Add-on Accessories To Enhance Your Car
And Where To Get Them Online

-- by Alan Detwiler

There are many add-on devices and gizmos for cars that can provide features to make your ride better. A power cord plugged into the cigarette lighter socket will keep your cell phone running without draining its battery. An iceless cooler will conveniently keep a drink cold. A heated mug will keep coffee hot as long as the car is running. There are other useful functions that add-on accessories can provide to make time in your car more enjoyable. Many car accessories are low enough in price so that they may be well worth installing. This article concentrates on accessories priced under $50.

Below is information and comments about each type of accessory. Details on each individual product are given at the purchase sites.

Map reading light - These are available with standard incandescent bulbs, flourescent tubes or leds (light emitting diodes). The flourescents and leds use less power and so are the slowest to drain batteries. Led bulbs last the longest, flourescents next, and incandescents generally burn out first. Incandescents usually are priced lowest. Options include a power cord that plugs into the cigarette lighter socket or two wires that get connected into the vehicle's wiring. Some map reading lights mount with double sided tape, some clip on, some are supported by the cigarette lighter plug/socket, some use velcro. Some have swivel bases to aim the light, some have flexible stems, and some are fixed.

You might find these at larger auto parts stores, large department stores, electronics stores or online.

Example models:

  • CarMate NZ181 ZAX LED Interior Map Light. Has plug to get power from cigarette lighter jack. Available at for about $25.
  • Touring R Series LED Shot Light- With swivel for aiming, two wire connection to vehicle's power. Available at and for about $20.

12 volt heated mug - A mug with a plug for getting power from the cigarette lighter socket. It keeps a liquid such as coffee hot for as long as the vehicle is running. Some models have a thermostat to set the temperature.

Example models:

Cooler/warmer - These give the choice of keeping food or beverage hot or cold. Some are sized to hold a can of soda or a mug of coffee, larger units might hold a six pack or more.

Example models:

Cell phone charger - Plugs into the cigarette lighter socket to power or charge your cell phone.

Example models:

12 volt coolers - These range in size to hold 2 soda cans up to full size refrigerators for recreational vehicles.

Example models:

Multipurpose lights - Can be incandescent, flourescent or led. Some plug into the cigarette lighter socket, some are wired directly into the car's power circuits, and some are battery operated and portable. If used while the vehicle is not running, a consideration may be that LED models will drain the battery the least (but in general produce less light).

Example models:

Compass - Some are mechanical; some are electronic and battery powered with digital displays, some are lighted to read at night, some have additional features such as time, date, and/or temperature.

example models:

Weather alert radio - Receives broadcasts from the National Weather Service. The NWS provides weather forecasts and reports as well as announcements about severe weather and any possible disasters. Choose a radio that uses the vehicle's power so you don't have to replace batteries every time you turn around.

example models:
  • Midland 74-200 All Hazard Alert Monitor. 18-235 Power Cord Adapter required for 12 volt operation. At, about $50.
  • Midland Model 74-200 SAME Weather/All-Hazard Radio. 18-235 Power Cord Adapter required for 12 volt operation. At, about $50.
  • Midland WR-10 Weather alert radio. 18-235 Power Cord Adapter required for 12 volt operation. At, about $40.
  • Midland 18-235 Power Cord Adapter. At C & M Audio/Video Applicance about $10.

Flashlight - Dozens of types available including windups that don't require batteries, solar rechargeables, flourescent tube (bulbs last much longer), and led models that will run many hours on one set of batteries.

example models:

4 point safety harness - Has four anchor points and a restraint for each shoulder. These are more likely to get you through a crash with less injury than if you had been using a standard belt (across one shoulder and across the lap). Many models are made to attach to a roll bar, so make sure the one you are getting is appropriate for your vehicle. If in doubt, call the retailer or manufacturer.

example models:

Power inverter - Plugs into the cigarette lighter socket, clips to battery, or wire it in. The vehicle's 12 volts dc is changed to 120 volts ac to power things like laptop computers, coffee makers, cell phones, camcorder battery chargers and other small appliances. Don't go bigger than 400 watts unless you want to go directly to the battery with heavy wire. Even then, high power devices will drain your battery quickly and could fry the alternator if the engine is running.

example models:

Other accessories that can be used to enhance your car include seat covers, floor mats, steering wheel covers, sun shades, head rest covers, litter bags, can and cup holders, inside/outside thermometer, gps/map device, extra loud or novelty sound horns.

Items to keep in your car for repair, emergency, safety and miscellaneous - Jack, lug wrench, trouble light, flares, jumper cables, maps, cell phone and phone numbers, coolant for radiator, drinking water, long storage food, empty container for gasoline, various hand tools, gloves, coat, hat, blanket, rain poncho, and a first aid kit.

This article can be published in print or electronically, free of charge as long as it is complete, unaltered and contains the following author info and links (text only or active):

Alan Detwiler is the author of several books on leisure activities. The books are available at

His web sites are and


Go - Back to Weekend Fun and Adventure menu
Go - Back to Fun Things menu
Go - To LeisureIdeas home