Items You Need To Have In Your Vehicle by Law 

In this guide

When driving, either in the UK or abroad in Europe and beyond, there are certain things you are recommended to carry in your car. No matter where you’re driving, it’s essential to be aware of what’s expected of you and what you need to carry so that you can avoid any problematic situations. 

Here’s a detailed look at all the things you need in your car, both for when you’re driving in the UK and when you’re driving in locations like France, Italy, and other European countries. If you need more advice about how to look after and maintain your car, you can find more information here on Car Adviser

Laws in the UK 

In the UK, no laws state that you must keep certain things in your car. This means if you desire to, you can drive an empty vehicle. With that said, it is still best to carry a few items with you so that you can get out of certain situations easily. 

These items are highly recommended, and not driving with them is hugely frowned upon in the UK, but no legislation makes them a requirement. 

Even things like your driving license aren’t required to be carried with you while you drive. It’s, of course, much more beneficial to carry your license so that you can present it if the police stop you, but if you don’t have it, you have seven days to present it at your local police station. 

If you don’t present your license within this timeframe, it becomes an offence that can lead to prosecution. That’s why carrying your license is best to avoid this situation. 

Years ago, it was required by law for you to carry a spare tyre in your vehicle. This was so that you could repair a puncture or flat tyre yourself or have one on hand to get it easily fixed with roadside assistance. However, it’s no longer required for you to have a spare tyre. In fact, many new cars don’t even come with spare tyres, instead giving you inflation and tyre sealants. 

These products can be used to temporary repair your punctures so that you can take your vehicle to a garage to be fixed properly. Despite not being needed by law, carrying either a spare tyre or one of these inflation and sealant kits is still good practice to get yourself out of a bad situation. 

Essential documents 

To be legal on the road, your car needs to have road tax, car insurance, and it also needs to have passed an MOT. You’ll get a certificate proving that you’ve obtained all these essential requirements when you complete these. However, much like the situation with your driver’s license, you don’t actually have to carry these items in your car with you. 

Instead, if you are asked for this documentation, you have seven days to present them at a police station if you do not have them with you. Of course, it’s more convenient to have them in your car so that you don’t need to take a trip to the station, which is why many people advise that you carry them with you. 

If you lose any of these documents, it’s best to get them replaced as soon as possible to avoid any potential tricky situations. 

Things you should carry in your car

Although you’re not required to carry things by law in the UK, there are still a few things where it would benefit you and be useful if you had them in your car. Some of the top things that you should carry include items like: 

  • Your driver’s license 
  • Documentation and certificates for insurance, MOT, and road tax
  • A spare tyre or a temporary repair kit
  • A high-visibility jacket to make you more visible in low light 
  • A first-aid kit
  • A blanket or jacket to keep you warm if you’re stranded for a long time
  • A physical road map that can be used if your GPS or phone runs out of charge
  • A torch

In addition, we at Car Adviser also think you should carry a few essential tools to fix issues if they arise. Here’s our list of essential tools to keep in your car.

Laws in Europe


Although there are no laws regarding what you need to carry with you in your car in the UK, things start to change when you travel in Europe, with many countries having their own legal requirements that you should be aware of. 

What can make things a bit awkward is the rules and regulations alter depending on the country, and the laws are not universal across the entire EU. Here are some items you need to carry when driving in Europe. 

High visibility vest 

You must carry a high-visibility vest when travelling in a few European countries. This is to make sure that you can easily be seen in low light if you need to get out of your car on the roadside. Not having one of these is a crime and could result in a pretty hefty fine. 

Places like France, Belgium, Italy, Portugal, and Spain need you to have a reflective jacket in your car. It’s best to carry one for each person in the car, but you’ll be okay if you only have one. 

In Germany, the rules for reflective jackets are a bit more complicated, as you only need them if you’re driving german cars (meaning that the car was registered in the country). To make things easier for you, it’s best to carry one of these vests anyway. 

Warning triangle

A warning triangle is a piece of equipment that can be placed in front of a broken-down car or another obstacle to let other drivers know that there is an obstruction in the road. These are legal requirements in many European locations, so it’s worthwhile having them with you to avoid fines. 

You’re required to have a warning triangle in France, Belgium, Italy, and Switzerland. In Spain, it’s recommended that you have two warning triangles, as you can be fined for only having one if you get yourself into an accident. 

Fire extinguishers

When driving in a couple of European countries, you’re going to need to carry a fire extinguisher that’s in close reach at all times. This is so that you can put out any fires that could happen in your engine or other areas of your vehicle. 

You need to carry a fire extinguisher if you’re driving through Belgium or Poland; however, it’s also recommended to have one when driving through various other countries, as it makes things safer. 

Winter chains or winter tyres 

Many places in Europe will require you to drive with winter chains or tyres, however, this depends on the terrain, time of the year, and the conditions during your drive. The area you need to drive with these modifications will be sing-posted, and you can get into trouble if you don’t have the correct tyres, as you’ll be putting yourself and others at risk. 

Countries that have this variable requirement include all the countries that are more severely affected by bad winter weather, such as Switzerland, Northern Italy, and France.  

Spare Tyre

There’s only one country in the EU where you need to carry a spare tyre, and this is Spain. Having a spare tyre allows you to fix your car if you have a puncture, and it can be a lot more convenient than waiting for breakdown recovery. 

It’s good practice to have a spare tyre in all European countries. 

Photo ID 

Portugal is the only place in Europe where you need to carry a photo ID while driving, such as a passport or license. This is so that the authorities can identify you instantly if you’re ever pulled over. 

Motorway tax sticker and toll card 

In some European countries, you’ll have to pay tax or other charges when using motorways. Switzerland is one of the main locations that do this, so you need to be prepared and get a motorway tax sticker before you drive on any of the country’s motorways. 

A tax sticker for Switzerland can cost around £30-£35 and will last for an entire year, which is good if you’re making multiple trips to the country. 

In Portugal, you must get pre-paid toll cards before using their motorways. This can be done with an automated credit card system. 


In many European countries, it was a requirement for you to carry a breathalyser with you when travelling in that area. 

However, since 2020, that is no longer a requirement in the EU, so you don’t have to get this piece of equipment anymore. The only complication is in France, where you need to be able to produce an unused, certified breathalyser. There is no fine for not having one, but it’s still worthwhile carrying this with you. 

Are there any items you’re not allowed in your car? 

While in the UK, there are no items you’re required to have in your car, there are certain items you are not allowed to carry with you. This also extends to when driving in Europe as well. 

Most of the time, the stuff you’re not allowed to carry are illegal items. When driving, the following items are banned by law, so make sure you don’t have any of them in your vehicle: 

  • Firearms 
  • Weapons 
  • Drugs
  • Opened alcohol containers

In addition to that, it’s also advised that you don’t leave the following in your car for too long, as it can become dangerous, especially if the vehicle gets hot: 

  • Aerosol cans 
  • Cosmetics and sunscreen
  • Lighters
Mark Williams
Mark Williams
Editorial Manager at Car Adviser. I'm responsible for leading a team of talented writers and editors who create high-quality automotive content for our audience. Previously Car and Driver Magazine and AutoExpress.
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