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Best Car Supplies To Send Your Kid To College With

By Aaron Crowe

Besides books, blankets and a cellphone plan, parents may be smart to send their children off to college with a few more items if their students are driving often: Auto supplies.

The college expenses of tuition, housing and food are just the beginning of the bills many parents will face this fall, and there are always extras such as furniture and clothing to pay for. For a student driving to school or an off-campus job, having the right car supplies can make a student’s life a lot easier.

After buying car insurance and making sure the car is running well, here’s a list of some of the car supplies worth carrying in the trunk or wallet to make driving a lot easier for a student:

Roadside assistance. For less than $100 per year, a student can be added to a family’s plan for roadside assistance if they have a flat, need a tow or have another emergency on the road. Insurance companies such as Allstate and AAA sell it, and automakers such as Lexus provide it for free during the first four years of ownership.

Repair supplies. If a student can change a tire or jump their car’s battery themself, they may not need to pay for roadside assistance, or can at least save time waiting for someone to show up. Essential supplies include a spare tire (and knowing how to get it out or off of the car), a tire jack, flashlight, jumper cables, flares and an empty gas can in case you have to walk to a gas station.

First-aid kit. Pack your own with Band-Aids, aspirin, gauze, scissors, sterile wipes and anything else you think you might need if you get injured while out on the road. The Red Cross has a list of recommended items that should fit in a backpack.

Auto paperwork. Without your driver’s license, auto registration and proof of insurance, you could be looking at a ticket and fine if pulled over by police.

Winter tools. If your student is going to school in a winter climate, they’ll need a windshield scraper and shovel. If they’re driving in snow or icy roads, they may also want to keep a few sandbags in the trunk to weigh it down for traction. If it rains a lot where they are, consider keeping an umbrella in the trunk or back seat.

Phone charger. Chances are you have an extra phone charger around the house. If it plugs into the cigarette lighter or can otherwise plug into your car, then keep it stored in the car. There’s nothing worse than having a dead phone when you’re car is broken down.

Navigation system. Your phone’s GPS might be enough to give you directions, but an in-dash or portable navigation system might be easier to see while driving. Be sure not to leave a portable device in the car, even if the car is locked, for thieves to have a reason to smash your car window.

Blanket or portable chair. These can come in handy not just for keeping warm in a car, but for relaxing outside at your destination or if you spot a picnic spot.

Water, food. If you’re going on a lengthy trip, then water and food are a must. Water, dried fruit, nuts and other snacks that last a while can also be a good idea in case you get stranded far from civilization and can’t get help. They can be especially important if caught in a snowstorm.

Compass. If you have a navigation system and don’t have any power for it, you’re still lost. Having a simple compass and map and knowing how to use it can help guide you to safety.

In the end, that’s the best a parent can hope for when helping their child pick car supplies before leaving for college — a chance at making it home safely.