Holiday gifts for the drivers on your list

Maybe a new car with a red bow on top in those holiday TV ads is a little beyond your gift-giving means. But much more affordable presents can still bring cheer to the drivers on your list.

It doesn't matter if your relative or friend is an ardent auto enthusiast or just a driver who spends too much time in a daily commute. Either way, we have holiday suggestions.

Here's a sampling:

Roadside emergency kit: Every driver needs one of these. Think of it as insurance -- you hope you never need to use it, but it's best to be prepared. A kit assembled by AAA will help keep you safe until a tow truck arrives. It includes a flashlight with batteries and an emergency poncho. The booster cables in the kit might let you avoid towing entirely if you can get a booster start for a failed battery. And it includes forms and guidelines for reporting accidents. It sells for $24.95 on Amazon.

Heated seat cushion: For drivers in cold climates, heated seats are a popular new-car option. If drivers on your list regret not having chosen that built-in equipment, warm them up with a heated cushion that fits on top of the seat. It plugs into the car's 12-volt DC outlet and has a three-way temperature controller. You can get one for $19.95 at Amazon.

Subscription to a music-streaming service: Having the right music in your car can cheer up a dreary daily commute. But you can start to get tired of hearing the tunes downloaded onto your smartphone. So, consider giving a subscription to a music-streaming service like Pandora or Spotify. To listen to Pandora's individualized music programming free of ads, a subscription costs $4.99 a month or $59.88 a year. Pandora offers gift cards of six months of the Pandora One service for $30. Spotify, more expensive at $9.99 a month for ad-free music, lets you choose specific songs to play when you want instead of a "radio station" featuring a type of music on Pandora. Spotify also offers gift cards in denominations of $10, $30 and $60.

Auto show tickets: Real car enthusiasts love to check out auto shows if there's is one in their region. Not only do they get to exclaim over the gee-whiz concept cars from Ferrari, Porsche and the like, they can also get an early look at the newest models of the reasonably priced cars, SUVs or pickups they might actually buy in the future. Show tickets are affordable. For instance, the Los Angeles Auto Show charges $13 to $15 for adults depending on the date and $10 for seniors. The North American International Auto Show in Detroit, which will run from Jan. 12-15 next year charges $13 for adults and $7 for seniors and children.

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    Jerry Edgerton, author of Car Shopping Made Easy, has been covering the car beat since Detroit companies dominated the U.S. market. The former car columnist for Money magazine and Washington correspondent for Business Week, Edgerton specializes in finding the best deals on wheels and offering advice on making your car last.