Everybody and their mommas can chatter on about road trips, but you and I know the truth. You spend the most tedious times of day in your vehicle, whether it's during your commute or putting in the miles running errands. In 2018, Austin, Texas drivers spent an average of 104 hours stuck in traffic. You don't have to live in the big city to endure that commute. Growing up, my dad drove over an hour to work each way, each day. He's a roadtrip man by nature, but I bet his commute could've been made a little sweeter with a creature comfort or two.
So that's what we have here: the best car accessories. No roadtrip talk, we're talking about the everyday. Things you'll get your worth out of in the few months of use. I chose to cap this list at items under $100 because I believe in buying once and crying once. Some of these car gadgets are practical, some comfortable, and others are just plain cool.
According the most recent NHTSA, over 143 million Americans are commuting. Do you really trust other people that much? Of course you don't! People can't even use a turn signal or keep two hands on the steering wheel. Eventually, dash cams will become the norm and the dash cam market is already exploding with new cameras with easy one-touch radar detectors and videos in the bluetooth rear view mirror.
I'm here to say that you don't need anything fancy, but you need something clear. What good is a dash cam if it didn't capture the plates of the guy who scraped your side anyways. Right now, it's 40 percent off. It comes with a car mount that works on the dashboard or windshield. It works with iOS or Android smartphones and has an automatic record feature. The Arrela WiFi Driving Recorder Car Camera has all of the bells and whistles you need for less than $65.
Why I think it's worth it: Don't ask me, ask the party in the 485 customer reviews that rated this dash cam a solid 5 stars. I know, I've never seen 485 people agree on something either. See what dash cams can do?!
The commute wears on your tires the hardest and sometimes, tire pressure just slips your mind until that front right looks surprisingly too low. Here's what the PAPAGO TMPS100US GoSafe Wireless Tire Pressure Monitoring System does.
Simply attach the four tire sensors (no professional help needed) and plug the monitor into the 12V cigarette lighter. It includes an external USB port that gives you a car charger port back if you have a USB charger. The display monitors your real time tire pressure so you'll never be caught by surprise again. Frequently on coolest car gadgets list, it's surprising affordable. (Psst, as of publication, it's 43 percent off.)
Why I think it's worth it: Aside from being a handy device, a NHTSA report found that in 2011, about 738 traffic fatalities happened due to tire-related crashes. All those blown out tire bits on Texas highways made me a believer.
John Steinbeck first wrote about the best laid plans of mice and men, but what he really meant was having a dead battery in the middle of nowhere. Think it won't happen to you? Famous last words. Not so famous, though, if you have the Beatit Portable Car Jump Starter with Smart Jumper Cables. The Auto Battery Booster Power Pack connects to the battery, leaving you hands free to start the car. Simply remove the clip and voila!
Why I think it's worth it: Pack it in the emergency storage bin in the trunk for peace of mind no matter how far you drive, for under $75.
This is the thing you never thought you needed until you can't live without it. The NURSAL Shiatsu Heated Massage Seat Cushion has 166 customer reviews on Amazon and ranks 4.5 stars. It comes with a car adapter, so it goes where your car charger goes, and includes a heated function. If you're sitting in traffic, especially in the winter and especially after a long day of more sitting, your body will thank you for this. The best part? It doesn't even break $100.
Why I think it's worth it: If your car (like mine) doesn't have fancy heated seats, this is an easy (and cheaper) way to upgrade your car seat. Talk about best car gadgets. Just don't let the back seat notice, everyone back there will want one too.
Let's follow up that super sexy thing with two very practical things. Meet your new best friend, the Foxnovo Car Vacuum Cleaner. It plugs into your 12V and is no bigger than 10 inches long and 5 inches wide. Keep it in your trunk next to the Armor All, but I'll bet that it slowly starts to live under your passenger seat for last-minute emergencies. Why could you need it, you ask?
Do other people get into your car? Like, anyone. Do they track dirt in and leave crumbs behind? Do you eat during your commute? How many crumbs are in the cupholder right now? For less than $30, you could say it's an easy choice.
Why I think it's worth it: You know that feeling you get every two years when you vacuum your vehicle? You could feel like that all of the time for pennies on the dollar eventually.
Having learned to drive on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, the Chesapeake Bay Bridge meant one thing to a new driver: a 2-in-1 seatbelt cutter and window breaker tool. It was lesson one: lose the seatbelt once you hit the water and break the car window before the car starts to quickly sink. Sure, I had one of those hammers that I kept in the trunk and I realize that as I write that, it's absolutely ridiculous. High school me had a lot to learn.
Adult me knows that this two-pack of the resqme tool is the best buy around. With over 3,000 customer reviews and a 4.5-customer rating, the tool even comes in different colors. Even if you hate car keys on bulky keychains, attach using a carabiner within arm's reach should the unexpected happen.
Why I love it: I'll let this review say it all and leave it at that.
I'm a firefighter and I have used this tool many times on the job over the years and it works very nicely. There are a few points that should be explained to anyone buying this....
1) If possible, wear a glove! you have to push this against the window with some force to activate it and it is easy for your hand to continue forward once it shatters. sometimes just a hole surrounded by cracked glass....it's sharp...it hurts. If you don't have gloves, make a conscious effort to not continue forward when the glass gives.
2) Side windows are tempered glass and windshields are laminated glass. This will work on a side window but not a windshield/rear windshield. Side windows "cube' and fall apart windshields do not because the plastic sheeting in them keeps the shards together. It is hard to kick a windshield out even after it has "spidered".
3) A good spot is usually near the corner (about 2"-3" diagonal from corner) and there's less chance of putting your hand through it at the corner....did I say that glass is sharp? And that it hurts? It is....and it does!
4) If you're getting someone out of a car and they're conscious...tell 'em to turn away when you break the window...cuz...you know...sharp...hurts...
5) Seat-belt cutters work way better if you can manage to pull the belt taught with your other hand.
6) If you have this hanging off a fire-coat...it is very likely it will fall off...break off...etc. I stick mine in the rubber flashlight band on my helmet. Not that I wanna tell you where to stick it or.......yeah....OK...
7) These don't work over and over forever. The point gets dull. But when I get a new one, In usually test fire it on a thick piece of cardboard or soft wood to make sure that it functions.
8) Just hold against window and push until it pops.
That is all....stay safe...and remember...
Glass is sharp....and it hurts!
This post was originally published on February 26, 2019.