Through years of Kinja Co-Ops and Kinja Deals posts, we’ve uncovered a litany of affordable accessories that can drastically improve your driving experience.
Whether it’s adding modern conveniences like Bluetooth to older cars, making road trips more comfortable for your dog, or just keeping your phone charged, here are our favorite of sub-$100 accessories to make your next trip a little more enjoyable.
Smartphones Are the New Dashboard
First thing’s first: Let’s get your phone at eye level so you don’t kill someone while skipping songs on Spotify. By far the most popular phone mount for the last few years has been the vent-mounted magnet. These are made by a variety of manufacturers, and can always be found for under $10. If you have a case on your phone (to hide the magnetic plate), this is the way to go.
A lot of people are wary about blocking an air vent, but you can also find versions of the same product that slide into your long-dormant CD slot, usually for just a few bucks more.
For anyone who prefers their phones naked, our readers have also expressed strong support for iOttie’s One Touch line. These use suction cups and auto-closing clasps to keep your phone in place, and you can even buy one with Qi charging for compatible Android phones.
Your car may have a USB port built in, but you shouldn’t use it. In almost every case, those ports put out a paltry amount of power that will only charge your phone slowly if the screen is turned off, and might not even keep up with your battery drain while you’re streaming audio and using GPS.
Luckily, Aukey makes an incredibly popular dual port charger that puts out 2.4A per port, and yet is so small that it’ll look like it’s built into your car. If you own an iPhone, 2.4A is as much charge as your phone can accept, so you’ll be getting the most juice possible out of your commute.
Owners of newer Android devices who don’t mind adding a little bulk might opt for Anker’s Quick Charge 3.0-compatible PowerDrive+ 2, which supports the latest charging standards for high-end phones.
USB-C chargers are still in their infancy, but several of you have purchased Aukey’s, which includes a standard USB-A port for your legacy devices.
The Zus car charger is probably the most unique product in this category, as it uses Bluetooth to monitor your car’s battery and remind you where you parked, but its USB ports are horribly designed, so you should only buy it if you have plenty of space on either side of your car’s DC power port.
Does your car have Bluetooth? Congrats! You can skip this section. Otherwise, you’ve still got a few options for getting audio off your phone, and onto your car speakers.
Assuming your phone still has a headphone jack, your best bet is probably using your car’s AUX port, or failing that, its cassette deck (yep, really). If you want the convenience of Bluetooth streaming and handsfree calling, you can also augment these solutions with a Bluetooth adapter like this one, which pairs with your phone wirelessly, then transmits the audio to your car via an old school headphone cable, or over FM if you really don’t want to deal with cables (though your audio quality will suffer).
For sipping your morning coffee on the way to work, our readers have made it clear that Contigo’s Autoseal is the travel mug you should buy. This thing comes in multiple sizes and a rainbow of colors, will keep your beverage hot for hours, and most importantly, is easy to clean.
For sipping soda or water on the go, you may want to grab a vacuum insulated tumbler like this top seller from RTIC. Just dump your drink in from whatever styrofoam cup it came in, and enjoy hours and hours of frozen ice.
Dash cams are one of those things you hope you never need, but that you’re really glad to have when things go wrong.
Our readers voted the Black Box G1W-C as their favorite, as it offers all the basic features you might want for around $50. If you want to do a little more research before you purchase though, here’s a video to help guide your shopping.
It’s never fun to be stranded with a dead car battery, but you don’t need to rely on the goodness of others for a jump; many of the companies that make your favorite USB battery packs also make versions with jumper cables that can give your battery a boost, no assistance required.
We’ve never polled our readers about these, since relatively few people own them, but I’m partial to Aukey’s model that looks and functions like a flashlight. Anker is also known for making great battery packs, and their jump starter has proven popular whenever we’ve posted deals.
Whatever model you buy, just be sure it supports a high enough peak amperage to work with your engine. As a general rule, 400A is sufficient for vehicles with 3L engines or smaller, but you’ll want a 600A battery for anything larger.
And of course, it’s never a bad idea to keep a flashlight stocked in your glovebox to flag down drives, or just to see what you’re doing when you have to change a tire at night.
If you ever have to change your tire, chances are your spare won’t be properly inflated. That’s easy to fix though with a tiny air compressor that fits in your glove box.
Speaking Your Car’s Language
Your car outputs a stream of valuable information through its OBD2 port that most people never never bother to listen to. At a bare minimum, a cheap code reader can help you determine if that Check Engine light is something that requires your immediate attention, or can be put off until your next oil change.
That port puts out a ton of real-time information about how you’re driving as well, and this popular Wi-Fi dongle allows your phone to gather all that data, and interpret it via an ecosystem of third party apps.
This concept was popularized by Automatic, which sells its own dongle, and offers a free app that trains you to get better mileage, turns on your smart lights at home via customizable IFTTT recipes, and even contacts the authorities automatically if it detects that you’ve been in an accident. There’s a new version with a built-in cellular connection as well, so you won’t have to rely on your phone.
Gear For Your Very Good Dog
Some dogs will chill in the backseat, don’t shed, and won’t drool or track mud onto your seats. For all of the other dogs, Amazon makes a “hammock” that loops around your headrests, and creates a comfortable cocoon for your furry friend. We’ve posted several of these things on Kinja Deals, but the newer AmazonBasics model is the cheapest we’ve seen.
These products have all proven broadly popular with our readers, but if you have your own affordable accessories you want to recommend, feel free to drive into the comments below.
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