Affordable gifts for the gearhead in your life

Find the perfect gift for the car nuts in your life without breaking the bank.
Hotor/Nintendo/Patent Earth/Lego/Montage by Craig Cole/Roadshow
Like a masked assailant, the holiday season is just around life’s proverbial corner, lying in wait to pick your pockets. But you needn’t part with fistfuls of hard-earned cash so readily; you can give cool gifts to the important people and tolerated acquaintances in your life without filing for bankruptcy. Car nuts can be notoriously difficult to buy for. They’re often super passionate about the automotive hobby, which can mean two things: One, they already have nearly everything they need, and two, what they don’t currently possess can be absolute budget busters. Are you going to take out a home-equity loan to purchase, say, a supercharger kit for your buddy’s fifth-generation Camaro SS? Didn’t think so… The good news is, you don’t have to spend a fortune to give a great gift to your favorite gearhead. The Roadshow staff has compiled a list of solid options, each priced at less than $100. Some are even far more affordable that, so you don’t even have to part with an entire C-note in order to show your love.


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 be the next best thing, it’s still really cool. Just check out the detail on the air-cooled engine and the optional roof-mounted surfboard and cooler!At $99.99, this set just sneaks in under our gift guide price cap. Designed for ages 16 and above, 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 great anywhere, even as a whimsical office desk accessory for a high-powered executive.– Chris Paukert


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 fabrics and turns them into, as its name suggests, wallets, which are super high quality. The company also offers keychains and socks, too.– Steven Ewing


A dashcam is, ironically, the sort of gift you hope someone will never need but, when things on the road go awry, they’ll be so glad to have. 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, enthusiasts could also use the high-resolution camera footage to record laps around the track.– Antuan Goodwin

DB Power

More than once I’ve left my lights on taking a roadside nap and woke 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

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 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

Krazy Beaver/Craig Cole

Having a shovel when you’re off-roading is important. 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. 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 come in handy on more than one occasion.– Kyle Hyatt

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

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 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

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


I purchased this little guy earlier this 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 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


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


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, DIYers who enjoy maintaining their own car can also use OBD-II data to diagnose and fix check-engine light codes.– Antuan Goodwin


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.– Emme Hall


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.– Daniel Golson

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 

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 upwards 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 cleaning their cars, this is a wonderful tool. Plus, there’s no denying the foam is a lot of fun.– Sean Szymkowski

Epic Products

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

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 two 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 barely over $30, it’s cheap enough that you can afford to fill it with the necessities before presenting it to someone you love.– Tim Stevens

The Techy Trends Holiday Gift Guide 2019