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Car Hacks: 10 Clever Tips for Staying Organized in the Car

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author photo by Tara Trompeter September 2019

Life has become incredibly complicated. We're supposed to keep up with the latest and greatest in technology, but not spend too much time looking at screens. We have to be fully committed both at work and at home, all while remembering not to neglect ourselves in the process. That's enough to make anyone's head spin, so finding little ways to make your daily life easier is essential. And since most of us spend a lot of time in our vehicles every day, we figured that was a good place to start. Here are some low-cost, low-effort car hacks to simplify your automotive life.

Glove Box Organizer

  1. Glove Box Organizer, courtesy of Stephanie Ziajka

Are you one of those people who always has the best of intentions when it comes to keeping your glove box neat and tidy, but then you leave the service station with a receipt and it gets thrown on top of a stack of existing car paperwork already in the glove box? Asking for a friend … Of course, if you had a system to help keep yourself organized, that wouldn't happen! Enter the DIY glove box organizer. It's super easy to throw together -- you'll need a mini binder, mini dividers and some page protectors or 3-ring pockets, and you'll have all of your important car papers and emergency docs (repair info, registration, emergency numbers, emergency money, etc.) handy and accessible.

Silicone Cup Holder Liners

  1. Silicone Cup Holder Liners, courtesy of Jaclyn Shimmel

We've all been there. You drive over a speed bump and your leftover morning coffee drips out of your Yeti tumbler into the cup holder, leaving a sticky mess. Not anymore! Pop silicone cupcake liners into your car's cup holders to protect them from drink spills. If something does spill, simply remove, wash the liner and replace!

Upcycled Change Holder

  1. Upcycled Change Holder, courtesy of Jennifer Soltys

We may be relying on credit cards and virtual payments more than ever before, but random loose change in the car will continue to afflict drivers for generations. Thankfully, it couldn't be easier to upcycle a laundry pod container into an in-car change holder! Simply spray paint the container to match your interior, cut a slit in the lid and stuff with the pennies and quarters collecting dust under the driver's seat. It's like a piggy bank for your car!

DIY Car Air Freshener

  1. DIY Car Air Freshener, courtesy of Vanessa Diaz

Have stinky soccer cleats and road trip fast food left the opposite of new car smell in your daily driver? Never fear. Just soak a few cotton balls in essential oil (we like lavender or eucalyptus) and drop them inside of a small mason jar. Cover the top of the jar in plastic wrap, secure with a rubber band and punch a few holes in the top to release soothing scents even when you're running the most stressful of errands.

Tote Bag Hanger

  1. Tote Bag Hanger, courtesy of Greta Hollar

If you're all about taking your own tote bags with you into the grocery store but can't figure out where to put them in your car, we've got a great solution. Simply use a clip or carabiner to hang those reusable bags from the front seat headrests! And these bags can even do double duty by holding things like snacks, drinks or dog toys while you're running around town.

Keep Your Car Germ & Mess Free

  1. Keep Your Car Germ & Mess Free, courtesy of Nicole Falciano

#MomLife is definitely not easy, especially when you're toting those little germ sponges to and from school or daycare. One of our favorite car hacks is also one of the easiest … just tuck a bottle of hand sanitizer and a pack of baby wipes into the driver's side door for on-the-go spills, sneezes and spit-ups.

Back Seat Toy Corral

  1. Back Seat Toy Corral, courtesy of Cris Stone

Since we're on the topic of kids and chaos, there's nothing more annoying than toys cluttering the back seat and floor of your car, especially if they're not easily accessible to the tiny humans who are trying to grab them. We love the idea of placing a small bin in between car seats and dumping all of the toys in there for easy access and containment. It's a win-win.

Road Trip Tricks

  1. Road Trip Tricks, courtesy of Tamara Bowman

Driving to grandma's for your annual visit can be stressful if you're not properly prepared for your time in the car. We like using empty coffee creamer bottles for spill-proof snacks and suggest packing a sealed bag full of plastic utensils and napkins for meals on the go. A small paintbrush can be used to quickly dust between the AC vents and to clean your car's knobs and dials, while a lint roller is a great option for picking up pet hair and crumbs. A clean(ish) car will surely make for a more enjoyable experience … at least until you get to grandma's.

On-the-Go Meal Tray

  1. On-the-Go Meal Tray, courtesy of Misty Nelson

Speaking of on-the-go meals and (hopefully) clean cars, we are big fans of this next idea. Turn a plastic scrapbooking box into a DIY meal tray for little laps (or big ones if your spouse is a notoriusly messy eater, just sayin'). You can attach some wipes and your plastic utensil bag to the inside cover and voila -- no more crumbs to drive you crazy.

Car Care Checklist

  1. Car Care Checklist, courtesy of Krystal Butherus

Since we spend so much time in our cars, it's not uncommon to need the occasional household item when you're out and about during the day (dental floss and band-aids, we're looking at you). Make sure you're never stuck on the road without these things by creating a car care checklist outlining all the necessities you should keep stocked in your daily driver. We'd even laminate this list and keep it in the glove box -- then take inventory on a regular basis with a dry erase marker so you know exactly what needs to be replenished at a glance.

Thankfully, some cars come with hacks already included! We especially love the "camera" button on the center stack of most Nissan and Infiniti vehicles which gives you an immediate view of what's in front of you -- it's particularly handy when you're trying to park in a crowded lot or pulling into a tight garage. The Ford Flex has a cooler built into the second-row console -- perfect for juice boxes and healthy snacks for your littlest passengers. And the Volvo XC40 comes with a trash can compartment in the center console that's super easy to clean out.

If you're in the market for a new car, sometimes the simplest details can make the biggest difference, so be sure to read Autotrader's expert reviews and find cars for sale in your area -- that way you can see exactly which features the new (or new to you) car of your dreams already comes with and which hacks you'll need to implement as soon as you sign on the dotted line.

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This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
Car Hacks: 10 Clever Tips for Staying Organized in the Car - Autotrader
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