Practical Products And Gadgets For Your Car That You’ll Actually Use

Modern cars are ready to roll from the factory — they have seemingly everything you need. However, the first time your children enter the vehicle with dirty sneakers, you’ll learn the hard truth. To fully maximize the potential of your car and make it more personalized, you will need to buy some additional accessories.

Here’s a list of really practical things for your car that people swear by. Whether you’re buying for yourself or choosing a gift for someone else, these items all get a thumbs-up from drivers.

Heavy-Duty Work Gloves

gloves
DWilliams/Pixabay
DWilliams/Pixabay

Every car comes with a tire-changing kit from the factory, or tire repair kit if there is no spare tire. Regardless, we strongly recommend keeping working gloves in your vehicle. They are cheap, last for a really long time, and can be found at every gas station.

Work gloves are designed to keep you clean and safe when replacing a tire. Many sharp objects might hurt you, and there is also a lot of dirt on your wheels. You certainly don’t want to transfer that dirt to your leather-covered steering wheel, do you? Anyone who has ever changed a tire with bare hands learned this the hard way — don’t let that happen to you as well.

A Fully-Charged Flashlight

Detail of a photographer holding a Candlepower Spotlight
Chris Rutter/Digital Camera Magazine/Future via Getty Images
Chris Rutter/Digital Camera Magazine/Future via Getty Images

Sometimes car troubles happen when it’s dark outside. Tasks such as changing a tire during the night can be very inconvenient. Luckily, you can help yourself immensely by keeping a fully-charged flashlight in your vehicle.

Sure, many people might use the LED flash on their smartphones nowadays. However, touching your phone with greasy and dirty hands is not something you want to do. On top of that, you can also easily damage your phone. A powerful flashlight will give you more light to work with, and it will stay intact even if it falls on the ground.

A Tire Changing Mat

tire changing mat
Maxime Agnelli/Unsplash
Maxime Agnelli/Unsplash

On the matter of keeping you clean, a tire changing mat is one of the smartest purchases you can make. Most tire mats are made of heavy-duty materials that can withstand the rough tarmac underneath but also have a soft upper side. Changing your tires on a carpet is a much more comfortable experience. It will save your clothes from needing dry cleaning as well!

The best thing about these mats is that you can use them for other purposes, such as when working underneath your vehicle. The mat can even serve as a protective shield whenever you put something dirty in your trunk.

A Raincoat

woman in raincoat
gaberce/Unsplash
gaberce/Unsplash

If changing a tire during the night makes you uncomfortable, wait until it happens during heavy rain. Of course, we don’t wish this on anyone, but it can happen to the best of us. Luckily, a plastic raincoat will go a long way to keep you dry during the process.

Plastic raincoats are very cheap, last for a really long time, and can be easily packed, so they don’t take a lot of space in your trunk or under the seats.

Reflective Warning Triangle

A Reflective Warning Triangle
Monika Skolimowska/picture alliance via Getty Images
Monika Skolimowska/picture alliance via Getty Images

A reflective triangle is easily one of the most important things that will keep you safe when your car stalls. With a reflective triangle, you will be sure that other drivers will see you. That’s especially important on highways, where cars often travel at very high speeds.

Sure, you can also use the warning lights on your vehicle to make your car visible to others. But what happens if you’re stranded near a curve or corner? A reflective triangle is a better solution, no doubt about it. Always put the triangle at least a hundred feet behind the car to warn other drivers that they need to slow down.

Emergency Road Flares

Emergency Road Flares
Joe Raedle/Getty Images
Joe Raedle/Getty Images

The reflective triangle can make you visible in most conditions, but not every time. If there is a lot of fog or a heavy snowstorm, the best option is to use emergency flares. These shine much brighter than everything else and are clearly visible from a distance.

Apart from being useful when you change a car tire, emergency flares are a great option if you get stranded somewhere. Other people or authorities can find you much more quickly if you light up a flare. Given the fact that road flares are very small, we recommend purchasing a kit of six, nine, or even twelve.

Umbrella

umbrella
Sergei FadeichevTASS via Getty Images
Sergei FadeichevTASS via Getty Images

Umbrellas are so useful on rainy or snowy days that some car manufacturers already put them inside their vehicles.

Fortunately, you can supply your own umbrella and stash it somewhere inside your car. The glovebox should be big enough to accommodate it. If not, you can put it inside the door pockets or even under the seats. Then, every time it pours rain outside, you’ll have an umbrella to help keep you dry.

Car Trunk Organizers

Car Trunk Organizers
Paulo O/Flickr
Paulo O/Flickr

You just bought a vehicle with a trunk that’s large enough to accommodate all your traveling necessities. That’s great, but trunks aren’t really designed to carry tiny things. They are just a big open space without many small compartments. You might have learned this the hard way the last time you went grocery shopping.

Luckily, car trunk organizers are a cheap way to get rid of the clutter in your trunk. They have many compartments for smaller and larger items. Some of them are even waterproof, so you can carry frozen food without worrying about slippage. The best trunk organizers also have Velcro material on the bottom that will keep them locked into place.

Car Seat Organizers

organizer
tokoqyzo/Pinterest
tokoqyzo/Pinterest

Modern cars have functional interiors with a lot of space for small items and drinks. However, over time, even the most practical vehicles can’t neatly store all the things we throw at them, especially if you have kids. Fortunately, a cheap car seat organizer can solve all your storage problems with ease.

Most seat organizers are hung on the backs of the front seats. They eat into knee space slightly, but that won’t matter much with kids. More importantly, you can put toys, drinks, and napkins in the multiple pockets of these seat organizers. Some models even have transparent compartments for smartphones and tablets, great for keeping your children occupied during long road trips.

Headrest Hangers

hanger
whitetee6349/Pinterest
whitetee6349/Pinterest

We know, some vehicles are already equipped with hangers and hooks. However, they are sometimes positioned in unwanted places. For example, if you put your coat on the roof-handle hangers, you block the view from that window. On top of that, you wouldn’t want to hang any shopping purchases for everyone to see.

Fortunately, the internet is flooded with headrest hangers. They are cheap and straightforward to use. You just need to attach them to the headrests on the front seats and boom — you have four additional spots to hang your stuff.

An Expandable Clothing Hanger Bar

clothing bar
jensev/Pinterest
jensev/Pinterest

Headrest hangers can be used for many things, but they are still not the most practical solution for clothes. If you are serious about keeping your wardrobe neat, we recommend an expandable clothes hanger bar. This is definitely the best choice for fabric-savvy people.

With the hanger bar, you can transport multiple suits and dresses in your car — great for your next business trip. The hanger bar is positioned between the roof handles, providing ample space for clothing. Furthermore, these bars are telescopic, which means that you can easily store them in the trunk when not in use.

Seat Gap Organizers

organizer
jpt0329/pinterest
jpt0329/pinterest

For all the ingenuity car engineers show when they design interiors, we still need to put our smartphones in the cupholders. That’s not only impractical, but your phone will continuously rattle inside. The answer to these problems is very straightforward, and it’s a seat gap organizer.

Some gap fillers are primarily designed for coins, but newer versions have ample space for your smartphone and everything else. You can easily put these pockets between the front seats – space for you and for your passenger.

Foldable Seat Trays

tray
StoreJi/YouTube
StoreJi/YouTube

Some minivans are equipped with foldable tables from the factory, which is a lovely touch. We don’t know why car manufacturers don’t put them on more models, but we know that you can easily rectify the issue. Foldable tables that attach to the front headrests are available online, and they’re very cheap nowadays.

Obviously, you can use these tables for drinks and food, something that we are sure parents will appreciate. Some tables also have space for your smartphone or tablet so you can watch your favorite shows. Others have ample space to put your laptop so you can finish your work while on the go.

Visor Organizers

visor
kluvsu3/Pinterest
kluvsu3/Pinterest

In the past, people used visor organizers to keep their favorite CDs. We don’t use that media much anymore, but we can still use visor organizers for other stuff. They are cheap, very easy to install, and they don’t take much space in your car.

Depending on the model, visor organizers can be used for various things. Most visor organizers have storage areas for credit cards, pens, and maps, and some have storage for pens and sunglasses. Interestingly, models with CD storage are still available for those who want to listen to higher-quality tunes without compression.

Microfiber Towels

towel
ninofficialphotography/Pixabay
ninofficialphotography/Pixabay

There is no shortage of reasons to have a microfiber towel in your car. These cloths clean just about everything, even without detergents. They are also very easy to wash afterward and don’t take a lot of space in your car. Moreover, you can buy them in bulk — microfiber towels are very cheap nowadays.

You can clean absolutely every part of your interior with a microfiber towel. For example, when the windows are fogged up, you can use a microfiber cloth to get rid of it quickly, without leaving marks. They can also absorb any liquid that spills on your dashboard and leave it completely clean.

Tissue Holder

tissues
nikkijunebecker/Pinterest
nikkijunebecker/Pinterest

Ever since cupholders were introduced to the automotive world, drivers don’t go anywhere without their drinks. Staying hydrated is essential, but cars are rarely stationary, and there is a danger of slippage. You can take care of leaked stuff with a simple tissue holder in your vehicle.

Obviously, tissues can be used for other things as well. People with kids use a lot of tissues every road trip to clean up messes, and you can use them when you have a cold. One can never run out of reasons to have tissues nearby. We recommend going for the sun visor tissue holders, as they don’t take much space in your car.

Waterproof Seat Covers

seat covers
chewy/Pinterest
chewy/Pinterest

The seats in our cars are mostly covered in fabrics, while more luxurious cars are covered in leather. Whatever the material on your seats, we recommend waterproof covers. These covers are very rugged and will protect your seats from dirt, sweat, spilled drinks, etc.

Put them on the second row to protect the seats after you pick up the kids from sports activities, or even use them for pets. These waterproof covers will go a long way to protect the precious seats in your car.

Garbage Cans

trash
Buyesy/Pinterest
Buyesy/Pinterest

It’s OK if some of your children’s toys are scattered around in the car. However, trash should really be out of the way. Interiors with trash spread throughout are unsightly and can attract pests.

Fortunately, you can find a plethora of different garbage can options for your car. They are designed to fit in various places and can be packed up when not in use. We recommend purchasing waterproof garbage cans — they will protect your interior better. Moreover, some models will keep any smells inside, which is certainly welcome.

Vacuum Cleaner

vacuum
monkeymamma/YouTube
monkeymamma/YouTube

Obviously, we aren’t talking about the large household vacuum cleaners here. Many different car vacuum cleaners are available, all of which share one significant advantage — they are very compact. Sure, they will still take some precious cargo space, but we think it is worth the trade-off for people that care about hygiene.

Today, many battery-powered models are available that last for a long time before you need to recharge them. Be sure that the vacuum cleaner you purchase has enough suction power to get rid of the grit and debris on your carpeting. The ability to suck up liquids is a nice extra.

A Shovel

shovel
Creative Touch Imaging Ltd./NurPhoto via Getty Images
Creative Touch Imaging Ltd./NurPhoto via Getty Images

Installing winter tires on your car when the weather requires it will make it much safer and more comfortable to drive. However, even the mightiest winter tires aren’t able to get you out of deep snow. That’s why we recommend keeping a shovel during the winter months.

And we are not talking about your large garden shovel. Many vehicle-specific shovels are available, all of which can be packed for easier storage. These shovels don’t take a lot of space in your trunk, yet can help you not get stranded even during a snowstorm.

Sand Or Rock Salt

ice melt
sloatsburgnursery/Facebook
sloatsburgnursery/Facebook

A shovel always works for large amounts of snow, but what happens when your car encounters ice and can’t move? Then a bag of sand or rock salt will do the trick. Sand and rock salt significantly improve traction on ice or snow. Keep a small bag in the trunk — it makes a really big difference!

Between the two of them, rock salt is better if you want to melt the ice or snow underneath. You also need smaller amounts of salt compared to sand. However, sand is more versatile, and it doesn’t harm your car. Bonus: you can even use cat litter to improve traction!

Blankets

blankets
sammanns94/Unsplash
sammanns94/Unsplash

What happens when you are stranded in the middle of a snowstorm and don’t have fuel to spare? Or your car just won’t start, and you need to wait for the towing service?

Car interiors cool down in a matter of seconds, and the best way to combat that is a warm blanket. When folded, blankets really don’t take a lot of space inside the trunk, yet they will keep you warm even when it’s freezing outside.

Windshield Washer Fluid

Windshield Washer Fluid
Wikimedia Commons
Wikimedia Commons

The washer fluid reservoirs in our vehicles aren’t huge. Sure, they have enough to keep your windshield clean for a month, but only when it doesn’t rain. In fall or winter, we tend to use our wipers much more often, and as a result, the fluid will be gone in no time.

Moreover, in the winter, you need to use a washer fluid every month or so. Otherwise, the windshield will be covered entirely with dirt. If you don’t want that happening to you, it is wise to keep a bottle of windshield washer fluid in the trunk. Be sure that the liquid is winter-rated, or it will freeze in the winter.

Windshield Covers

A car is covered with snow and ice
SRobert Alexander/Getty Images
SRobert Alexander/Getty Images

Everybody hates the snow cleaning process in the morning — just look at this scene. It takes time, it’s freezing out, and the results aren’t always satisfactory. If you live in areas with heavy snowfall during the winter, we recommend windshield covers. They are pretty straightforward to use, as it will take you less than a minute to install them on your windshield.

The next morning, you just remove the windshield cover and shake off the snow. The glass will be completely free of snow and ice so you can start driving right away. Windshield covers can keep the interior cooler during the summer, too.

Ice Scraper And Brush

Ice Scraper And Brush
Stefan Puchner/picture alliance via Getty Images
Stefan Puchner/picture alliance via Getty Images

There is no getting around it — you need a high-quality ice scraper and brush in your car every winter. It will help you get rid of snow on the windows easily and quickly. Ice scrapers are also inexpensive and compact, so they take little to no space in the trunk.

With that said, the internet is literally flooded with various designs. For best results, we recommend using heavy-duty ice scrapers and brushes. Many manufacturers today offer a combination of the two. One side is a scraper and the other a brush.

Air Purifier

Air Purifier
Aaron Yoo/Flickr
Aaron Yoo/Flickr

Some people already have air purifiers in their households, but putting one in your car might be even more important. When driving, the vehicles in front of you produce exhaust gas, which easily enters your cabin.

You can combat this with an air purifier that runs on your vehicle’s electricity. We recommend purchasing products with separate filters for minuscule particles, allergens, dust, smoke, formaldehyde, and bacteria. Ionizers also clean the air of contaminants, but they produce ozone, which is not good for you.

USB Cables

A mobile phone is plugged in to a car with a USB cable
David Caudery/Official Windows magazine via Getty Images
David Caudery/Official Windows magazine via Getty Images

Almost everyone today is glued to their smartphones or tablets. And those smartphones need to charge in order to keep working. Many modern vehicles have multiple USB ports for charging smart devices, but car manufacturers don’t provide you with cables.

If you use your smartphone or tablet much, we recommend keeping a USB cable inside the glovebox. That way, you will always be able to charge your device while on the go. You can also be that cool person who has a cable for every type of smartphone in the car and provide other passengers with electricity.

Car Chargers (12V Socket)

Car Chargers (12V Socket)
Aaron Yoo/Flickr
Aaron Yoo/Flickr

You can also use the 12 V auxiliary power outlet in your vehicle to charge various devices. In the past, this space was occupied by the cigarette lighter, but you can remove it and use only the socket. Many car chargers are available today, which makes choosing the right one a daunting task.

We strongly recommend reading through the specifications to see if they support fast charging for your particular smartphone. Otherwise, your devices will charge really slowly. A 10 W charger should be enough for regular charging but look for over 15 W for speedy charging. You can also purchase a model with more than one USB port to provide charging to your passengers.

Power Inverter

auto inverter
donrowecom/Pinterest
donrowecom/Pinterest

Car chargers have enough power for smartphones and tablets, but what about laptops? For that you will need a power inverter. These electronic devices change the current from DC to AC, while also making the output voltage similar to the one for household use.

Depending on the power inverter, you will be able to power almost every household device via a 110 V socket. However, you need to make sure that the inverter has enough power for all your tools. Standard power inverters are mostly used for less hungry devices, such as laptops, LED lighting, TVs, etc. More robust inverters (over 2000 W) are great for use when camping.

An Orthopedic Cushion

car-seat
officechairs22444/Pinterest
officechairs22444/Pinterest

Many vehicles already have lumbar support on the seats, which helps immensely on long road trips. However, an orthopedic cushion is still a more comfortable solution. The best ones are very soft and squishy. Furthermore, you can give the orthopedic pillow to other passengers and increase their comfort as well.

From the plethora of options on the market, we think that orthopedic cushions with memory foam are the best. They conform to your body easily, and you won’t even feel the pillow at all. These cushions will support your back and help ease any pain in the long run.

Dash Cameras

Man driving Dacia Sandro in the city with dash camera
Michal Fludra/NurPhoto via Getty Images
Michal Fludra/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Road accidents happen every single day, and sometimes you could be found guilty even though you did everything right. A simple dash camera will help you record every crazy driver or pedestrian on the road. You can use the recorded video later to show it to the authorities and prove that you’re innocent.

Modern dash cams record videos in very high resolutions, but a Full HD (1920×1080) is completely fine. Other features are available, as well. Night vision is, of course, high on the list, but you should also look for built-in sensors that detect crashes and stop recording. If the camera continues recording, you risk losing previous videos.

Reverse Camera

Reverse Camera
National Motor Museum/Heritage Images/Getty Images
National Motor Museum/Heritage Images/Getty Images

Dash cameras are great for recording, but they won’t help you much while driving. Reverse cameras will record the back of the vehicle and stream the video onto a screen inside. With a reverse camera, your parking skills will improve immensely — you’ll be able to see everything behind you.

Most reverse cameras come in a kit with a display that you can attach inside. We recommend going for models with a rear-view mirror display. When the camera is not in use, the rear-view mirror works only as a mirror, but when you hit reverse, it will show the view from the camera. Pretty neat!

Blindspot Mirrors

Blindspot Mirrors
Josh Ferris/Flickr
Josh Ferris/Flickr

Now that we found a better solution for reversing with your car, why not improve the blind spots as well? Blindspot mirrors are small and inexpensive items that will show you what happens in the blind spot of the external mirrors. They are also straightforward to install and will last a long time.

Blindspot mirrors can make a big difference. According to statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, over 840,000 accidents every year are blindspot-related. That’s why we strongly recommend blindspot mirrors if you don’t want to be the next person who tries to change lanes only to bump into another vehicle

Safety Hammer

Safety Hammer
Sebastian Terfloth/Wikimedia Commons
Sebastian Terfloth/Wikimedia Commons

A dash camera will record accidents, but it will certainly not help you if you are stuck in the car. When that happens, a simple safety hammer will help you get out of your vehicle by breaking the windows. This tool might be a life-saver in case of fire or sinking.

Many public transportation vehicles are already equipped with emergency hammers. They are small, don’t take up much space, and will easily break any window. Consequently, the safety hammer will also help you when something terrible happens. Oh, and did we mention that emergency hammers are very cheap and will last the lifetime of the vehicle?

Magnetic Smartphone Mount

Magnetic Smartphone Mount
Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images
Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images

In the past few years, almost every vehicle came with a large screen infotainment system. However, as much as car companies try to make these systems intuitive, our smartphones are still usually a better solution. With a simple magnetic mount, you can use your smartphone while traveling.

And there are numerous reasons to do that. The navigation systems in Android and iOS are superior to those in our cars. You can also stream music from your favorite service directly, and call people quickly. Magnetic smartphone mounts are very easy to use — one part is attached to the dashboard, the other to your smartphone.

Heads Up Display

HUD
Pinterest/the4cast
Pinterest/the4cast

A heads up display, or HUD, projects an image on the windscreen of your car — the same as displays fighter pilots use. Depending on the model, the HUD can show you the current speed, but also things like directions for the satellite navigation and the current song playing.

Heads up displays can improve safety significantly. The infotainment systems in modern vehicles show much information and often distract the driver from the road. HUDs will show the same data, but directly on the windshield. That way, the driver will be able to monitor everything from the infotainment system while safely watching the road.

Bluetooth Kit

Buddy bluetooth
YouTube/ITF
YouTube/ITF

We know, modern vehicles are already equipped with Bluetooth connections. However, not everybody has Bluetooth in their cars, and the easiest way to fix that is with a Bluetooth kit. These kits are available in various configurations. Most connect to the AUX port in your car, but if you don’t have that, some models connect via an audio cassette or even the FM radio.

Now, you’ll be able to listen to your favorite tunes from your smartphone’s music player on the car’s stereo. You can also make hands-free phone calls with Bluetooth kits, which improves safety while driving.

Bluetooth Key Tag

Bluetooth Key Tag
Ian West/PA Images via Getty Images
Ian West/PA Images via Getty Images

Many drivers swear by their Bluetooth key tags. They attach as a pendant to your key and connect to your smartphone via Bluetooth. Then, every time you want to find the keys, you only need to use an app from your smartphone, and the tag will start to sound an alarm.

Bluetooth key finders are an excellent solution for people who have to look for their keys every morning. Oh, and some models even have trackers that will help you pinpoint the exact location of the keys!

OBD-II Scanning Tool

OBD-II
Flickr/OBD-II
Flickr/OBD-II

Modern vehicles are equipped with a computer unit inside that monitors almost every part of the engine. When something out of the ordinary happens, the computer will notify the driver via the “check engine” light. That’s all fine, but you need to get your car to a certified mechanic to tell you what the real issue is.

Mechanics use laptops that connect via the OBD-II port on your car. Fortunately, you can use the same port to connect your device. Many different options are available on the market. Some have their own displays, while others connect to your smartphone via Bluetooth. Whatever your choice is, with an OBD-II scan tool, you will be notified of the exact problem every time the check engine light illuminates.

Portable Espresso Maker

espresso
Pinterest/buymorecoffee
Pinterest/buymorecoffee

Coffee is a drink that is so intertwined into our daily lives that it seems like we can’t do anything without it. A cup of coffee will wake you and keep you more focused, which is especially important when driving. And if you want the biggest hit, espresso is the way to go.

For the completely gadget-obsessed, now there is a way to make your own espresso in your car. Portable espresso makers require a 12-volt power outlet. Operate this with caution!