How Long Can You Keep Bottled Water in Your Car?


Many of us keep bottled water in our cars for different reasons. Some simply forget theirs inside, while others like to store a couple for emergencies. But if it’s scorching hot everywhere, is it safe to drink anything that’s been sitting for hours in the vehicle?

The FDA recommends storing bottled water in a car for no more than 1 year for sparkling water and 2 years for non-carbonated. However, this assumes that the water will remain consistently cool. If you live in a hot climate, 2 weeks or less is recommended since BPAs or other contaminants can leach into the water.

I recommend canned emergency water, like this type found on Amazon, which is specifically designed to have a 50-year shelf life at virtually any temperature. It is a good idea to only keep this kind in your car (or anywhere for that matter) for long-term storage.

The rest of this article will discuss bottled water, how long one can store it, and the dangers it poses when subjected to extreme heat. What is the consequence of leaving one inside a hot car? Let’s find out.

How Long Does It Take for Bottled Water To Go Bad?

Bottled water can go bad if it’s been longer than 2 years since you bought it. Water itself does not deteriorate, but its container does. Bottles and other water containers usually last longer than the expiry dates on their labels, but only if stored properly.

Knowing how long water lasts and how to store it to extend its longevity will spur you to ensure your water is always fresh. However, if you want to play safe, take the FDA’s suggestion and don’t drink sparkling water more than a year old and non-carbonated water more than two years old.

What Temperature Should Bottled Water Be Stored At?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends storing water in a cool place with a temperature of 50°F to 70°F (10°C to 21°C) and replacing stored water every six months. It also suggests labeling containers as “drinking water” with the storage date.

Does Bottled Water Go Bad in Heat?

Bottled water can go bad in heat. As water occurs naturally in the environment, it does not go bad on its own. However, the plastic bottle that holds commercially packaged water is slightly permeable, will degrade over time, and begin to leak chemicals into the water.

Heart Water’s Amanda Stevens confirms it’s not the water quality that’s a concern, but rather it is the composition of the typical water bottle sold in retail stores. It contains Bisphenol A (BPA), a chemical manufacturers use to make plastic, which renders their bottles glossy and tough.

The Mayo Clinic assures the public that BPA exposure in small doses is not hazardous. The FDA agrees, claiming the chemical amounts in question are not sufficient to cause health issues.

IBWA (International Bottled Water Association) upholds the above consensus from both entities, as well as similar deductions from international regulatory agencies denoting that current BPA exposure levels don’t pose medical risks. They also point out that BPA is not a chemical constituent of the PET plastic used to create single-use water bottles.

Still, it’s best to choose BPA-free bottled water because scientists are analyzing the long-term effects of plastic use, and they infer that even minuscule quantities pile up eventually.

Many drink manufacturers and food packagers have heeded the call of environmentalists for non-BPA containers by substituting the compound with Bisphenol S (BPS). However, BPS is similar in structure to BPA with identical properties.

BPA isn’t the only culprit health authorities and environmentalists are targeting. Most supermarket water bottles contain polyethylene terephthalate (PET), and reusable water cooler jugs have high-density polyethylene (HDPE) or polycarbonate in them.

When the water inside bottles containing these synthetic resins expires or is exposed to excessive heat, deadly particles from these substances may contaminate the water. The effects range from mild (changes in flavor or odor) to lethal (severe medical problems).

You can tell if bottled water is “off.” If there is a contaminant in it, it may give off a weird smell or taste. In which case, dump it.

The Role Heat Plays in Water Contamination

National Geographic reports that commercially bottled water may become harmful if exposed to prolonged periods of extreme temperatures, like direct sunlight or other heat sources. In such instances, chemical bonds in the bottle’s plastic disintegrate and become susceptible to leaking into the water. 

Also, mold or algae may grow in the container.

Studies done on the effect of high temperature on water in reusable containers are scant. But a 2011 study by Cooper et al. was promising. The researchers found that when they poured boiling water into polycarbonate, more BPA seeped out.

Health Concerns With Plastic Bottles’ Chemical Components

Some clinical studies have linked BPA to illnesses, such as Heidi Ledford’s “Bisphenol A linked to disease in humans.”

Other studies mention that BPA interferes with hormonal functioning because it disrupts endocrine activities. One of these is Beverly Rubin’s “Bisphenol A: an endocrine disruptor with widespread exposure and multiple effects.”

Another is Gao et al.’s “Bisphenol A and Hormone-Associated Cancers: Current Progress and Perspectives.” The scientists connected exposure to the resin to hormone-related diseases, including prostate, endometrial carcinoma, breast, and ovarian cancers.

Nonetheless, the FDA prohibits BPA only in kids’ training cups and baby bottles because it says evidence supporting extra restrictions is lacking.

What Bottled Water Has the Longest Shelf Life?

The bottled water that has the longest shelf life includes Blue Can emergency water, Puravai, and Datrex emergency water. Each of these brands places their water in BPA-free containers and goes through a 12-step process to remove chemicals and impurities from the water. 

These emergency drinking water brands are the top contenders for longevity:

  • Blue Can: The manufacturers claim their water has a shelf life of 50 years. They use a 12-step process to eliminate germs, contaminants, and chemical impurities, and encase the water using pressure from nitrogen gas in an aluminum can whose interior is coated with epoxy. This substance protects the metal from moisture, rust, and deterioration.
  • Puravai: This brand, which US laboratories certify as “100% bacteria-free,” is said to last for 20 years. One case holds six 1 L (34 fl oz) triple-sealed canteen bottles of recyclable, reusable, HDPE/BPA-free military-grade material.
  • Datrex: The US Coast Guard endorses this purified water for use on land and sea in emergency and non-emergency situations where regular water supplies are absent. Datrex has a five-year shelf life. Each case holds 64 single-serve polymer-foil pouches.

I definitely recommend Blue Can, and it’s not even close. I simply trust aluminum to hold up over time and keep my water safe and fresh.

How Long Does Bottled Water Keep in Your Car?

Bottled water can keep in your car for up to a few hours in the summer, but up to 2 years in the cooler times, such as spring and fall. However, bottled water should not be stored in your car in the winter, as the frozen water could make the bottles crack and break. 

Given what we’ve learned so far, you can keep bottled flat water in your car for two years and one year for sparkling water if you never drive your vehicle and if your garage is always kept cool. 

Since this isn’t a realistic scenario, it’s best not to leave any beverage in the car for extended periods, especially in hot temperatures.

How Long You Should Store Unopened Bottles of Water

Car with Trunk Open With Bottled Water in Back

Blue Triton, a Nestlé brand of bottled water, emphasizes that the US Food and Drug Administration (USFDA) does not impose a shelf life for bottled water because you can use it indefinitely if stored properly.

However, the FDA recommends storing bottled water for up to one year for sparkling water and two years for non-carbonated. Other sources recommend six months for carbonated water because it has a much shorter lifespan than the regular type. 

Also, it loses its carbonation or “sparkling” capability over time. This is the reason for the expiration dates on bottled water, though it’s not an FDA mandate.

How To Store Bottled Water

Here are Blue Triton’s recommendations:

  • Prevent it from being exposed to sunlight.
  • Keep it in a cool, dark storeroom away from strong-smelling products.
  • If you don’t have room indoors and have to store the bottles outside, cover them with a tarpaulin, tent, or other robust material to prevent exposure to the elements.
  • Don’t store it where poisonous substances like pesticides and fertilizers are kept.
  • Don’t store it on the ground, whether indoors or outdoors.
  • Don’t store it near heat sources, such as fuel pumps and radiators.
  • Don’t store it in extreme cold, either.
  • From the International Bottled Water Association (IBWA): Store it in the same conditions consumers keep other grocery items.

If you decide to keep standard bottled water, I recommend getting a cooler for your vehicle. It can help mitigate the extreme changes in temperature throughout the year. It will also keep sunlight out.

Final Thoughts

Now that you know the shelf life of bottled water and the best way to preserve it, you can do what’s necessary to keep yourself and your family safe. Bottled water is a lifesaver in emergency situations, so it’s always beneficial to have it at hand.

But perhaps you would like to consider switching from plastic bottles to safer, reusable, environment-friendly alternative containers like those made of stainless steel or glass. These materials are compact, don’t have residues that seep into the liquid they hold, and pose a very low risk of chemical contamination. 

The choice is yours.

For more, check out What Is the Cheapest Way to Store Water? | A Quick Guide.

Jim James

Hey, I'm Jim and the author of this website. I have always been interested in survival, fishing, camping, and anything in nature. In fact, while growing up I spent more time on the water than on land! I am also a best-selling author and have a degree in History, Anthropology, and Music. I hope you find value in the articles on this website. Feel free to contact me if you have any questions or input!

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