Car Buying Articles
2009 Auto Enthusiast Holiday Gift Guide
Great Gift Ideas Over $50 for the Car Lovers on Your List
Part of the joy of gift giving during the holiday season is picking out that perfect present for someone: something that they normally wouldn't buy for themselves or, even better, something that they've always wanted but just never got around to buying. But first you have to spend time researching what's available and at what prices, and then slog through packed stores to purchase it.
If you have auto enthusiasts on your list, you're in luck because we've saved you some time by picking 10 items priced at more than $50 for our annual holiday gift guide. They're all new and unique auto accessories that we'd like to get as gifts ourselves (hint, hint) and range from the latest in-car electronics to cool items for the garage, road and track. And they all can be ordered online so you don't even need to jump in your car to buy them.
HD Radio on Your iPhone
Applications for the Apple iPhone and iPod touch are all the rage, and this free app allows the devices to tune in HD Radio, a digital form of AM and FM that offers better sound quality, extra stations and other features. The availability of HD Radio from the factory is still limited in most vehicles, but if a car has an aux-in jack, iPod integration or Bluetooth wireless music streaming, HD Radio can be easily added via this app.
While the app is free, a Gigaware HD radio receiver/controller from Radio Shack is required to tune in HD Radio, and it comes with headphones that act as an antenna. Free app at the Apple iTunes App Store; 79.99 for Gigaware HD Radio tuner/controller at Radio Shack.
Satellite Radio App
This is another free iPhone app, and it lets you add XM Satellite Radio to your ride using an iPhone or iPod touch. It requires the XM SkyDock to hold and charge the device via a car's cigarette lighter and, of course, a subscription to the service. Built into the SkyDock is an FM transmitter that wirelessly streams the sat radio signal to a car stereo, and it also comes with an aux-in cable for a direct connection to a compatible car stereo.
An iPhone or iPod touch can be positioned in either portrait or landscape mode at the end of the SkyDock's flexible stalk, and a magnetic-mount antenna is also included. Free app at the Apple iTunes App Store; $119.99 for the SkyDock at ShopXMRadio.com.
There are plenty of iPhone apps that let you monitor your car's performance, but most require tapping into the OBD II port each time you want to access the info. The palm-sized Kiwi Wifi, which connects to the port via a supplied a 6-foot cable, wirelessly links to several popular iPhone auto-performance apps for added convenience. And since the Kiwi Wifi has a power switch, it can stay connected to the OBD II port and remain in the car. Plus, it's palm-sized and can be mounted almost anywhere in a vehicle. $149.99 at PLXKiwi.com
Capture It on Camera
Whether it's an epic drive down a favorite road or your best lap times around the track, the GoPro HD Motorsports HERO camera lets you capture your best moments behind the wheel in stunning HD video. The rugged, waterproof camera shoots in full 1,080p HD as well as 960p and 720p, and it can also be set to take 5-megapixel still pictures at 2-, 5-, 10-, 30- and 60-second intervals.
Its lithium-ion battery lasts approximately two and a half hours on a single charge, and with a high-capacity 32GB SD card, the camera can capture up to 9 hours of video. Included with each camera are three car mounts and two helmet mounts, and a suction cup for securing it during high-speed maneuvers. $299.99 at GoProCamera.com.
Quick Pick Up
Developed for the grueling Baja 1000 off-road race, the Kwik Jak weighs just 4.5 pounds but can quickly lift more than 500 times its weight. Attach a CO2 cartridge and this billet-aluminum mighty mite can lift up to 2,400 pounds in seconds. Fully collapsed it measures 12.5 inches high, and it can be extended to 18.5 inches before it's raised another 6 inches Multiple jack-pad configurations allow it to work on a variety of vehicles, and it's designed to fit in a fire-extinguisher holder to save space. $224.95 at BajaDesigns.com.
Bring on the Bling
If someone on your holiday gift list likes to add a little sparkle to their vehicle, then the License 2 Bling VIP frame should suit them and their ride. Each License 2 Bling VIP frame features 500 Swarovski crystals embedded in chrome. The crystals are available in six colors plus a clear version, and they're faceted in a "chaton" style to reflect light. And, of course, catch the eyes of onlookers. $119.99 at Shopl2b.com.
A Cure for Curb Scrape
It's a sound that makes any car lover's skin crawl: when a car's undercarriage scrapes the pavement while bottoming out on a steeply angled driveway or rounded curb. The cure is Bridjit Curb Ramps, which are made from recycled tires and form a bridge/protective barrier to smooth out your driveway entrance so your car doesn't scrape the pavement.
The Bridjit Curb Ramps come in three pieces — a left, right and center section each 4 feet long — and they bolt together. Although they don't require anchoring, the ramps are street-sweeper friendly and also include a 2-inch-wide channel for water to flow through. $299 at AutoSportCatalog.com.
Hot Shoes for Hot Laps
Driving shoes have become as much a fashion statement as required track gear, thanks to stylish footwear like Oakley Hot Laps. According to Oakley, the shoes are "engineered with a specialized tab that gives you a true pedal feel" and feature the "high traction of a race-tire-inspired rubber outsole."
The Hot Laps also include a micro-suede lining for comfort, an elastic midsole for shock absorption and an Ortholite insole for cushioning. They're available in men's sizes from 6 to 14 and come in three color schemes: black and red, white and green and, our favorite, sheet metal. $90 at Oakley.com.
Motorhead Desk Accessory
If your auto enthusiast/gift recipient spends more time behind a desk than behind the wheel, at least they can let everyone in the office know they're a hard-core motorhead with this Engine Cylinder desk accessory from Griot's Garage. Its single cylinder holds pens and pencils, while an exhaust port stores paper clips. There's also a slot on one side for Post-it notes. Not exactly a big block, the desk organizer measures 5 by 5 by 3.5 inches. $54.99 at GroitsGarage.com.
Need a Lift?
Rooftop cargo boxes are great for hauling extra stuff, but they can be a pain to put on and take off a vehicle. And they're so big and bulky it can be difficult to find a place to store them. But the Thule Box Lift takes the hassle out of removing a cargo box as well as finding a place to put it.
The Box Lift attaches to ceiling studs or rafters in a garage, and a crank system conveniently lifts the box so you don't have to. It works with any brand of cargo box as well as canoes, kayaks, ladders, surfboards or other gear. You can find it at Thule.com.
For holiday gift ideas for those on a smaller budget, check out our Top 10 Holiday Gift Ideas for Less Than $50.