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15 Things You Should Never Leave in the Car

Your vehicle should be used for transportation, not storage. Keeping these items in the car could hurt your health and security.

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Most medicine should be left at room temperature, but a car will rarely stay at that point when not in use. Heat probably won’t make your drugs directly harmful, but it could make them less effective. Check out these things you should never leave in your garage.

The map on the phone in the background of the dashboard. Black mobile phone with map gps navigation fixed in the mounting. Vintage style photoAleksey Korchemkin/Shutterstock


Beyond the expense of the devices themselves, gadgets like laptops, cell phones, and thumb drives contain information that could be easy to steal. If you’re in a position where you have to store your laptop or phone unattended, make sure the information is encrypted, says Eva Velasquez, CEO and president of Identity Theft Resource Center. This makes thieves unable to view information without a code, separate from the password used to log in to the device. “It’s a strong layer of protection and would need someone putting a fair amount of effort into it to view,” Velasquez says. “It’s much stronger than password protection.” Learn how to recognize the 14 signs that your car is about to die.

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Ironically, the active ingredients in sunscreen break down in high heat. Leaving it in the car on a hot day could reduce its effectiveness. Plus, the heat could cause it to explode, leaving you with a hot mess.

image concept Bottled water was left in the car for a long time. To drink it?Casezy idea/Shutterstock

Water bottles

Although the research is a bit unclear, studies have linked BPA and phthalates, chemicals found in plastic water bottles, with health conditions like cancer and heart disease. Letting a bottle sit in the sun and heat up could cause these chemicals to leach into the water. Plus, if the bottle has been lying around for a while, it could start harboring microorganisms. Learn more about why you absolutely shouldn't leave water bottles in the car.

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Leaving a purse or wallet in plain sight makes your car a target for thieves, even if you’ve locked your doors or taken the valuables out of your bag. “It doesn’t matter if the alarm goes off,” Velasquez says. “It’s attractive, and they’re going to grab it.” Check out these 100 car maintenance tasks you can do on your own.

Fashion sunglasses on a wood tableMickly Nuttapat/Shutterstock


Take advantage of your car’s sunglasses compartment while driving, but don’t leave your shades in it after you reach your destination. Heat can warp plastic frames and make metal ones too hot to wear. Leaving your glasses or sunglasses on the dashboard is even worse because the windshield could attract sunlight like a magnifying glass, American Optometric Association spokeswoman Susan Thomas has said.

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Important documents

If you have personal documents that you plan to mail or shred, make that task a priority on your to-do list. Letting files like school transcripts or tax forms sit in your car while you run other errands or until you have time to take care of them leaves information vulnerable if anyone breaks into your vehicle, Velasquez says. “Put it in the car, take care of it, and then you’re done,” she says. “You have to follow through.” If they don't need to be in your car, leave them at home or in the office—but make sure you know the 9 things you should never keep on your desk.

Woman's fingers holding Passport of USA (United States of America) on blue travel wallet and wooden background. Evgenia Parajanian/Shutterstock


Never leave a passport in the car while traveling, even if it seems like it’s too bulky to carry around. Identity theft is even easier with a passport than with a driver's license, Velasquez says. “We have to think of data and pieces of our identity as valuables,” she continues. “You’re not going to leave jewelry in the car, but we don’t have that same level of concern with things that make up our identity, and we need to.” These are the most reliable cars that rarely need a mechanic.

Top view angled shot of red wine bottle with corks and opener on rustic wooden boardstab62/Shutterstock


Wait until after work or errands to pick up a bottle of wine. If the bottle gets too hot, the flavor could be affected, and the liquid could expand enough to seep around the cork or push the cork out a bit, contaminating the wine inside.

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Young children

Even if you don’t expect an errand to take more than a few minutes, leaving children alone in the car on a hot day puts their safety at risk. On average, 38 children die every year from heatstroke in hot cars. Even if the window is cracked, the temperature inside the car can spike almost 20°F within ten minutes, according to the CDC. Check your state laws—in some areas, it’s illegal to leave young children alone, even if it isn’t sweltering outside.

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