9 Things You Should Never, Ever 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.

Medication

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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. (Surprisingly, it's also not a good idea to keep medicine in your bathroom medicine cabinet.)

Electronics

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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.” These are items you shouldn't keep in your purse.

Sunscreen

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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.

Water bottles

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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. These are signs you need to drink more water.

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Handbag

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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.”

Glasses

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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.

Important documents

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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.”

Passport

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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 says. “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.”

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Wine

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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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