Car enthusiasts aren’t really hard to shop for. You can always just pick up any novelty accessory they can hang on the rear view mirror or put on the dashboard, after all. If you’re the type who actually want your gifts appreciated, however, you probably want to put a little more effort into what you’ll get the cousin, friend, or boyfriend who treats their car with a tenderness typically reserved for more intimate companions (hopefully, not TOO intimate, lol). For this list, we skipped the novelty and jumped straight into pure practicality, choosing products that won’t just be fun for the next two months, they’re the kind your discerning grandpa who’s used to products that last might actually open up a stinky, dilapidated wallet for.
1. Bentley Publishers Book Service Manuals $37 up
Anyone so enamored with cars will undoubtedly be tinkering under the hood at some point and when they do, there’s no better reference to check than Bentley’s service manuals. Available for different badges, makes, and models, they’re literally the only book anyone who does any serious work with their cars will ever need. If you suspect the recipient already has one (dedicated car enthusiasts tend to), Bentley also offers other materials, such as owner’s bibles (with advice for preventive maintenance, performance upgrades, and specialty setups), performance driving guides, brand-specific reference books, and various technical publications aimed at automotive junkies to choose from.
2. RhinoGear RhinoRamps $39.99
While there are plenty of options for portable automative ramps, we’ll always wager our hard-earned money on Rhinogear’s Rhinoramps. There’s a reason why it’s constantly among the bestsellers in automotive accessories: they’re reliable and durable as heck. Combine those qualities with the CoreTRAC nonskid base, 17 degree incline (so it will work even with kitted-out low-clearance vehicles), and high weight support (12,000 pounds for this particular 9-inch wheel model), and you’ve got a serious tool to turn to anytime you need access to your ride’s underside.
3. Viair 88p Portable Air Compressor $67.75
Again, this isn’t a unique product, but you’re going to have a hard time finding a better air compressor for your money than the Viair 88p. With mostly metal construction, relatively quiet performance, and ability to fill tires up to 33 inches in two to four minutes, it’s easily one of the best ever offered at the price range. Features include a pair of heavy-duty battery terminal clamps for power, rated use of 120 psi, a mounted gauge for monitoring pressure, and a max reach of 20 feet.
4. BAFX Bluetooth OBD2 Scan Tool $23.99
This scan tool is an easy must-have toy for any car geek. Apart from reading trouble codes (over 3,000 definitions in the onboard database) and resetting engine light, it can pair with the mobile app Torque via Bluetooth to provide all sorts of fun stats you can use to monitor your own driving, including RPM, quarter-mile averages, and acceleration numbers, among others. Granted, it won’t adjust turbo boost, set valve positions, or change shift points (because it’s not an expensive commercial-quality scan tool). For what it’s meant to do, however (read trouble codes and clear them), it’s as good as you can find. Works with all OBD2 vehicles (1996 onwards) and EOBD vehicles (2001 onwards for petrol cars, 2003 onwards for diesel).
5. Meguiar’s Complete Car Care Kit $46.30
Let’s be real: you’re probably not going to get a kit that has everything you can genuinely want for car care — we all just have different preferences when it comes to these things. This set, however, is as close to complete as you can pick up without burning a large hole through your wallet. Set includes a car wash shampoo and conditioner, liquid car wax, quick detailer, interior detailer, claying, PlastX (a rich gel for cleaning headlights), ScratchX 2.0 (a cleaner for removing scratches, blemishes and light stains from your car’s paint), a microfiber wash mitt, a microfiber towel, and a soft foam applicator pad.
6. ArmorAll 12V Vacuum Cleaner $24.99
A wet and dry vacuum cleaner is a must-have for any car owner. When we shop for one, we head straight wherever they have the ArmorAll 12V Vacuum Cleaner. Measuring 17.3 x 15.6 x 10.6 inches, it’s compact enough not to take too much space in a trunk or a boot, all while packing enough power to clean up both solid and liquid messes that end up inside your vehicle. Features include a 12-volt plug for drawing power straight from the car, a built-in crevice tool for siphoning out of tight spaces, an integrated LED light, and a 15-foot power cord. It comes with a brush, a squeegee, and its own carry bag.
7. CG-Lock Seatbelt Stabilizer $59.95
One of the most impressive seatbelt accessories ever made, the CG-Lock Seatbelt Stabilizer lets you recreate the driving control provided by racing harnesses, all while using nothing but a standard car seatbelt. While originally designed for performance driving enthusiasts, the improved comfort, enhanced safety, and reduced muscle fatigue it facilitates is something every driver is going to appreciate. Once attached to an existing seatbelt (it sets up in five minutes), the contraption will let you tighten the lap belt to the best possible fit, all without affecting the shoulder belt’s natural function.
8. Micro-Start XP-3 $127.95
Remember when portable battery jumpstarters were about the size of a messenger bag? Of course you do, that’s what you bought for yourself just eighteen months ago. The Micro-Start XP-3 is among the new generation of portable jumpers that shrinks the utility tool down to a truly compact size and is the smallest of its kind, measuring a mere 5 x 2.9 x 1 inches, allowing you to stow it inside your pants pocket or the glove compartment. It can hold charge up to a year, at which time you can jumpstart everything from a motorcycle to a V8 truck multiple times (200 Amp to 400 Peak Amp ability). Even better, the device has a 5V USB slot that you can use to replenish drained gadgets from the onboard battery.
9. 3M Paint Defender $24.99 per can
Simply spray the Paint Defender onto your car’s body and it will dry into a clear durable film that can shrug all sorts of debris off your paint job. That means, no more chipping on the paint coat, even if you run into gravel, sand, rocks, insects, and whatever other debris the road brings. Even better, it can be peeled right off any time you want the coating replaced or removed. Granted, there will be a learning curve to get the application right (it will never make bubbles, although you can over- or under-spray), but it’s still an incredible value compared to anything else available in the market.
10. Coco Absorb $9.99 per bag
For car enthusiasts who spend as much time in the garage as on the road, oil and grease spills are probably a regular occurrence. Coco Absorb makes absorbent products produced from coconut husks, allowing you to clean up oil, grease, paint, gas, and other spills. Each one can sponge off liquids up to nine times its weight, allowing you to clean up messes in a jiffy. Even better, it’s non-hazardous, non-abrasive, non-toxic, and completely organic, quickly converting to solid waste that’s perfectly safe to pitch into a landfill.