Car-related gifts for every taste

Melissa Preddy
Special to The Detroit News

Ten more shopping days to go and you’re feeling stumped for special gifts?

Well, if there’s one aspect of life we all have in common, it’s how our lifestyles are entwined with our automobiles. According to AAA, 86 percent of households own one car per driver, and 28 percent have more cars than they do drivers.

Americans, on average, spend 17,600 minutes a year behind the wheel, AAA says — and those minutes provide fertile ground for holiday shoppers. There’s hardly a person on your list who won’t benefit from something that improves the daily ride.

To get going, think about how your loved ones relate to their vehicles. A no-frills errand runner? Child transport? Kid taxi? Explorer? Pet pamperer? Are they automotive mavens or begrudging commuters?

There are great motor-related gift ideas for every taste, if you think outside of the gearbox, as it were. Here are a few suggestions:

Kid taxi: Fill a couple of totes with seat covers, over-the-seat organizing pouches, cargo-area nets and other aids to control clutter, mess and sporting gear. Many big-box stores sell hand-held vacuums that plug into 12-volt outlets for about $29 and up — some even function as wet-dry shop vacs for extracting spills and grime. A fleece throw or two, a flashlight, a canister of hand wipes and a pack of energy bars will ease backseat commotion on dawn school runs or after-dark pickups. And to jot those on-the-fly ideas, a little visor-mounted dry erase board is only $8 at

Young adult: Chances are the early-career or college student in your life isn’t driving a vehicle that’s hot off the showroom floor, so gifts that boost safety and comfort would be welcome. Consider a roadside assistance membership, or upgrades like an aftermarket remote-start installation, or satellite radio unit and subscription. Auto emergency kits with everything from flares to blankets to emergency foods are available for about $25 and up. Kits to refurbish cloudy headlamps, nice floor mats and gasoline gift cards are a nice touch. Portable power packs for jump-starting balky batteries are helpful — and a new battery would be even better.

If you’re flush, consider outfitting your giftee with a new set of tires — a present that will provide years of peace of mind for both you and the driver. They won’t be under the tree, but you can package a gift certificate to a tire shop along with a little tire-shaped key fob, or a tire-shaped silver charm, both easily located online — and perhaps a spray bottle of tire-shine potion and wheel cleaner.

Solo commuter: Anything that eases the cost and tedium of the daily trek will work for this person. Audio book credits, car wash subscription packs, an insulated coffee tumbler or heated seat covers might work. If your giftee frequents drive-through fast food, doughnut or coffee joints, gift cards for those establishments would be welcome. How about an Uber or cab service gift certificate for a day they just don’t feel like sliding behind the wheel?

Pet parent: Humans aren’t the only frequent passengers for many an auto owner. Comfort items for Rex and Bailey abound, from inexpensive roadworthy water dishes to booster seats, in-car restraints, entry ramps and even foam products that extend the rear seats so pets don’t fall into foot wells. For under $10, the Gonzo pet-hair sponge is a lifesaver, too.

Garage gal or guy: Upgrading garage space is trendy these days, and products abound for enhancing the look and function of the personal car park. From big-ticket shelving systems at DIY stores to rolling toolboxes to custom flooring, a garage makeover might be just the ticket for under the tree.

Motor maven: If you have a classic car enthusiast to buy for, think experiences, not merchandise. How about the North American International Auto Show in January? The $400-per-person charity preview is Jan. 19, with the show opening to the public from Jan. 20-28. Times and tickets at Looking further into 2018, options include Autorama in March (, the Detroit Gran Prix in June (, NASCAR’s Firekeepers Casino 400 in June at Michigan International Speedway (, the Concourse d’Elegance of America in July ( — and that’s just right here in southeast Michigan.

A cross-country trek to storied tracks from Indianapolis to Daytona to Laguna Seca would thrill most race fans, and if you’re planning a trip, be sure to check out this directory of car-related exhibits by the National Association of Automobile Museums (

You get the idea — stretch your imagination and the gift ideas just keep on coming.

For stocking stuffers, don’t overlook those car-key locators like FindX and Tile, that work reciprocally with a smartphone.

Happy shopping!

Melissa Preddy is a Michigan-based freelance writer. Reach her via