5 Cool Car Accessories

Luxe extras that used to be available only in cars bought from high-end dealers can now be had without a side trip to the poorhouse. Useful, reasonably priced add-ons make an older vehicle feel newer and more fun, making everyone happy and safer too.

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GPS Navigation

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Satellite-based nav systems like the TomTom Go 540s ($170) or the Garmin Nuvi 1250 ($130) plug in to your car's lighter socket and render moot the argument over when you are lost enough to ask for directions. Depending on the model, you may be able to add real-time traffic and weather updates and information on local businesses—service fee ranges from $10 to $15 a month.


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Video Entertainment

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Keep the kids occupied in the backseat and grab yourself some peace. A basic in-dash DVD/stereo receiver with MP3 playback, like the Jensen 8012, starts at around $200, not including displays. Sophisticated systems like Pioneer's AVIC-Z130BT, which combines a DVD player, stereo, GPS navigation, and iPhone compatibility, cost $1,200 or more.


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Bluetooth Speakerphones

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Look mom, no hands. Gadgets like the Jabra Cruiser2 ($100) or Motorola TK30 ($260) clip to your sun visor or install in your dash, letting you make calls and stream music while keeping both hands firmly on the wheel.


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High-Performance Headlights

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Finding it harder to drive at night? It might be your headlights, which grow dimmer over time. For as little as $40 per pair, halogen bulbs, like Sylvania's SilverStar Ultra or Philips' CrystalVision Ultra, can increase nighttime driving visibility by up to 35 percent.


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Rearview Cams

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If you own a big car, you know how hard it is to see behind you. For less than $100, kits like Audiovox's ACA250 or Roadmaster's VR3 let you attach a wireless camera to your license plate, which sends video to a dashboard-mounted display. Never again will you accidentally crush a garbage can
or your kid's left-in-the-driveway bike.

Originally published in the May 2011 issue of Family Circle magazine.