Finding gifts for car lovers can be a challenge, especially when it’s a last-minute purchase. Unless you plan on getting your gearhead what they secretly want, which is, you may need a few recommendations. These thoughtful gifts for car lovers all cost — and often far less.
The car enthusiast in your life probably already has all the practical items you’d consider gifting, so, instead, we submit this humble list of creative and practical gifts. It has everything an automotive enthusiast would love, with a gift idea for every sort of driver or car lover. You’ll find a unique gift or two on this list, so if your auto enthusiast has particular tastes, don’t be discouraged. Without further ado, check out our picks for the best affordable gifts for car lovers and gearheads. This list has been fully updated for 2021.
A dash cam is the sort of gift you hope they’ll never need to use, but will be grateful if they ever do. A good rule of thumb is “the more pixels captured, the better” and this 4K dashboard camera from Rove boasts a good balance for the budget. Built-in GPS adds useful context to the footage and Wi-Fi phone pairing makes it easy to retrieve footage in the event of, well, an event.
— Antuan Goodwin
I’ve bought a number of jumpstart boxes over the years, but this one is easily the nicest. Packing 2,000 mAh, the company says this portable car charger can start up to 8.5-liter gas engines (or 6.0-liter diesels), and I believe it. Not only is it powerful, this lithium-polymer pack feels extremely well made, an impression that starts with its surprisingly luxurious packaging. There’s a brilliant LCD display and it’s got two years of standby time — assuming you’re not frequently jumping old crocks like Yours Truly. It even has USB-C and USB-A outlets to charge your phone or laptop in a pinch, so neither your car nor your gear will be stranded.
— Chris Paukert
These might seem like your run-of-the-mill all-season floormats but I assure you, they’re anything but. Unlike generic floormats, the Weathertech floor liners are based on digital scans of your vehicle’s floors. This ensures a perfect fit that will keep water, salt, dirt, crumbs and whatever else gets on them where it belongs. If you live in a place where the weather gets bad, you owe your car a set of Weathertech floor liners.
— Jon Wong
For years I’ve had a mish-mash of odd screwdrivers that worked more or less terribly. After I had what I thought was my highest quality, most frequently used Philips driver snap off in a particularly stubborn screw, I decided to upgrade. These Wera drivers are fantastically comfortable to use and, with their laser-etched tips, are much less likely to strip those stubborn screws. This will be a huge upgrade for just about anyone’s toolkit.
— Tim Stevens
If they’re not leakin’ or smokin’, they’re empty! If you own a classic car, drips are a fact of life. Back in the day, sealing technology wasn’t as good as it is today, so oil plans, steering boxes and transmissions tended to weep. If you have a drippy antique auto, you need some oil-absorbing mats to minimize messes on your garage floor. To keep things tidy and reduce the risk of slip-and-fall injuries, consider this set from the Pig Corporation. These pads repel water, absorb oils and don’t tear easily. They’re also flame-resistant and super economical. You get 50 absorbing mats for just $47. Obviously, if your car is dripping fluids like a dislodged fire hydrant, you have a serious issue that must be addressed. But for normal leaks, these fluid-absorbing mats are just what the doctor ordered.
— Craig Cole
When you’re out wheeling and need a little help, this soft shackle from Bubba Rope gets the job done. I recommend buying two, one for the recovery vehicle and one for the rig you just buried in soft sand. These little guys are lighter than steel, yet stronger, with a 52,300-pound breaking strength. They are flexible and can easily be secured around nearly any pull point. They even float! I use these on my own rig and they haven’t failed me yet.
— Emme Hall
Pandemic life still got you down? Yeah, me too. If you’re looking for something safe to do or just need an excuse to get out of the house, consider taking a road trip. Hop in your car, grab the steering wheel and point yourself at the horizon and drive. There’s so much to see in this great land, you could crisscross it for a lifetime and never come close to experience everything. But helping narrow things down just a bit is this handy book from National Geographic called 50 States, 5,000 Ideas. It’s chockablock with things to do, places to visit and sights to see. With hundreds of pages and innumerable pictures, it’s a great gift for your car lover friend to keep in their vehicle’s seat-back pocket for when the urge to wander strikes. Best of all, this guide is a steal at just $15.
— Craig Cole
The shop light I find myself reaching for most often is actually one of the cheapest out there, this $40 folding unit from Braun (Harbor Freight’s house brand). While its length makes it difficult to throw in a toolbox, the strong magnet on the base means you can just pop it onto anything metal — like, say, the side of your toolbox. The LED light bar throws off plenty of light output for bigger jobs, while the LEDs on the tip meant I could easily inspect the fuel tank of my tractor. I got 2 hours on a charge with the LED work light bar on full blast, so it’s maybe not the best for longer jobs, but a great, affordable rechargeable work light choice for most tasks. And, if you get it before Jan. 14, you can get it for $25!
— Tim Stevens
I’m not going to lie, I’m adding this because I want someone to get this for me. I drive a Miata both on and off-road so there isn’t any room in the diminutive cab for a proper Dometic or ARB fridge. I’m sick of dealing with melty, messy ice to keep drinks chilled, so this little 4-liter mini fridge is perfect. I can keep a rotating supply of Diet Dr Pepper nice and cold and still have room left over for a well-packed lunch. Please buy it for me in fuchsia or red.
— Emme Hall
No company does car enthusiast apparel quite like Blipshift. The company’s designs are often crowd-sourced, and they can be pretty funny, too. If t-shirts aren’t your thing, Blipshift offers its designs on posters and sweatshirts featuring classic car designs and more, too. And don’t forget to check Blipshift’s auctions for limited-run designs.
— Steven Ewing
An illuminated check engine light on a car’s dash will drive the car lover in your life batty, but having an OBD2 scanner handy will expedite the repair process. Enter the Innova CarScan Advisor Model 5210. At just under $100, it performs all the essential features such as reading, deciphering and clearing check engine light trouble codes; battery tests and smog test evaluation; system diagnostics for ABS codes on most cars; and freeze frame data that captures what was going on when an error code was triggered. No car enthusiast who does their own vehicle maintenance should be without one.
— Jon Wong
A shop vacuum cleaner is extremely useful when cleaning and detailing your car or when tidying up around the garage. This 12-gallon wet-dry unit from Ridgid features a good balance of capacity, maneuverable (and storable) size and a reasonably strong 5-horsepower motor that makes it a good enough car vacuum for most average cleaning jobs.
— Antuan Goodwin
The latest entrant in the super-fun Forza Horizon series is set in Mexico, and it looks like the best one yet. Playable on PC, Xbox One, and Xbox Series S and Series X, Forza Horizon 5 features a diverse car list and an even more diverse (and huge) landscape. The graphics look spectacular, the career mode has been streamlined and it promises improved physics. The Horizon series’ best asset is its replay value, so Horizon 5 should keep you entertained well past the holiday season.
— Daniel Golson
Anyone who loves spending time with their car surely appreciates it being clean. Meguiar’s Complete Car Care Kit covers nearly all the basics to take a car from dingy to pretty darn shiny. I love a lot of these products personally, and this kit won’t break the bank for all the great stuff you get. It includes clay bars, too, which can be pricey on their own. And if you live in a cold winter climate like me, this gift will help someone stay stocked up for when warm weather returns.
— Sean Szymkowski
Just on the threshold of our price cap is Chemical Guys’ 16-piece detailing arsenal. If you have a detailer in your life, they’ll definitely appreciate the goods packed into this kit. There’s car wash soap, wax, a bucket with a dirt guard and so many other great items for $100. Quality detailing gear isn’t cheap, which makes this a great bundle. It’s an especially great gift idea for someone just getting into car care.
— Sean Szymkowski
For the tech and auto enthusiast in your life, Echo Auto is a top choice since it brings a favorite voice assistant to the car on the go. Echo Auto gives you the flexibility to use Alexa wherever travels take you and can work with integrated smart devices back at home. It’s pretty 007 to tell Alexa to open your garage as you approach the house. Keep in mind there are a handful of cars Echo Auto doesn’t work with, but the vast majority of cars with a Bluetooth connection will be ready for some extra smarts.
— Sean Szymkowski
Carrying tools with you in your car is a good idea, even if you don’t work on your own car as a habit. Emergencies exist and being able to nip up a screw or bolt on the side of the road can mean the difference between a flatbed tow or enjoying the rest of your drive, so getting a comprehensive tool kit (bonus for it being as small a package as possible) is key. Enter the Wera Tool-Check Plus. It’s got bits and sockets, a ratchet and a bit driver and even an extension — and it’s tiny.
— Kyle Hyatt
Now you don’t have an excuse to let the weird machine-obsessed garage-hermit in your life go without some holiday cheer, and these gifts will reveal you as the thoughtful an in-touch person you are. At least compared to an Amazon or Starbucks gift card. Most of these products are ones that we Roadshow writers already own, use and love — so consider them geek-tested and approved.
Read more: Looking to spend a little more dough? Check out all our.
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