from Goss’ Garage by Pat Goss

It’s gift giving time but sadly gift giving is often followed by gift-remorse. That sinking feeling you get when gifts that seemed just right when you bought them flop miserably. For anyone who owns a car you can avoid those flops by choosing an automotive gift from the thousands of practical and whimsical things available. Although car gifts aren’t normally glamorous they are actually used and appreciated.

But the holidays also bring out the crooks so watch for scams and misleading ads that flood mailboxes, inboxes and the Internet this time of year. Catalogs and mailers often contain car-oriented gifts, so theoretically you could sit at home and pick from thousands of items. No fighting holiday crowds, no reason to stand in line, just choose, dial or click and in a few days your order is at your door.

Most, but not all, of the ads are legitimate which means extra diligence is important. Catalog, flyer, and Internet shopping is not like shopping in a store because you can’t examine what you’re buying. There’s no way to know the quality, practicality or desirability of your purchase. Even when it arrives you usually can’t examine it because everything now comes in packaging that utterly defies non-destructive opening. So when the big day comes and the package is finally opened what’s inside may be a disappointment.

Anything for a car can be high quality or pathetic junk. Modern photography and printing can make pathetic junk look I-gotta-have-it enticing in a catalog. Add cleverly written text with impressive adjectives and even if you know it’s junk you may feel compelled to buy. So before buying, research which brands have good reputations then look for specific models within those brands. Same brand, different model may get you more or, oops, less quality. Some manufacturers even make a first line and a discount line. Frequently the discount line will look like the first line product but may be more lightly constructed or lack features. Even the model numbers may be identical except for one character so look closely.

But maybe you’re looking for something unique to show you really care. Shopping for unique automotive-related gifts can be interesting but, I strongly suggest a huge helping of common sense. For example I recently saw an air bag deflation tool in a catalog. Claim to fame: “Tool easily punctures air bag after inflation allowing faster exit.” Wow, sounds impressive, great safety item, and only $48.00 plus S&H. If unique is all you want, this tool certainly is but save your money because air bags can’t remain inflated, that’s impossible, which makes it a total rip-off. Yet there it was with a gorgeous picture and an enticing description. In fairness on the same page was a backup warning system that beeps if there’s anything behind the car when you back up. This could be a true life or bumper saver. But enough already here are a few ideas to make you a gift-giving star.

I’m a big fan of modern battery boosting units to start cars with dead batteries. These make an excellent gift for everyone and they eliminate all possibility of vehicle damage and operator injury caused by booster cables. Less than $75.00 could save hundreds in booster cable damage.

Another practical idea is a set of plastic shields to cover expensive headlamps or fog-lamps. These protect against breakage from stones and flying debris. They usually cost less than $50.00 and could save a $1,000.00 HID headlamp.

I don’t know about you but my trunk is always a mess, nothing seems to stay put. A fix for that special someone with a messy trunk is a trunk organizer. They’re less than $75.00 and help keep things in the trunk in place.

Rubber floor mats to protect against winter slop make a thoughtful gift as do cleaning supplies, tools, emergency items, safety items and stores full of ideas.

For pure whimsy look toward completely useless but interesting “stuff” like nostalgic reproduction metal business signs or coffee table books. The current selection of auto books spans the entire automotive experience from racing to rebuilding and driving to exotic cars to drool over.

Maybe none of this makes sense for your special car-challenged someone. Car-challenged individuals usually procrastinate about service so give them a gift certificate to a good repair shop. There is an almost endless array of gifts for people with cars.

Happy Holidays to one and all — Please Drive Gently!