Buying an emergency kit is a little like arranging car insurance. You hope you never need it, but it’s good to know that it’s there. It’s also fair to say that you can only really judge the quality of a car emergency kit if and when you actually use it.
An emergency kit is designed to sit in your car boot and should contain everything you need to stay safe in the event of an accident or breakdown. Don't confuse emergency kits with a first aid kit. Some emergency kits include them, and turn your car into an emergency response vehicle. But emergency kits are primarily for breakdowns rather than injuries. Here are our favourite ones, with prices to suit all budgets.
Car emergency kits: what you need to know
There’s nothing sexy or exciting about a car emergency kit. They’re designed to stay in the boot, ready to spring into action in the event of a breakdown or collision. It’s the kind of product you don’t want to use, but you’ll be glad it’s there if you do.
Don’t expect the individual items to offer longevity or be fit for heavy-duty use. By their nature, these kits are designed to be small, portable and affordable. Buying individual items of higher quality is an alternative route, but you will pay more and they’re likely to take up more space in the car.
Also take care when travelling abroad, as you might need to invest in a European driving kit. A GB sticker, breathalyser and fire extinguisher could be required, depending on your destination.
Everything you need
The RAC has published a list of 33 things which should always be in your car - most of them are things which should already be in your car at time of purchase, a useable spare tyre, a tyre jack or a users manual for example. There are also many things on the list which you'll likely have in your carlike sunglasses an umbrella and in the colder months a jacket. However, we won't all have things like WD-40, a tool kit or first aid kits. These may seem like overkill but they could help save your life or someone else's if there was an accident.
It's always important to have have fresh drinking water in your vehicle and if you know you're going to be going off somewhere remote, it's probably a good idea to take some non-perishable food, just in case. Also, it doesn't hurt to have a good old fashion A-Z under the passenger seat. Phones are great providing you have signal, data and battery.
Although the kit comes in a compact and stylish zipped bag, it's not short of equipment.
The pack contains a first aid kit, reflective warning triangle, safety vest, pair of gloves, tow rope, safety hammer with seatbelt cutter, LED torch, adhesive tape, rain coat, tyre pressure gauge, screwdriver, jump leads and an emergency blanket.
Covers most bases
Some products feel cheap
This AA kit includes everything you're likely to actually use or need in a roadside breakdown. In addition to the usual collection of a high-vis vest, warning triangle, jump leads etc., you get a tyre inflator and a tow rope. AA provide good gear, so we can recommend the tyre inflator, and the tow rope is rated up to two tonnes.
No emergency blanket
This is one of the cheapest car emergency kits you can buy, so it's ideal if you're on a tight budget. This kit comes in a colourful bag with a reflective strip, so you're unlikely to lose it on a dark night. Why do breakdowns tend to happen at night and in the rain?
The pack contains jumper cables, a reflective warning triangle, tow rope, screwdriver, pair of gloves, a safety hammer, emergency raincoat, fuses, insulation tape and a torch. There’s no first aid kit, so this will need to be bought separately.
No first aid kit
Could use more equipment
AA Winter Car Kit
Best for winter
As the name suggests, the AA winter car kit has been designed with winter emergencies in mind. The media tells us to carry a shovel in the winter, but that usually comes from a broadcaster who is knee-deep in snow and stranded by the roadside. In other words, it's too late.
So, it pays to be prepared. Along with the snow shovel, this pack contains a safety vest, LED torch, and foil blanket. Curiously, for a winter pack, there are no gloves, so we’d recommend sticking a pair inside. You may also want to carry a hat, coat and some chocolate bars. Good luck resisting the temptation to eat the choccies on the way home from the office.
Ideal for winter emergencies
Contains a snow shovel
Shovel is a bit small
More kit is required
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