How to Build an Emergency Car Kit on a Budget

Emergency Car Kit on a Budget

September is national emergency preparedness month, and it’s a good time to get an emergency car kit together before winter comes. Since purchasing our new vehicle with cash this past year, I’ve been thinking a lot about compiling an emergency car kit just in case anything happened while we were away from our house. We had some of the needed items in our car, but there is definitely more things that would be important to have on hand in the case of an emergency or being stranded by the side of the road.

While looking online, I found pre-packaged Emergency Car Kits ranging in price from $25 to $70 or more. In order to save some money, I decided to assemble my own emergency car kit. Don’t feel that you have to purchase everything for your emergency kit right now. Start out slowly by purchasing a few of the items you feel are most important, then save your money for the other items that cost more. I started out and put together a basic emergency car kit and will continue to add to it as we have room in our budget or we decide we should have that specific item. At least we have some basic items we need for our emergency car kit, and that’s better than not having anything at all.

There were many items on the list that I had around the house that I didn’t need to purchase. I just had to take time to put them in the container in the car. And there were some items I was able to find for a good deal. For those items that don’t go on sale, you’ll want to set aside and save money each month until you can purchase them. Here’s how to build an emergency car kit on a budget.

First, pick up a Plastic Container or Tub to keep everything in one location in the back of your car. If you have an extra plastic container sitting around, then use it instead of buying one. You could even use a box to keep all of the emergency car kit items together. For years, I just used a box because I didn’t have money to purchase a plastic container. Here’s what to include in an emergency car kit.

1. Cell Phone Car Charger
Try to make sure your phone is charged every time you get in the car, but just in case, keep a cell phone charger in the car so you will be able to call for help in the case of an emergency. A cell phone car charger wasn’t an extra expense we had to purchase since we had one already from previous phones, and it’s one we always keep in our car.

2. First-Aid Kit
A first-aid kit should include adhesive bandages, gauze pads, adhesive tape, antiseptic wipes, antiseptic cream or ointment, and pain and fever medicines. These are just a few items. Be sure to include anything specific that your family would need. The items for a first-aid kit aren’t too expensive, and if you watch for sales you can get them for even less expensive.

When I was young, my parents compiled a first-aid kit for each of my siblings. Over the years I’ve rotated through items, but this first-aid kit is something I’ve kept in my car since I began driving, and this the first-aid kit that has remained in my vehicle to this day. Many times I’ve had to pull out the adhesive bandages and the antiseptic cream for cuts and scrapes for me and my family.

3. Jumper Cables
The longer the jumper cables the better. They should be at least 12 feet in length and at least an 8-gauge cable.

I don’t usually buy the most expensive product, but I also don’t buy the cheapest because it may break. I like to get the best value for my money. As I was looking for jumper cables, we found the best price at Harbor Freight. They had the 12 feet and 8-gauge cables on sale. Plus I was able to use a 20% off coupon, so we ended up paying only $10 rather than $20.

4.  Flashlight and Extra Batteries
I found the best prices on flashlights at Harbor Freight where I was able to purchase LED Mini Flashlights for $1 each with a sale and coupon. Our family uses these flashlights regularly in the car when we head home late at night and the kids want to read a story before we get home, so I know that these flashlights last a long time.

Make sure to also have extra batteries in the car. If you watch for sales and use coupons, you can pick up batteries inexpensively.

5. Automotive Tool Kit
Compile a simple automotive tool kit such as a wrench set that includes a crescent wrench, socket tools, pliers and screwdrivers that will help you do most of the basic tasks required on your vehicle if there is a problem. Also include items such duct tape, electrical tape, tie wire, and a tire pressure gauge. Since it can be expensive to buy a complete automotive tool kit, instead purchase some of the basic tools now, then as your budget allows add more tools to the tool kit.

A Multi-Purpose Tool is a good item to have on hand and could be one of the tools that takes the place of some of the tools listed above. And a compact shovel will come in handy if you get stuck in the snow.

6. Food and Water
Having food and water in your emergency car kit is important in case you get stranded by the side of the road. Include foods such as protein bars and energy bars, as well as snacks that you already have on hand or that you can pick up on sale. Be sure to rotate the food about every six months.

And not only is it a good idea to have bottles of water on hand for drinking, but it will also be helpful to have water if your car overheats.

7. Warmth
Keep items in your car that will keep you warm in the winter such as hats, socks, gloves and blanket. The blanket can also be used if there is an accident and someone is in shock. We have one of our extra blankets in a compartment in the back of our car at all times. And emergency blankets and hand warmers are inexpensive and compact, which makes it easy to fit them in an emergency car kit. In addition, keep an inexpensive rain poncho in the car kit just in case you have to change a tire when it’s raining. You can purchase the items such as emergency blankets, hand warmers and rain ponchos for about $1 or less at stores that sell emergencies supplies or Walmart.

8. Fire Extinguisher
There may have been a time or two that you’ve seen a vehicle on the side of the road in flames, burning, or smoke coming from it. Having a fire extinguisher in the car would help out in those types of emergencies. A fire extinguisher should be rated for Class A, B, and C by the National Fire Protections Association. Here’s what the ratings mean:

  • Class A: Ordinary Combustibles – Wood, Paper, Cloth, Trash, Plastics and Solids that are not metal.
  • Class B: Flammable and Combustible Liquids – Gasoline, Diesel Fuel, Kerosene, Oil, Grease, Acetone and all Flammable Gasses.
  • Class C: Energized Electrical Equipment and Battery Powered Equipment – Switches, Panel Boxes and Batteries

9. Reflective Warning Triangles or Road Flares
Reflective warning triangles or road flares can alert oncoming vehicles that you are on the side of the road and can also be used as a distress signal in an emergency.

10. Cat Litter or Rock Salt
Cat litter or rock salt can give the vehicle tires more traction to get unstuck from icy, snowy and muddy conditions. Purchase the no name brand of cat litter from the store or use a coupon to make it less expensive. I now keep the cat litter in a plastic bag in the back of my vehicle because the last bag I had ripped and cat litter ended up all over my trunk.

11. Tow Strap or Tow Rope
A tow strap or tow rope should be strong enough to tow 6,000 pounds.

12. Windshield Ice Scraper
A windshield ice scraper is something I use all of the time in the winter and am glad I don’t have to use my hands or gloves to scrape off the snow or ice.

13. Equipment to Change a Tire
It’s necessary to have the equipment needed to change a flat tire, and hopefully a spare tire, jack and tire iron came with your vehicle. A tire jack is what lifts the vehicle to change a tire, and a tire iron removes the bolts that hold on the wheel. Be sure to check that these items are in working condition. It’s also a good idea to have a cheater pipe in the vehicle that can be used for leverage to take off the lug nuts. I’ve watched my husband and brother use cheater pipes many times to get the lug nuts off because they were on too tight.

What other items do you keep in your emergency car kit and how do you do it on a budget?


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