Electric cars haven’t taken over from petrol models just yet, despite Tesla’s success, and there’s been no further word on the Apple car either. But there’s no denying that even regular petrol automobiles coming onto the market are becoming more like gadgets with every year that passes.
Could it be that owners of older vehicles are becoming ever-more jealous over all the clever features included in their friends’ brand-new purchases?
If this sounds familiar, then in order to help you combat the green-eyed monster, this list brings together a finely honed selection of the best car gadgets you can get right now. These can give your vehicle some of the natty gadgetry of the latest premium models, or could prove useful whatever the age of your vehicle.
Whether you want to keep track of various types of car data, such as tyre pressure and general performance, give your kids internet access on the move, guard against fraudulent accidents, or start your car without having to lug around a huge additional battery, there’s a useful device here for you.
You may not be able to upgrade your car to become a Google self-driving vehicle just yet, or probably ever, but you might be able to make it so you feel a bit like Knightrider. The gadgets here can at least spruce up its capabilities. All are affordable, and definitely cheaper than trading in for a brand-new car. So read on for some tempting auto augmentations.
Here are some things to look out for in car gadget upgrades.
Related: Best Satnav 2016
The market for dashboard cameras has exploded in the last year or two, with manufacturers appearing out of the woodwork left, right and centre. If you’re in the market for such a device then make sure it has a built-in GPS to store location info along with the video. Resolutions are extending beyond Full HD, and the best cameras now offer a “Super HD” resolution of 2,304 x 1,296, so look out for this as well.
A number of extra safety features are being added, too, that mirror those built into the latest cars – such as detecting whether you’re straying out of lane or about to hit the car in front – but these aren’t a necessity. More important is how the dashcam will mount in your car, which is why the RAC 03 is the featured product in this top gadget list.
Related: Best Dashcam 2016
Monitoring Your Car
The computerisation of cars means that there’s a host of information available via the built-in diagnostic ports found on vehicles manufactured in the past 15 years or so. Hardware and software for this can be purchased for as little as £20, and provides access to a wealth of data – engine temperatures, for example – that isn’t shown on your car’s built-in display
Tuning an engine yourself isn’t recommended if you’re not an expert, but more advanced systems can provide higher-level interpretation of the data. The TomTom Curfer gamifies the data it provides, so you can improve your driving style.
Another type of monitoring that won’t be included, but is extremely important for driving safety, is tyre pressure. Prices for add-on kits start at £100, and will offer peace of mind that your tyres are optimally inflated.
Some built-in versions of such software offer only a combined readout that merely warns of an issue, rather than providing details of the pressure of individual tyres. So, in fact, an add-on such as the Snooper TyrePilot STP1400 featured in this article is actually better.
Connectivity and Utilities
While most smartphones can be used as personal hotspots, it’s still handy to have wireless connectivity in your car, so your phone doesn’t become unusable with everyone grabbing its data connection. Mobile hotspots have been around for a while, but one that specifically hooks into your car’s power socket makes the whole process seamless.
If you’re travelling with a car full of kids using their own Wi-Fi-only devices, adding a hotspot such as EE’s Buzzard featured here can keep the journey joyful for everyone.
Another item to consider keeping with you is a car power pack. Some come with built-in tyre inflators and even an inverter, so they can supply 240V AC power to household devices. But the traditional power pack as found in your local car accessory shop is likely to weigh many kilograms.
Fortunately, more modern battery technology can drastically reduce the size of a power pack. The Cobra JumPack featured in this list is smaller than a videocassette (if you can remember what one of those looks like), yet has enough power to jump-start most cars. It can charge all your USB-connected devices multiple times, too!