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Best affordable gifts for gearheads and car lovers in 2020 - Roadshow

"Clint Valasquez" (2020-06-10)

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Car enthusiasts are never the easiest people to shop for, especially at the last minute. Let's face it, you probably are not going to be buying them a vehicle (which is what they secretly want), but you can still pick up something thoughtful that costs less than $100. Some are even far more affordable that, so you don't even have to part with an entire C-note to show your love.

The car enthusiast in your life probably already has all the practical items that you might have thought about gifting them, such as microfiber towels, a car care kit, a flashlight, a seatbelt cutter, a tire inflator or even nifty new car mats. (That's not to say any of these items wouldn't make a great gift, but maybe not for a gearhead.) Without further ado, check out our picks for the best affordable gifts for car lovers and gearheads.

Read more: Best holiday gifts under $50  

Never too old for toys

Lego Volkswagen Beetle

Lego Not all of us have the time, money or skill to keep a project car in the garage. Heck, not all of us even have a garage. And while this Volkswagen Lego Creator Expert series Volkswagen Beetle may not quite be the next best thing (i.e. you won't be driving it), it's still really cool. Just check out the detail on the air-cooled engine and the optional roof-mounted surfboard and cooler! What an awesome classic car.

At $99.99, this kit just sneaks in under our gift guide price cap. Designed for ages 16 and above (so even a young person who isn't old enough to be a car owner can enjoy it), and with nearly 1,200 pieces, this VW's assembly should make for a solid few nights of enjoyment. At 11 inches long, the finished product will look perfect anywhere, even as a whimsical office desk accessory for a high-powered executive. Bonus: They don't have to take it to the car wash.

-- Chris Paukert

$100 at Lego

For the fashionable enthusiast

Car seat fabric wallet

WalletWerks The automotive industry has many iconic bits of styling, some of which are found inside the car. Think of the Volkswagen GTI's plaid seats, for instance. WalletWerks takes some of those interior fabrics and turns them into, as its name suggests, wallets, which are super high quality. The company also has keychains and socks available to buy, so your driving experience can be even more stylish thanks to your accessories.

-- Steven Ewing

$15 at WalletWerks

For the careful commuter

Dashboard camera

Apeman A dashcam is, ironically, the sort of gift you hope someone will never need. But, when things on the road go awry while driving, they'll be so glad to have one. The compact camera keeps a recording of the road ahead and, in the event of a fender bender or other incident, could provide the proof needed to save them from an expensive insurance repair or traffic ticket. You can get a good dashcam for as little as $50, but more expensive units may also include a second camera to watch their six for rear-end collisions or GPS to capture speed and location data. As a nice benefit, car enthusiasts could also use the high-resolution camera footage to record laps around the track.

-- Antuan Goodwin

$100 at Amazon

Read more: How to buy the best dash cam in 2020

To keep you going and going

Portable battery charger

DB Power More than once while driving I've left my lights on taking a roadside nap and woken up to a dead battery. A small jump starter doesn't take up a lot of room and gets you back up and moving quickly, no waiting for AAA required. As a bonus, you can be a good Samaritan to folks you meet along the way with just the push of a button. One caveat: Be sure the jump starter you purchase has enough juice for your engine size. Larger engines require a bigger bump. This one here can jump up to a 6.5-liter gas engine or a 5.2-liter diesel.

-- Emme Hall

$70 at Amazon

For the nostalgic enthusiast

Volkswagen ad book

Merrell/Craig Cole Everyone has a favorite Volkswagen ad. The brand's print campaigns in the 1960s and '70s produced some of the most iconic ad imagery of all time and helped propel the original Beetle to become the massive, driving success that it was. This wonderful, 364-page coffee table book chronicles those ads, featuring over 450 reproductions. The book doesn't just cover the Beetle -- there are ads for the Microbus and the Type 3 -- and it gets into TV commercials and billboards, too. It's a must-have for, really, anyone who enjoys Volkswagens, advertising, graphic design or just good humor.

-- Daniel Golson

$45 at Amazon

To get you unstuck

Krazy Beaver shovel

Krazy Beaver/Craig Cole Having a shovel when you're off-roading is important and should be part of every driver's emergency kit. It lets you dig yourself out of otherwise tricky situations, but sometimes a regular ol' shovel won't quite do the trick because there are roots or other bits of debris in your way while driving. That's where the Krazy Beaver shovel comes in. Thanks to its aggressive tines, it can chew through whatever is keeping your truck stuck. I have one, and it's offered roadside assistance on more than one occasion.

-- Kyle Hyatt

$95 at Krazy Beaver

Because we all want to save the manuals

The Manual Gearbox Preservation Society t-shirt

The Manual Gearbox Preservation Society Everyone likes t-shirts, and why not let the enthusiast in your life show that they care about the dying breed that is the manual gearbox? The Manual Gearbox Preservation Society clothing comes from Curb, founded by two car designers. You like cars, your recipient likes cars, and Curb likes cars. Everyone wins.

-- Sean Szymkowski

$30 at Curb

Because everyone loves a good print

Cool kit from Patent Earth

Patent Earth/Craig Cole Patent Earth is an outfit that specializes in selling a variety of goods decorated with famous patent drawings. The company offers a diversity of items and accessories from posters, t-shirts and mugs, to canvas prints. Its product range highlights some of the greatest creations from famous inventors like Thomas Edison, the Wright brothers, Henry Ford, Nikola Tesla and more. The company also offers items from a wide range of different industries, from technology and sports to video games, military hardware and food, to name but a handful. Cars are well represented, too. A lovely 16-by-20-inch canvas print of a Chrysler Hemi V8 patent illustration goes for $90. An even larger, 24-by-36-inch unframed paper poster of this same powerplant can be had for just $40. A range of other engines, transmissions and automotive components is on the menu as well.

-- Craig Cole

$40 at Patent Earth

For the enthusiast who likes to read

Go Like Hell: Ford, Ferrari and Their Battle for Speed and Glory at Le Mans

A.J. Baime The Ford vs. Ferrari film looks pretty great, but for sure it'll take some liberties with the truth. And the true story is incredible. A.J. Baime's excellent book is a brisk and engaging read about the true history behind the war for Le Mans.

-- Tim Stevens

$13 at Amazon

To keep your tires properly inflated

EPAuto 12-volt air compressor

EPAuto I purchased this little guy last year as a way to avoid having to go to the gas station to keep my cars' tires filled, and it's been incredibly helpful to have around. Compact and easy to use (I didn't even bother reading any instructions!), it runs on your vehicle's 12-volt plug, so you don't even need a wall outlet handy. Small and light enough to keep with accessories in your trunk, this EPAuto portable air compressor features an auto shutoff to prevent overfilling, and it even comes with a needle accessory for pumping up basketballs and other sports accessories. Plus, it has a surprisingly bright built-in LED flashlight -- helpful if you're stuck by the side of the road in the dark.

One caveat: This EPAuto unit isn't intended to inflate commercial truck tires, it's designed for passenger cars. At under $35, though, it's hard to complain.

-- Chris Paukert

$34 at Amazon

For the fashionable enthusiast, again

Blipshift t-shirt

Blipshift No company does car enthusiast apparel quite like Blipshift. The company's designs are often crowd-sourced, and they can be pretty funny, too. If t-shirts aren't your thing, Blipshift offers its designs on posters and sweatshirts, too. And don't forget to check Blipshift's auctions for limited-run designs.

-- Steven Ewing

$18 at Blipshift

For the automotive know-it-all

OBDLink MX Plus OBD2 bluetooth scanner

OBDLink Car geeks like me often have a unique appreciation for what's happening inside their rides, and one of the easiest ways to get a peek behind the scenes is a vehicle diagnostics reader. This wireless dongle plugs into the car's onboard diagnostics (OBD-II) port to send performance, fuel economy and a wide range of esoteric measurements to a paired phone running a compatible Android or iOS app. Beyond pure curiosity, DIY car care enthusiasts who enjoy maintaining their own car can also use OBD-II data to diagnose and fix check-engine light codes.

-- Antuan Goodwin

$60 at Amazon

For the messy motorist

Car vacuum

Hortor Honestly, I'm putting this car vacuum in our gift guide in the hopes that someone will buy it for me. It's got all the attachments to get into the little nooks and crannies of your car with an LED light so you won't miss anything. A 16.5-foot cord plugs into your car's 12-volt outlet so power is always on tap, and a stainless steel filter means you can wash it out and reuse it. Basically, this allows for DIY detailing -- all you need is a little tree air freshener for that authentic fresh pine scent.

-- Emme Hall

$30 at Amazon

For the automotive gamer

Mario Kart 8 Deluxe

Nintendo The latest Mario Kart game isn't actually new -- Mario Kart 8 originally launched on the Wii U, and it has been remastered and bundled together with all the DLC and some new features to become Deluxe on the Switch. Despite not really being "new," though, Mario Kart gains a new dimension on the Switch. The portability ensures that you can get just as frustrated at your opponents when on the go as you already do in your living room, and even in handheld mode the bright graphics are impressive. Mario Kart might not be the most, uhh, realistic racing game out there, but it's certainly the most fun -- not just for car guys, but for everyone.

-- Daniel Golson

$56 at Amazon

Because everyone loves a super-clean car

Griot's Garage paint clay and Speed Shine

Griot's Garage Paint clay is an incredible invention. It works to pull embedded crud out of your paint, changing it from a surface that feels rough and sandpapery to something as smooth as glass. It also helps cut down on the work you have to do when polishing a car. Heck, you can even use it on glass, too. Yeah, it's pretty epic, and the paint clay from Griot's Garage is one of my favorites, especially when combined with their legendary Speed Shine quick detail spray. The whole process of claying is easy and satisfying, and your car probably needs it already.

-- Kyle Hyatt 

$45 at Amazon

For the do-it-yourself car-washer

Foam cannon from Tool Daily

Tool Daily With just a pressure washer, it's easy to totally change the way the gearhead in your life washes their car. While numerous big-name brands sell these foam cannons for upward of $80, this guy does just the trick for under $18. I've personally used this tool and it works wonderfully. It attaches directly to the power washer gun, and all that's needed is your favorite car-wash soap and water. From there, you can easily blast a car with foam just like at the car wash to cut the time needed to wash the car. For those that find their zen moments in car detailing and cleaning, this is a wonderful tool. Plus, there's no denying the foam is a lot of fun.

-- Sean Szymkowski

$18 at Amazon

For when the keys are put away

Shift knob bottle stopper

Amazon It goes without saying, driving and alcohol should never be mixed. Seriously, don't do it. Still, the car enthusiast that relishes a glass or two of wine after the keys have been stashed away might enjoy one of these, a bottle stopper shaped like a gearshift knob. Offered in a variety of designs, these stylish and functional plugs will keep his or her favorite ferment fresh while looking great at the same time. The example highlighted here features a polished wooden top fitted to a chrome-plated base. Overall, it measures 3.75 inches tall.

-- Craig Cole

$10 at Amazon

For the home mechanic

Ergodyne Arsenal 5780 Tool Roll-Up Pouch

Ergodyne/Craig Cole Every car should have a basic set of tools, and while I've used various means of carrying and securing tools in my various cars, after I got one of these roll-up pouches I immediately ordered more. It's just the right size to carry the basic complement of wrenches, sockets, screwdrivers and other odds and ends and, in about 2 seconds flat, it goes from tightly bound to open and accessible. Since it's made of canvas it has a more premium feel than the various vinyl ones out there, and won't clunk around so loudly in your trunk. It's easy to bungee down or just wedge in around your space-saver spare and frankly I'll never buy another small tool box again. Since it's less than $14, it's cheap enough that you can afford to fill it with the necessities before presenting it to someone you love.

-- Tim Stevens

$14 at Amazon

Read more: Looking to spend a little more dough? Check out our best car gifts in 2020.

Originally published last year.

CNET Holiday Gift Guide 2019

Holiday gift guide 2019: CNET editors' top picks

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