversights in your planning.

Below, you can find a convenient list of important supplies to keep in your trunk for cleaning, kids and pets, emergencies, and more.

Car Essentials for Cleaning

car cleaning supplies - hand cleaning the steering wheel

The following supplies will help you keep your vehicle clean and fresh as well as your hands.

  1. A rag for your car’s dipstick
  2. Extra windshield wiper fluid
  3. A microfiber towel to wipe your windows (or window wipes)
  4. Disinfectant wipes
  5. Spot cleaner for your carpet
  6. Degreaser for your hands
  7. Spray air freshener
  8. WD-40
  9. Trash bags
  10. Hand sanitizer

Car Essentials for Pets

dog ready to go for a ride in the backseat of the car

These supplies will help you take care of your pets while you are on the go. Use a pet-friendly travel bag to keep their gear organized.

  1. Crate or car harness
  2. Dog or cat bed
  3. Trunk liner and/or seat covers
  4. Cooling pads and warm blankets
  5. Booster seat
  6. Extra leash
  7. Basic first-aid supplies, extra medication, copies of prescriptions and vet numbers
  8. Portable spill-proof bowls and water bottles
  9. Toys
  10. Treats

Car Essentials for Kids

child with suitcases in the back cargo area of the car

What are some useful and fun things to keep in your car for your children? Packing the following items should help your outings go more smoothly and reduce complaining and disruptions.

  1. First aid supplies
  2. Water bottle
  3. Power converter for electronics
  4. Jackets or coats
  5. Towels
  6. Sunscreen
  7. Some toys or art supplies
  8. Toilet paper
  9. Snacks
  10. Batteries

Keep in mind that the exact list depends on the age and personality of your child. A four-year-old will need very different supplies than a nine-year-old. And don’t forget the kids’ car organizer to keep their important items within reach.

Car Essentials for Convenience

Here are some basic conveniences which will make life on the road easier.

  1. Toilet paper or paper towel
  2. Pens, pencils, etc., a folder, and a notepad
  3. Envelopes and stamps
  4. A roll of quarters
  5. Extra medications
  6. Extra clothes and shoes
  7. A canteen
  8. Plastic utensils
  9. A large selection of music
  10. Trunk organizers

Emergency Car Essentials

flashlight car key chain
This clip-on flashlight is a great idea, especially when driving at night.

Now let’s talk about essential supplies for emergencies.

  1. A variety of spare batteries
  2. A flashlight
  3. Flares
  4. Blankets and coats
  5. Basic repair tools for your vehicle
  6. A tool to cut your seat belt and smash your window (this belongs not in your trunk, but up front with you)
  7. Matches
  8. The vehicle manual
  9. A tire inflator with a gauge as well as a sealant kit
  10. A spare tire
  11. A compass
  12. Maps
  13. Jumper cables
  14. First aid
  15. Swiss army knife

Read Related: Essential Items for a Winter Emergency Roadside Kit

Road Trip Car Essentials

Finally, here are some additional supplies to keep on hand when you are on a road trip.

  1. Energy bars and nutrient-dense snacks like nuts
  2. Extra water
  3. Extra cash
  4. A snow shovel if you’ll be in a cold climate
  5. Camping supplies
  6. Charging supplies for your devices
  7. Sunscreen
  8. Umbrella
  9. Pillow
  10. Cooler

You might think of additional specialized items depending on what you have planned or what you enjoy.

For example, packing some coffee grounds and a French press may seem like more of an essential than a luxury if you need your cup of morning joe to feel like yourself.

The length of your trip matters too. Packing for a week-long trip is very different from packing to trek around for a month.

dog and boy in a packed suv that needs more storage

Now You Know What to Keep in Your Car

We hope that you found this list of car essentials for emergencies, road trips, pets, kids, cleaning, and convenience helpful.

While many of the supplies in this list should be useful to you no matter your situation, there are probably additional individual items that will be important for you to pack based on your personal needs.

So, take stock carefully of what you have in your trunk and take note when you are on the road and think, “Oh man, I really wish I had brought a  ___  with me.”

In fact, if you make the first supply you add to your car a notepad and pen, you can jot down those supplies as you realize they are missing.

You’ll then know what to pack next in your trunk, glove box, underneath your seats, and anywhere else it is convenient in your automobile. Enjoy your next outing or road trip!