What to avoid buying for the auto enthusiast in your family

by Iris Winston

Choosing a suitable gift requires some thought. Not as in “it’s the
thought that counts” but in putting some effort into selecting a
suitable item.

The car buff in your family would probably appreciate an auto-related
gift, but not every automobile accessory is created equal.

Take the notorious vinyl visor tidies for example. These run anywhere
from $6 to $20 and multiply on store shelves in the Christmas season.
The logic for choosing such an item, which few car lovers actually use
unless their small son or daughter gave it to them, goes something like
this: “Uncle George likes cars. We have to give him something and this
fits the budget.” Chances are it will land in Canadian Tire’s return
pile after Christmas or be saved by George’s thrifty wife to be passed
on to yet another car buff next year.

“Tidies” of various sorts are generally popular suggestions in the auto
accessories sections of department stores. How about a travel mate
organizer ($9.99) to hold maps and other documents? This one falls into
the marginally useful category, several steps above a glove box
organizer ($9.99). (Surely filling half the limited space in a glove box
with a plastic organizer defeats the purpose of creating more room?)

Then there’s the CD visor organizer ($10.50) for the young car buff’s
hot rod. He/she would probably prefer to receive a CD rather than enter
the staid visor owner category.

Other car tidies ranging from $2 to $20 cover waste containers (a subtle
way of saying that old George is a slob), mug and tape holders (Don’t
most vehicles have built-in spots for mugs and tapes or CDs anyway?) and

The utility bags ($30+) that fit in the trunk can be useful, but like
the waste baskets, they carry an implied criticism – unless, of course,
they are filled with such useful items as booster cables, emergency kits
and containers of oil and windshield washer fluid. But, such a gift is
hardly likely to make the eyes of the recipient sparkle with joy, is it?

A slight variation on the utility bag is a collapsible organizer
($17.99) advertised as suitable for toting plants or doubling as a
cooler as well as taking only a minimal amount of space in the trunk
when empty.

Moving right along, you could pick up a $25 tool kit housed in a
car-shaped case or floor mats decorated with cartoon characters
($16-$28), but surely not for any friends or relatives who are serious
about their vehicles?

Tiger or zebra-striped or leopard-spotted fuzzy seat covers ($30+) and
satin steering wheel covers ($6-$10) are definitely not right for Uncle
George. (Visions of young bucks and bachelor pads spring to mind.)

Really, really low on the utility scale are massively heavy decorative
key rings ($2-$10) that could drag the starter key out of position or
lighter versions bearing marginally workable items such as a
mini-calculator ($3.99).

The star of the useless auto-accessory gift selection has to be a
mini-car fan ($9-$25). Cars come equipped with fans as part of their
heating/cooling units, don’t they? Similarly, sandbag weighted ashtrays
($2.99) and beverage holders ($8.99) to mount on dashboards duplicate
existing built-in equipment.

A windshield shade is a far more useful gift, even if it carries the
unnecessary instruction to “remove before driving”.

And for the car buff who has everything, how about steering clear of
any of them, driving over to your favourite restaurant and treating him
to a good dinner?

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