Gift Ideas for Car Lovers or Commuters

Vehicles are a big part of our lives. Heck, Santa couldn’t deliver gifts without his sleigh. For loved ones who are motorheads or simply spend too many hours in their car, consider a gift that shows you’re thinking of them while they’re on the road.

Don’t fret that you can’t surprise your spouse with a bow-adorned luxury car. Sure, it looks appealing in ads, but so does cat food. Giving a car for Christmas can backfire if it’s the wrong brand, model, size or color. At the very least, ask the salesperson for a temporary vehicle and bow, then let your betrothed make the final choice. A pro tip: December is ideal for finding deals on new cars.

Few can spring for a new ride, but you can make an existing one better. Something simple like a good smartphone holder makes commuting pleasant and safer. The Wirecutter recommends the $25 iOttie iTap Magnetic for vent- and windshield-mount models. Wireless charging versions reduce dashboard clutter. Move up to the $60 Kenu Airbase or Kenu Airframe mount if your recipient’s phone supports that.

For those topping the nice list, try an audio system upgrade to add wireless Android Auto or Apple CarPlay. The Wirecutter deems the Pioneer AVH-W4500NEX as a top pick for around $440 before installation.

Give the young Lewis Hamilton in your family his or her own racing seat. O.K., it’s really a car safety seat, but the child doesn’t have to know that. The Diono Monterey XT looks like something bolted into a Formula One car, not a minivan. The sporty look makes youngsters happy to use it. After extensive testing, The Wirecutter recommends it and Chicco KidFit for protection for $100.

The Race Portal (a small Bluetooth-enabled track section) connects to the miles of orange track you might already own. It sends speed and lap info to the app so children get concrete bragging rights to who owns the fastest car. The Race Portal opens the system’s physical-and-virtual world by offering games combining the cars and the app. Add digitally enabled Smart Track (that’s smoother and faster than the classic stuff) and the app suggests over 50 Smart Track configurations and sends live visuals to the phone or tablet while the track is built. A pump-operated booster launches the cars at 900 miles an hour (speed to scale, fortunately), and a virtual tachometer teaches young drivers to stay out of the red zone. All the data rewards skillful drivers.

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