Technology has inextricably altered the way we do a lot of things, including communication, record-keeping, learning, and even driving. But the things is, as high-tech as things have become, many cars on the road are still lacking a lot of the available options — be that because the cars are older or simply because the technological options are a bit too expensive at the time of purchase. Luckily, there’s a lot of aftermarket tech you can purchase to spruce up your ride.
From onboard cameras, parking sensors, and AI assistant integration, it’s a brave new world out there for car gadgets. And whether you pilot a small commuter car, a full-size pickup truck, or an over-the-top overlanding SUV, it’s easy and relatively inexpensive to outfit your ride with some very interesting and handy devices. We’ve rounded up our favorites on the following list of the 20 best car gadgets you can buy right now.
Mpow Aux Bluetooth Car Adapter
Though it’s becoming increasingly more common, not every car (even if they’re brand new) comes with Bluetooth capabilities. Fortunately, so long as your car has an auxiliary input, this simple device can turn your car into a Bluetooth-enabled ridde. With a range of up to 33 feet, compatibility with up to two devices at a time, and a battery life of up to 10 hours per charge, the Mpow car adapter is one of the handiest and simplest ways to boost your ride’s onboard tech without breaking the bank.
Nulaxy Bluetooth FM Transmitter
The Mpow car adapter above is only going to do you any good if your vehicle has an auxiliary input — which limits its usability to vehicles that were produced within the last couple of decades. If your car is older and you want Bluetooth connectivity, you’re not out of luck just yet. The Nulaxy Bluetooth FM transmitter can plug into any onboard car power adapter (AKA the cigarette lighter) and will transmit the music on your phone over a short-range FM frequency, which you can then pick up with your vehicle’s radio. It’s reliable, easy to use, and even has a USB slot for charging access when the device is in use.
SlimK LED Road Flares
Getting stranded on the road, especially at night, is more than just an inconvenience — it’s dangerous. Whether you have a flat tire, an overheated engine, or some other emergency, you can limit the danger of being struck by another driver simply by using road flares. Of course, road flares are dangerous in and of themselves. Skip the ultra-hot burners and stash away these LED road flares instead. They’re plenty bright (visible at up to a mile away), reusable, shatterproof, crushproof, and rainproof, and even come in a convenient carry bag. They also boast a multitude of lighting modes, so you can customize the light to your needs.
Ztylus Stinger Car Emergency Escape Tool
While we hope nobody ever gets stuck in their car, either on land or in water, we know that, sometimes, people end up in dangerous emergencies. And since it’s always better to be prepared in the case that a survival situation might befall you, it’s a pretty good idea to consider keeping something like the Ztylus Stinger in your car. This handy device, in normal day-to-day usage, functions as an AC adapter to a dual-USB port car charger. However, if you get into trouble, it also features a seatbelt cutter and glass breaker. You might never need it, but you’ll be thankful when you do.
iOttie Qi Wireless Charge Mount
As time goes by, more and more phones are becoming equipped with the ability to charge wirelessly. Unfortunately, most car charging situations still call for a power cable. That is, except for the iOttie QI wireless charge mount. This hands-free smartphone mount will go a long way toward keeping your eyes on the road, rather than your lap, and it also boasts the ability to charge your smartphone at a rate up to 40% faster than standard Qi chargers. Of course, your phone also has to be compatible with Qi fast charging. If it isn’t, however, this device will still charge at the normal rate.
Anker Roav Viva Alexa-Enabled Charger
More and more cars on the road boast Bluetooth functionality, which is especially helpful since people use their smartphones to pipe in music, directions, calls, and more. The biggest problem, however, is that accessing your phone means taking your hands off the wheel and your eyes off the road. Luckily, Anker has built the Roav Viva: a Bluetooth-enabled car charger that also has integrated Alexa functionality. That means, while you’re charging your smartphone, you can ask Alexa to play your favorite tunes, make important calls, and even get directions without ever taking your focus off the road.
Toguard Rearview Mirror Backup Camera
If you like the idea of having a dash cam and/or backup camera, but your car didn’t come with them and you don’t like the bulkier more obvious aftermarket options, there’s still hope. All you have to do is swap out your factory rearview mirror for this Toguard offering. It boasts a 1080p HD front view camera that can record your drive in real time and also comes with a waterproof 480p backup camera. Pair that with its integrated parking sensors, touchscreen functionality, and the ability to work as a regular rearview mirror when not powered on and this is a super handy discreet addition to any vehicle.
NOCO Genius Boost+ Jump Starter
Even if your car is parked and turned off, there are still things that might be draining the battery. As such, even the most diligent drivers might end up faced with a dead battery at some point in their driving career. While you could rely on roadside assistance to help you out in that case, you could save yourself a lot of hassle, time, and money if you keep a jump starter in your vehicle, like the NOCO Genius Boost+. This bad boy has the ability to jump start up to 20 times on a single charge and is rechargeable itself after the battery is dead. It can even charge up smaller personal devices like your smartphone or laptop computer, which is an unnecessary, but neat feature.
Rexing V1 Dash Cam
There are a number of reasons a person might want to utilize a dash cam — be that as simple as recording a scenic drive or a bit more complicated, like maintaining a record for legal purposes. Whatever the case may be, the footage won’t do you any good if nobody can tell what’s going on in it. Make sure you’ve got a crisp and clear HD video by picking up the Rexing V1 dash cam. It records in full 1080p HD with a whopping 170-degree wide angle lens. It also has a 128-gigabyte hard drive for footage storage and can record in segments of three, five, or ten minutes — overwriting existing data as space is needed. It also boasts automatic accident detection and will lock any footage that occurs around an accident to keep it safe for future viewing.
Garmin Drive 50 GPS Navigator
Even though smartphones have become increasingly reliable when it comes to GPS navigation, they still pale in comparison to dedicated devices like Garmin’s Drive 50. Not only does this dash-mountable device give you ultra-accurate GPS navigation data, but it will also transmit information about surrounding landmarks, buildings, traffic lights, and even real-time traffic data. It can help you to avoid accidents by alerting you about upcoming curves, speed limit changes, and can even warn you about your own personal fatigue. Like a robot co-pilot, the Drive 50 is an indispensable driving tool.
BACtrack S80 Professional Breathalyzer
Allow us to make this perfectly clear: we do not condone anyone drinking and driving. That being said, it can be helpful for some to know their BAC — that way, they can know for certain whether or not they are above the legal limit. The best way to acquire that information on the fly is with a breathalyzer — and they just do not get better than the BACtrack S80. This professional police-grade device is the most accurate, reliable, and easy-to-use out there. It runs on AA batteries, takes just 10 seconds, and gives you an easy-to-read BAC displayed on its bright LCD screen. For the safety of yourself and everyone else on the road, if you’re going to have a beer with friends and drive home, make sure you know for certain that you’re below the legal limit with the BACtrack S80.
Automatic PRO Car OBD II Adapter
Everyone knows that the check engine light means there’s some trouble with your car’s power plant. But, sometimes, the issue can be pretty trivial — despite the fact that it can cost hundreds of dollars to get it checked out. Circumvent the hassle and the cost by investing in the Automatic Pro Car OBD II Adapter. Using cost-free unlimited 3G for up to five years from the date of purchase, this little plug-in device can diagnose any and all dashboard alerts, sending the information right to an app on your smartphone. That way, the next time that pesky check engine light comes on, you can decide for yourself how imperative it is that you get some work done. Plus, it also offers real-time vehicle location tracking and can automatically alert emergency services in the event of a crash.
Philips GoPure Compact 200 Air Purifier
Even if your car has an air conditioner with a filter, the air that comes into your vehicle from the outside can sometimes be harmful to your health and the health of your passengers. But that’s exactly why Philips built their GoPure Compact 200 air purifier. Small enough to attach to the back of your seat, this device will clean up to 99% of harmful gases, smoke, bacteria, odors, dust, pollen, pet hair, and other particles from the air in your cabin. It can even remove the nagging smell of cigarette or cigar smoke. And it functions simply, with just the push of a button.
FenSens Smart Wireless Parking Sensor
Most new cars come with some measure of a backup camera or parking sensor. But, if you’ve got an older model or classic car, you definitely do not have access to that kind of tech as a standard or even optional feature. Luckily, there’s another option: the FenSens smart wireless parking sensor. Designed to look like a regular license plate cover, this device syncs up to a smartphone app to detect objects to the front and/or rear of your vehicle and alert you — both visually and with audio cues. It can even launch the app automatically, in case your phone is in your pocket. And what’s even better is that it requires no specialty installation, just a couple of minutes with a screwdriver.
Handpresso Car Espresso Maker
A lot of folks like to have a cup of coffee in the morning. That, however, can be tough to manage, especially if you’re in a hurry. But, if you keep the Handpresso car espresso maker loaded up in your cup holder, you can make yourself some fresh coffee while you drive. With a brew time of just two minutes, this compact coffee press is the busy coffee lover’s best friend. All you have to do is plug it into your car with the power adapter, add in some ground coffee and water, and hit the button when you’re ready. It’s as easy as that.
Garmin Dash Cam 55
There are a lot of dash cams on the market today. So many, in fact, that it can be extremely difficult to know which ones are the real deal and which are best left for the bargain bin. The Dash Cam 55 from Garmin is, by all accounts, a member of the former group. With a whopping 1440p video capture, this tiny dash-mountable device is your best defense against bad drivers everywhere. Better still, it’s not just a camera, it’s also a GPS navigator and an early warning system, as it can alert you to forward collisions, lane departures, and even upcoming red light and speed cameras. And it can all be controlled with the sound of your voice.
EEZTire Pressure Monitoring System
When your tire is really low on pressure, it’s pretty easy to eyeball it and know that you need to fill up. However, if you’re trying to maximize your MPGs and ensure that you’re not wearing out one tire faster than the rest, you’ll want something a little more accurate and technical, like the EEZTire Pressure Monitoring System. Accurate in real time, this system can tell you exactly how pressurized your tires are down to a tenth of a psi. It will also send both visual and audio warnings if any sudden changes in pressure are detected. Whether you drive for work or you just want a failsafe system for when you go off-roading, this is a pretty solid buy.
Hudway Cast Car HUD Display
Now that just about everyone has a smartphone, it’s a pretty standard practice to use our devices as a means of finding our way. However, whether you use Google Maps, Waze, or another navigation app, it can still be somewhat dangerous to keep looking down at your phone while on the road. The Hudway Cast does away with that danger by displaying the directions from your phone directly over the road ahead of you. Better still, you can do other things, like manage your music or take a call from your phone, without losing the directions on your dash. It’s simple, beautiful, and safe.
Uniden R3 Long Range Radar Detector
While we’d certainly never suggest that anyone do anything illegal on the road, it’s also nice to have a bit of a heads-up when your every move is being watched. And the Uniden R3 long-range radar detector can go a long way toward making that an achievable goal. With the ability to detect radar signals from 360-degrees and even a red-light camera warning system, this device will keep you in the know of any police activity in your vicinity. And it even has onboard GPS, so you can use it to find your way, as well.
Rplate Pro Digital License Plate
For the most part, when it comes time to get your license plate, you’re forced to choose between styles before you ever bolt them to your vehicle. But what if there was a way you could legally and easily customize your plates after the fact? Well, that’s exactly what the Rplate Pro digital license plate has to offer. Now, depending upon your mood, you can change up the appearance of your plate and even some of the displayed information, all via a simple app. The difficulty with this tech, however, lies in the fact that you have to go through the DMV to get your hands on it — and, even then, the pilot program is only available in California and Arizona for now.
20 Best Car Camping Essentials
When you’re not commuting to and from work, your car can become a worthy adventure steed — you can even sleep in it in lieu of a tent. But, if you’re going to try that out, you should also probably stock up on the best car camping gear for your next adventure on four wheels.