The 15 Best Car Gadgets to Buy This Year

The only thing that sucks worse than getting socks for a gift -- we can buy our own now, mom! -- is getting an obscure "high-tech" gadget that's rivaled in its cheapness only by its craptastic quality. Gadgets don't have to be ultra high-tech; what matters is that they're well engineered, solve a problem that you frequently face, and are built to last. Like these 15 car gadgets you can, and definitely should, buy for anyone you know who drives.

Flickr/Mroach (edited)

Belkin Hands-Free Bluetooth Car Kit

Price: $47.99
What it is: A Bluetooth phone adapter

Having Bluetooth in your car is more than just a convenient way to stream your tunes -- it's a safety feature that means you never need to touch your phone while you're driving. Belkin's adapter is better than most -- it lets you stream or make calls hands-free, and it plugs directly into your car's radio so you don't have to worry about finding a free FM channel to sync up with.


ABLEGRID HD video recorder dash cam

What it is: An HD-capable dash cam

There's a lot of insurance fraud out there, and a lot of really, really bad drivers. This won't save you from an accident, but it will help when it comes to defending yourself from all those who would do you wrong if it came to your word against theirs.


Precision Parking Park-Zone

Price: $29.99
What it is: An electronic parking guide

Assuming your car doesn’t have a front-facing park-assist system, an electronic aid is a great way to make sure you stop in the exact same spot every single time. This one’s made by a company that does nothing but measurement tools, and it’s based on the same tech that most real-estate agents use to measure the size of your rooms.

Flickr/Robert Couse-Baker (edited)

The Automatic App + Adapter

Price: $99.95
What it is: An app suite that plugs into your car

Automatic's original purpose (for which it kinda sucks) was to help you maximize fuel efficiency. But Automatic 2.0 enables a whole suite of apps to work with your car, mapping and timing your daily commute to find the most efficient route, helping you decode engine troubles, and giving you access to a bunch of other data so you can optimize your drive.


Mobileye 560

What it is: A state-of-the-art collision-avoidance system

Mobileye has the capacity to turn your normal, older car into a pretty damn smart car. It features warnings ahead of collisions with cars and pedestrians, or when you’re leaving your lane or speeding. It basically combines most of the advanced safety features you’d pay a couple grand for in a brand-new car, all wrapped up in one package.


Drivemocion D.B.D car sign

Price: $30
What it is: An LED sign that tells the person behind you to stop being a dick

After a long, hard day of work, what's better than having a remote-controlled animated LED sign on standby, ready to flip drivers off for you at a moment's notice? There are over 50 different faces and words with which to express your dismay at the person behind you, and none of them involve you turning around.

Flickr/Calaveth (edited)

AutoExec vehicle desks

Price: $159+
What it is: A portable office desk

If you're a devout workaholic, the simple fact is that sooner or later you're going to have to pull over and get some real work done. Turn your car into a mobile HQ with these portable desks that come with a variety of customizable options, like a power inverter, printer holder, iPad mount, etc.


weBoost Drive 4G-S vehicle cell phone signal booster

Price: $179.99
What it is: A cell phone signal booster

If you're in the middle of nowhere and you've gotta check your email, well, sucks to be you. But this little guy boosts your signal so not only are you better able to make calls, but you have a faster and more consistent data speed. It might not be that big of a deal on your way to work, but what happens once you head out of town?


Energizer 12V 180-watt cup inverter

Price: $39.99
What it is: Cup holder-sized power inverter

Power inverters let you plug a two- or three-pronged electrical cord into your car's lighter socket. They come in all shapes and sizes, but this one, from Energizer, fits your car's cupholder perfectly, and has an additional four USB plugs for your other electronic devices.

Flickr/Ben Francis (edited)

Melodeez wireless infrared headphones

Price: $83.99
What it is: Kid-sized wireless headphones

The wheels on the bus go round and round, but they won't anymore if you go batshit insane after hearing your kids' interminable jingles for the 15 millionth time. Keep them quiet with these headphones; they work with most vehicles that already have a DVD player, and feature replaceable earpieces, if your kid somehow ruins a set.


Voxx Electronics 7-inch headrest monitor

Price: $214.99
What it is: A DVD player that's built into the headrest

If your car doesn't have a built-in screen, you've probably been using a screen that sticks to your seat with Velcro, which just looks tacky. There are a few companies that can make a screen fit a headrest for your specific car, or you can go with these universal units that clean up the look of your interior and come with USB input for simplified streaming.


MOTOSafety teen safety GPS vehicle-tracking system

Price: $35.37
What it is: A way to spy on your teenagers

OK, OK, spying on your teenagers might be a little harsh. Being a little mistrusting when they take your pride and joy out the garage for a spin? That's totally sensible. This car-tracking system functions kinda like those insurance-discount monitors, in that it will tell you exactly how hard your kid was driving your car, but it'll also let you know if/when the car leaves a designated radius, like around school.

Flickr/Zach Dischner (edited)
Amazon/Black & Decker

Black & Decker travel cooler & warmer​

Price: $76.99
​What it is: A portable electric cooler

It's possible to keep your water cold and your coffee hot all day long? Even in a car, during a road trip? Yep, such wizardry exists in portable form, and it's surprisingly affordable.

Cobra Electronics

Cobra Electronics HH Road Trip

Price: $99.95
What it is: A portable CB radio

Sure, if you wanna just talk to your friends back and forth on a road trip, you could use a cell phone or a walkie-talkie, but CB radios are much more fun, and they're basically a party line. This one's portable, so you don't have to keep it (or its antenna) with your car all the time. Get it, hit the highway, and turn to channel 19 to start practicing your trucker-speak.


Escort Radar Max 360

Price: $649.95
What it is: An intelligent radar detector

By the time you see a cop, the chances are they've already determined whether or not to pull you over, which makes the argument for a radar detector pretty strong. This is one of the most powerful on the market, and it learns from its mistakes, so the more you use it the better it gets. It also comes with a continually updating registry of known speed-trap locations, and it will warn you when you're headed toward one, even if it doesn't detect radar yet. Not too shabby.

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Aaron Miller is the Cars editor for Thrillist, and can be found on Twitter. He feels naked in traffic without a dash cam. Also, he doesn't own a dash cam.