Things to keep in, keep out of your glove compartment

Linda Melone

What's in your glove compartment? Organizing this convenient catch-all can save you time and aggravation if you're in a car accident. Or it can give a car thief everything he needs to know to steal your identity.

Instead of stuffing it with napkins, ketchup packets and breath mints, turn your glove box into a useful tool. Not all items belong in it. Your address and other identifying information make certain paperwork prime material for thieves to find out where you live, for example.

Here's what the experts say you should keep stashed in your glove compartment and what you should leave at home or in your wallet.

Do not keep in your glove compartment

1. Personal papers.

Never leave anything with personal or identifying information -- such as credit card bills -- in your glove compartment, says Frank Scafidi, a spokesman for the nonprofit National Insurance Crime Bureau. "It’s just too easy for thieves to take your ID and use it to make phony credit cards, loan applications -- you name it," he says.

2. Vehicle registration.

While vehicle registration papers must be presented when asked for by a law enforcement officer, you do not need to store the originals in your glove compartment. Instead, keep a copy in your wallet next to your driver’s license, Scafidi says.

3. Receipts.

Stashing any kind of receipts also can cause problems. Some establishments print receipts with a customer's full name, home address, email address and even credit card number. Any information that may be associated with your residence should not be stored in your glove compartment.

4. Driver's license.

Keep it, along with your original registration, in your wallet to avoid identity theft.

5. Vehicle title.

Your car's title should be stored in a safe place, not your glove compartment. If it's stolen, your title could be used to create fraudulent titles to help sell stolen cars, Scafidi says.

6. Checkbook and wallet.

Both may enable a thief to steal your identity along with your bank account numbers.

Do keep in your glove compartment

1. Proof of car insurance.

A card issued by your car insurance company proves that you have insurance coverage for your vehicle, including the minimum amount of liability insurance required by state law, says Loretta Worters, vice president of the nonprofit Insurance Information Institute. Forty-eight states require a certain amount of auto liability insurance.

2. Medical information.

Store a record of any medical conditions, such as allergies, for each family member in the event that you're involved in an accident and can't relay the information yourself.

3. Pen, pencil and paper.

If you live in a cold climate where ink may freeze, stash a pencil in the glove box. Otherwise, a pen or pencil will work. Pencil, pen and paper can come in handy if you need to jot down insurance information when you're in a wreck.

4. Owner's manual.

The owner's manual, which contains a maintenance schedule, helps you decipher your dashboard's flashing lights and helps you track recommended maintenance. It also may help you find items such as the car's jack.

5. Disposable camera.

If you don't carry your cellphone, always carry a disposable camera so you can take photos if you get into an accident, says Linda Webb, president of Contego Services Group in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. You can use it to snap pictures of the damage, both yours and the other driver's; the other driver's license plate number; and anyone who was involved in the crash.

Nice to have (if there's room)

  • Old eyeglasses -- If you need them for driving, a spare pair helps if you accidentally lose or damage yours.
  • Flashlight with batteries -- This helps you in case of roadway emergencies.
  • Map or atlas -- These can serve as a backup if your GPS technology fails.
  • Swiss army knife and duct tape -- You can do a lot of quick repairs with these handy items.
  • Hard candy and snacks -- Diabetics may want to include hard candy in case of emergencies. For long trips or hours stuck in gridlock traffic, protein bars or trail mixes keep well.
  • Small first aid kit -- This typically includes bandages, insect sting relief and instant ice packs, and can be purchased online from organizations such as the Red Cross.

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