Top 10 best gadgets for your car

Bluetooth

Bluetooth connectivity is essential in today's fast-moving society. We always need to be connected and communicating, and with Bluetooth, we can connect our mobile phones to the car's audio system. Most brand new vehicles are offered with Bluetooth as standard, and on some models is it optional. But what if you have an older car? Don't fret, most vehicles can be fitted with an aftermarket Bluetooth system at a reasonable price, depending on how comprehensive or how well integrated the unit is. Either way, both setups allow you to take or make handsfree phone calls safely and legally.

Tinted windows

Although it is not really a 'gadget', tinted windows are a very popular dealer option and aftermarket accessory. Especially in Australia where summer temperatures can be sweltering. Tinting film over the inside of the cabin's side and rear windows not only blocks out some of the direct sunlight, most tinting applications provide real protection from the sun's UV rays, even during overcast weather. The darkened look also gives cars some visual enhancement.

Satellite navigation

More and more new vehicles are coming out with sat-nav as a standard feature these days, which is great news for motorists. If your vehicle isn't fitted with such a system though there are endless aftermarket options you can go for. From small devices that sit neatly in the corner of your windscreen, to proper in-dash installs with large touch-screens, all systems can ensure you never get lost ever again. Most aftermarket devices can be updated too, which means you are getting the latest route options and map displays to get you there quicker or more efficiently. As a bonus, some systems will present live traffic updates, speed camera locations, and known crash hot spots and hazard areas.

Rear-view camera

Most of us couldn't even imagine the devastation of reversing into or over a pet, or worse still, a child. Rear-view cameras are slowly becoming a must-have feature for all vehicles, to the point where it is illegal in some regions for car companies to sell an SUV without a standard camera system fitted. Even if your car or SUV isn't fitted with one from the factory, most aftermarket retail outlets will offer retrofit setups which can be applied to any vehicle. Prices range from under $100 and upwards, depending on how advanced the camera is or how big the screen display is. It is an essential gadget if you have pets or kids.

Parking sensors

While parking sensors might not save someone's life, they can save you a lot of money in minor crash repairs caused at the car park. Like parking cameras, sensors are becoming more and more common for new vehicles and often come standard for various models. Fortunately, there are aftermarket options available, no matter how old your car is. The aftermarket setups work in pretty much the same way as factory-fitted units, with either a display or beeping sound warnings to let you know when you're getting close to that pole in the parking lot. Systems range from very affordable to more complex and more expensive, depending on how detailed you want it.

DVD player

It wasn't long ago that a TV in a car seemed too futuristic for the common market. Nowadays though, TVs and DVD players are quite common and relatively cheap. The most popular style is the flat screen setup which sits on the back of the front seat headrests. These provide kids with hours of entertainment for those long journeys, with Bluetooth headphones and remote control preventing driver distraction. Such systems can be installed on any vehicle very easily.

Head-up display

Head-up display is a relatively simple yet marvellous technology. It works by using the reflection of the windscreen to display critical information such as speed and sat-nav directions right in the line of the driver's sight. You can adjust the display for brightness and eye level, and because it is just a reflection you can see straight through it if you need to. The best thing to do is have the display sitting in the lower section of the windscreen so you merely glance in the 'corner' of your eye to see the speed. At the moment only higher end vehicles and premium vehicles are offered with such technology from the factory, however, the humble Holden Commodore and Mazda3 are offered with systems as an option. Best yet, you can just as easily buy an aftermarket system for most vehicles for as little as $100.

Mobile/device charger

Mobile phone or electronic tablet chargers are a must for people who are constantly on the go and in and out of their car. There's nothing worse than turning up to a function or meeting to find your mobile phone is about to go flat. Using a simple charger which plugs into any vehicle's cigarette lighter prevents this from ever happening. Aftermarket chargers are available for all types of mobile phones and devices, and can usually be purchased at department stores and even petrol stations. The bigger department stores are the best option as they usually have a wider range than the smaller shops, and prices can be under $10.

Powered cooler box

If you love camping and getting away for the weekend, you might want to take food and drink with you. And one way to ensure these items stay cold is with an in-car cooler. Most SUVs these days come with a 12V power outlet in the cargo area which means you can pack a relatively large cooler with your luggage. Even without a power outlet in the back, most aftermarket coolers come with a pretty long power lead so you can at least store the box in the back. An accessory like this can ensure your meats and food, and beverages, stay cool and ready for when you arrive at your destination.

Aftermarket audio unit

Older cars come with pretty crumby audio units, let's face it. Fortunately, there are heaps of options for an aftermarket unit, ranging from basic head units that can play CDs and USB audio files, to more comprehensive flip-out touch-screen units that incorporate functions such as GPS navigation. Almost every new vehicle on the market today comes with a fairly advanced audio system from the factory, with MP3 and USB support. Over the years this has pushed prices down for aftermarket units. You can now pick up a decent head unit for under $100 that will play all formats. Most also offer Bluetooth connectivity.