Getting stranded on the side of the highway stinks, but if you’re prepared for it, it can stink a little less. By packing just a few essential tools and supplies, you can become your very own roadside hero. Or if you’re not the hero type, you can at least make your side-of-the-road stay a little more comfortable until help arrives.
The Best Car Emergency Kits
Best emergency car kits
- : Best basic kit
- : Best intermediate kit
- : Best heavy-duty kit
- : Best toolbox
- : Best for quick repairs
Compare car emergency kits
|Best basic kit||Best intermediate||Best heavy-duty kit||Best toolbox||Best for quick repairs||Alternative pick||Alternative pick||Alternative pick|
|Size||18.4 x 9.4 x 8.1 in.||13.4 x 7.5 x 4.7 in.||14.8 x 3.7 x 11 in.||14.0 x 6.0 x 6.0 in.||12.0 x 11.0 x 5.5 in.||12.5 x 10.0 x 6.3 in.||9.0 x 10.4 x 5.4 in.||16.4 x 13.0 x 4.7 in.|
Plug kit, air compressor
Sealant, air compressor
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Reviews: Best car emergency kits
Top Gear: Best basic kit
With a decent assortment of higher-quality supplies than many of the kits we researched, the Top Gear kit gets our pick for best basic emergency car kit. At just $32, this emergency kit also won’t break the bank. We like the 14-function multitool that makes it easier to find he tool you need instead of rummaging through the bag for separate tools.
The high visibility reflective safety vest, warning triangle, and 12-hour light sticks are designed to keep you safe while you work on your vehicle. The LED flashlight works with a hand squeeze pump, so you never have to worry about keeping fresh batteries on hand.
The first-aid kit has only the basics—and there’s no air compressor, tire repair kit, or glass breaker, but there’s plenty of room in the kit’s sturdy carrying case to add more equipment. And, if you’re a fan of the Top Gear show, you’ll like the decal of The Stig character that’s included.
STDY: Best intermediate kit
STDY is one of the most popular emergency kits on the market thanks to its affordable price and solid selection of supplies that should work for most folks. We're big fans of its included jumper cables, tire repair kit, tow rope, and battery-free LED flashlight. For around $40, it's hard to beat the selection of this kit.
We like the that the safety vest, reflective triangle, first aid kit, poncho, and emergency blankets round out a solid kit to prepare you for any time of day or various weather conditions. Still, it's not free of faults since it doesn't come with an air compressor, which kind of negates the tire plug repair kit.
The tool selection is pretty good with a screwdriver, glass breaker, utility knife, zip-ties, electrical tape, and credit card multitool. These are good enough for some basic repairs, but won't give you a ton of flexibility to fix bigger problems. (Just try using a credit card multitool to meaningfully tighten a nut and you'll see what we mean.)
First Secure: Best heavy-duty kit
First Secure has one of the strongest selections of tools on this list—everything in the bag focuses on getting you back on the road without calling a tow truck. The tire plug repair kit and air compressor can help fix small flats long enough to get to a service center. We love that this kit costs less than $50.
Beyond fixing flat tires, this kit comes with a heavy-duty tow rope to help you get unstuck when the tires don't provide enough traction. It's also great for helping others, especially if you have a truck. The bungee cords are great for securing loads anytime or sagging panels after a fender bender.
Beyond a reflective triangle and some gloves, First Secure doesn't include any safety gear like a yellow vest or even a poncho. The company says this is an intentional choice to cut down on filler gear, but a safety vest is a seems like a no-brainer.
Kolo Sports: Best toolbox
The Kolo Sports roadside emergency kit has all your bases covered with its widely assorted 156 pieces. We like that there's a good selection of tools to help you make more substantial repairs—either on the roadside or in an auto parts store parking lot.
Our favorite tools are the screwdrivers, sockets, pliers, and utility knife that come in their own hard toolbox inside the kit. If those were the only tools, this kit wouldn't be so amazing, but it also comes with an adjustable wrench, electrical tape, cable ties, tow rope, and multitool.
There's also a generous first aid kit, safety gear, tow rope—and the combination seatbelt cutter/window breaker is a great extra. There’s a tire pressure gauge and a tire repair kit, but no air compressor.
Victor Covered: Best for quick repairs
The Victor Covered offers the key basics for around $50. If you get a flat tire, the tire sealant can patch it in a hurry, and the air compressor can get you rolling in no time.
The rain poncho will keep you dry in wet weather, and the included blanket is actual fabric (not Mylar) and can warm you up or help with first aid. The flashlight does require batteries, but they’re included with the kit.
Keep in mind that lower price does mean lower quality in this case—the jumper cables are only 16-gauge, and we’d like to see a minimum of 8-gauge for a successful battery boost. (Check out the FAQ for more details on jumper cable gauge.)
More car emergency kits we considered
The Lifeline AAA Excursion isn’t as loaded as many the cheaper kits, but what it does, it does well. It has both an air compressor and 8-gauge jumper cables, along with screwdrivers, pliers, duct tape, and a utility knife. We recommend rounding out this kit with some survival gear like food, water, and a Mylar blanket.
Unlike other kits that claim 50 items when 25 of them are bandages, the Performance Tool kit comes clean with the claim of “49 pieces with an assortment of 15 items,” so it gets high marks for honesty. This kit may be small, but it’s mighty when it comes to repairs: it includes jumper cables, split joint pliers, electrical tape, a tow rope, and a snap blade knife. On the downside, it’s pretty bare bones when it comes to survival equipment, so you should add in other basics like a blanket, reflective gear, and some extra food and water.
We like that Thrive’s first aid kit comes in a separate pouch, so it’s easy to pull out for minor cuts and scrapes. The first-aid kit also includes scissors, tweezers, pins, and burn gel, which aren’t often included in more basic kits. The socket wrench is another unique feature of the Thrive kit, along with a razorblade knife. Its compact size makes it good for small vehicles, but we definitely found quality lacking in this kit, especially the tools.
Whether you consider yourself a road warrior or you just occasionally like to go out for a nice Sunday drive (does anyone take Sunday drives anymore?) a well-stocked emergency kit—like Top Gear, STDY, and First Secure—can give you the satisfaction of knowing you’re prepared for the worst so you can sit back, relax, and enjoy the best. Check out our car safety resources for more tips on how to keep you and your family safer out on the road.
How we reviewed car emergency kits
To find the best car emergency kits, we compared the contents of a variety of different kits to discover which products stood out from the rest. We scoured reviews to see what kit users said about how well the products were made and how they performed. To learn more about how we review and rank products, check out our methodology.
A Mylar blanket is a good representative of the kinds of items you’d find in an emergency kit: you’d probably never put it on your bed as an actual blanket, but it’s lightweight, cheap, easy to carry, and serves its purpose as a one-time-use item in a pinch.
Similarly, in most vehicle emergency kits you’ll find screwdrivers, flashlights, and other tools that probably aren’t robust enough for you to keep in your toolbox for regular use, but they’re cheap and they’ll work in an emergency situation. If you want higher-quality items, you’ll probably want to spend the time and money to put together your own kit.
Most people store their emergency kits in their trunk near the spare tire. It’s a good place to keep it out of the way but still accessible. You may want to consider storing your first aid kit and your emergency hammer/seatbelt cutter inside the cab of your vehicle so they’re easier to reach in an emergency.
Be sure to keep any loose items in your vehicle secured—in an accident, loose items can become dangerous projectiles. (And how ironic would it be if you got knocked unconscious by a first aid kit?)
It depends. Most plastic water bottles contain BPA, which is a chemical that can leach into the water in the bottle if it’s exposed to high temperatures. On a sunny day, the inside of your car can quickly reach temperatures anywhere from 30–50 degrees hotter than the outside air temperature.
Using other non-BPA bottles might be safer, but if they’re clear, you run the risk of sunlight causing bacteria and mold growth. One report by CBS News suggests another danger: water inside a clear bottle can act as a magnifying glass and start a fire. We recommend using aluminum bottles, canned water, or emergency water pouches for car water storage.
Gauge refers to the thickness of metal. The higher the gauge number, the thinner the metal. When it comes to jumper cables, the lower the gauge, the thicker the wire.
You want a lower gauge for jumper cables because thicker wire conducts electricity better than thinner wire, and it’s less likely to break. Wire that is 16-gauge is thinner than a coat hanger you get from your dry cleaner, whereas you’re nearing “bolt-cutter required” territory with 8-gauge wire.
Backup cameras can help you avoid a tragic rollover—or just a dented fender. GPS navigation systems give you hands-free, turn-by-turn directions so you don’t have to drive distracted when you’re trying to go somewhere new.
If you do have the bad luck of getting into an accident, a dash cam can be your eyewitness account and potentially save you a lot of time and hassle with law enforcement and your insurance agency.
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