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The best car gadgets, according to auto and tech experts

Want to give your vehicle a tech facelift, or looking for an innovative car accessory to help you in emergency situations? The best car gadgets make the perfect passenger.
Written by Christina Darby, Associate Editor
Reviewed by Emery Wright
Slime Digital Tire Inflator | Best car gadget overall
Slime Tire Inflator in the box being held up in front of a red car.
Slime Digital Tire Inflator
Best car gadget overall
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Noco Boost GB40 portable car battery | Best car gadget for emergencies
Noco portable car battery pack
Noco Boost GB40 portable car battery
Best car gadget for emergencies
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Auto-Vox CS-2 Wireless backup camera | Best car gadget for cars without a built-in backup camera
Auto-Vox CS-2 Wireless backup camera
Best car gadget for cars without a built-in backup camera
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Carpuride 2023 | Best car gadget to add Apple Carplay or Android Auto to your car
carpuride 2023
Carpuride 2023
Best car gadget to add Apple Carplay or Android Auto to your car
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SuperiorTek 5.0 Wireless CarPlay Adapter | The best car gadget for adding wireless Apple CarPlay
SuperiorTek 5.0 in black against a grey background.
SuperiorTek 5.0 Wireless CarPlay Adapter
The best car gadget for adding wireless Apple CarPlay
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In 2019 alone, Americans spent a collective 70 billion hours behind the wheel. Assuming those numbers have remained constant -- or even increased -- that's a lot of time you clock in a car. 

Whether you're commuting for work, running errands, or taking a road trip, a lot can happen getting from point A to point B. On this list, I compiled some of the best gadgets to keep in your car, so regardless of where the road takes you, you're prepared, safe, guided, aware, and even entertained.

Also: My 3 must-have car accessories: This phone mount, charger, and cable 

There are a lot of car gadgets out there that promise safety, an upgraded ride, and convenience. To find what people have at the top of their essentials lists, and to find which were the best in class, I chatted with people passionate about their car gadgets and conducted some classic deep-internet dive research of my own. Here are my top picks.

Pros & Cons
  • Compact
  • Budget friendly
  • Quick inflation time
  • Pressure monitor built-in
  • "T" connector can be finicky
  • Can over-inflate
  • Pressure display is on the side instead of the top
More Details

Slime Digital Tire Inflator features: Built-in car pressure digital display | 10-foot power cord | Universal fit | 6-minute inflation time 

Raised by a mother with 30+ years in the automotive industry, ZDNET's Sabrina Ortiz claims her car is always stocked with enough materials to survive an apocalypse or at least a flat tire, and this digital tire inflator is at the top of her essentials list.  

The digital Slime tire inflator is compatible with 12-volt car accessory outlets, measures just 7 x 2.5 inches, and weighs only 1.85 pounds, making it compact and easy to control. Employing Inflate Right technology, you can plug in the cord, set your desired pressure on the display, and walk away to let the inflator do its thing. 

In college, Ortiz reaped the benefits firsthand when she unknowingly had a nail stuck in her tire and kept getting a low tire pressure warning. 

"Instead of panicking and dragging myself to a gas station, which can even be dangerous at night, I would just plug the tire inflator into my cigarette lighter and calmly fill the tires with air from the comfort of my driveway," Ortiz said. 

Though small, the Slime Inflator is powerful with a 6-minute inflation time from flat to functional tire. The tire is sensor safe and has a universal fit. Plus, at $35, it's a small price to pay for convenience and safety

Pros & Cons
  • Compact
  • Multi-functional
  • Jumper cables included
  • Only compatible with 3-liter Diesel engines and 6-liter gas engines
  • May have to use the manual override button for more powerful voltage
More Details

Noco Boost GB40 portable car battery features: Up to 20 jump starts on a single charge | Connects to any 12-volt car battery | Recharges from any USB port in 3 hours at 2.1 amps | Comes with a car battery jump starter pack, including jumper cables | Water resistant with an IP65 rating 

Ortiz's auto expert mom, Flor Ortiz, recommends the Noco Boost plus portable battery, commending its multi-functional safety suite and dependability. 

"It's useful to have a portable booster pack because if your car doesn't start, you can use the booster and you can even use it to charge your phone too in case of an emergency. It also has a flashlight that could come in handy," she said. 

As Ortiz mentions, the Noco Boost has battery starting capabilities, a portable power bank, an LED flashlight, and even an emergency strobe light function, Essentially, it's now my answer to the "what's one item you'd take with you on a stranded Island," question. 

The 8.3 x 4.6-inch battery pack also comes with heavy-duty power clamps and jumper cables for up to 6-liter gas engines (3-liter for Diesel), a Micro USB charging cable, and a storage bag. 

Bottom line, this battery is feature-rich while still managing a compact design and easy-to-use interface, making it a great car tech gadget in case of emergencies. 

Pros & Cons
  • Easy installation
  • 110-degree camera angle
  • Durable and wireless
  • Even though customizable, works best on shorter vehicles
  • Limited resolution
More Details

Auto-Vox CS-2 Wireless backup camera features: Dashboard mount/ surface mount | 110-degree real angle view | 480P image quality | 1P68 rating 

I'm lucky -- and so are many other drivers -- that my car had a built-in backup camera. If yours doesn't, this wireless backup camera may save you the stress of navigating tight parking spaces, not to mention the pain from constantly craning your neck. 

The Auto-Vox, 4.3-inch digital wireless backup camera is simple to use and install, durable, and promises a wireless range up of to 100 feet in the open area. For all these reasons, it even earned ZDNET's reigning title of best overall backup camera

This backup camera may not be built into your car, but it has customizable features that make it feel as if it were. For example, it shows adjustable parking lines and allows you to adjust it to your vehicle's exact height so that the projected image is proportional, and thanks to the PC1058 sensor, clear and vivid. 

The suction cup mount makes for a relatively hassle-free installation on your windshield or dashboard. But the best part? There aren't any wires. The transmitter is promised to be cleverly designed inside the backup camera, so all you need is to attach the rear camera to the license plate and connect it to the reverse light for constant power. And although the camera is on the back of the car, it's waterproof with an IP68 rating and can withstand anywhere from -4 to 149 degrees Fahrenheit. 

Also: The best backup cameras of 2023

Pros & Cons
  • Compatible with Android and iPhone
  • Easy installation
  • USB charging
  • Voice control
  • FM connection can be spotty
  • Pricey
  • Still need a cord; not completely wireless
More Details

Carpuride 2023 features: Bluetooth wireless communication | Siri and/or Google Voice Control | Self-adhesive dashboard mount | IPS touchscreen

More cars are starting to incorporate computers, whether that's Apple CarPlay or Android Auto. If you want to reap the benefits of a multimedia screen, but don't want to upgrade to an entirely new car, Curpuride provides an easy solution. 

And from what I can tell, most users, like TikTok tech influencer, gizmoegram, are impressed by the ease of the setup, touch control responsiveness, and screen resolution quality. 

Coming in 7-inch and 9-inch screen options, both screens are modern and sleek, capable of displaying your maps, music, and calls. To set up, just use the self-adhesive sticker so it can attach to your dashboard or windshield, connect the wire to the cigarette power supply, and then pair it with your phone via Bluetooth. In a matter of seconds, you'll have a DIY smart car for only $230. 

To me, the Carpuride's standout feature is its compatibility with both Android and iPhones, making it easy if you share a vehicle with someone of the opposite smartphone. It's also worth noting that there's an option to buy the Carpuride and the attached backup camera for a fully integrated system. 

Pros & Cons
  • Compact
  • Provides a wireless solution to Apple CarPlay
  • Bluetooth Sync
  • Pricey for an adapter
  • Some latency issues
More Details

SuperiorTek 5.0 Wireless CarPlay Adapter features: Sync to Bluetooth Connection | Smart IC chip | Auto-connect after first set-up 

Want the benefits of CarPlay without the cable salad? ZDNET's Adrian Kingsley-Hughes thinks a dongle like the SuperiorTek 5.0 is "well worth taking a look at." The SuperiorTek 5.0's Sync to Bluetooth connection allows you to skip the hassle of plugging in your iPhone every time you get into the car. 

Also: How to add wireless Apple CarPlay to your car 

This adapter is my top pick because it works with all factory-wired CarPlay cars, is compatible with iPhone 5 or newer as long as they're running iOS7.1 or later, and has a compact size that won't clutter your car. While you may experience some latency with a dongle versus a direct-wired connection, it shouldn't be more than 30 seconds -- and if your patience is more plentiful than your space for wires, it's worth it. 

What's the best gadget to have in your car?

When it comes to gadgets to keep in your glove box to spruce up your car, it's important to consider safety, ease, and even multi-functionality. Here are the top items to consider, their respective prices, main functions, how they connect, and their size. 

Car gadget 


Main function 



Slime Digital Tire Inflator


Portable tire inflation and pressure checker 

Electric Cord that fits 12V power source

Noco Boost GB40 portable car battery 


Portable car battery with a flashlight and phone charger 

Jumpers connect to engine 

Auto-Vox CS-2 Wireless backup camera 


Mountable Backup camera

Wireless transmission 

Carpuride 2023 


Mountable CarPlay or Android Auto 

Wire connects to 12V car power source 

SuperiorTek 5.0 Wireless CarPlay Adapter 


Wireless CarPlay

Plug-and-play to power outlet 

Which car tech gadget should you invest in?

I think most of the items on this list are helpful, especially the safety-focused tire inflator and car battery. However, some may not be applicable depending on the type of car you have. Here's the breakdown of which car gadget is best suited for your needs and ride.  

Choose this best car gadget… 

If you… 

Slime Digital Tire Inflator

Want to quickly and safely fill up your tires and check your tire pressure. It's compact, easy to use, and has a 6-minute inflation time. 

Noco Boost GB40 portable car battery

Want a portable, easy-to-use booster pack that's stocked with other safety features. You can use this if your car doesn't start, to charge your phone, or as a flashlight. 

Auto-Vox CS-2 Wireless backup camera

Don't have a built-in backup camera. If you want some extra eyes when getting into a tough parking spot, this mountable camera is easy to set up and use. 

Carpuride 2023

Want Apple CarPlay or Android Auto without investing in a new car. This touchscreen multimedia tablet syncs to your phone and even your radio to take your car from low to high-tech. 

SuperiorTek 5.0 Wireless CarPlay Adapter

Want an easy solution to CarPlay wires. This plug-and-play adapter connects your phone's Bluetooth to CarPlay hands-free. 

How did I choose these car gadgets?

Growing up in a city with a fairly low walkability score, I feel like I've spent over half my life in my car. Ironically, I never stocked it full of features to make it easier for me to get around or feel prepared in case of an emergency. I wanted to create a list I wish I'd had when spending ample time behind the wheel and on the road. 

To choose which products fit the bill, I talked to ZDNET's Sabrina Ortiz and her mother, Flor Ortiz, an auto expert who has over three decades of industry experience. I also looked at ZDNET's unofficial automotive and tools expert Adrian Kingsley-Hughes's tips and went down the TikTok rabbit hole to find what enthusiasts and everyday users are using to tech-ify their cars. 

What technology can I add to my car?

When adding tech to your car, I think it's important to consider items that make your driving experience easier and safer. A digital tire pressure sensor or inflator can be a great, simple tech tool, as is a portable battery pack. When it comes to ease, you also might consider adding a smart GPS, car mount, wireless adapter, or multimedia monitor that supports CarPlay or Android Auto. 

How can I make my car smart?

Many cool gadgets can turn your older car into a smart modern vehicle at a much lower cost. For example, I'd consider a mountable multimedia tablet that supports CarPlay or Android Auto, a wireless adapter, a voice assistant like Amazon Echo Auto, or for ambiance, a multi-color LED smart light strip

Are there alternative car gadgets worth considering?

Yes, these days, there are many tech gadgets to deck your car with. Aside from the ones mentioned above, I'd also consider a solid phone charger dedicated to your car, a phone mount, and even a voice assistant to make hands-free, safe calls. Look below for the ones I'd suggest. 

View at AmazonView at AmazonView at Amazon

For more on car tech, also be sure to check out our lists of best car phone mounts of 2023electric cars, hybrid cars, and most affordable electric cars.

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