Useful Gadgets for Your Car

Wednesday, 24 August 2016

If you’ve still got a road trip on the horizon or you’re planning another for next year, there are plenty of useful and entertaining car gadgets out there to make long journeys that little bit more relaxing, stress-free and enjoyable for drivers and passengers of all ages. Let’s take a look at some of them.

Bluetooth kits

Using a mobile phone whilst driving is against the law in the UK so in order to remain contactable and to be able to phone people during your journey, getting a Bluetooth kit fitted is a safe and legal solution if your car doesn’t already have a built-in system. Radio stations can even be streamed from your phone over the car’s speakers when connected by Bluetooth. Car Bluetooth kits have come down in price a lot, now ranging from around £15 to just over £100. Most kits work by either clipping onto the sun visor or being inserted intoCar gadgets your ear and are operated by voice control so you can keep your hands on the wheel.

Phone cradles

If your car doesn’t have built-in sat nav and you don’t own a portable system, you may rely on your smartphone’s apps such as Apple or Google Maps for navigating on your holiday road trip. This can be frustrating at times and also dangerous if your phone slips and slides around. The answer is to buy a phone holder or ‘cradle’ with prices averaging around £15 and the different types ranging from air vent or windscreen suction-mounted holders to cradles that plug into the 12V socket or even into the CD slot. For driving to a holiday destination on unfamiliar roads, a phone holder that can be mounted in your eye-line is recommended for safety reasons.

Portable sat nav systems

Not everyone drives a car that comes with integrated sat nav, and not all motorists like to use their mobile phone batteries or data allowance to navigate using mapping apps. Portable sat nav systems are still popular and the upside is that they can be removed from the car, reducing any theft appeal. If your road trip takes you abroad, it’s usually possible to purchase maps of other countries, and prices for the best portable sat nav units on the market range from £100 to £400. Live traffic updates are provided by some systems which is handy in helping your holiday car journey flow smoothly, while alerting you to local speed limits helps you remain on the right side of the law.

Dash cams

Digital driving video recorders, or DVRs for short, are more commonly known as dash cams and are becoming increasingly popular. They are mounted to the dashboard or windscreen and record everything happening in front of your vehicle with many systems logging your coordinates by GPS and some even cleverly activating only when they sense a collision, saving space on the SD card. If you’re unfortunately involved in an accident, the footage can prove invaluable for insurance purposes. If you want high-quality footage, it may be best to avoid the cheaper dash cams that commence from as little as £20. Top-of-the-range DVRs are generally priced in the £200 region with some even including driver fatigue detection technology to keep you safe. You can now even buy dash cams in the form of extra-large rear-view mirrors, which also aid your ability to see what’s happening behind you. For holidaymakers travelling by car, dash cams can also be great for recording unusual events such as meteor showers, wildlife and other sights, or for simply creating a video memoir of your road trip to replay in the future.

DVD players

If you have young children or teenagers yourself or are taking your grandchildren on a driving holiday, you’ll appreciate how difficult it can be to keep them entertained on long journeys. Old-fashioned tactics like playing ‘I spy’ just don’t do the trick any more as technology is now dominating many young children’s lives. If you’re understandably reluctant to use your smartphone as a Wi-Fi hotspot because it will eat up your data allowance, it may be time to turn the back seats of your car into a rolling cinema for the kids courtesy of in-car DVD player technology. You might not like the idea of getting a flip-down TV screen professionally fitted into the roof of your car in which case cheaper DVD systems are available that handily clip onto the headrests. If you buy a pair, one passenger can watch one film while the other watches something different. Anyone who drives a Jaguar Land Rover vehicle with the clever dual view screen can let the front seat passenger watch a DVD or even digital Freeview TV in conjunction with the plush set of headphones provided, whilst the driver can just see the sat nav, audio and other functions, on the very same dashboard screen.

Wi-Fi hotspots

Some new cars now come fitted with Wi-Fi hotspots as standard, allowing anyone travelling in the vehicle to connect to the car’s Wi-Fi for faster internet connectivity for a monthly data fee to a mobile provider. For older cars or just simply those that don’t have built-in Wi-Fi capability, personal Mi-Fi dongles or ‘pebbles’ can be bought for around £60 on a PAYG basis or for free on monthly plans which typically start at £10 and can be extended to provide as much data as your family needs on its summer holiday road trip. Most of these gadgets allow up to 10 devices to be connected at speeds of up to 4G and work by plugging into your car’s 12V or USB socket.


It’s no good having loads of gadgets at your passengers’ disposal if they run out of juice, leaving one or more of you frustrated or potentially even lost. Charging using a 12V socket is still popular but USB sockets are now common in most new cars. Gadget manufacturers have hence taken things to another level by developing multi-USB-socket chargers that plug into a 12V or 24V socket, allowing multiple devices such as smartphones and tablets to be charged at the same time via three or even four USB sockets.

Slightly unusual in-car gadgets

  • Live car diagnostics systems are great for any technically-minded drivers or passengers that might derive hours of entertainment from observing the performance of the car’s engine and other components during the holiday journey. They plug in to your car’s ODB-II port and pair with your smartphone via Bluetooth. Some systems have even been gamified to encourage people to drive more efficiently and safely.


  • Tyre pressure monitoring systems have been fitted to a wide range of cars for many years and many manufacturers are now introducing Bluetooth kits that do the same job. The primary monitoring device plugs into the 12V socket and communicates wirelessly with clever valve nut sensors that replace the car’s current plastic ones.


  • Lithium-ion battery jump packs are much more convenient than lugging around an enormous traditional booster just in case your car battery goes flat or develops problems holding its charge. These small, lightweight, Lithium-ion car battery jump packs cost in the region of £80-100 and can be recharged using the vehicle’s 12V or USB ports, with mains adaptors typically costing extra. A similar car gadget introduced to the market in recent times is a 12V car-to-car booster, saving you having to mess around with bonnets and old-fashioned jump leads if your vehicle unfortunately needs jump-starting on holiday.


  • Baby monitoring mirrors are available that connect to the headrest and mean that a baby sitting in a rear-facing child seat in the back of the car can be seen by the driver in the rear-view mirror, providing reassurance on a long holiday road trip without compromising safety by becoming distracted. Some mirrors even come with low-level lighting so a baby won’t be disturbed and can still be checked on when it’s dark.


  • An in-car microwave powered by the 12V socket might come in handy if you get stuck in a remote place or in a long traffic jam for several hours and can’t contain your hunger any longer.


If you’ve been contemplating taking your car on holiday but have been concerned over how you and your passengers will stay entertained, navigate unfamiliar surroundings or boost your battery if it develops issues, discovering these gadgets might now convince you to get out on the road.




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