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Gift ideas for commuters and car lovers

With the holiday shopping season already in overdrive, here's the Doc's annual rundown of gift ideas for the road warrior in your life. For reluctant shoppers, remember that you can avoid the mall and shop online or find cool gifts at local discount retailers, drugstores and even some grocery stores. If utilitarian items such as gasoline gift cards will put a smile on the face of someone on your shopping list, your work is done in no time.

Here's the Doc's 2011 idea list:

Buckle Up key holder. If you know someone who is always losing his or her car keys, this kitschy gift, made from a repurposed seat belt buckle, is mounted to a wall. Just click the other end of the buckle, which is attached to the key ring, and head out the door. When you return, click the keys back into the buckle. Find the $24 key holder at uncommongoods.com.

Portable GPS. What's great about the newest GPS units is that they are more efficient and less expensive. The Doc also likes the fact that most models can be removed from the dashboard and popped into your pocket to guide you in pedestrian mode, which is great for those of us who do not own a smartphone. GPS units range from around $55 for a basic TomTom all the way up to $1,000 depending on the bells and whistles and manufacturer.

Roadside assistance. An annual membership to a 24-hour roadside assistance service can cost $50 to $100, depending on the service provider. Check out the old standby, AAA, or look into alternatives such as Better World Club, which identifies itself as an environmentally friendly club offering assistance and other services to motorists and bicycle riders at betterworldclub.com.

Hello Kitty floor mats. These start at $7 at Walmart and if Hello Kitty isn't your style, Walmart also carries a line of NFL logo floor mats as well as leopard and other animal prints from $20 to $40.

Electric car blanket. Chilly morning or planning a road trip up North? Plug this cozy 12-volt plaid blankie into your adaptor and stay toasty-warm. We spotted this item at Target for about $30.

Magnetic bubble seat cover. While it's not as fun as bubble wrap, you can ride around on a cushion of molded foam bubbles touted to stimulate circulation and improve posture. And the cover features eight magnets that are supposed to somehow decrease stress. The Wagan seat cover retails for about $15 at Target.

Bumper protector. Several manufacturers produce heavy duty rubber rear bumper protectors that attach to the back of a car and shield it from injuries inflicted by poor parallel parkers. One brand, the Bumper Bully, ranges in price from $30 to about $70. Check it out at bumperbully.com. Bumpshox makes a dense energy-absorbing foam product that looks a little bit like a stingray and attaches to the front of a vehicle where the license plate frame is located. The product's ad says it protects from minor bumper-to-bumper impacts. Check out the flexible fins of the Bumpshox at bumpshox.com.

Car costumes. That's right, costumes for the car. Mystic Industries makes all kinds of vehicle costume-wear, allowing motorists to dress up their cars as reindeer, complete with antlers and a red nose, for about $15. Mystic also carries ensembles for holidays throughout the year, so cars can be dressed as elves, candy canes, bunnies, bats, valentines and firecrackers. No, I'm not kidding. Find the line at amazon.com.

Email Dr. Delay at DocDelay@gmail.com to share your traffic concerns, comments and questions or follow Ask Dr. Delay on Facebook. Questions selected for publication may be edited for space and clarity.

Gift ideas for commuters and car lovers 12/03/11 [Last modified: Saturday, December 3, 2011 3:30am]
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