Finding the Best Car Accessories and Tools
For anyone with a car, certain accessories not only make the driving (and car-owning) experience better, they also boost safety when driving. This article is an in-depth guide to finding the best car accessories and tools. After talking to different car users about what they find most handy in their cars, we’ve come up with a list of some common and some not so common accessories for you to consider. More on these a little bit later.
What’s the difference between car accessories and tools?
It may seem like an obvious answer but lots of people might not know the difference between a tool and an accessory. If this is you, keep reading. A car accessory is a handy device that improves your driving experience. They might also be used to embellish your car’s look. A tool, on the other hand, helps when you need to repair or maintain your car.
Things to consider when choosing car accessories
If you’ve done your research on car accessories, as you’re doing in this article, you may have discovered there are different products out there. Some of these are quite handy to have but many aren’t useful at all. How do you sift out the pointless ones and only pick the ones you truly need? Here are some considerations when choosing car accessories.
1. Purpose of the accessory
What value does the accessory add to your car and your driving? If you’re taking time to answer this question then you probably don’t need the product. Think of the purpose of the accessory in terms of three pillars: safety & security, efficiency, maintenance.
What I mean is that if the accessory helps improve safety when driving and security when parked, then it’s worth checking out. The accessory must also boost efficiency; it should make your driving better. And if it makes maintenance of your car easier, then it’s also an accessory you might need.
If an accessory checks at least one of the boxes then go ahead and consider it. If it checks all the boxes, it’s worth buying.
2. Know your car
Although many accessories are built to work with all cars, there are some which are tailored for specific car makes and models. It’s important to consider this when buying the accessories. Know about the different shapes and sizes that are ideal for your car.
If you have a newer car model, perhaps it already has the feature you want from the accessory. For instance, if you’re looking for tire pressure sensors, maybe your car already has these inbuilt and you won’t need to buy third-party ones. You just might save yourself some money.
How much do you have to spend? There are so many different brands, some more expensive than others. Perhaps a brand is only expensive because it’s well known. Consider how much you’re willing to spend and find reliable brands within your budget.
If you’re a DIYer then, I’m sure, you won’t be paying someone else to do the installation. Find out how easy or complicated it is to install the accessory. Will you need to watch a YouTube tutorial? Does it come with instructions? Does it need a bit of technical knowledge?
Of course, lots of accessories are plug and play devices that only take a couple of minutes to install. However, you might need instructions in order to do it right, unless you’ve installed such a device before.
As is with anything you buy, you also need car accessories to last as long as possible. By checking user reviews, you’ll get a feel for which products break after limited use and which ones are for the long haul. The material used should also give you an idea of whether this product is durable enough.
Accessories placed outside the car need to be rugged and materials like rubber or a hard plastic give them the highest durability. Interior accessories with qualities like dust and water resistance should also be considered over the ones without.
Though this might be secondary to some people, I think the design of the accessory should, at least, improve your car’s look in some way. No one wants to buy a device that makes your car look peculiar. In any case, you must have considered your car’s design when buying it, right?
Thankfully, you won’t be hard-pressed to find good looking accessories, if aesthetics are important to you.
Things to consider when choosing car tools
When looking for car tools, here are the things you need to consider.
1. Intended use
If you’re a beginner in car repairs, it’s important that you know which tool does what. At the start, you won’t need to buy advanced electrical tools. This is especially so if you only need tools for basic car maintenance.
There are many gimmicky tools that cost more but don’t really add any value. If a certain tool has some fancy features, ask yourself whether the extra bells and whistles are worth the money. Compare such tools with ordinary types and see whether they can do what their basic counterparts can’t.
For example, adjustable wrenches, I think, don’t really do anything different that the normal wrenches can’t. In fact, an ordinary wrench is stronger and able to handle heavier work. When starting out, it’s best to get only the ordinary tools. We’ll share our recommendations on the basic tools later in this article.
2. Should you buy single tools or a set?
Usually, it’s cheaper to buy a set rather than single tools. However, toolsets may have extra tools that you may not really need if you only plan on doing basic car maintenance work. In this case, just buy what you’ll need for the work you’ll be doing.
If you’re planning to do advanced vehicle repairs then you’ll definitely need a proper set. In this case, find the one with all the necessary tools. Make sure the sockets and wrenches are a complete set by looking at the available sizes.
For example, some sets only have some of the wrench and socket sizes. So imagine you’re in the middle of a project and you realize a particular wrench isn’t available. You’ll no doubt have to either borrow or rush to the hardware store to buy. Therefore, make sure that the set you buy has all sizes for multiple tools.
Because car repair isn’t a simple task, the tools need to be equally as tough. Consider the build material. It should be rugged and durable, able to handle heavy work. Some of the best tools are made of alloy steel (often vanadium) and further polished with nickel or titanium to resist corrosion.
Therefore, the best tools are those that are corrosion resistant, since they’re much easier to maintain. Also, handles should be ergonomically built, meant to offer comfort during use. The best material for handles is rubber, which is known for its durability and comfort.
4. Power tools vs manual tools
Power tools will make certain tasks a lot easier, however, they cost more and are best for heavy work. If you only need tools to maintain your car, then consider manual tools. Power tools are best for those who work on large projects e.g hobbyists or mechanics.
If you do prefer the power tools for their convenience, then find out how to maintain them. With moving parts, these will require a lot more care when using. Buy only the best, in this case, as cheaper brands tend to have cheaper parts that break easily.
If you’re buying a set that comes in a toolbox, then this part shouldn’t be a problem for you. However, if you’re getting single tools or sets that don’t have a box, then figure out where you’ll store your tools.
To prevent loss or damages, find a toolbox that you can use. If you have a table in your garage or a cabinet, consider buying drawer organizers so that your tools don’t get mixed up in one drawer. This boosts efficiency.
What Are The Essential Car Accessories?
With thousands of products in the market, it might be a bit confusing when you try and figure out which car accessories you need to buy. In this section, we’ll take a look at the essential accessories, helping you find the perfect bells and whistles for your car. Later, we’ll share our recommendations on the best brands to consider so keep reading.
Most modern cars come with satellite navigation built-in so, if you have a new model then you might not need a third-party navigation system. However, even if you have a new model sat-nav might only be available in more expensive options.
A GPS navigation system is quite handy, ensuring you never make the wrong turn or wind up in the wrong street. There are several brands (our recommendations later) with different specifications. Whichever you choose, make sure its maps are comprehensive, covering every neck of your woods.
2. Tire pressure monitoring system
With tire pressure sensors, you’ll constantly be aware of the state of your car’s tires. Low pressure is dangerous and it also damages the tires, costing you bucks that you would have used elsewhere.
There are smart systems that use Bluetooth and have a smartphone app, showing a graphic of the state of your tires. The app would then send you an alert if the pressure is getting low. You can choose these smart options or simply go for the standard options. I’ll share my recommendation a little later in this article.
3. Digital tire inflator
What’s the point of tire pressure sensors if you can’t inflate them when you get a low-pressure alert? In that case, also get a digital tire inflator. I prefer digital models since they offer more precision and are a lot easier to use. Have one of these in your car and, wherever you are, you can react to a low-pressure alert instantly.
God forbid, you get into an accident, a dash cam would come in quite handy. With this accessory, you’ll have minute by minute footage of the incident which will help when filing for insurance claims. And we all know how long compensation can take.
With a dashcam, all you need to do is playback the video and you immediately get to know who was at fault. There are different designs and brands, but all you need to consider is video quality and storage capacity.
5. First-aid kit
It’s always important to have a first-aid kit at hand, and this also applies to your car. Some regions make it a requirement for all drivers to have these kits and for good reason. In the event of an emergency, you should be able to take control of the situation.
6. Floor mats
To protect your car’s carpet then you need to buy floor mats. These are made to be easy to clean, in fact, a lot easier than the car’s carpet. So, if you’re shoes are muddy or you’ve collected a lot of dust, then you need not worry about this.
When looking for the right floor mats, consider the material and how hardy it is. The mat needs to be able to withstand the constant foot traffic it might be exposed to. For more on which floor mats to choose, check out this article.
The sun can not only damage your car’s interior but the UV rays are harmful. Sunshades help to mitigate these by filtering out the harmful UV light without compromising on the aesthetic value.
When choosing these, consider the size that’s perfect for your car and also look for those rated to keep out a high percentage of UV rays. Also, make sure the installation is easy and the grip on the window is tight enough that it won’t fall off when you’re driving. Find out which are the best car sun shades in this piece.
Other handy car accessories to have
- Magnetic LED lights
- Wireless smartphone chargers
- Puncture repair kit
- Car jump starter
- GPS car tracker
- Car cover
- Trunk organizer
Essential Car Tools You Need to Have
When starting out, it’s best to avoid gimmicky tools like multi-tools and adjustable wrenches. Also, you won’t really need power tools so save your cash. Below, we’ll take a look at the essential car tools that anyone interested in car repair and maintenance needs to have. Keep reading.
1. Wrench set
You’ll need a complete set of wrenches to be able to handle all sizes bolts and nuts. Make sure the set you buy has all size numbers with no skips. Lots of sets have only a fraction of the sizes, missing others that you’ll eventually need but won’t have.
Check that the sizes are consecutive, with no sizes missing in between. The smallest size wrench is about 4mm (which is really small) and the largest is about 63mm. However, for auto work, you’ll need a set that starts from 8mm to around 22mm. With these sizes, you should be able to handle most (if not all) bolts in your car.
2. Socket set
Once you have the right wrenches, find a good socket set. Here, the rule of sizes applies: make sure there are no size skips in your set. Also, and this applies to wrenches as well, consider the units for measurement; metric or standard. For instance, a socket with a standard measurement of 5/16 inches, is equal to 8mm.
Whether you’ll use standard or metric depends on the measurement units used in your car. Most Japanese and German cars use metric while American cars use Standard. Find out by checking your car’s instruction manual or better, Google. When looking for a socket set, also find one with both shallow and deep sockets because you’ll need both.
3. Screwdriver set
Screws are used in a multitude of places and devices, and having a set would come in handy not just in auto repairs but also around the house. The set you buy must also have good size variation with both flathead and Phillips heads available.
The best screwdrivers have a comfortable handle, preferably made of rubber, with a strong grip. They should also have a magnetic tip to be able to latch onto screws and prevent them from falling into tight spaces like the engine bay.
4. Pliers set
There are different types of pliers but the main ones you’ll need are blunt-nosed pliers and needle-nose pliers as well as clippers for cutting wires. Later on, you can opt to get specialty pliers as the level of work you’re involved in gets more advanced.
5. Breaker bar
This one goes really well with the sockets. With a breaker bar, you’ll be able to easily open bolts that are tightly fastened, thanks to the extra leverage it offers.
Other handy tools to have
- Ratcheting wrench
- Jack and jack stands
My Top Car Accessory Recommendations
If you live in the US or Canada, Garmin Drive 51 is a navigator system that would act as a handy companion in your car. I love it because its maps are fully up to date, with information on points of interest, courtesy of TripAdvisor.
It’s hard to see how you can get lost with this device guiding you, considering that it knows where every turn is, including the speed limits in different sections of the highway. And with its nifty way of directing you using landmarks, you should feel confident with this car accessory. Here is a breakdown of the Garmin Drive 51’s pros and cons.
- Its 5-inch screen is large enough to clearly display the maps but small enough to fit wherever you place it in the car.
- The maps are up to date and cover all US and Canada roads.
- It lets you know about dangerous curves as you approach them.
- Garmin directs you using landmarks and buildings, making it easier to get to where you’re going.
If you’re not in the US or Canada, you can’t use the Garmin device as maps for other regions aren’t available. Hopefully, Garmin will include other parts of the world soon.
2. Favoto Tire Pressure Monitoring System
There are lots of Bluetooth smart tire pressure monitoring systems but I find the simplicity of the Favoto to be a positive for it. This accessory doesn’t have any complicated connection process, just install the sensors to your tires, power the receiver and you’re good to go.
It’s solar-powered so you don’t need to connect it to the car’s cigarette lighter. However, it can also be charged via USB for more convenience. Once connected, the system will monitor whether the tire pressure is low, high or leaking, with alerts for each of these. Let’s take a look at the Favoto’s pros and cons below.
- With solar charging, you won’t need to use your car’s power to use this tire pressure monitoring system.
- It can be charged via USB on those sunless days.
- The Favoto system helps you to maintain the tire’s pressure at the optimum level; not too high or too low.
- The display is easy to read, showing the pressure and temperature.
- The installation process of the sensors is quick and painless. Pairing with the receiver is also easy.
- Although pairing is easy, other similar products come with pre-paired sensors for an even easier installation.
- Users have reported that the pressure reading shows about 2 units lower than the actual level.
- The display isn’t easily readable in bright light.
3. EP Auto 12V Portable Air Compressor and Digital Inflator
Coupled with the tire pressure monitoring system above, this portable air compressor will ensure your tire pressure is always at the correct level. It’s quite small and portable; in fact, the EPAuto comes with its own little bag.
Plug it directly into the cigarette lighter and it jumps to life, offering enough verve to inflate tires for up to a mid-size SUV. The maximum Psi it can handle is 70, which is more than enough for most of us. Here’s a look at the EPAuto’s good and bad sides.
- This air compressor is quite portable, a good size to fit in your car’s trunk.
- It connects to the cigarette lighter of your car.
- Other than inflating tires, you can also use it to fill up balls.
- It’s quite affordable.
- The digital display ensures you will accurately fill your tire pressures.
- The EPAuto automatically shuts off when the pressure reaches the set amount.
- It also switches off when it starts to overheat.
- The pressure sensor seems a bit inaccurate as it allows the pressure to go beyond the required level before shutting off.
- It takes a while to fill the tires.
4. Yi Smart Dash Cam
If you’re looking for a dashcam, consider the Yi Smart Cam, a reliable little gizmo. It is easy to attach onto your car’s windshield, preferably behind the rear-view mirror. Its 2.7-inch screen isn’t a smartphone standard, but it’s good enough to control the interface.
The Yi records 1080p videos in full HD quality, ensuring your footage is nice and clear. Other than recording your driving experience, this dash cam also has a driver assistance system that alerts you when your car is departing from the lane. It can also detect the distance between you and the car in front, helping you keep a safe distance. Check out the list below, of the pros and cons of the Yi Smart Dashcam.
- The Yi Dash Cam has full HD video recording ensuring clear footage. It also has night vision to ensure clear recordings even after sunset.
- Its advanced driving assistance system lets you know when the car is drifting off its lane.
- The setup process is very easy, just power it, insert the micro sd card, and it starts recording.
- Its advanced G-sensor technology lets the cam know when an accident occurs and it automatically saves the footage leading up to that accident.
- The Yi Smart Dash Cam is quite affordable compared to other similar products in the market.
The mount sold with the dashcam has a 3M sticker which loses its grip after a couple of days. You’ll need to buy a third party suction mount.
Its video compression is too aggressive, making the footage lose a lot of quality. For general recording for safety, this is fine but if you want to capture footage of a scenic road trip, this camera just won’t replace a GoPro or your smartphone, for that matter.
5. WeatherTech floor liners
My recommendation for floor mats for your car is the WeatherTech floor liners. These are custom-made for any car, so you should be sure of a perfect fit with no spaces on the sides.
They are known to be quite durable despite being lightweight. WeatherTech’s floor liners are made of their very own patented material which they call High-Density Tri-Extrude. With the surface designed with grooves, fluids that may spill are channeled to a reservoir-like part of the liners, preventing leaking onto the car’s carpet. We did an in-depth review of the WeatherTech Floor Liners in this article, so go check it out.
Which is better WeatherTech vs Husky Floor Mats? Find out here!
6. TaoTronics Bluetooth Car Kit
This handy little gizmo transforms your car stereo, no matter how old it is, into a Bluetooth receiver. It plugs into the audio jack and that’s it, no complicated wiring required. Then, simply pair your smartphone and you should be able to listen to music that’s on your device as well as enjoy hands-free calling while you’re driving.
The receiver has a built-in microphone and the audio quality via the car’s speakers is top-notch. Here’s a breakdown of the TaoTronics Bluetooth Car Kit pros and cons.
- A connection is easy as you only need to plug it into the car stereo’s audio jack then pair it with your phone.
- With an in-built microphone, you can enjoy taking hands-free calls while driving.
- Its battery lasts up to 10 hours in continuous use and 200 hours when in standby.
- The TaoTronics Bluetooth Car Kit is able to connect to two devices at the same time.
- It’s also compatible with home stereo systems.
- The volume for calls tends to be a bit low and some users have reported that the microphone doesn’t do a very good job in picking up your voice in a call.
7. Nonda ZUS Smart Car Charger
The Nonda ZUS is not just a car charger, although this is a job that it does quite well. This handy accessory also does quite a few other things that will make you fall in love with it. First, because it plugs into your car’s cigarette lighter, it’s able to monitor the car’s battery status and sends you a notification when the battery health goes down. This is made easy by the accompanying ZUS app which you’ll download on your smartphone.
Thanks to this app, the device can also record your mileage, if you’re a business person who need such data for tax purposes. Also, the app will record your parking location, making it easier for you to find your car. Clearly this device is a Swiss army knife of car accessories. Here’s a look at its pros and cons.
- The Nonda ZUS smart car charger works seamlessly with a smartphone app which allows it to do more than charge your smartphone.
- You can monitor your car’s battery health with the help of the ZUS, which sends battery data to your phone via the app.
- This device also saves your parking location so you’ll never again spend hours looking for your car when you forget where you parked it.
- You can also share with a friend or loved one, your parking location.
- If you need information on your mileage, this smart device can record it for you.
- Although it helps you find where you parked, it isn’t very accurate in pinpointing the exact location but it gives you the general area.
8. Toguard Backup Camera 7”
Here’s a futuristic rearview mirror for your car. I love this one because it’s quite easy to install; it’s simply clamped onto the car’s stock mirror. Then, with a bit of wiring, you should be able to connect the rearview camera at the appropriate position. Once this is one, you’ll have a device in your car that will not only help you when backing up but it will also record the goings-on around your car when you’re driving.
It also doubles as a dashcam and boasts a 1080P front-view camera. Check out our breakdown of the Toguard’s pros and cons below.
- The Toguard has a 7-inch touchscreen display but when off, it works as a normal rearview mirror.
- It has a front-view, 1080p camera that will continuously record while you drive.
- The rearview camera is waterproof ensuring it is able to withstand the vagaries of the outdoors.
- This car accessory is easily mounted onto the car’s factory rearview mirror.
- It comes with a short power cable that barely reaches the cigarette lighter port.
- Since it uses the cigarette lighter, you won’t be able to use any other accessories that require that port.
- It’s a bit pricey.
9. Car Seat Protector + Rear Seat Organizer
If you travel with kids, you know how challenging it can be to keep the car clean and organized. Enter this car seat protector, a genius invention that lots of parents adore. This accessory protects the upholstery and it’s easy to clean. So, even if the kids want to put their feet up (and they will) you won’t worry about the resultant mess.
It also has a backseat organizer has several pockets so simply slide in all your gear when going on a long drive. This includes a water bottle holder and, my personal favorite, the iPad/tablet compartment so the kids can watch their favorite videos without having to hold the device. Here’s a look at the pros and cons.
- This car seat guard is easy to clean so even when the kids make a mess, the car’s upholstery will remain in good condition.
- It’s also waterproof because kids eventually spill their drinks.
- With several pockets, you can easily organize your items, especially when on a long drive.
- The material is thick and padded, not only making it durable but also ensuring it’s comfortable as well.
There are no noted cons of this product. It works as advertised!
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: Why are car accessories necessary?
A: Car accessories help to improve the look of your car and they also work to improve your driving experience. For example, with the tire pressure monitoring system, you’re able to maintain the correct pressure level in your tires at all times and you’ll know when there’s a leak, in time to fix it.
Q: What should you have in your car at all times?
A: You’ll need to have jumper cables, a tool kit, a first aid kit, a flashlight, a tire pressure gauge and inflator, safety triangles, and a fire extinguisher.
Every car owner needs to have at least a basic knowledge of their car as this comes in handy more often than not. With the right accessories, you’ll be able to maintain your car in tip-top shape and enhance safety when driving.
When choosing the right tools, the cost is not always synonymous with quality. There are brands that are overly expensive but don’t really offer any added functionality or durability. However, don’t immediately buy the cheapest products you can find. With a bit of research, you should land on the right tools and accessories for your car.