The first hint of nice weather, coupled with the first sounds of hatchbacks with tailpipes the size of coffee cans, is all the evidence you need that the U.S. auto parts industry is alive and well. With more than $90 billion in sales in 2017, according to the Census Bureau, auto parts and accessories are a vital part of the economy — even if the goods sold in that corner of the market aren't always all that vital. We did a bit of browsing and found just a few dozen of the worst examples of car features, accessories, and other add-ons that are not only worthless to the driving experience, but an outright waste of money.
50 Car Products That Are a Complete Waste of Money
If you want your car to look like it has a roll bar, but don't want that roll bar to protect you in any way, you're looking for a styling bar. A dome light is just about the only thing that makes this practical, but a lot of styling bars just fall into the "making it look mean" category.
Are you taking your Toyota Camry out on the track anytime soon? Do you think your Ford Escape is going to beat someone off the line? No? Then don't go installing auto-racing hardware in a production vehicle. At best, you look like a moron. At worst, you're actually making yourself less safe.
Body kits let you fabricate a dream machine that looks fast and furious, but still only has as much muscle as its V6 can pump out. Or, for the cost of a Pontiac Fiero, you can get (the look of) a Lamborghini Countach or Ferrari 360 with a kit car — basically car costumes that are far less expensive than the supercars they're emulating, but still cost about as much as a midsized sedan.
If you aren't actually entering your car into a rally of some sort or didn't pay the price of a studio apartment in Monaco for a McLaren, don't even think of bolting a wing onto the back of your vehicle. It doesn't make your sedan look like a sports car. It makes it look as if it's driven by someone with some deep regrets.
Do you know why a hood scoop exists? Do you know why you'd want to increase your engine's air intake? Is your car turbocharged or supercharged? Even if the answer to any of these is yes, getting a bolt-on or adhesive hood scoop won't accomplish the same thing as having a real one. It'll just make your Dodge Neon look weird.
So you were in the checkout line at the farm store, ringing up your bales of straw and alfalfa and there, next to the jerky, sat a hitch cover that looked like a claymore mine. Should you get it, or should you get one of the ones next to it that'll really own the libs? A tough decision, to be sure, but hurry up: Some of us have horse fencing to buy.
"Oh, but you can hang your bags and your scarf and your …" I'm sorry, but are you driving a unicycle? If you're driving alone, you have lots of extra seating and hooks from which to hang things. If you're driving with others, nothing cramps a back seat quite like a pointy aftermarket hook holding a bag of stuff.
There's an entire corner of the auto accessory industry built around the realization that the front of a car looks like a face. People who never quite get beyond that realization seem to do mainly two things with that information: Buy tickets to every movie in Pixar's "Cars" franchise and put "carlashes" on their vehicle.
Mercedes-Benz offers Airscarf technology in its convertibles, seemingly to combat the rampant neck frostbite that occurs from driving a convertible in winter. Not only is this a tremendous waste of energy, but the Airscarf was banned in Mercedes' home market in Germany because of patent issues.
Calvin and Hobbes creator Bill Watterson didn't make this image and has done everything in his power to prohibit its use. Yet Etsy has an entire section dedicated to "Calvin Peeing" and that's just a fraction of the knockoffs out there. If you have one of these on your vehicle, you're not only tacky, but making a joke that was tired in 1996.
The funny thing about these front-end wraps is that the folks using them to make their cars look "sporty" or "mean" claim they're protecting the vehicle from debris, bumper taps, and other scratches. But if you live anywhere with regular rainfall, that moisture will get in your car bra, crack the clear coat, and make paint bubble up. Oh, and after a visit to a local Safelite repair station where a technician pulled a dead mouse and about five years' worth of silt out, we can't recommend keeping car bras on permanently.
Please learn what automakers learned during the station wagon/minivan era: Fake wood looks awful on vehicles. There are folks who'll paint woodgrain onto early 20th century automobiles, but if you're adding it with the help of adhesives to any car built in the 2000s, you aren't doing you or your car any favors.
Oh, so you didn't pay six figures for your car, but it's miraculously ensconced in lightweight, performance-enhancing carbon fiber? Yeah, no. Carbon fiber film wrap is just a good way to make a Camry look really dumb. The tuners know it's a cheap alternative to real carbon fiber, but they also know the difference between the two.
No, you don't need yet another screen just for your car. Those Garmin and TomTom devices came in handy more than a decade ago and are still worth getting for long trips into lightly charted territory, but just about everyone has a smartphone now. There are myriad free GPS offerings, and all operate through voice commands.
Here's one that was perpetrated by the auto industry, with drivers looking more like the victim: Those belts in the '90s and early 2000s that slid from the windshield to your shoulder as soon as you got into the car. That happened without the belts caring whether it was wanted, or even safe.
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