Passing your driving test is a major life event. It's almost like a rite of passage. You aren't restricted by the limitations of public transport, or forced to beg your parents for a lift anymore. Instead, you can go anywhere and do anything — as long as you have the gas money. If someone you know has recently hit this milestone, it's worth celebrating on its own. Equally, if someone who passed their test this year has a birthday coming up, or you're struggling to find something to get them in celebration of an upcoming holiday, then going car-focused may be the best solution.
Admittedly, the best thing you can buy a first-time driver is a brand-new, top-of-the-line car. For budgetary reasons, however, that may not be practical. Instead, you might want to consider one of the potential gifts for a new driver we've outlined below. In terms of pricing, our picks vary from simple items that cost a few dollars, to options in the $100-150 range. There is also a mixture of practical objects, less fun choices that will make the driving experience safer, and gifts that are just fun.
Read on to find the perfect present for the freshly passed driver in your life.
Aux to Bluetooth Adapter
While some lucky teens get a brand-new, or relatively recently made vehicle after passing their test, most new drivers have to settle for something less. The set of wheels they eventually get is likely a little older, and that comes with some limitations. One major problem is the lack of a Bluetooth-enabled infotainment system. Couple this with the fact many mainstream phones ditched the 3.5-millimeter jack a while back, and the problem only worsens. Your new driver won't be able to connect their smartphone to their old banger. Luckily, there's a cheap and simple solution. You can buy a Bluetooth adapter that plugs into your vehicle's aux port. Once the driver connects their phone to it, they're good to go. They can play audio from their phone through their car's speakers, and take calls too.
The adapter we've selected is pretty simple, you connect one end to the aux port and plug the other into a power source. Said power source should be a USB-A port, but if your new driver's car doesn't have one of those that's an easy fix too. USB and USB-C adapters that plug into and draw power from your car's cigarette lighters are cheap.
If the vehicle in question is ancient enough not to have an aux port, you still have options. Bluetooth to FM transmitters allow you to play your phone's audio over the car radio, though this is less reliable than an aux adapter, as the transmitters are prone to interference. If you're going on a long road trip, or even traveling to a different town, you may drive into the range of a station using that band and hear music that isn't yours forcing its way through.
A car cleaning kit
Whether it's a brand-new performance car, or a rusty old station wagon, a person is likely to have some degree of attachment to their first vehicle. Particularly in the early days, they're likely to spend hours making minor repairs and customizations, and will go to great lengths to make sure the vehicle is spotless.
Because of this, a car cleaning kit is one of the more practical gifts you can buy for a new driver. A good cleaning kit should contain a good variety of brushes, sponges, and other handy tools to help them detail every part of their automobile. More comprehensive kits include cleaning solutions that can be used on the bodywork, window, and upholstery. Just make sure you tell them to test any cleaners out on a hidden patch of upholstery — just in case there is a rare but damaging reaction.
Some kits even include a slime-like substance similar to the glue and borax-based solutions. As it turns out, said slime is just as good at getting dirt and debris out of hard-to-reach crevices as it is at ruining living room carpets.
A blind spot mirror
Blind spots are dangerous, no matter how long you have been driving. Without a glance over your shoulder, which is risky itself, that apparently clear lane could be a major collision waiting to happen.
Some vehicles have blind spot monitoring systems that use sensors to make sure the lane is clear and flash a warning if it's not. However, this feature is both pretty modern, and still somewhat of a luxury for most vehicles. As a result, you're unlikely to see it on someone's first car.
Then there's the fact that, despite gaining their license, new drivers are still learning the ways of the road. During this learning period, forgetting to check your blind spot before making a maneuver is more likely.
Luckily, there's a cheap and handy gift that can give newer drivers a bit of an edge when it comes to blind spot safety. For a few dollars, you can get a small, curved, mirror that attaches to an existing wing mirror and provides a better view of the vehicle's blind spot. This is one of those gifts that probably won't get a new driver too excited, but could actually save their life.
New drivers are likely to be stressed about many things, so taking a few potential issues off their plates will probably be a big help. With a AAA membership, breakdowns, flat tires, running out of gas, and other mishaps become less of an emergency and more of an inconvenience.
It's particularly beneficial for new drivers as a lack of experience probably makes missing signs of an upcoming breakdown, doing something that can destroy a tire, or just forgetting to fill up more likely.
Levels of coverage and prices vary, though if the new driver lives in your house and you're a member yourself, coverage can be extended to them at a discount. Coverage also applies to the member, not the vehicle. Because of this, they will be able to bail their friends out if they're a passenger when a breakdown happens.
It's also potentially beneficial to you, if you're a parent. If your child has breakdown coverage, getting them to safety when they stack their car into a ditch in the middle of nowhere at 2 a.m. is simple. Having a AAA membership should give you the peace of mind to know your child will find their way back home safely in the event of a crisis.
A phone charging mount
A common theme of most of these gifts is that they are ways to make up the shortcomings of an affordable first car, bringing it a little closer to current standards. A good phone charging mount is a fantastic way to do this.
In a vehicle without a central display, it gives drivers a way to use their phone as an infotainment system. This has several benefits. If the mount is positioned properly, it means they won't have to glance too far away from the road when checking a map or changing a song. It also serves to keep said phone out of their hands — which could prevent an accident, or at the very least, prevent them from getting a ticket.
The "charging" part of a charging stand is hugely beneficial in itself If your potential giftee is someone whose battery is constantly in the red, then this could change their life. This ensures they won't be left without a phone if they start their trip with low or no battery.
There is one important factor to consider with charging stands. You'll likely want to select one that uses a suction cup to attach to the car's windscreen or dashboard. This ensures you can mount the stand in an optimal position, and won't damage your vehicle's interior. Mounts that attach to a vehicle's AC vents tend to detach constantly, can damage said vents, and might cause your phone to overheat if you're warming the car on a winter's day. Cup-holder mounted options are slightly better, but you'll lose a cup holder and their positioning is far from optimal.
A dash cam
While new drivers are an accident risk, said accident isn't always their fault. Unfortunately, there are some less-than-pleasant people who will take advantage of a new driver's lack of experience. This usually results in the new driver being pressured into accepting blame or some degree of responsibility for the accident when they shouldn't. A dashcam is a good way to keep them covered, as it will have hard evidence of exactly what happened which can then be passed on to the insurance companies dealing with the incident. In the event of something like a hit-and-run incident, the police can use the footage to help identify the vehicle involved.
While it may be a little intrusive, a concerned parent could also use a dash cam, and the relevant app, to keep an eye on the new driver. You can monitor their driving, as well as the route they're taking. Some products even come with a driver-facing camera, so you can make sure their eyes are on the road and not their phone. There are a lot of options when it comes to dash cams. Price varies greatly, and some options require a monthly subscription if you want to use all of the device's features. Our current pick is the Garmin Dash Cam Live.
A battery booster
One of the most useful things you can buy any driver is a battery booster. The small devices hold enough charge to jump-start most cars should the vehicle's own battery fail. They also tend to have things like power outlets and USB ports built-in, so you can power more than just the vehicle with it. This greatly improves its level of practicality, and makes it useful to those who enjoy camping, outdoor parties, and other activities. Many units also have a compressor built in, allowing a driver to easily put a little more air in their tires if it's needed.
As with a few other objects on this list, a battery booster is particularly useful for new drivers thanks to the kind of cars first-time drivers tend to own. In an older car, you probably have to turn the headlights on and off on your own. Forgetting to turn them off is a great way to wear down your battery, and when it does die, you'll want to know how to tell so you know how to best move forward. Older batteries are more prone to failure, and a battery booster can help a new driver get by in the short term if they can't afford to replace their lead-acid cell.
When buying a battery booster, you ideally want to avoid going for budget options. The batteries in them aren't usually great, and reliability is a major issue. We'd argue that reliability should be paramount with anything you intend to use as a backup option. If you're already likely to find yourself in a tough spot, you don't want your only way out of it to let you down as well.
If you've been driving for a while, you'll be more than familiar with the frustration that comes with losing your keys. While it may not always happen at the most inconvenient time, those times will stick in the memory. So if you want to spare the next generation of drivers the misery of tearing the house apart looking for a small black and silver object, you should get them an Apple AirTag or a similar product.
The AirTag uses nearby iPhones to track its location, which is then accessible from the "Find My" app. It's staggeringly accurate, and can tell you the location of an object to within 10 centimeters (almost four inches). If the person you're buying for is an Android user, don't worry; there are non-Apple products that essentially do the same thing. Two of the bigger names are Tile and Samsung's SmartTag2, and both have their pros and cons when compared to the AirTag.
AirTags don't just have to be used on your car keys either. They can be used to track pretty much anything. If the person you buy it for isn't too fussed about knowing the location of the thing they use to start their car, they can still find some use for the gift. An Airtag will set you back just under $30 if you buy it from Apple directly, though discounts are available if you buy more than one. Other options vary greatly in price.
A driving experience day
Some new drivers are happy their steering-wheel shuffling days are behind them and can't wait to find a clear stretch of road so they can open the taps and see what their car can really do. Sadly this is all a bit dangerous, and depending on what they do exactly it may be frowned upon by law enforcement.
So why not give them a way to get it out of their system with a driving experience day? Multiple companies offer these gift packages, and the experiences themselves vary greatly. Some will demonstrate how to complete a rally course. Off-road driving experiences are plentiful and safe if the driver in question has always had a thing for Jeeps and/or Land Rovers. There are also sports packages. These usually involve a supercar, or a hypercar in some cases, and a little time on a race track. The attendee learns some racing skills and has a few practice laps with an experienced driver before being let loose on a hot lap where they can (hopefully) set their own best time.
Some experience days come with age restrictions, so double-check the terms before you pull the trigger. At the very least, some places offer packages that involve sticking an actual racing driver in the driver's seat while the attendee just comes along for the ride
A defensive driving course
It's often said that passing a driving test is the first step when it comes to learning how to drive. It is true that lessons can't really replace the knowledge that comes from experience, but there are still some shortcuts.
One of those shortcuts is a defensive driving course. These short courses tend to focus on safe driving practices, and go beyond the basics that the new driver picked up during the initial learning period. As a bonus, completion of one of these courses nets drivers a pretty handy discount from many insurance companies. Insurance is a major expense for new drivers, as companies see them as a greater accident risk. As a result, the chance to save a couple of hundred dollars per year is a great gift on its own.
However, it's the emphasis on safety that stands out with this gift option. A defensive driving course will decrease their chances of a collision, while also building their confidence on the road. Prices vary depending on location, but shop around and make sure the course you pick is accredited by a recognized body.