Background Clinicians, researchers and politicians are seeking to better assess caregiver's needs. Challenges exist in broadly implementing this so as to provide appropriate support. The aim of this review was to compile self-administered instruments for assessment of caregiver's needs that are deemed to be scientifically robust. Methods The Medline database was searched for publications reporting self-administered instruments assessing caregiver's needs with acceptable psychometric properties. These instruments were analyzed in terms of the development context, target population, concept, purpose, structure, content and psychometric properties. The dimensions of the needs were listed and categorized. Results A total of nine self-administered instruments were analyzed. They averaged 32 items, they were specifically developed for a targeted subpopulation of caregivers and dedicated to epidemiological research. Response devices were based on Likert scales. The main dimensions of the needs identified were 'Health and Care', 'Psychological - Emotional Support', 'Information - Knowledge', 'Social Life - Work - Finance'. None was specifically geared toward caregivers for the elderly, children or teenagers. In the absence of transcultural validation, no instrument was directly usable in Europe. Conclusions Assessing caregivers' needs is a key part in providing caregivers with appropriate support. The development of self-administered instruments constitutes a complex field that is still underexplored at the international level; strict specifications with psychometric validation are essential. To be efficient, the instrument should be integrated in a larger process including: upstream, recognition, identification and assessment of the overall situation of the caregiver; and downstream, guidance, establishment and follow-up of a suitable action plan.