25 Great Gifts for Gearheads
If you, or someone you know, is obsessed with everything car culture, there are a ton of interesting gift options out there. Why spend hours surfing the ‘net, when all the coolest car related gift ideas are right here, starting from super cheap, to less so. In no particular order here are some great car-related Christmas gifts this year.
Die-casts ($1 and up)
Die-cast vehicles have been made for almost a century, and the variety is staggering. Every single production car made in the last few decades has a die-cast model out there. Yes, even your ugly first car, a 1986 Ford Escort. If you have a gearhead that loves their vehicle, take a look online to find their exact ride in miniature form. It’s super affordable, but is guaranteed to make them smile, just don’t expect huge accuracy. Super detailed model cars start around $60.
Augmented Driving app ($4)
If your gift recipient has an older vehicle, bring them into the 21st Century with Augmented Driving. Attach to a windshield mount and activate this iOS app, and it acts like a Head-Up-Display, with additional features. For example, like a normal HUD, the app displays speed, rpm, and such, but also lane departure warnings and safety distance warnings when in traffic. There’s even a safety score that provides feedback on how to improve. It’s a great way to turn a boring drive into an interesting, but safe, drive.
Torque app ($5)
Torque is an application that turns your smartphone or tablet into a check engine light code reader. Anytime that dumb CEL comes on, Torque will tell you what the problem is in plain language so you know what to fix, saving time and money. When the issue is corrected, Torque can clear the code. Just for fun, it can display horsepower, torque, and 0 – 60 times. The Lite version is free, but limited. The full Pro version is easily worth the five bucks.
SCCA ($15 to $100)
The Sports Car Club of America is a nationwide organization that holds time trial racing events near you. For just a few bucks, you can experience racing your vehicle around a course, competing with other drivers against the clock. The SCCA is very newbie friendly, and local events can explain things for you if you show up early. $15 covers all day completion for members, and the $100 covers a cheap helmet purchase and non-member entry fee. Bring your water bottle, and let’s go racing.
LED lighting ($25 and up)
LED lighting looks cool and takes very little energy compared to old-style incandescent bulbs. This is why there has been a massive surge in cars leaving the factory with LED lighting. If your vehicle does not have LEDs, fear not, as there are aftermarket options for pretty much every vehicle. Common LED upgrades are the “angel eyes” halo rings on headlights, and door sill interior lighting, but even the license plate frame and shift knob are getting the LED treatment these days. Just remember, a little goes a long way, and it’s easy to overdo it and end up tacky.
Car movies ($5 to $30)
Car movies are a great choice, as even non-gearheads can appreciate the entertainment. There’s everything from the bargain bin specials for even the lowest budgets, to DVD/Blu-ray collectors editions with extra features that top out around $30. There’s something for everyone, from cheesy action like The Fast and the Furious, to kid friendly fare like Speed Racer and Cars, and award winning performances like Rush. Just stay away from Driven.
Automotive Books ($5 to $30)
Books offer a lot of in-depth knowledge gearheads love, and present it in an entertaining way. For the adventurer, it’s hard to beat Horatio’s Drive: America’s First Road Trip by Dayton Duncan. For the art aficionado, Cosmic Motors by Daniel Simon, offers a behind the scenes look at vehicle design, and many gorgeous visuals on the future of automobiles. We have a list going of the Greatest Automotive Books, so start there. Of course, Haynes manuals are always well received with the DIY crowd, and are available at nearly any auto parts store.
Blutooth capability (~$30)
Does your buddy have an older vehicle? Why not add the convenience of hands-free calling with a Bluetooth car kit? They start around $15 for Chinesium builds, but a reliable kit starts at about thirty bucks. Stick with a well-known brand like Belkin and you should be fine. The adaptor plugs right into the accessory socket, and syncs to a cell phone or iPod, allowing the driver to talk hands-free or listen to all their tunes. Extra options include USB charging and voice activation.
Chargers ($5 to $60)
The vast majority of drivers have a smart phone, tablet, or other device that is constantly low on power. Give the gift of convenient portable charging with an automotive USB charger. It plugs into the vehicle’s accessory outlet (cigarette lighter) or USB port, and can charge multiple devices at once. Buy one with an aluminum housing instead of plastic, as it will last longer and stay cooler. For bonus points, consider one like the Energen EN-PJX6, which has enough power to jump start your car.
Tools ($5 to thousands)
Everyone need tools. If the person you are buying for is just starting out, this one is a no-brainer. A basic tool set is cheap and will be used pretty much every single time the hood goes up. A quality jack or jack stands are always appreciated. You can never have enough socket sets or ratcheting wrenches. You can move on from the basics into electrical tools, like multimeters and tuners. Even mechanics might need something in this area, like detailing tools. For more ideas, check out our tool guide for every garage.
Trash cans, bins & hangers ($10 to $30)
Know someone whose car looks like their junk drawer? The answer is more storage and convenience. Folding trunk bins and baskets can hold all that extra oil, fire extinguisher, first aid kit, or whatever else they have scattered in their trunk. Multiple hook options for the trunk and back seats can hold grocery bags, or anything else you can think of. Small trash cans attach to the center console or seat, and keep all those fast food wrappers out of sight.
Automotive Calendar (~$20)
Calendars are always a good idea. It’s a gift that almost every person needs, and every month is a new picture, so it’s a gift that stays fresh. With a wide variety of car interests, there’s a calendar out there for everyone. Classic hot rods, Corvettes, trucks, classic German cars, and racecars are all easy themes to find. There’s even one for the stance/VIP crowd. With stunning photography and excellent backgrounds behind amazing cars, think of calendars as seasonally appropriate automotive art.
Interior Covers ($25 to $250)
Speaking of custom touches, one of the easiest ways to make a ride look different or upgraded is with a steering wheel cover, custom pedals, or even a different shift knob. Steering wheel covers go on easily, and can add a touch of class while protecting the steering wheel from damaging UV rays. Pedal covers, or replacement pedals, offer non-slip surfaces, and are available in chrome or carbon fiber to match nearly any interior. A new shift knob is easily swapped out in all of one minute, and makes the interior classy or sporty, depending on the material used.
Performance pads ($50 to $200)
Brake pads aren’t too sexy or exciting, but they can be a great gift. First, if the recipient’s car is used and factory stock, it’s a good idea to swap out the brakes just for safety. Buying safety equipment tells them you love them without you having to say it. Second, upgraded pads are very affordable, but can offer incredible improvements over stock. Last, they are stupidly simple to replace, with 2 minute YouTube videos explaining everything. This is a great beginner modification that is better accomplished with a buddy.
Helmet ($100 – $200 avg)
Helmets are mandatory pieces of safety equipment for pretty much any class of racing. If your buddy is tired of loaner helmets at Autocross, or they’re about to be required to wear one at the track, a helmet makes for a perfect gift. EBay cheapies start around $50 for Snell approved helmets, while most of them run in the hundred dollar range. Like any accessor, style, options, and name brand increase the price, and a sweet looking Master Chief Spartan helmet running a little over $500.
Dash cameras ($100 to $300)
If your gearhead is Russian, don’t bother; they already have one of these. Dash cams have surged in popularity in recent years, both as a way to protect those not at fault in accidents, and as a means to share all those entertaining shenanigans you see out on the road. The cameras are small, and only record when the vehicle is on. You pretty much can’t go wrong here, just stay away from the $20 eBay junk.
Floor Liners ($100 to $300)
Floor liners are the heavy duty version of floor mats. If you don’t have a concours correct show car, it might be worth it to swap out those easily stained fabric mats for military grade rubber. The liners are laser cut exactly to each model’s footwell, so they will never slide or get bunched up. They are completely waterproof, and will hold all the mud you can throw at them. Then, just remove, blast with a hose, and return. WeatherTech is the best known company here, but any of them should last as long as the car.
Tint ($100 to ~$500)
Window tint isn’t often considered as a Christmas gift. The colder temps and overcast skies have a way of making us forget that such an accessory is even needed. However, when summer temps come back, your buddy will be kicking themselves for not having their windows tinted already. While the film is generally cheap, the labor makes it pricier, however this is one area you should not DIY. A pro will offer a great look with a lifetime warranty, offering peace of mind. Additionally, don’t just go for dark, but pick the film that has a high UV resistance.
Car Audio ($100 to thousands)
Car audio fans are their own subgenre of car fans, and the gift buying options here are immense. Technology keeps advancing and driving costs down, so $75 will buy a fairly nice MP4 capable CD player with Bluetooth and a 3” display. That is quite an upgrade for any pre-2000 car with just a tape deck and radio. $200 will buy you a CD player with a massive 7” touchscreen display, DVD capability, and all kinds of options. Satellite radio tuners are another option here, as basic receivers run well under $100, but do require a paid subscription. Still, no commercials make it worth every penny.
Supercar Rental ($150 and up)
If driving a slow car fast isn’t your thing, how about driving a fast car at legal speeds? For just $150 a day, you can rent a high end exotic or supercar. While not available in all locations, there are several rental companies along the lines of Gotham Dream Cars that will rent you a Ferrari F430, Dodge Viper, or McLaren 12C for just 1/10th of what the monthly payment would be. Granted, gas is on you, and there are fees for going over the mileage limit. Looking to borrow something local? Check out Turo.com, where private owners rent out their nice rides for about $150 – $200 a day.
Performance Car Parts (~$100 to over $10k)
Every gearhead loves new shiny parts. The great thing about the aftermarket, is the wide range of options, models covered, and prices. Need to upgrade the suspension on an old Mustang for under $100? It can be done. Everything from classic performance cars to modern economy cars have upgrades out there to make it faster, stop better, handle corners with more speed and less body roll, making for an overall better vehicle. On the high end, look into a turnkey engine from a builder like Falconer Racing Engines for a massive horsepower upgrade.
Racecar Experience (~$200)
Want to go even faster? For speeds that exceed the speed limit, it’s best to take it to the track. Companies like Xtreme Xperience offer instruction from a pro, and then let you lose on the track. The style of car varies by the race company, but Ferrari, Porsche and Lamborghini supercars are usually available, with some companies offering older NASCAR or Formula 1 racers. Be prepared to sign a lot of waivers, but it that doesn’t deter you, the 150+ mph curves will be an experience you’ll never forget.
Wifi hotspot ($150 to $300)
Wi-Fi is great for road trips with the kids, or work car pools. It’s super cool if you are an Uber/Lyft driver. However, it’s just now making its way to production vehicles. If you don’t want to get a new car just to have Wi-Fi, consider a mobile hotspot generator. Just as some smart phones can create their own hotspot, devices like the Karma Hotspot can generate Wi-Fi with a range just for your ride. When the data runs out, buy as much data as you like. AT&T has a similar device for $40 with a contract, or $300 and pay as you go.
Better Seats ($200+, but $500+ for quality)
So many great cars are held back by terrible seats. Either a sports car with unsupportive seats and lack of lumbar support, or commuter cars with hard or uncomfortable seats for long distance travel. Both of these problems have a solution; better aftermarket seats. Sparco, Corbeau, Recaro, and many other manufacturers create seats for almost every car in existence. Brackets are adaptable to everything from your new Corvette to your 25 year old Cavalier.
Clothing and Accessories ($300+)
For the car nut that has everything, look into clothes and accessories. While officially licensed merch isn’t cheap (a ladies Ferrari shirt will run $50 on clearance), it tends to be great quality and will last several years. A dressy Lamborghini belt runs $218, and a Lotus leather racing jacket will set you back a grand. It can get pretty stupid here, but if you really want to impress, that Lambo carbon fiber suitcase at $17,000 should do it. Also look into related brands, like Shinola watches, out of Detroit. These quality beauties start at $550, but mark a luxurious return of downtown Detroit’s manufacturing industry, and deliver automotive style in a good looking watch.
Remember, the key to a great automotive gift idea is not the money spent. A great gift comes from listening and knowing the person you are giving it to. By matching the gift to their personality, your gift will treasured.