Tricked out cars
From connected dashboards to built-in auto pilot, today's cars are fitted with some of the most advanced tech we've seen. But not everyone can afford to splurge on a brand-new automobile, so we've listed our favorite gadgets and devices that can help turn your current clunker into a high-tech ride — as well as a few non-commuting related gifts that the car lover in your life is sure to appreciate.
Mpow Cellphone Holder
This is not the most glamorous in-car tech, but when you're behind the steering wheel, nothing is handier than a mobile-phone holder. We like the Mpow's offering because it's sturdy yet inexpensive, mounts to your windshield securely with strong suction, and works universally with all devices big and small, from the 5.8-inch iPhone XS to the 6.3-inch Galaxy Note 9.
Got an older car without Android Auto? Maybe it doesn't have any Bluetooth capabilities at all, and only has a pesky auxiliary port? If so, you're going to want to give Anker's Roav Bolt a look. This $49 dongle plugs into your car's 12V power socket and interfaces with your ride, either wirelessly or with a 3.5-millimeter cable, to add hands-free Google Assistant voice functionality.
With the Roav Bolt serving as middle man between your car stereo and smartphone, you can stream media, hear directions and issue "Ok Google" voice commands, thanks to dual microphones with noise cancellation built in, that are optimized to hear your instructions clearly even within the loud environment of a car. Toss in a pair of Anker's PowerIQ charging ports to quickly top up multiple gadgets at once, and the Roav Bolt stands as one of the cheapest but most significant upgrades you can make to an old ride.
iOttie iTap 2 Phone Mount
Phones are getting bigger all the time — just look at the 6.5-inch iPhone XS Max. That's why it pays to have a car mount that is specially designed to accommodate heavier handsets with wider footprints, like iOttie's new iTap 2 solutions. They're available in dashboard, windshield, vent and CD slot variants and incorporate easily-removable magnetic plates to ensure nothing slides about or takes a tumble during an impromptu stop or a bout of aggressive cornering.
Aukey Dash Cam
Let's face it: Incidents on the road are, to a certain extent, unavoidable. And when somebody rolls into you at a traffic light or sideswipes your car while it's parked on the street, you're going to wish you had some sort of evidence. Fortunately, Aukey makes an inexpensive, yet reliable dash cam that discreetly sits behind your rearview mirror, easily adheres to your windshield and even has an emergency recording mode triggered by motion.
eRapta ERT01 Backup Camera
While an increasing number of cars are rolling off the production line with backup cameras installed, it's still a rarity in older models. Enter eRapta's modestly priced ERT01. This camera offers high-definition optics and grid lines for a clear view of what's behind your vehicle, as well as adjustability to suit all body styles. With IP69 waterproofing, you can expect this camera to stand up to inclement weather, too. Just be advised that you'll need to buy a display, sold separately, to see what the camera is recording.
Autel AutoLink AL319 OBD2 Scanner
The Autel AutoLink connects to your car's OBD-II port to provide you with vehicle diagnostics and tons of performance stats. The data can be used to identify and fix intermittent problems, like whatever's causing your engine light to turn on. It's an invaluable tool for the DIY car mechanic who's looking to save money.
Handpresso Auto Hybrid
Commuters love to multitask whenever possible. And if you consider yourself a coffee lover, it's hard to imagine a better way to get more out of your morning drive than with Handpresso's Auto Hybrid espresso maker. This compact contraption sits in your cup holder and draws power from the electrical port in your car to brew a piping-hot, fresh cup of espresso in minutes. It's convenient, because you can use pods like those you see in the supermarket or, better yet, up your game with some fresh-ground coffee.
Mpow Aux Bluetooth Adapter
It's 2019 — everyone should have the ability to stream tunes to their car stereos. With Mpow's auxiliary Bluetooth adapter, you can do exactly that. This dongle plugs in to your car's 3.5mm port and can connect to two devices simultaneously, so passengers can share DJ duties. It also boasts excellent battery life, delivering 11 hours of playback on a full 45-minute charge.
Carismatic 3.5mm Audio Cassette Adapter
Wireless streaming is nice, but what if your car predates auxiliary ports? If so, chances are it has a tape deck — which makes Carismatic's solution ideal. This adapter carries a 3.5mm plug that provides a direct line to your smartphone's headphone jack, so you can expand your rotation beyond staticky radio and your dad's collection of Pink Floyd cassettes.
Anker Dual USB PowerDrive 2 Car Charger
Double your car's charging capabilities with this Anker dual-USB car charger. While this PowerDrive 2 adapter doesn't support Qualcomm's Quick Charge protocol, it can still top your device up quickly thanks to PowerIQ technology, which outputs up to 4.8 amps for one connected device or 2.4 amps when both ports are used simultaneously. It's also the most compact and highly rated car charger at this low price.
S'ip by S'well 16 oz. Insulated Travel Mug
Every driver needs a good insulated travel mug, and this one from S'well is a quality choice at a reasonable price. Thanks to double-walled vacuum insulation, it can keep hot drinks hot for 12 hours or cold drinks cold for a full day. The easy-to-open lid makes it much more convenient to use behind the wheel than a traditional screw-top thermos. And the attractive, minimalist design is available in a variety of colors and patterns to suit your style.
Jabra Tour Bluetooth In-Car Speakerphone
It's unsafe — not to mention, illegal — to mess with your smartphone while driving. So, if you own an older car, why not avoid that possibility entirely with an in-car speakerphone like this fine example from Jabra? The Tour connects to your smartphone over Bluetooth and allows for high-definition voice conversations in your car. It offers up to 20 hours of talk time and can last 45 days on standby.
Beatit BT-D11 800A Portable Jump Starter
Prepare for the inevitability of a dead battery with Beatit's popular and versatile 800A portable jump-starter. This lightweight pack can jump-start a car, boat or motorcycle in seconds. It's quite small, too, making it perfect to stow away in your glove box. Meanwhile, the jump-starter's built-in USB ports mean you can use the device to recharge your phone, tablet or laptop several times over.
Escort Passport 8500 X50 Radar Detector
Radar detectors can be tough gifts to recommend. Cheap ones tend to be unreliable and even easily detectable by the authorities, while expensive ones carry loads of conveniences like Wi-Fi connectivity and GPS, but typically sell for upward of $500. With that in mind, Escort's Passport 8500 X50 strikes a good balance between the two extremes, offering good sensitivity to bands commonly used by the fuzz, all for a reasonable fee. Just make sure you or your gift recipient don't live in one of the handful of states where radar detectors are illegal or restricted.
Garmin 50 LM GPS Navigator System
True, you could use your phone as your GPS. But some drivers prefer having their navigation solution always mounted in their vehicle, ready to go at a moment's notice. Dedicated GPS devices also tend to have larger screens and simpler interfaces, which is what you want at the wheel. To that end, Garmin's 50 LM system is a great inexpensive option, equipped with driver alerts for occurences like sharp curves and school zones, location data sourced from Foursquare and clear directions that are extremely easy to follow.
Forza Motorsport 7 or Gran Turismo Sport
Although we have loads of tips to make your driving experience better, we at Tom's Guide don't have the power to put you in the seat of a Ferrari, Porsche or McLaren. That's why these two games are on the list. Forza Motorsport 7 is the premier racing sim for Xbox One, offering hundreds of cars, a varied selection of tracks, engaging and realistic physics, and a truckload of customization features.
On PS4, we recommend Gran Turismo Sport, the latest entry in Sony's legendary franchise that puts a deep emphasis on esports and performance-balanced, highly competitive online racing. Both games sound amazing, look even better and, best of all, are going for well under their original price right now.
Credit: Microsoft Studios
Forza Horizon 4
While Forza Motorsport is more of a driving simulation, Forza Horizon is about traversing an open-world populated with hundreds of the world's most iconic cars and a bustling community other players itching to turn chance encounters into impromptu showdowns. The latest installment, Forza Horizon 4, chooses the United Kingdom as its venue.
Wherever you passion lies as a car enthusiast, Horizon lets you act it out — from racing to drifting, off-roading, customizing, painting or just generally causing mayhem. The environment in Horizon 4 transitions through each of the four seasons on a weekly basis, making the map feel truly alive. The heat from the asphalt in the summer gives you the most grip and fastest lap times, while snow in the winter turns public roads into rally special stages. Better yet, the game's slew of post-release support even includes a Lego Speed Champions expansion, allowing you to freewheel in brick-built dopplegangers of your favorite vehicles. Horizon 4 is arguably the biggest racing game ever, and a must-have for car fans of all types.
Credit: Microsoft Studios
Logitech Driving Force G29/G920 Wheel
For the gamers among us, Logitech produces dual-motor force-feedback racing wheels that offer exceptional features for a relatively low price. The Driving Force G29 boasts a premium leather-wrapped wheel, a plethora of buttons, high-grade metal paddle shifters with a satisfying clicky feel and a heavy three-pedal deck that can withstand a lot of abuse. The G29 is the version compatible with the PS4, while Logitech also sells a G920 variant made for Xbox One.