The car is much like a mobile extension of our house or office. It’s a place to work from on a laptop pinching the nearest shop’s wifi connection while huddled over a takeout coffee and croissant. It’s a place to socialise with your best mates as you head out of town on a short break. Or it can be a place in which we’ll spend ages as we push on hundreds of miles on the road trip of a lifetime. Heck, it can even double as a mobile B&B on wheels if you have a camper van of some sort.
The thing is, we all like our creature comforts, no matter what we’re using them for, and that means piling in the gadgets and gizmos to ease the travelling, or simply to have some fun. I’m here to help out with that, and in this post it’s all about the gear that’ll help out through the cold winter months.
There’s stuff for a range of budgets, and for all sorts of applications, so read on to find some cool car gadgets.
Note: if you want to read about winter driving tips, or what essentials to keep in your car for winter road conditions, read my other Chipex article here.
Handpresso Auto Portable Espresso Machine – approx. £159.00
If you need your daily coffee fix, then you’re going to want this badly. The Handpresso Auto is powered via the 12-volt socket in your car, and it makes espresso better than you’ll get in the majority of coffee shops, in just a few minutes.
Depending on the version, it uses either E.S.E pads, ground coffee, Lavazza A Modo Mio capsules or Senseo style pads. Handily, this means you can take your coffee or pods/pads from home instead of buying more.
I reviewed the Handpresso Auto a fair while ago, and it’s still one of the coolest car gadgets I’ve ever tested. Definitely one for the wish list!
Prices on the French Handpresso website range from 99.00€ – 149.00€, plus more for the kit versions.
12-Volt Heated Travel Mug – approx. £5.00 – £27.00
Okay, it’s about a mile away from the Handpresso Auto in terms of tech, but the heated travel mug is a must for keeping your brew warm in winter.
It’s all good making a flask for a journey to the local sledging hill, but let’s face it, most will be cold by the time you actually need a hot drink to warm your insides and hands.
The humble heated travel mug means you can keep your cuppa nice and hot, or warm the stuff from the flask, just by plugging the mug into a 12-volt socket.
I’m not talking the old-school water-heater element type here either, but a proper inbuilt heated system.
Most now come with handy USB connectors too, for those modern cars with those type of ports. Readily available from eBay, Amazon and camping/travel websites.
Heated seat covers – around £20.00 – £30.00
If you envy your friend for his car having heated seats, while you sit and freeze until your car warms through, worry no more, for there is an answer – and without the expense of changing your car to a higher spec model.
For the majority of motorists, with winter in full swing we dread the daily commute, or simply just having to drive. Once you’ve finished de-icing your car windows, you are then waiting for the mist to clear from the windscreen (I wrote about how to combat misted screens here), then the engine to get hot enough to get warm air from the vents, and all the while you’re sat freezing your butt off. Worse still if your vehicle has leather seats!
The answer is a heated seat cover. These used to be fairly pricy, but in the last couple of years they seem to be available everywhere, from the supermarket to the petrol station, and of course from all the usual big online sellers. For a bit more money, you can even get them with a built-in massage function. Nice.
Portable gas stove – approx. £12.00 – £20.00
Okay obviously this isn’t an in-car gadget per-se, but it is something you can use for those crisp winter days in the countryside with your family and friends.
Whether you’ve got up super-early to avoid the madness and anarchy of the local sledging hill, and are now ready for food, or you’re on a road trip and are ready for lunch with a view, you’ve got the benefit of avoiding the noisy, packed and overpriced fast-food restaurants or depressing motorway service stations, while also choosing to use your own better-quality grub.
If you’ve got a camper van or pick-up truck with a drop-down tailgate, that’s even better to use one in or on. Modern versions (single or double burners) are now lightweight and compact, and some fold down into their own box for easy storage. Hot sandwiches on a cold but brights winter’s day? Perfect.
Bespoke 4×4 drinks cabinet – Priced per quote
By no means am I at all condoning drink driving. You’ll need a designated driver for this one. Oh, and plenty of money and a 4×4 with a big boot – possibly a Range Rover or the new Bentley Bentayga SUV. Well, I did say this article contained stuff for a range of budgets.
Here’s the thing, chaps, if you’re going on a long weekend to the country manor, or out on a shoot in the cold wintery weather, you’ll need a good supply of body-warming quality port, brandy, scotch or anything else people like, but you’ll also need somewhere to store it, plus the crystal glassware that goes along with it. A bespoke in-car drinks cabinet is what you require!
A while ago, the boys on Top Gear showed a special edition Holland & Holland Range Rover, which aside from upgrading the whole interior, also included a gun and drinks cabinet in the rear. The price of the Rangey plus this conversion now costs from a whopping £180,000.
However, there are now places such as Chapman Bespoke Woodwork, who will taylor-make absolutely beautiful ones to your exact requirements. All at a cost, of course. Chin chin!
Vehicle snow plough attachment – Around £1,600 upwards
While they aren’t massively popular in the UK yet, the car snow plough attachment (or ‘plow’ as the American spelling), is heavily used in colder parts of countries such as the United States and Canada, where they get proper winters.
Yes, we may think they’re a tad unnecessary here in Blighty, but I’ve seen snow ploughs attached to Land Rovers up in Scotland where they usually get snow when the rest of us don’t.
If the snow is ridiculously heavy and you want to be able to get out of your driveway, down your farm track or to clear the street for your (hopefully thankful) neighbours, then get yourself one of these. And a 4×4.
Depending on spec, they’re around £1,600 upwards. Not cheap, but great fun and it means you can get going on that road trip once it’s clear to the highways.
HD Car Action Camera – £40.00 – £220.00
You only have to search YouTube for a few seconds to find some truly amazing videos that in-car cameras have caught, whether thats near misses, stunts, racing or anything else.
If you’re planning an epic road trip, it’s going to stay with you even better if you capture the drives and scenery along the way. For that, you’ll need a good action camera with a few accessories, including a waterproof tough case to avoid breakage from stones and water, plus exterior and interior car mounts for both windows and body panels, in order to mount it in the perfect position. Some can be had with Bluetooth linkage and built-in WiFi ,so you can control and see it live from your smartphone. Handy.
There are now an absolute stack of different makes and models to choose from, so don’t just go for the big brands as you can get plenty of value for money on cheaper versions, which still have loads of great features and accessories as standard, and cost a whole lot less than the big names.
Loads of online places sell HD action cameras now, so make sure to shop around for the best value for your budget.
Car Air Bed – around £45.00 – £100.00
If you’re travelling on a budget, but the weather is terrible so you can’t camp in a tent, and you also want to save on hotels, the car air bed is a simple but brilliant invention. It gives you the freedom of being able to park up in a scenic spot, and then get on the road early again.
You can buy a single version to put across the back seats if you have a saloon, or if you’re fortunate to have a larger estate or SUV with flat-folding seats, then you can get long, double-sized version too.
12-volt adapters usually come with the air bed, or can be bought for a few euros extra on sites like Amazon and eBay, where you’ll find the inflatable beds at good prices too. Slightly tacky? Yes. Big money saver? Also yes.
Written by Chris Davies – an award-winning motoring journalist writing for CarProductsTested.com
Handpresso Auto: Wicker Paradise on Flickr
Portable gas stove: Juhan Sonin on Flickr
Heated Travel Mug: Buy from eBay
Snow plow: Sarah J on Flickr
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