7 tips when buying gifts for car people

We could drop a list of items we have bought or would like to buy for ourselves this holiday season, but rather than give you a fish, we are giving you a few tips so you can reel in awesome gifts—at any price point—for the gearhead in your life.

Regardless of what projects they might be working on, there are a couple of easy ways to look for gifts that car-crazy people will really appreciate. Follow these seven tips and you will likely find the perfect thing.

What vehicle is in their workshop?

Corvair in garage
Even an affordable welder is a great asset. Kyle Smith

There are two sides to this one: What projects they are working on and what is taking up space inside their workspace? The vehicles we work on are typically dear to us for various reasons, and fun trinkets or doodads (ex. keychains) with images of that vehicle are low-hanging fruit. Cool banners or large prints of their ride (just ask the year, make, and model—they’ll be happy to tell you) make any shop feel more homey, assuming they have the wall space.

Look around at vehicles are in their garage, and what space exists for potential decoration, and you have two solid avenues to cool, memorable gifts—even if you choose a neon clock so they know when to come inside for dinner …

Help solve a problem (even if it’s not really a problem)

Honda CB750 shift cover off
These aluminum baking trays seem funny, but they keep my tools and work surfaces cleaner than ever and are easy to wash. Kyle Smith

Speaking of solving problems, what does your favorite car person complain about at the end of the evening, when they come in from their shop? Lack of space, dirty benches, or gloves that just don’t get the job done? All those pain points are gift-giving opportunities in disguise. Complaints about lack of space or dirty areas and tools might mean that an organizational gift would be appreciated. It could be as simple as a set of plastic trays in various sizes (yes, really!).

It’s rare that a DIY-er wants to pay a premium for personal protective equipment. Snag a premium pair of safety glasses or buy a custom earplug kit or a nice set of noise-reducing over-ear muffs.

Don’t get too charged up

Battery tools on Kyle's workbench
Kyle Smith

Battery-powered tools are getting downright inexpensive, compared to how much luxury they can provide for a DIY-er. However, giving tools can be really tough if you aren’t well informed about your favorite wrencher’s habits and techniques. Do yourself a favor and look real closely at what brand names are on their cordless tools—or ask them what their preferred brand of battery-operated tool is.

When in doubt, grab a gift card: Most brands use different chargers and battery packs, and they aren’t interchangeable, which means a new tool from a different brand is more of an annoyance than a help, especially in an already crowded garage.

DIY for your DIY’er

Who doesn’t love a gift that is built or created just for them? Old factory service manuals typically have really fun line drawings and cut-away diagrams throughout that are easy to scan and put in a nice frame. (Maybe a frame you make?) Make sure to find a manual that applies to the year, make, and model of vehicle that your favorite car-person owns. Pull the right page, and the diagram will become an art piece that fits into most homes.

Buy them a project

round 2 model kit
When it comes to model car kits, Round 2 does it all, from new vehicles that use an OEM’s design files, to retro kits like this Chevy stocker. Cameron Neveu

Yeah, you’d think the last thing a car person would want is another project, but trust us on this one. If you want to go full-scale, we won’t stop you, but a desktop model or tabletop trinket that requires assembly is more what we had in mind. Take the gift an extra step further, and ask to be a part of the building process. Scale models, remote-controlled cars, or miniature engines—we never really grow up, and car people are no exception.

The old “coupon book”

Just write down a few “help bleed brakes” or “take 15 more minutes in the garage when needed*” notes on index cards, and hand them over. You are giving your gearhead the freedom to do the activities they love, perhaps with an extra set of helping hands, and recognizing how much those activities mean to them. Sure, these “coupons” are not as flashy as other ideas, or as concrete, but it’s the thought that counts. If done right, this gift can be the most thoughtful one of all.

(*some exclusions may apply)

Keep it simple

Crustang Ford Mustang Patina car action driving pan driver
Cameron Neveu

You came here looking for ideas, so it’s likely your loved one is into the type of stuff you find on this website. Why not give them more of that? A Hagerty Drivers Club membership puts them in the loop on exclusive events and includes a subscription to our magazine (six issues yearly). Oh, and roadside assistance, plus discounts on dozens of products they probably want to buy anyway. You spent $70 and potentially save them way more. Who doesn’t love that?

Gift-giving is always tough, and it’s only tougher when you’re buying for someone who has a very niche hobby, one they’ve probably invested in for a long time. Even so, there are thoughtful and fun gifts to give your favorite car-obsessed person. Hopefully this list gave you a good jump on a few ideas. If there is a particularly cool idea you have given or received in the past leave it as a comment below. You might just make someone else’s holiday.




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    It’s pretty well captured above, but some people like trinkets and some people like tools and parts. If you are going the tools and parts route, try to find that thing they always complain about not having but won’t get themselves

    It’s not that hard people…..we are gearheads…..we like ANYTHING mechanical
    We like ANYTHING car/motor related
    That’s …..a lot

    If middle of winter buy the Technic Lego Bugatti. Or Lamborghini.

    This is something any and all auto fans will find amazing and fun.

    With working gear box, suspension, doors, all wheel drive and functioning pistons even in the W16. It is a challange to build and if you mis one step it can really test your mechanical skills.

    Finally it can make a fine display piece in a table or even hung in a wall.

    A 10 mm socket is always needed.
    Make it a pack of 4.
    It’s the perfect stocking
    Stuffer when coupled
    With a good pair of snap ring pliers and some electrical tape.

    “Battery-powered tools are getting downright inexpensive….” GOOD tools are NOT. Cheap tools have ‘cheap’ batteries that don’t last. I know as I made that mistake and couldn’t get replacements. Paid good money for tools that I basically gave away because I couldn’t get batteries. If you are going to get battery tools, spend the extra $ and get professional tools (not ‘professional grade’). They will work harder, last longer and hopefully with a good brand, you can get batteries.

    Hence the old saying, “only a wealthy man can afford cheap tools”.
    Buy a good one that will last not a cheap one that needs replacing over and over again.

    I think you and I agree on this. Prime example is the Milwaukee M12 right angle die grinder in the photo above. That was recently purchased with two batteries and a charger for under $200. That is a tool with a lot of uses, from a name brand with good support for under two bills. It’s value, not price.

    Glad to see the gift card option was low on the list. Nothing says, “I’m phoning this one in” like a gift card. I’d rather get someone something I think they will want or need. If they need to return it because it wasn’t what they wanted, I won’t be offended, and I tell them so. I’ll even provide the receipt. At least it says, “I thought about what you would like,” rather than, “I got your shopping done in two minutes, along with 10 other people on my list.”

    Also, the problem with the coupon book is that nobody ever wants to cash them in. I don’t think they work well here any more than the romantic coupon book for your spouse.

    Yes, the gift card is an easy route, but is really appreciated (I’ve been given restaurant gift cards that forces me to go out and have a good time, and I like it). I don’t know how many unopened tools I gifted my dad over the years that he said he needed, and never touched, that I found while clearing out his belongings. And as for gifting an item to be returned, I barely have enough time in the day as is. Would I really want to drive half an hour one way to return something?

    Great suggestions! The shop manual-to-art is my favorite. If your gift recipient is an air cooled VW enthusiast, Muir’s “How to Keep your Volkswagen Alive” has a wonderful collection of entertaining artwork.
    A photo book (like those offered by Shutterfly) or a photo album of the car(s) makes a good gift option. This is especially true if the car had been owned for several years . Unfortunately, it’s probably too late to have such a gift printed for this year.

    The Shutterfly book has been a hit with me. Our kids made one on our 1973 Porsche 914 that my wife and I drove from CA to MI in 1987 and we still have it. They captured old photos from that trip, our days of autocrossing, my various restorations and ultimately winning both our concours class and driving event class at the 2021 Porsche Parade. This is something really special to me today and that the kids will have after I’m gone.

    I will admit that it is hard to buy to adults as we tend to buy whatever we want already. Gift cards to Amazon or something like that are useful.

    I have tried the “Gift Card” route several times when shopping for my wife’s gifts. I couldn’t wait for the look of pleasure on her face knowing that she would be able to buy something she really wants and needs. However, she immediately took said cards to the store to purchase a birthday gift for one of the grandchildren.

    Good luck finding a model of an older car. IF you find one on ebay, be prepared to dig deep into your pocket! I spent hundreds on my last two ’74 Javelin models that I made to replicate the full sized cars that I owned.

    If you can’t “buy” a gift, consider wrapping a car part you already bought or collected – that you know they want on their car. I’ve done this even when it’s not a special occasion. We’ve all been helped by someone at some point. #PayItForward

    My birthday just passed. I finally got a good booster pack for myself. My kids try to get me stuff I will use but none of them being mechanically minded their gifts are rarely used. Universal gift card please!

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