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Hear Me Out: You Need a USB Charger and Phone Mount Just For Rental Cars

Illustration for article titled Hear Me Out: You Need a USB Charger and Phone Mount Just For Rental Carsem/em
Photo: John Matychuk (Unsplash)

You always usually remember your charging cables, wall chargers, and battery packs whenever you pack for a trip. But there are two tiny tech essentials that, if you’re like me, you almost never remember to bring: A USB car charger, and a smartphone car mount for use in a rental car. So here’s my modest proposal: Buy an extra one of both, and just keep them in your suitcase at all times.

Obviously, they’ll only come in handy on trips where you’re renting a car, but that’s all the more reason to do this! If you only rent a car sporadically, you’ll never get into the habit of packing the necessary accessories. By having a dedicated set that lives in your suitcase, you’re taking your own, flawed brain out of the equation. Have multiple suitcases that you regularly use? Buy a dash mount and charger for each, because they are cheap.

But do you really need these items in a rental car? Well, you’re not an idiot, so you don’t pay extra for the rental car GPS. Of this much, I’m certain. No, you use your phone GPS like a functioning human being. But that doesn’t work out so well when you have to set your phone in your cupholder, its bright screen and GPS antenna waging a relentless assault on your battery even as it’s completely out of your eyeline.

“But wait,” you scream, holding an index finger high, literally shaking in excitement to dunk on me with your logic. “Rental cars have USB ports! I don’t need a phone charger!” This is (usually) true, and that USB port is indeed better than nothing, but only barely. Most in-car USB ports only provide a piddling trickle of power to your phone (if they aren’t just straight up broken), which in my experience can rarely keep up with the battery drain of running GPS on a phone with a large, high definition screen set to a sufficient brightness to read in the car. Literally any decent, dedicated USB charger will not only provide enough power for your battery-hungry GPS activities, but will actually cause your phone’s battery percentage go up as you drive.


You then open your mouth to refute the need for a dash mount, but quickly realize that there is no good argument against it, and think better of it. Obviously, you don’t want to have to look down towards the center console of an unfamiliar car in an unfamiliar city to get directions. No, you want them easily readable at eye level. Duh!

In theory, one could train themselves to take the charger and the dash mount from their own car prior to a trip, and put it in their suitcase for use in a rental car. A particularly organized person might even remember to do this every time; I don’t doubt that it’s possible. But even then, most of us do that thing where our suitcase sits in the middle of the living room for several days after a trip until we find the strength within ourselves to empty it. This is a normal and fine thing to do after returning home; don’t let anyone shame you for it. But it means that your own car won’t have a charger and dash mount until you finally get around to putting everything back in its place.

I’ve said it before, but I will reiterate; this is not an expensive or luggage space-hogging proposition. I’m not asking for the moon here. This car charger costs about $10, and is small enough that you’ll barely notice it in your luggage (though not so small that it’ll be difficult to remove from the rental car). You can get two tiny magnetic vent mounts for the same price. Just keep one of the included magnetic plates tucked between your phone and your phone’s case (low enough so as to not interfere with wireless charging, if your phone has it), and you’ll be ready to drive within seconds. They even double as little phone stands that you can use on an airplane tray table!

Don’t want to deal with magnets? The Kenu Airframe+ is a bit more expensive, but is one of the smallest non-magnetic mounts you can buy, so it should fit comfortably in even the smallest carry-on.


For extra credit, keep an extra charging cable in your suitcase too. I know you always remember your charging cable, but it’s a pain to transfer one back and forth between a rental car and a hotel room, so it doesn’t hurt to have one that’s specifically for your rental car kit.


That’s it! That’s my whole rant! This tip is inexpensive, it makes packing less stressful, and it means driving a strange car in a strange place will be just a little bit easier.

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