Car Products That Waste Your Money
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48 Car Products That Are a Complete Waste of Money

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Car Products That Waste Your Money
energyy/istockphoto

Tricked Out

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. Auto parts, accessories, and tire store revenues are expected to reach $91.6 billion in sales this year, slow but steady growth that makes the sector 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.

Fake Badges
Amazon

Fake Badges

Don't have a Mercedes-Benz AMG supercar, BMW M, or trail-rated SUV? Don't worry: You can just slap some fake emblems onto whatever downmarket hoopty you're driving and fool absolutely no one!

Related: 25 Cars No One Wanted to Buy

Styling Bars
Amazon

Styling Bars

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.

Racing Seats
Amazon
Brake Caliper Covers
Amazon

Brake Caliper Covers

Performance cars will have big, beautiful brakes installed to actually enhance performance and handling. These brake ornaments cost three figures and do nothing other than make it clear that you didn't spring for Brembo brakes.

Toyota Supra
Toyota Supra by dave_7 (CC BY)

Body Kits

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.

Related: 20 Classic Italian Sports Cars We Wish Were in Our Driveway

Wings
Amazon

Wings

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.

Fake Hood Scoops
Amazon
Hitch Covers
Amazon

Hitch Covers

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.

Hitch Safes
Amazon

Hitch Safes

If only your vehicle was built with some sort of storage. If only you didn't have to keep your credit cards, cash and keys in a tiny lock box on the outside of your vehicle inside a part that is, itself, eminently stealable.

Headrest Hooks
Amazon

Headrest Hooks

"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.

Headlight Eyelashes
Amazon

Headlight Eyelashes

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.

Related: 80 Things You Don't Need to Buy

Reindeer Antlers
Amazon

Reindeer Antlers

Consider these the holiday equivalent of carlashes. At one point, this may have seemed novel and clever, but at this point — with the antlers and red nose now mass marketed — it's just yet another way to phone in some holiday spirit.

Bullet Hole Stickers
Amazon

Bullet Hole Stickers

What message are you trying to send here? That these bags of kiddie stickers somehow make you a tough guy?

The Stick Family
Amazon

The Stick Family

In the '80s and '90s, we endured countless "Baby on Board" placards and their myriad novelty variations. Now, we're not only onto multiple versions of the stick-figure family — each keeping inventory of just how many children and pets you've compiled — but every satirical iteration that followed.

Spinner Hubcaps
Amazon
Ford Focus with scissor doors?
Ford Focus with scissor doors? by holycalamity (CC BY-SA)
Paddle Shifters
Amazon

Paddle Shifters

On a manual transmission built for racing, paddle shifters make a whole lot of sense. On your run-of-the-mill, off-to-the-golf-course Acura with a manual transmission, they're a toy.

Moisture-Sensing Wipers
FGorgun/istockphoto
Neck Heater
Daimler.com

Neck Heater

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.

Car Door Storage
Thegadgetflow.com

Car Door Storage

Know what makes your ride a whole lot more comfortable? A giant caddy jabbing you in the side at every turn. Despite automakers adding cargo space to almost every corner of the car, there are still people who insist on giving their vehicle the California Closets treatment.

Sun Visor Storage
Amazon
LED Middle Finger
Thisiswhyimbroke.com

LED Middle Finger

Ah, LED technology: Allowing us to share our every emotion with other drivers at all times. However, if you think that anyone's ever needed an LED middle finger to properly flip off other drivers, you haven't been driving in the right cities.

Rearview Smartphone Holder
Amazon

Rearview Smartphone Holder

Distracting? There's nothing distracting about this. Not at all. How would a smartphone hanging directly within your field of vision be considered distracting?

Cupholder Storage
Amazon

Cupholder Storage

If automakers listened to some drivers, the inside of cars would be nothing but slots, pockets, nooks, and crannies. Right now those drivers are spending aftermarket money to make existing cupholders slightly larger and more complicated.

Espresso Machine
Amazon
Hood Ornament
Amazon

Hood Ornament

These were a great idea when they went on car radiator caps outside the car, but they've become increasingly superfluous since. Oh, and they're easily stolen. Your skeleton hand giving other drivers the finger and its brethren likely won't survive its time in the Walmart parking lot.

Smartphone Dashboard Pad
Amazon

Smartphone Dashboard Pad

At best, you're sticking your phone to your dashboard and leaving adhesive on your phone and the dash. At worst, you're pulling over every five minutes because the pad has lost its grip and a smartphone costing hundreds of dollars is rattling around your vehicle's foot well.

Wheel Lights
Amazon

Wheel Lights

These cheap lights are not only gaudy, but they're 100% illegal in some areas. Make your wheels glow at your own peril.

Elite Tuners Car Meet - Vegas
Elite Tuners Car Meet - Vegas by LowkeyCaptures (CC BY)

Neon Lights

It's not just for wheels: Generations have tried to make their cars look like they're floating by adding neon or LED lighting to them. With each ensuing generation of this kind of illumination, it just looks less impressive, and the law has some concerns as well.

Calvin Urinating
Amazon

Calvin Urinating

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.

Car Stache
Amazon
Antenna Toppers
Amazon

Antenna Toppers

Even as automakers continue to shift away from traditional radio antennas, tchotchke manufacturers continue to churn out tons of toppers for older models. They don't signify the driver's personal style so much as their disrespect for radio equipment.

Engine Sound Generators
DarthArt/istockphoto
Shift Knobs
Amazon

Shift Knobs

You can replacing the top of your gear shift with an eyeball, pool ball, dice cube, or naked lady figurine. Outside of the rockabilly community, custom shift knobs just come off as sad.

Car Bras
Amazon

Car Bras

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.

Whistle Tips
Amazon

Whistle Tips

Before they were a meme, whistle tips were just a really annoying way of making your exhaust louder. More than a decade later, they still are. Once confined to the Bay Area, they're now available pretty much anywhere.

Fake Hood Pins
Amazon

Fake Hood Pins

Yes, certain race cars need to have their hoods held on with pins. Sticking these cheap adhesive pins to your Mustang, Camaro, Charger, or even Civic isn't fooling anyone, though. You'll be lucky if they don't mess up your paint.

Related: 25 Most Iconic Movie and TV Cars

Bolt-On Exhaust Tips
Amazon

Bolt-on Exhaust Tips

Get the look of an open exhaust with absolutely none of its benefits! These don't make your car any louder or help it perform better. The only thing they do is jut out awkwardly from your muffler and let everybody know you're a poseur.

Fast-Food Tray
Amazon
Fake Wood Grain
Amazon

Fake Wood Grain

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.

Fake Carbon Fiber
Amazon

Fake Carbon Fiber

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.

Doggie Car Seat
Amazon

Doggie Car Seat

If it looks like a glorified dog bed with a leash attached, it's little more than an accessory that isn't helping you or your dog. If it's a full harness or a booster that comes with a harness, it's actually a pet safety device that you should consider using.

Tablet Holder
Amazon

Tablet Holder

Are you an Uber or Lyft driver? Have a Tesla? No? Then there's no reason for you to have a large screen pointed directly at you at all times. Whether it's in the CD slot or cupholder, a tablet holder is a giant distraction when you aren't using it.

Steering Lights
Amazon

Steering Lights

Also known as adaptive headlights, these lights are a feature in several vehicles but don't perform their most basic function: better illuminating the road. If you're concerned about your field of vision while steering, consider upgrading your headlights instead.

Motorized Rearview
Solovyova/istockphoto

Motorized Rearview

Mercedes snd Tesla, among others, still dabble with motorized rearview mirrors that remember their last position, but the folks at Popular Mechanics suggest that manually adjusting a mirror right after getting into any car is just good practice.

Dedicated GPS Devices
Best Buy

Dedicated Navigation Devices

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 or a GPS built into their car. There are myriad free GPS offerings, and all operate through voice commands.

Steering Wheel Covers
Poppys-crafts.com

Steering Wheel Covers

If you're getting a printed steering wheel cover, it isn't to protect your hands from the hot summer sun or the chill of winter: It's to play dress-up. While cute, a monster steering wheel cover serves no practical purpose.

Car Air Mattress
Walmart