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Santa’s Cool Car Gadgets for the Holidays

Posted by: Jackie Carey

christmas presentsLet’s take a moment, and rewind back to this day in 2005—there I was, sitting in class planning my evening.  I considered catching a movie.  I thought about making dinner (/drinking?) plans.  The one thing I didn’t consider was Christmas shopping because five years ago, I had my sh*t together.  My gifts were neatly wrapped and ready under the tree.

Not this year.  This year, I have yet to buy a single gift.  Maybe you can sympathize.  Maybe you’re starting to panic with me because your dad is impossible to shop for or your sister has everything a person could ever want (and possibly more).  If that’s the case, I can help.  A great part of my job is the opportunity to drive, ride in and learn about (read: look longingly at) the newest cars on the market.  And while we can’t all go out to the dealership and wrap up a new SUV for our boyfriend, we can get excited over a number of cool car accessories that just about anyone on our shopping list would like.

So, last minute shoppers, here are of some fun, practical and just plain cool accessories that make great gifts.

Apps: 
Right up there with sliced bread and CDs is the app.  Since I simply don’t buy bread if it’s not pre-cut for me and I refuse to ever flip to Side B again, you can understand how I love the "touch of a button" mentality.  Apps are convenient and inexpensive—therefore they make great gifts.  Consider these apps designed with drivers in mind:

GoLink copy

G-Park – This app essentially answers the question: "where did I park?"  G-Park really shines on the iPhone and was listed today at appstoreapps.com for only $0.99.

GL1/GoLink – The ultimate app for Steve Jobs fanatics and car enthusiasts alike.  The GL1 kit links your vehicle’s onboard diagnostic port to your iPhone, iPod, iTouch or iPad.  By running the program, drivers can get internal data on fuel economy and why that unpredictable check engine light pops on for seemingly no reason at all.  It’s a pricy app, but check it out at gopointtech.com

Trapster – The Trapster app alerts drivers to police speed traps, enforcement cameras and road hazards in the area.  Basically, this app is a high-tech version of a friendly flash of the headlights to warn drivers to pay attention.  As far I can tell, this app is actually free to download at trapster.com.

Bluetooth:
Sometimes it takes the law a bit of time to catch up with technology—but not when it comes to using a cell phone while driving.  I’m sure you’ve heard the rumors around Chicago; you know, those unconfirmed reports of confiscated cell phones and $200 tickets.  Let’s not take chances this Christmas.  Instead, give the gift of Bluetooth. Check out an electronics store or wireless service provider near you.  

CarCam:
FINAL CAR CAMDon’t be fooled—I don’t mean a back-up disposable camera to keep in your glove box. I mean an onboard video and photo camera, kind of like a "Black Box" for your four-door. These cameras can be mounted to a variety of vehicles ranging from jet skis to Hummers, and offer up a unique way to document any trip.  There are even those out there offering dual footage of the outside of you vehicle and of the interior cabin; this great for friends and family with reality TV aspirations.  To get an idea of the options available, check out the GoPros’s Hero, which won Car and Driver’s Gear Box Review, or visit Spytechs.com and click on "Car Cameras.

MP3 Connectors:
Most people can tell you exactly how many days worth of music they have on their computer (I have 6 days, 15 hours, 8 minutes and 36 seconds worth of tunes—commendable albeit underwhelming), but not everyone has a great new car featuring USB ports or iPod docks.  Spread the holiday cheer by helping your nearest and dearest rock out to their favorite songs by giving them an MP3 adapter for their car.  This way, they can still smile as the sit in rush hour traffic or make the trip out to the suburbs to baby-sit for your little rug-rats.  

Satellite Radio:
SIRIUSOn the music theme, consider Satellite Radio.  A nice change from the overplayed songs on your local stations, satellite radio is something that people long to try out but hate to pay for.  A really nice feature of this gift is that a subscription will last throughout the year.  Again, stop by a local retailer selling electronics to check out your options.  

Electric Ice-Scraper:
It’s true.  This gadget does exist!  In the dead of winter, there is nothing worse than running late for work only to realize you’ve got about 20 minutes worth of ice to scrap off your windshield.  Enter the best Christmas gift ever.  Available online (try Amazon), this gift is cheap and can apparently melt ice in two minutes flat.  I’m sold. 

Remote Start:
As the joke goes, "you know you’re in Chicago when you see just as many cars running outside the house in July as you do in February."  Extreme weather happens in the Windy City, which makes the remote start a great gift to anyone who owns a car—particularly those without a garage.  I’ve seen these gadgets at AutoZone and I’m sure they’re available everywhere from Sears to Best Buy to Wal-Mart.  Just the idea of warming-up my car from the warmth of the house on those cold, dark winter mornings gets me feeling all full of Christmas cheer.  

Portable DVD Player:
Lots of new larger vehicles now come with onboard entertainment, but if you’re shopping for someone stuck a 90’s auto, consider a portable DVD Player.  These are available online and in-stores everywhere, at a wide range of prices, and they are a great gifts for kids or parents who need to occupied their children on long car trips. 

Now, if Santa tells you that your loved ones have been naughty this year, I have a couple of ideas for you as well.  

License Plate Holders:
Shopping for an annoying Detroit Lions fan?  Why not switch out their license plate holder for one that says "Da Bears!" 

radarRadar Detector:
If you are tired of hearing about a certain lead-foot’s financial woes from having to pay off speeding tickets and red light violations, why not rub a little salt in the wound and shop around for a radar detector.  This lets you give a nice gift while providing ample opportunity to mock, tease and ridicule…and they’ll still feel obligated to say "Gee, thanks!"

So there you have it, a few ideas to help with your holiday shopping. Pulling together this post will certainly help me cross a few people off my list tonight, but I’d love to hear any great gifts you’ve given or received, especially if they relate to drivers or driving.  

And of course... Happy Holidays!

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