Best Tech Gadgets for Your Teen’s New Ride
Let’s face it, the majority of teenage drivers on the road aren’t driving anything too fancy. Their first rides are usually something a little older, whether that’s their parents’ thoughtful hand-me down vehicle, or their older sibling’s beat-up old ride.
Either way, it’s likely that the vehicle your teenager ends up driving during their precious formative driving years could stand to use some upgrades. Fortunately, these can all be done fairly inexpensively while also managing to bring the car up to today’s high-tech standards—with all the bells and whistles of a brand new ride. (See our post Getting to Know Your Vehicle’s Exterior Sensors to get up to speed on those)
The following is the Searles Guide to aftermarket gadgets you may consider helping your teen add to their first vehicle—for your own peace of mind as well as theirs. Because let’s face it, the roads are busier than ever, so every little thing we can do to keep our young drivers safer is a worthy investment.
- Rear Back-up Camera
Aftermarket backup cameras are becoming quite common these days—you can find them at most big box stores like Costco, Amazon or Wal-Mart. Given their rising popularity, they have come down in price significantly. We suggest investing in a higher-quality backup camera system , which will costs upwards of $400.
It will be well worth the price, especially if your driveway backs onto a busy crosswalk and/or the car or truck has a few blind spots.
The pricier models get really fancy: think built-in heaters for snow and ice, a dashboard speaker for sounding warning signals, a wider-angle screen and a crisp HD image. Depending on your comfort level with fixing cars, you may need to have your auto mechanic assist with the installation of the camera.
- GPS Unit
Yes, GPS units for vehicles have been around for what seems like a million years already. Many drivers swear by them, and your teen, who’s probably never held a paper-printed map, probably won’t be able to SURVIVE without one (sarcasm).
Sure, your teen is likely going to have this feature built into their smartphone already, and will be able to get by without a GPS unit in their ride, but wouldn’t it be lovely if they didn’t have to be fumbling with their phones anymore? Also handy in the event of a smartphone battery death, an aftermarket GPS is going to make life much easier on any driver. We highly recommend them.
- Dash Cam
As roads get busier, more and more drivers are opting to add dash cams to their vehicles. These are easier to install than backup cameras and are intended to record portions of your time on the road. They can be useful for disputing accidents, protecting against insurance fraud, and perhaps disputing the odd speeding ticket and the like. Most have a monitor facing you so you can see what it’s picking up.
Dash cams add peace of mind to many driving situations, particularly these days, when proving someone was using their hand-held device right before causing an accident is practically impossible to prove without video evidence.
- Wi-Fi Hotspot
While this term might sound a bit weird to our generation, teens know exactly what these are. Adding a Wi-Fi hotspot to your teen’s vehicle will allow them to use the Internet from their vehicle without racking up huge cell phone bells. Great if your son or daughter is on your family plan. An easy-to-install hotspot is great for safety, security, and social reasons.
Adding Wi-Fi requires adding a small router to the vehicle that allows multiple devices to connect to the Internet simultaneously. The devices end up using less battery power and less data since the hotspot is operating off its own data plan (this may require another contract).
- Aftermarket Collision Prevention & Mitigation
OK, so adding dash cams and backup cameras takes care of the front and back of the car, but what about the sides? There is an after-market solution for that in the form of Mobileye® 560, a system that, with its smart camera on the front windshield inside the vehicle uses vehicle, lane, traffic signs and pedestrian detection technologies to provide drivers with alerts. It’s the next best thing to buying a newer model vehicle that comes fully loaded with these features.
In some cases, the addition of aftermarket collision prevention and mitigation systems can help reduce insurance premiums, but this is something you’ll want to ask ICBC about before proceeding with purchasing.
- Power Inverter
Few drivers think it’s necessary to go the route of a adding a power inverter to their vehicles. They are a little clunky, we’ll admit, but they can come in handy. The best use you can get out of these are powering an air compressor in the event you have to inflate a tire on the fly. (Note: you’ll also need an air compressor handy to pull this off).
Most power inverters intended for use in vehicles are designed to plug into a 12-volt DC battery. From there you can plug in power tools, phone chargers and other types of electronics in your vehicle. Just make sure to leave your vehicle running so as not to drain its battery. Prices on these range significantly, but just think, the more you pay, the more watts of power you’ll get. Our favourite, the Energizer (EN180) 12V 180W Cup Inverter, is super cheap and fits right into a car’s cup holder.
- Bluetooth Diagnostics Scanner
Ever wonder how an auto mechanics goes about diagnosing what the heck is wrong with your vehicle? A large part of what we use is called on-board diagnostics (OBD) in which scanners are plugged into the vehicles OBD II port.
We won’t get into the details here, but there are personal-use scanners out there that allow drivers to use their smartphones and apps like Torque Pro or Dash Command in an attempt to learn how well their vehicle is running. These systems can be quite complex, so we recommend asking a mechanic to steer you in the right direction. Simply put, a part of the scanner plugs into the OBD II port, and, via Bluetooth technology, reports back to an app on the smartphone. Information can range from CO2 emissions readout, engine torque, fuel efficiency, and coolant temperature.
- Hands-Free Bluetooth Car Kit
The installation of Bluetooth technology in your teen’s car is actually a very important safety feature that helps make sure the driver is hands-free if they must answer the phone while driving.
We recommend the Kinivo Bluetooth Hands-Free Car Kit that lets a driver stream incoming calls or make calls hands-free. It plugs directly into the car’s radio. Pair it with a Belkin Car Universal Mount for the optimal hands-free experience!
- Emergency Kit
Alright, so it’s not a gadget per se, but emergency kits are worth mentioning in a blog post about bettering a young driver’s safety on the road. You can pick up a pre-packed vehicle emergency kit for $40 or so from most any automotive supply shop, or pack your own using items you already own. See our post, 8 Important Things to Stock in Your Car Emergency Kit for some handy tips on vehicle emergency kits.
Before equipping a car with all of the ride gadgets, your son or daughter is going to need the vehicle! If your teen has yet to get a car to call their own, and you’re about to go car shopping with them, refer to our guide, How to Spot a Lemon at the Used Car Lot for tips on finding the best deal out there.
Who knows! You might just find something “new” for you and pass on your old reliable beast to your son or daughter.
Before signing the papers, however, make sure you get any used vehicle inspected by a licensed auto mechanic, such as anyone from the Searles Auto Repair service department.
We’ll also be able to help set up and explain any of the gadgets listed here.
Optimizing your experience on the roads is what we do best here at Searles, which is why we were voted Best Automotive Service (Independent) in 2016 by readers of the Victoria News. Give us a call at 1-250-475-2000 or book an appointment online for your next inspection or service.