If you think the only way to improve upon the technology in your car is by trading it in for a newer model, think again. The right gadgets can dramatically enhance and expand the capabilities of any car, and most of them are surprisingly affordable. From helping you stay connected to keeping you and your passengers safer, the best car gadgets are worthwhile investments regardless of the make, model or age of your vehicle. Best of all, they let you upgrade the car you already own, allowing you to squeeze as much use out of it as possible. Here’s a list of gadgets that come in handy if you spend a considerable amount of time in your car.
1. Cup Holder USB Charger – $15 to $50
Depending on the age of your car, it may not have any USB charging ports at all. Even if it has one, odds are that you and your passengers have several devices you’d like to keep charged while on the road. There are lots of car USB charging adapters on the market, but the most convenient fit right into a car cup holder. Instead of rolling around the dashboard or seat, it’s always right there next to you. Like other adapters, cup holder USB chargers draw power from a car’s 12-volt outlet. Most of them come with DC outlets as well, and cool designs are included too – you can get a cup holder charger that looks like R2D2 from Star Wars – this adds a dimension of fun to these handy gadgets too.
2. Wi-Fi/4G Portable Hot Spot – $1 to $150
Tired of using huge amounts of pricey data to stay connected while traveling, or wish you could connect Wi-Fi-only devices while on the road? The right Wi-Fi/4G portable hot spot device makes short work of these issues. These clever devices use 4G technology, which offers connectivity that’s every bit as good — and sometimes even better — as broadband, allowing drivers and passengers to stay connected. Some plug into a car’s 12-volt outlet while others run off batteries, allowing them to be used out of the car too. The price depends on whether you sign a contract with the network provider or not. Make sure to check network coverage before investing in one to ensure it will suit your needs.
3. Key Finder – $25 to $60
Nothing is worse than rushing out the door only to discover that your car keys are nowhere to be found. Luckily, having a key finder will make this problem a thing of the past. Unlike smartphones, keys can’t be located by pinging them from a PC. Once you connect a key finder to your keychain, however, you will receive warnings when you are heading out of range of your keys. Most have ranges of up to 60 to 80 feet, and they work in conjunction with smartphones to ensure you never lose your car keys (or any other keys) again.
4. Bluetooth Speakerphone – $40 to $100
Handling a smartphone or other mobile device while driving is incredibly dangerous. If your car doesn’t have built-in Bluetooth technology, a Bluetooth speakerphone can provide the same benefits. These handy devices don’t just let you make and receive calls without touching your phone; they provide hands-free control of your device and often have text-to-speech capabilities too. The best models install right onto your sun visor and can be recharged using your car’s 12-volt outlet.
5. 180-Degree Rearview Mirror – $10 to $60
Even if you’re conscientious about checking your mirrors while driving, blind spots — areas that are obstructed by parts of your vehicle — are major safety hazards. Do away with them once and for all with a 180-degree rearview mirror. Compared with a standard rearview mirror, which affords you about a 50-degree view of the areas around your car, these mirrors provide true panoramic views and eliminate blind spots. Most are about 15 inches wide and clip right onto your existing mirror. Still, make sure that you set them up properly or go to the car shop so they adjust them for you. What could be easier?
6. Anti-Sleep Alarm – $10 to $25
Driving while drowsy is every bit as dangerous as driving under the influence. If you’re susceptible to becoming lulled into sleepiness while behind the wheel, however, it’s in your best interests to invest in an anti-sleep alarm. These clever devices kind of resemble to Bluetooth earpieces people use to make hands-free calls. Sensors within them detect when your head dips down, which is what typically happens when someone begins “nodding off.” Most models allow you to adjust the angle at which the alarm is sounded, allowing you to avoid pesky false alarms.
7. Dashboard Cameras – $90 to $400
These days, one of the best ways to protect yourself while on the road — and to have a little fun to boot — is by using a dashboard camera. From providing evidence to insurance companies to capturing incredible events that can later be posted to YouTube, these cameras are loaded with some pretty amazing features. G-sensors track movement upward/downward, forward/backward and side to side, allowing the device to intelligently track crucial events. GPS sensors let you view your videos to see where the footage was captured, and many offer connectivity to smartphones and other mobile devices.
8. Pocket-Size Battery Jump Starter – $99 to $189
If you’ve ever dealt with a dead car battery, you know how frustrating it can be. Jumper cables are unwieldy to carry around, and you still need another car to get going again. Standard battery-operated jump starters tend to be large and bulky, so pocket-size battery jump starters are great alternatives. Most run on rechargeable lithium-ion batteries; some include USB ports that can be used to charge other devices. One attachment clamps onto the jump starter itself, and the other clamps onto a car battery’s terminals. You can usually get around 20 jump starts per charge, and most jump starters need to be charged every three months or so.
Which of these gadgets would you like to add to your vehicle?
As you can see, today’s handiest car gadgets really make your driving more comfortable and safe by enabling you to stay connected and alert. Some of them will make sure that you also have a little fun on the road. How would these gadgets improve your driving experience?