Car Gifts You Can Buy at the Auto-parts Store
Here are a variety of car-related gift ideas that can save your spouse if they’re ever in a pinch.
Chances aren’t likely that you’ll get your dream car for Christmas. But considering how much time people spend driving and you'll realize how much something new for their car will be appreciated. With that in mind, here are some fun and useful accessories that are as close as your local auto-parts store.
Electronic accessories: With a remote-car-starter system, you can start the car and let the interior warm up, all without leaving the house. "Remote car starters are big sellers this time of year," said Chuck Rigby, vice president of merchandising for Pep Boys, "but they're good all year long. In the summertime, it’s nice to let the air conditioning kick on for a few minutes before driving away."
An entry-level remote-starter unit runs for about $79 and can be considered a do-it-yourself installation, though it takes some skill, Rigby said. Other units run for about $199 to $299 and include installation. This is a difficult gift to surprise someone with—unless you have access to his or her car for a few hours. Instead, Rigby said, people can give a gift card for the amount or they might buy the unit and schedule installation for after Christmas, leaving the starter’s key fob wrapped and under the tree.
GPS navigation units are also popular gifts, Rigby said, and the prices are coming down. A basic model can be found for as cheap as $49. In addition, backup cameras that have a monitor for the dash can help visibility, making driving safer. They run about $80.
If the person you love has a lead foot, check out the iRadar software app from Cobra. It displays red-light cameras and speed traps on a real-time map on the iPhone. The iRadar costs $123.
Safety gear: A lot of people give safety items during the holidays, Rigby said. Auto parts stores sell highway emergency kits with things such as flares, jumper cables and tools.
Black & Decker makes a portable jump-starter for the battery, plus it can do more. It has two standard outlets, an air compressor, an emergency light and a DC power adapter (for things that would ordinarily get plugged into the cigarette lighter).
"We call it a portable power station," said Matt Inskeep, president of Baccus Global, which manufactures automotive and lighting products.
The jump-starter is simple to use, Inskeep said. "If somebody hooks it up wrong [by clamping the cable on the wrong battery post], an alarm goes off. Your mom could do it; I could do it," he said. "And you always have that sense of comfort."
The Black & Decker Electromate sells for about $100.
Car-personalization accessories: Bumper stickers, license-plate frames, floor mats and vinyl decals let car owners personalize their rides to match their personalities. Bell Automotive makes a line of Rock-n-Ride seat covers with logos from music artists such as AC/DC and Lil Wayne. Dr. Scholl's, Conair and others make seat covers that have heat and massage functions and plug in to a car's lighter outlet.
Rebecca Jones is a copy editor for shopautoweek.com, an authoritative online resource for anyone researching a new, used or certified pre-owned vehicle.