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Car Essentials for Commuting College Students 

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at IUP chapter.

In this article I’ll share a list of items that I think every car should have, especially when that car belongs to and is somewhat lived in by a commuting college student! I’ve been commuting to college for all three semesters that I’ve been attending and have developed a rather holistic list of everything a car of any shape and size should, and is capable of, having even on a broke-college student budget! Next to each item is the place I suggest keeping it because I know it works, even in my small car.

Things that every car needs: 

  • Bottles of hand sanitizer – I like to keep multiple small bottles in different places around the car. Value quality and quantity with these!
  • Napkins and tissues – Keep these in the glove compartment in a gallon bag so they don’t become dirty. Just remember to restock! Portable tissue packs are great.
  • A bin with cleaning supplies, such as Clorox wipes, car wipes, mirror spray and cloth, trash bags, and a small, portable, and wireless vacuum – I keep this in the backseat so it’s easy to access.
  • Febreze fabric – I keep this in my “cleaning supplies” bin in the backseat.
  • Air fresheners – Stay consistent. I like to match the scents of my Febreeze and these so I don’t get headaches. Nobody needs their car to smell like a Bath and Body store every time they get in, especially when you’ll be spending a lot of time in there. 
  • A small trash can – Mine is attached to my seat, but depending on the size of your car you may be able to fit a bigger one in the back! Regardless, have one that’s liquid-proof and has a sealed lid!
  • Trash bags – Try using old Walmart bags if you have them! It’s a good way to reuse plastic!
  • First aid kit – I keep this in my glove compartment.
  • Flashlight with extra batteries – This sits in the center console since it needs to be of easy access. Have this in addition to your phone in case it’s dead or in a place you can’t reach!
  • Mace and alarm devices on your key chains and in an easy-to-access place in your car – Maybe consider keeping them in different locations throughout your vehicle!
  • Seat belt cutlers and a glass breaker – These absolutely need to be within reach, even if the car were to (God forbid) flip. I have a seatbelt cutter on my keychain and keep the other items in the center counsel. 
  • Car repair bin with all the needed items, including jumper cables,  an oil gauge, and more – This isn’t my area of expertise. I keep all of this in the trunk.
  • Winter repair bin – This is also kept in the truck. 
  • Gloves, hats, socks, and blankets – These are especially important for people who live where winters are harsh and road conditions are unpredictable!
  • Space for gas receipts and change.
  • Some cash – Always keep a small amount of money in your car, outside of your purse or wallet, in case you need it for emergencies or things that aren’t critical but still important, such as Starbucks on a rough morning when you forget your purse!

Additions for college students, especially those who are commuters: 

  • A container for books, folders, and other materials that don’t need to be taken to certain classes – As a commuter, everything is coming with you from home and you’re likely not returning throughout the day. This feature of my car is super helpful because it keeps my things safe and organized while I’m not using them, and allows me to avoid back pain from lugging everything around!
  • Pens, pencils, post-it notes, rubber bands, and paper clips – All of the basic office supplies in case you need them.
  • Portable charger that fits your car, a portable battery, and a secondary charger to take with you to class so that you don’t lose your original. 
  • An insulated lunch box for food and energy drinks!
  • Gum – Remember to keep this in a place that’s less likely to overheat in the sun!
  • Extra water – Unfortunately I have water scattered all over my car, but at least I’m hydrated!
  • Beauty bag/bin; Perfume, body spray, portable makeup, and chapstick for when you need to touch up or apply it all after class or work, all in one place – Remember to take the chapstick out in the summer! I keep my bag in the front seat where it’s easy to access.
  • An extra outfit – You never know what’s going to happen, especially when you’re bouncing from school, to work, to eating, and back to school. Prepare for it all by having extra clothes in a safe place for whenever you need them.
  • A bin with things to donate – Make sure to update this after donations are made and never to keep food in your car. If you do for short periods of time, make sure to keep this separate from any chemicals.

Please Note: All of the items on this list can be found on Amazon, and maybe for cheaper than their original price on Prime days, which are October 10th and 11th. Happy savings!

Thanks for reading! Stay safe (and prepared) on the road, commuters! 

Sarah Miller 

I’m Sarah Miller, a sophomore at Indiana University of Pennsylvania with a major in Speech and Language Pathology. I’m going on my third semester as a Her Campus member. I joined my fall semester of my freshman year because I was in need of a women’s group and figured what better than one dedicated to connection and unity as much as this one! I’ve enjoyed interacting with women all over this country’s campuses. This magazine has kept me in tune with the interests, dilemmas, and goals of my generation— a sense of connection I’ve loved having and will continue to experience for the remainder of my time at IUP. Writing has long been a passion of mine. I see so much value in written words, especially because I’ve learned from every article I’ve read on this website. I hope that by the time I conclude my time at IUP, I will have contributed to the sense of unity and empowerment fostered through our posts to this magazine. I’m thankful to be part of this experience and look forward to striving for my goal through my publications.