Life-Changing Car Hacks (That Actually Work)

May 15, 2021 | Cleaning Tips and Tricks, Lifestyle, Organization, Video

Today I'm sharing my best car hacks, tips, tricks, gadgets, and life-saving tips that have saved my bacon more than once on the road. Ready to see what we can't live without for our family of ten?!

Jordan and girls in van, from Fun Cheap or Free

As a mom of eight active kiddos, I basically LIVE out of my car. Over the years, I have learned simple ways to make my car a mobile “office” of sorts, and have turned it into a place where I can actually get quite a bit done! It might sound crazy, but with a few car hacks and essentials, you can transform the way you run errands, too.

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Since we found out we were having twins, we knew we needed a new car fast! We ended up getting a 15-passenger Ford Transit 350 XLT mid-roof standard van and we loooove it! We may have gotten it decked out a bit to fit our family's needs… It's super smooth. Check out our new car tour here! But don't forget to come back to learn about these amazing car hacks that will change the way you drive.

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Alright, are you ready for a recap? Let’s go!


Hand using car vacuum, from Fun Cheap or Free

It’s a fact of life: cars get dirty! Especially if you basically live in yours, as I do. Add in some little munchkins to the mix and you can take a car from squeaky clean to eww in about 15 seconds! 

  • Hanging Garbage Can – These little garbage cans are lifesavers! I have one on the back of every single headrest in my car so my kids can easily throw away garbage rather than throwing it on the floor. These cans are great because they’re waterproof on the inside and hold their shape.
  • Silicone Cupcake Liners – Do your cup holders ever get disgusting thanks to some nasty, mysterious gunk, or is that just mine? These cupcake liners are probably one of my favorite car hacks! I have one in every cup holder in my car. They’re also easily cleaned – you just dump them out and stick them in the dishwasher! Easy peasy, that’s my kind of cleaning. These are one of my favorite car hacks!
  • Car Vacuum – This car vacuum is one of my must-have, non-negotiable items in my van. It is such a lifesaver when it comes to keeping the car clean! It’s small, so you can hide it under one of the seats when you’re not using it. It plugs into the car’s cigarette lighter and it can reach ALL the way to the back of my van. Have you seen her? She’s a beast!
  • Microfiber Disinfectant Cloth – Let’s get real here… If your car is anything like mine, it is disgusting like 99.9% of the time no matter what you do! To combat this, I keep a microfiber cloth in my console. (Use the code JORDAN for 10% off of ecloth, or get them from Amazon). Put a small amount of water on the cloth and do a once-over while you’re waiting in a line or in a parking lot.
  • Air Freshener – We all love a good air freshener at the front of the car, but have you ever thought of putting one (or ten!) at the BACK of your car? Hide one in the back where the little people, and the source of the stink, are. You and your guests at the front of the car will be none-the-wiser!
  • Waterproof Seat Covers – These seat covers have become essential in all of our cars! They’re great for dogs, kids, and humans in general because they catch all the messes. I love them because you can take them off the seat, shake them off, throw them in the washing machine if they’re really gross, and then put them back in the car to keep your seats nice and clean. They’re so worth it! You can find covers for single seats and for bench seats.

Pro Tip: I love this car vacuum because it keeps the bottom of my van from looking like the bottom of a cereal box. So gross! While I’m waiting in a fast-food line, in the school pickup line, or at a bank window, I’ll plug the vacuum in, hand it back to the kids, and let them go to town with it. It’s definitely essential for my car!


Car vent phone holder, from Fun Cheap or Free

The car is too small to let it turn into a mess! Keep everything you need at your fingertips with these great car hacks that not only keep you organized but help you stick to your budget, too:

  • Magnetic Mount for Your Dash – It’s important to be safe in the car with your phone, right? But let’s get real, sometimes you NEED to use your phone, especially if you need it for the GPS. One of my biggest car hacks is one of these magnetic mounts. You basically stick a magnet to the back of your phone (it can even go under the cover) and then your phone sticks right to your dash on the mount. BOOM! All of your phone problems are solved and you’re driving hands-free!
  • TV Hacks – Skip the DVDs! Plug this nifty HDMI cable into your car’s HDMI. Then plug it into the HDMI input that plugs into your phone or iPad and voila! You can easily play the shows or movies that have been downloaded to your phone or iPad on the TV where everybody can see them. This keeps you from losing or breaking your DVDs and is a lot less to carry around with you.
  • Collapsible Crate – This crate comes in super handy when it comes to gathering all the things in your car trunk! It folds flat when you’re not using it and can be tucked under a seat. I use it to store all of the random junk that accumulates at the back of my car. I’m talking hats, random shoes, and the returns that need to go back to the store. I also keep a plethora of water bottles in it because you just never know when your child is going to be DYING of thirst and they forgot to bring their water bottle with them.
  • Accordion File Folder – Junk mail and weekly shoppers have some pretty legit restaurant deals in them! Put them in an accordion file folder in your console and then when you’re waiting in line for something or killing time in your car in a parking lot, go through and organize them. My folder has tabs for restaurants, services, places, and whatever else I happen to get useful ads for. No more having to worry about grabbing these before leaving the house!
  • Small Zipper Bags – I keep my receipts in one of two places: either in my budget envelope in my purse or in a little zipper bag in my console. This makes it easy to keep up with all of my receipts for when I need to return something while keeping them from bulking up my purse. That thing is big enough as it is, it doesn’t need any help!

Pro Tip: Keep another zipper bag in your console with all of those important (but annoying) membership or rewards cards, punch cards, and frequent shopper cards. It’s frustrating to have so many of them, but they’re totally worth holding on to. I’ve found that if you keep a single hole punch in your bag, then you can punch a hole and put your cards on a binder ring to keep them organized that way!


image that reads "all of our best car hacks", from Fun Cheap or Free

These car hacks are about to rock. your. WORLD. You know I love a good hack and these do not disappoint:

  • Clean Headlights with Toothpaste – Have some hazy, foggy headlights? Take a rag and buff the headlights with toothpaste. It works like magic!
  • Suction Cup Shower Basket – Suction shower baskets to the inside windows so your kids can store any toys or coloring supplies in them.
  • Seat Warmers to Keep Food Warm – When you grab carry out, turn on your seat warmer and sit the food in the seat! It'll keep it warm until you can get home.
  • Hand Sanitizer to Unfreeze Door Handles – Pump hand sanitizer into the lock before inserting the key or around the handle if it's frozen shut.
  • Shower Caddy to Hold Food – A cheap shower caddy from the dollar store is the perfect way for kids to eat a meal in the car. Put their food in plastic cups; the caddy will hold on to multiple cups perfectly!
  • Keep the Change – Use a portable gum container to store loose change. Keep it for a money saving challenge!
  • Car Windshield Snow Cover – Keeping the snow and ice off your windshield is the worst. It takes way too long to scrape the windshield clean and honestly, who wants to stand out in the cold, working up a sweat? A car windshield snow cover is the perfect solution. The snow falls on the cover and all you have to do is remove the cover from your car and voila! No more scraping ice, simply pop the snow off the cover, throw it in your car and you'll be on your way.

Pro Tip: Keep these in your car at all times, that way you're never without!


First aid kit supplies, from Fun Cheap or Free

Don’t leave the house without these! Better yet, make your life easier by leaving them in your car. You don’t have to worry about forgetting to grab them when you’re running late (which is basically the story of my life).

  • Bottle Tether – Does your cute little baby have a bottle, binky, special toy, or a drink they always like to have with them in their car seat? If they’re anything like mine, then you’ll be driving, and then uh oh! They drop it on the floor and start going crazy. My solution – a bottle tether! There is no way that anything can be dropped on the floor when it’s attached to a tether, and it keeps you from wrecking while trying to grab it. Trust me on this one, it’s a must-have!
  • Hair Bag – Sometimes I just don’t have the time to fix everybody’s hair before we need to get in the car and go, so I’ll just figure it out once we get to wherever we’re going. That’s when my handy hair bag comes in for the win! It’s just a small pouch that has everything I need to do both my girls’ and boys’ hair. I’m talking hairbrush, gel, and hair things. This has become a lifesaver for when we need to rush out of the house and I don’t need my kids looking like a hot mess all day long!
  • Emergency Car Kit – You never know when a car emergency is going to happen. Maybe you get a flat tire while driving and you have to pull over on the side of the road. Or you go to get in your car after loading all of the kids and ALL. OF. THE. THINGS. from Costco and your car won’t start. That’s when having an emergency car kit comes in handy. You may never have a need for it, but it’s just not worth the risk to not have it in your car trunk!
  • First Aid Kit – Kids are so prone to falling and scraping a hand or a knee, so that’s why I make sure I always have a first aid kit in my car. It may be the world’s tiniest scrape, but it’s a HUGE deal to them, so I always want to be prepared with a cute princess or superhero bandaid to help make them feel better!
  • Size 5/6 Diaper – This is great for when you or a kid are out and about and you can’t physically stop the car to go to the bathroom. You just put a diaper in your kid’s underwear, let ‘er rip, then roll it up and throw it away. I know, it sounds CRAZY, but I’ve done this and it works! 
  • The Go Girl – The Go Girl is a silicone pee device that allows girls to pee standing up. This has come in super handy for both me and my girls when we’ve been on a road trip with no bathrooms in sight. We’ve just pulled over, used a bush with this lovely device, and it kept us from wetting ourselves or having to squat, because EWW. It’s also germ resistant and dishwasher safe, so it cleans up easily and nicely! Keep it in a baggie and replace it each time you take it out to wash ‘er up.

Pro Tip: Keep a few grocery sacks handy in the glovebox or console. They’re perfect for throwing things away that you don’t want to go into the normal car trash bag (like those stinky diapers) and make a good last-minute barf bag.


Van on a road, from Fun Cheap or Free

If you’re like me and you spend a lot of time in the car, you may want to have some of these tips and tricks in your back pocket to keep your kids entertained when you’re on the move. Keep an entertainment bag or tote in the car with your kids’ favorite items and rotate them out weekly or as needed.

  • Clipboards – You may have seen our amazing clipboard system that helps kids stay organized and get their chores and homework done with ease. Add homework to a clipboard and they can complete it on the go.
  • Magnetic Car GamesThese magnetic card games are always fun for the kids, and the magnets are nice because you don't have to worry about pieces falling down in the cracks of the seats or in the floor… In theory, anyway. 😉
  • Books – Get your kids in the habit of packing a book with them for endless entertainment while running errands. It's the perfect time for them to work on their summer reading chart!
  • Drawing Pad – No crayons or pencils required! This drawing pad keeps kids entertained for hours.
  • Fun Car Games – Keep those brains entertained, too! Some favorites include 20 questions, license plate alphabet, count the object/animals, a memory game, I Spy, and so much more.

Pro Tip: Have your kids keep a tote by their shoes at the back door where they can grab on their way to the car. They can easily pack their things and you don't have to worry about grabbing anything for them.

Whew, there ya go! Those are all my car hacks and essential things to keep in your car! What are YOUR car essentials?? Please share them with me! We always need new ideas, right?

Image with text that reads "the best car hacks" from Fun Cheap or Free

With 8 kids, traveling can be CHALLENGING. We love to travel as a family, though, so I've got LOADS of tricks up my sleeves! I've shared all my best tips, tricks, and hacks in various travel posts.

And for those who don't know much about me, I'm a frugal living and lifestyle blogger that got out of serious debt by pinching pennies, and now continue to pinch pennies as we live the life of our dreams! I've put my best methods in an online, easy to use, FUN budgeting program called Budget Boot Camp.

Use the code FCFBLOG to get 10% off. If you don't save at least what you paid for the program, I'll refund every dime… So try it, you've got nothing to lose!

Check out all my best FREE budgeting tips here on the blog in the meantime, of course.

Hope you enjoyed all those tips. Now, go out and have some fun!!

Jordan Page Signature from Fun Cheap or Free


  1. Bekah

    I love the car tips! With summer road-trips coming up, I definitely need some of these 🙂

  2. Shauna

    Ok so I splurged and bought a new vehicle and since we moms do live in our cars I am determined to keep It clean and organized! These tips are genius! Love the idea of a car vacuum! That drop stop will be so nice! EVERYTHING falls in between right there. I always leave my coupons at home when I could use them so now I jane a file folder on my list! Oh man my daughter and I HATE having to pee outside but sometimes It happens. Now I need To buy a few of those go girl! I have never seen them! Thank you so much for th earn tips. My life is going to be so much more easier!

  3. Heather B

    I really would love a car vacuum! That would make things so much easier!

  4. Jocelyn Delgado

    IVe almost bought go girl a couple of times but resisted. I’m gonna revisit! LOVE travel tips. I’ve got 6 kids and we love to road trip!

  5. Diana Burk

    I love these. That car vacuum is now on my Amazon wishlist!

  6. Ashley Phelps

    I have been wanting to get head rest hooks! So excited to get these

  7. Malinda

    Oh man I never thought about the diaper hack!!! That’s amazing.

    And those things looked like fruit leathers ??

    • FunCheapOrFree

      Haha yes! You guessed it!

  8. Molly Campbell

    Great tips! I just learned a new one today. Apparently there are portable hard drives that emit their own wifi signal. So instead of storing movies or games on your phone or tablet, you can store it on the hard drive, and all your devices can connect to it to watch movies. I thought it was an awesome tip for road trips since the cheap tablets we bought for road trips don’t have much internal storage, and I’ve had a problem with the add on memory cards breaking.

    • FunCheapOrFree

      Thanks for the tip, we will check it out!

  9. Lauren

    I love all these ideas! I keep a hot/cold insulated bag for groceries, just in case. I also always keep a roll of TP because…life!

  10. Mackenzie

    Om gosh your van is awesome. What model is it?
    And I love your tips. These are so helpful

  11. Peggy

    Hey Jordan, where’s your wet wipes and bug spray?

  12. Kathryn

    These are some awesome tips. You are missing one though. I keep a small makeup bag full of on the road medical supplies. IE: bandaids, neosporin, benadryl tabs and cream, kids dramamine, claritin, kids pain relievers, adult pain relievers – esp Excedrin. I purchased all of these at the dollar general store on the cheap. I did not even buy brand name stuff. I took most of it all out of the boxes and put them into labled snack bags. I tried to purchase pills in travel size bottles or blister packs. I’ve taken many road trips with my boys and this has always been a life saver.

    • FunCheapOrFree

      That is SUCH a good idea! Thank you for sharing, I’ll have to start doing that. I usually keep some in my purse/diaper bag, but not to this extent!

  13. Sarah

    My favorite hacks: a box of Kleenex and a box of wipes kept handy in my center console of my truck. Luckily, I only have 1 kid….and a dog….and 3 cats ? I will never travel without baby wipes again! Huggies *used to* make a smaller travel size plastic box (it held around 40 wipes), but they’re increasingly hard to find (check CVS though, I still occasionally have luck and I think I’ve got about 8 of those boxes!). The dog takes care of 90% of those “gross” crumbs and unknown food items.

    I also keep a pack of children’s Dramamine handy in both vehicles in case I forget to pack one in my bathroom bag, or for the mid-point double dose. Another car sick hack? Use a blanket in the window. Blocking the peripheral vision helps TREMENDOUSLY. (I’ll probably also start keeping a roll of paper towels in my truck for the vomit clean up….our last trip I ran out of wipes and let me just say paper napkins from all those drive-thru stops are next to USELESS. The disintegrate upon contact with anything…..wet)

    The head rest seat hooks are also a life saver! My truck seats are too wide to hang over the back of the seat, so I put on on the back seat, another faces forward on my passenger seat (so my purse doesn’t go flying every time the deer attempt suicide), and I even hung one from that little coat hook above the back seat, which my son hangs his headphones on for stops (so they don’t get stepped on).

    • FunCheapOrFree

      These are all GREAT tips, thanks for sharing!!!

      • Olivia

        I’m in love with your van!!! What kind is it?

        • FunCheapOrFree

          It’s a Chevy Explorer Van and it’s the best!

  14. Kelly M

    Great tips! I will be getting silicone cupcake molds for all my cup holders!! Even mine! The grossness that gets inside those cup holders is an amazing feat in itself and so hard to clean! I only have two kids but we travel far every day to my office and daycare. They are 2 and 4. I currently drive a Nissan Sentra so needless to say it is TIGHT on space! Two car seats take up most of the backseat, but I found a basket that wedges just perfectly between them and I fill it with toys and things they like… paper for drawing, books, baby doll accessories, etc. it has helped a ton! I change the stuff out periodically so that it doesn’t become the boring lost basket of ish! Plus it has be cleaned out often because they like to throw their snacks in it too when they are done… will be investing in the garbage can idea for the car as well, thanks for the tip!! I also keep a roll of toilet paper AND a package of baby wipes next to me… someone is always asking me for a wipe to clean their hands from a snack or sneezing with snot running down their face! This has saved me so many times!

    Thanks for the tips! Will be trying many new things for our travels!

    • FunCheapOrFree

      Thanks for sharing your car hacks, those are great ideas!

  15. Liz

    Random but what kind of Van do you have?

    • Fun Cheap or Free

      It’s a Chevy Explorer Van!

  16. Katie

    I only have 2 kids, 3 y/o and 6 m/o, but I like to keep an extra change of clothes in the car. Usually do in the baby bag as well, but sometimes you need a back up to that back up. Also, keep sunscreen on hand 24/7. We live in FL and I have a red head 🙂

  17. Teresa

    Buy those cinnamon scented pinecones and put a few under the seat. It keeps car smelling good for a long time.

  18. Dan Collins

    This is so relatable. I always keep clothes, biscuits, and medicines in my car. Some of the essentials that I cannot live without. Thanks for sharing this.

  19. Sarah

    Thank you so much for these tips! I have three kids, and I always feel like our car is a mess! In fact, I have to get a car upholstery-cleaning every few months to get rid of my kid’s sticky messes. This weekend I’m going to deep clean my car and purchase some of the products you mentioned- it will be perfect timing before my family’s summer road trip!

  20. Keirsten

    Just so you and anyone else knows (and maybe you should add a disclaimer to help educate parents and keep babes safer) the seat covers are not to be used under child carseats. Graco is the only brand that crash tests their seats with a THIN cover under the seat, but these look too thick even for Graco. I would play it safe and not use these under carseats (or booster seats) at all, it could seriously harm your child in the event of a collision.

  21. Becca

    You need the “Key Ring Reward Card” app on your phone. Upload all those reward cards incl. barcodes. It keeps the info all handy and alphabetized in your phone. No need to keep those cards in your car anymore.

    • Fun Cheap or Free

      Thank you for sharing the great idea.

  22. Kristin

    Super fun article to come upon and read! I have just one kid but she can probably make a mess for all eight of yours. Ha ha. When I click on your trash bag for the car it takes me to suction cups for taking out dance so I’m not sure what happened with that link would like to see what trash bags you use though. Do you mind sharing the actual link again?

    • Fun Cheap or Free

      Thank you for letting us know! So sorry for the broken link. We have updated it in the post.

  23. Shelby

    Wow, these tips are sure helpful! Thanks for sharing!


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