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The 3 best emergency car kits

There are a lot of things that can go wrong when you're on the road, but keeping an emergency kit in your car can reduce the chance of hassles and headaches — and in some situations, can even keep you safe. The best emergency car kits are lightweight, portable, and stocked with all the supplies you need to handle a variety of challenging situations.

Before you begin shopping, think about what types of scenarios you might encounter and what exactly you're looking for in your emergency kit. Most packs fall into one of two categories:

  • Roadside emergency kit: These are designed with basic automotive dilemmas in mind — things like a flat tire or a dead battery. They often include tow ropes, jumper cables, road triangles, safety vests, and other items to help get you back on the road when your car gives you trouble.
  • Survival-based emergency kit: This type of kit is more like a compact version of the earthquake kit that you'd keep stowed at home. They're intended for more serious survival situations where you're stranded in the middle of nowhere and need tools or provisions to last for a few days, including food rations and potable water.

Unfortunately, it's rare to find one kit that covers both of these needs. Though there's some overlap, you'll most likely have to pick between the two and then add any supplemental items yourself.

Below, I've rounded up three of the best emergency car kits on Amazon. All of them are easy to carry around and filled with emergency staples, with some additional space to accommodate any extras you might want to add.

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1. The roadside emergency kit

This comprehensive roadside emergency kit is focused on resolving mechanical problems you might have while driving. It's chock-full of automotive essentials, like jumper cables, a tow rope, a tire pressure gauge, a reflective triangle, and other items to help get your car moving again. It also has a few general emergency items, like a first aid kit, a multi-tool, a screwdriver, a flashlight, scissors, and work gloves, along with a few tools for life-threatening situations (like a glass breaker, a seatbelt cutter, a rain poncho, adhesive tape, a whistle, and a fire blanket).

The entire kit weighs less than 4 pounds and comes in a space-saving bag with a sturdy handle, making it equally easy to stash and carry around. Just note that is doesn't have any survival items like food rations, water, or emergency blankets.

One reviewer says: "I bought this car kit last week and love all of the items in it. It contains practically everything you need to have in your car for almost any issue. My car wouldn’t start a few days ago and I was able to use the jumper cables to start my car easily.Will buy another kit for my wife soon."

2. The basic survival-based kit

Unlike the first selection, which is mainly for roadside auto issues, this emergency car kit is designed for the more rare scenario where you might find yourself stranded in your car for a few days. In addition to some standard items like light sticks and a whistle, it's equipped with enough food rations and potable water pouches for two people to live on for three days. It also has first aid supplies, plastic gloves, face masks, and other helpful tools.

Though it weighs 8 pounds, it's pretty lightweight considering the contents, and it's packaged in a comfortable backpack you can throw on in the case of an on-foot evacuation. The drawback is that this one doesn't have any automotive tools.

One reviewer says: "You never know when an emergency can happen, stranding you without access to basic necessities like food, water, and first aid. I keep one in both cars just in case. There is a little extra room in the backpack in case you want to add any extras like a flashlight, knife, extra food or other items."

3. The budget survival-based kit

Made to hold the basic essentials, this wallet-friendly emergency kit is a simple, stripped down version of other safety packs. It doesn't have everything you need, but it's certainly a great starting point for building your kit, and it comes at a great price. It includes a safety vest, rain poncho, first aid supplies, light sticks, and a flashlight with two AA batteries. It's packaged in a tough nylon case that's small and unimposing with several compartments to keep things organized. On top of that, it's extremely lightweight, at just under 2 pounds.

One reviewer says: "Outstanding contents that were really useful when I needed them during a roadside breakdown. Glad I had this kit with me."