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Take these Christmas gift ideas on the road

DETROIT — Car lovers view their rides as their castles. If someone like that is on your holiday gift list, here are a few gadgets, all under $200, that will add to their quality time on the road. They range from GPS navigation systems to a wide assortment of in-car DVD players. Dee-ann Durbin, Associated Press

Navigation systems:

GPS (global positioning system) devices have been around for a while, but they keep getting cheaper and more accurate. Among the most popular brands are Garmin, Magellan and TomTom. Handheld GPS devices now start around $100, although souped-up systems that can give live traffic updates or play music from an MP3 player cost closer to $700.

Basic GPS devices provide driving directions and can point you toward services like gas stations or hospitals. Mid-range devices have additional features such as spoken street names or a lane assistant that tells you which lane to get in on the freeway.

Some units may require extra payments for map updates, live traffic updates and other services. Service plans vary widely, from a $40 annual fee for a $200 Magellan Maestro 3250 to free traffic — with ads — for the $240 Garmin Nuvi 265T, according to Consumer Reports. Other models include traffic and other services in the original cost.

Also, consider whether you prefer a window or dash-mounted unit.

Bluetooth car kits

Some of the more expensive GPS devices include Bluetooth, which uses short-range wireless signals to enable you to talk on your phone hands-free while driving. Portable Bluetooth speakers are also sold separately. The Miccus Inc.'s BBAT-01 BluBridge Auto-Talk, introduced in September, attaches to the windshield and is solar-powered, eliminating the need to change batteries. It sells for $59.99 on Amazon.com.

Vehicle DVD players

There are a range of options for DVD players. They can be mounted in headrests and sun visors, on the dashboard and on the ceiling. Screens can be as small as 5 inches and as large as 17 inches. Prices can climb to more than $1,000.

Still there are more affordable options.

• The Boss BV9990 has a 7-inch, dash-mounted touch screen and can play DVDs, CDs, AM/FM radio and MP3 audio. It's $199.99 on Amazon.com.

• Roadview offers a 9-inch headrest with a built-in DVD player and screen for $201.93.

• XOVision has an overhead 9-inch monitor with built-in DVD player that feeds sound through the radio for $147. Don't want to hear the SpongeBob DVD while you're driving? Headphones are extra.

Satellite radio

Some cars, including models from Toyota, Honda, General Motors, Hyundai and Nissan, are already equipped with radios that offer XM Satellite radio, which has 170 digital channels. For those that aren't, XM Satellite radio offers a $79.99 unit you can plug into your car. Subscriptions start at $9.99 per month.

Take these Christmas gift ideas on the road 12/10/09 [Last modified: Thursday, December 10, 2009 11:40pm]
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