There are two kinds of people when it comes to how we use our cars. The first is a person who has to be in their car out of necessity. The second wants to be in their vehicle out of love. The necessity crowd is often found driving the kids to school and back, commuting to and from an office, or working out of the car. The car lovers are often road-trippers, retirees, or just people who love their ride and take every opportunity to get behind the wheel.
No matter which type of person you think you are (or maybe a combination of both?), we’ve got suggestions for ways to trick out your wheels for fun, safety, and productivity.
Driving for Fun
Summer is driving season. Whether you’re just putting the top down on your ride to enjoy the weather, or taking full advantage of the heat to go on a memorable vacation, summer is when we all like to head out on the open road. In many parts of Canada, the fun actually begins when spring arrives. To really enjoy your time behind the wheel, start by picking out something to provide a bit of a soundtrack to your adventure, like a Sony USB/MP3/CD car stereo. Bluetooth connectivity allows you to stream music, make hands-free calls, and select some of your key smartphone apps directly through the receiver using Sony’s ‘App Remote’. This receiver also plays CDs if you’re old school like that. Throw in SiriusXM connectivity, and a USB input that works with compatible devices, and you’ve got endless entertainment options for those long hours on the road.
Maybe you’ve got a car stereo that works great, but you just want to hook up your smart device. Plenty of cars have aux jacks either hard-wired into the car, or as a port in the stereo faceplate. The aux jack is an easy way to connect your phone for audio playout, and all you need to make it happen is a cable, and a versatile aux or mini aux cable like this one from Griffin stashed away in your car will come in handy. They’re often such a good value it’s worth keeping one in your purse or carry-on too, so that if you’re renting a car on your vacation, you have a guaranteed way to get music, whether in that rental vehicle, or in the hotel.
While you’re picking up cables, grab some power. I can’t tell you how much I love a retractable power cord in the car. Cords like the Retrak lightning/USB cable are tidy and keep clutter at bay. You just plug it in to a USB car charger like Adreama’s. (I like this charger in part because it has two USB ports, allowing you to juice two devices at the same time.) When you need it, the power cord slides smoothly out of its retractor case, and when you’re done, a quick tug and it’s stored cleanly and safely away. Having power at hand on a road trip or family vacation keeps you driving for hours, without having to worry about your device dying while you’re still 2 hours from a decent radio station.
Speaking of music, another great option is to add a Sirius Satellite Radio to your vehicle. I spent about a year with a Sirius subscription and found it was nice to let someone else play DJ sometimes. Plus, Sirius has a huge number of talk stations and programs which is a nice distraction after hours of music.
Vacations are meant to be memorable, so why not record your road trip in a non-traditional way, using a dash cam? While many people are using them for security, safety or evidence in the event of a crash, another way to use dash cams is to make an epic video of your drive using a device like the Papago HD Dash Cam. It’s a great reminder of epic scenery, crazy roads and even close calls with wildlife. With the ease of video editing software today, you can even turn your whole trip into a time lapse film!
Driving out of Necessity
For this crowd, driving is a chore and a necessary evil, but that doesn’t mean you can’t improve your circumstances. If you work out of your car, you’ll likely want to invest in some tech that will keep you on time. A GPS will help keep you heading in the right direction, and prevent you from being late, or getting lost and missing important meetings and events. With the Garmin nüvi GPS, you can easily reach your destination without fumbling around with maps. This GPS is preloaded with maps of Canada and the US. Plus, it allows you to keep your phone free for conference calls, texts, (while you’re pulled over, of course!) or music.
If you’re more the chauffeur-the-kids type, a backup camera can help make life easier. For starters, it gives you a fuller view of your vehicle’s surroundings, meaning you’ll know if you child’s best friend suddenly darts in to hand off a forgotten toy.
A backup camera is also a bit of an insurance policy. I’ll never forget the day my neighbour backed over his daughter’s bike. While he was obviously relieved she wasn’t on it, she was devastated she’d lost her favourite toy. Either way, it’s a dilemma you can avoid with eyes in the back of your head, er, car. The Thinkware HD rear view backup camera gives you eyes where you need them, and helps avoid both dangerous and just awkward situations. This Thinkware camera also pairs up with a dash camera if you want, giving you a full 360 view of what’s happening.
Commuters may also find it handy to have the cell phone within reach. A vent-clipped dash or vent mount like the iGrip keeps your phone close at hand without using glues, making holes, or getting frustrated by unreliable suction mounts that can fail in extreme temperatures.
If your profession involves having people with you as you work in your car (like a realtor showing homes), a nice must-have for your car kit is a small portable vacuum like Rowenta’s Delta Force hand held vacuum. Clean up crumbs, stray fries, dirt, leaves, or whatever gets tracked inside.
The Bottom Line
If you’re going to be spending hours in your car, whether for work, or pleasure, it’s a good idea to make it more comfortable. I’ve added the aforementioned vent mount, retractable cables, and a good stereo with bluetooth. While a vacuum is on my list for cleanup, for now, I keep travel size bottles of Armour All, glass cleaner and rags stashed in my kit box.
But what keeps you moving? Do you have a must-have gadget for the car? Tell me why below.