If you're looking for a holiday gift idea, consider giving your loved ones gifts that will keep them safe on the road. There are a few car-safety gifts that will never go out of style.
If Mike Quincy, an auto specialist at Consumer Reports' Auto Test Center in East Haddam, Conn., got his holiday wish, every driver would unwrap a good set of tires this winter. "They're not sexy and you're not going to see them under every Christmas tree," he says. "But good tires are the most important aspect of safe driving, because all-season and performance tires get old or get worn out."
If you don't want to tie a bow around some new treads, here are 10 products under $50 that can help your family members and friends stay safer on the road. You may even want to buy a few items to create your own "emergency kit." Keeping your car in good condition and staying safe on the road will keep you from making a claim with your auto insurance company - and keep your car insurance rates low.
While you're thinking about car insurance rates, make sure you're getting auto insurance discounts for the safety features that are built in to your car - like antilock brakes and antitheft devices.
- Hazard triangles or flares
If you are unable to pull completely off the road or if your car is in a dangerous location, reflective safety triangles or emergency flares will alert other drivers and prevent them from hitting your car -- especially at night.
Victor Auto Emergency Warning Triangles (3 in a pack); $27.95
Orion Safety Flares (3 in a pack); $5.99
- Jumper cables
If you've never had a dead battery, consider yourself lucky. If you haven't been so fortunate, you probably know that it's easy to jump-start your battery with jumper cables hooked up to a fully charged car battery. Consumer Reports recommends cables be at least 12 feet long and have a six-gauge rating.
Kwik Tek Jumper Cables (20 feet); $30.99
- Flashlight and extra batteries
Even if you don't have car trouble, you may need a flashlight to find a lost wallet. Remember to keep extra batteries in your car. You might want to give two flashlights: a compact one for the glove compartment and a larger one for the trunk.
Mini Maglite 2-AA Flashlight; $12
MagLite 4-D Cell Flashlight; $24
- Cell phone charger
Chances are your loved one will have a mobile phone to call for help. To make sure she keeps her cell phone fully charged, give her a charger for her vehicle. Buy one that is compatible with her device, whether it's an iPhone, an ANDROID, a BlackBerry or some other mobile phone.
Griffin Technology PowerJolt Apple iPhone Vehicle Charger; $29.99
Rocketfish Mobile Vehicle Charger: $21.99
- Windshield scraper
If you want to give a practical gift, give an ice scraper with a long handle, a sharp edge and a brush. If you want to give her one to keep her hand cozy, give her a scraper with an attached faux fur mitt. If you're feeling extravagant, give her a heated scraper.
Dart Seasonal Products 21-Inch Car Snow Brush/Scraper; $8.99
Sharper Image Electric Windshield Scraper; $44.99
Brookstone Luxe Ice Scraper Mitt; $20
- Small shovel
A shovel is a great tool to have if you get stuck in a snow bank. While you don't need to buy a fancy shovel, a smaller one fits better in the trunk. Besides, you'll need the room for all your other presents, right?
Garant Nordic Car Snow Shovel; $9.99
- Emergency blanket
So your loved one doesn't get chilled while waiting for roadside assistance, give her a lightweight emergency blanket or a wool blanket. If she lives in a colder climate, you may want to give her a heated blanket that plugs into a cigarette lighter.
Quake Kare Emergency Thermal Blankets (4 to a pack); $9.80
Trillium CarCozy Heated Car Blanket; $34.95
- Hand tools
AAA recommends keeping basic tools in your vehicle, including a Phillips screwdriver, a flat head screwdriver and an adjustable wrench. If you don't want to give a bunch of bulky tools, you can always buy an all-in-one tool, such as the Leatherman.
Leatherman 831103 Super Tool 300 Multi-Tool; $45
- Tire pressure gauge
To make sure your loved one properly inflates his tires, give him a pressure gauge. Chrystie Hyde, an AAA spokesperson, says she buys the new, easy-to-read digital ones as holiday gifts. "And I keep one for myself," she adds.
Craftsman Programmable Digital Tire Gauge; $14.99
- Kitty litter
Yeah, this seems like the equivalent of giving a lump of coal, but kitty litter will be invaluable if your loved one gets stuck in snow or ice. Cat litter - or sand - will help him get traction and move his vehicle. Consumer Reports' Quincy recommends keeping a bag in your trunk during the winter.
Jonny Cat cat litter (20 pounds); $3.99