7 car gadgets that’ll make driving so much easier

1. A car charger

You can never really have enough ways to keep your smartphone kicking. If you’ve got some emergency calls (not texts) to make, you need your phone’s GPS, or you just want to make sure your device lasts through the end of the night, a simple car charger like the Aukey CC-T6 should do the job.

This particular model sits compact and charges fast, with support for Qualcomm’s Quick Charge 2.0 standard. (A Quick Charge 3.0 variant is also available if you have a newer, compatible phone.) Its two ports should be fine for most people, but if you’ve got a family’s worth of devices in tow, a four-port unit like this Anker charger could be a more efficient buy.

Aukey CC-T6, $12.99, available at Amazon.
Anker 9.6A/48W 4-Port USB Car Charger, $15.99, available at Amazon.

2. A Bluetooth car kit

Those chargers are handy if you need to use your phone while driving — to do that safely, you should look into a Bluetooth car kit. Something like the iClever Himbox HB01 is a cheap, convenient way to add Bluetooth functionality to your car, which in turn lets you wirelessly stream music, make hands-free calls, talk to assistants like Google Now or Siri, and the like. (Provided you have an aux-in port.) We’ve praised it before. If you’re mostly focusing on calls, though, a full-on speakerphone like the Jabra Freeway is big and bulky, but serves up clear and powerful sound.

iClever Himbox HB01 Bluetooth 4.0 Car Kit, $29.99, available at Amazon.
Jabra Freeway, $84.95, available at Amazon.

3. A phone holder

All of that becomes less useful if you have to reach over and grab your device just to confirm what you’re doing. A basic holder puts the phone where you can see it, making things just a little less stressful. Magnetic mounts tend to work just fine here — one like the TechMatte MagGrip Air Vent is cheap yet unobstructive, while its CD slot-based sibling is a bit sturdier for those who can spare the space.

TechMatte MagGrip Air Vent, $6.99, available at Amazon.
TechMatte MagGrip CD Slot Car Mount, $10.99, available at Amazon.

4. A GPS system

With the smartphone becoming the hub of everything we do, dedicated GPS systems have understandably dwindled in popularity. And truthfully, if you’re fine with your phone filling that role now, there’s no pressing need to switch. But if you’re worried about saving battery, using the phone separately, or potentially losing service, there’s still value in a device like the Garmin Nuvi 55LM.

It’s basic, but affordable and reliable, with a 4.4 Amazon rating after 1,720 user reviews, and recommendations from PCMag and The Wirecutter. The model below will get lifetime map updates from Garmin, while a step-up 55LMT model adds a modicum of traffic information as well.

Garmin Nuvi 55LM, $97.86, available at Amazon.

5. Automatic

The Automatic car adapter positions itself as a “Fitbit for cars,” and, for the most part, that’s what it is. It plugs into an OBD-II port — which should be in most cars produced in the past 20 years — and measures your braking, speeding, and fuel conserving habits, eventually giving you a score on how smooth you were on a given week.

It can also sense and diagnose any problems that activate your check engine light, presenting them in an app instead of making you head to a mechanic. There’s a question of whether or not all of this is worth $80, but if you’ve ever been paranoid about wasting gas, the added info might be worth it.

Automatic: Connected Car Adapter, $79.99, available at Amazon.

6. Fobo Tire Plus

Again, does everyone need to pay $230 for a tire pressure monitoring system like the Fobo Tire Plus? Probably not, but if you can afford the premium, it’s a straightforward tool that can help reduce a common headache for car owners. It’s a set of Bluetooth-enabled sensors that measure tire pressure and temperature in real time, send that data back to your phone, and warn you of any forthcoming issues.

Fobo Tire Plus, $229, available at Amazon.

7. A dash cam

Public privacy concerns aside, a dash cam is good to have on hand if you’re worried about having footage to present for any future accidents. Something like the Rexing V1 should help you take protective measures here — it’s relatively compact, captures 1080p video, and has received positive feedback on Amazon.

Rexing V1, $99.99, available at Amazon.

 

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