Stay Safe with These Car Organizers

A cluttered car is a road hazard. Get organized and stay safe

Last updated: April 2014

Are toys, water bottles, candy wrappers, and other garbage turning your car into a junkmobile? It's easy to let things get out of control in the family car. But the mess isn't just ugly and uncomfortable; it can also be dangerous. Loose objects can become projectiles in a crash. And feeling around for a juice box or tissues can be dangerously distracting. The first step to organizing your car is to take out the stuff you don't need and make better use of built-in storage. Consoles are great for tissues and water bottles, and door pockets can hold maps and books for the kids. Need more room? Here are some examples of products worth checking out. (Our auto safety experts reviewed all the products, but we did not test them in our labs.) Whatever you buy, make sure it can be secured safely so it won't fly around during a sudden stop. You can find many of these organizers at Target or The Container Store, or online at www.Housewaresandbeyond.com, www.Organize.com, www.Organizeyourride.com, and www.Stacksandstacks.com. But try not to overstuff the organizers.

Tip: Keep a staging area with a bin near the front door or elsewhere for items you frequently cart around. And take only what you need, says author and professional organizer Vicki Norris.

 

Cars with cool storage features

  • The Dodge Dart and Journey have a storage cubby under the front passenger seat.
  • The Honda Odyssey has a cooled bin for storing drinks and the 2014 model adds an optional vacuum cleaner.
  • The Honda Civic, Toyota Camry and Buick Enclave have lots of bins and cubbies.
  • Most Chrysler and Dodge minivans have under floor bins in front of the second-row seats.
  • The Mazda5 features clever storage compartments under the second-row seat cushions.
  • The Toyota Avalon has a wireless cell phone charging pad.
  • Most pickup trucks have giant storage compartments between the front seats.

Organizing products

Kiddie storage container
Price $25-$50

What to do with it: This case sits on the back seat and provides easy access to snacks, drinks, and games. Check that it can be secured with seat belts and has closures so items won’t easily fall out. It is portable, so you can also use it out of the car for family outings. Just one downside: It takes up a full seat.

Car trash bag
Price $20 or less

What to do with it: Use it to keep garbage in one place so trash doesn’t fly around the car. Look for a Velcro strip that keeps garbage contained

Cargo organizer
Price $15-$60

Price may go higher than $60 for a model with adjustable dividers and made from heavier plastic.

What to do with it: This organizer will keep items such as groceries from rolling around in the trunk. Use cargo covers and nets to keep stuff in place too.

Entertainment organizer
Price $10-$30

What to do with it: Keep CDs and important paperwork neatly in one place with one of these visor organizers. If you need storage for extra discs, look for a case that can be placed on the floor or in a glove compartment.

Front-seat organizer
Price $10-$40


What to do with it:
This is good for frequently used items such as water bottles and sunglasses. It has straps to secure it in place.

NOT SO HOT

Back-of-seat organizer

In a crash or during a sudden stop, a child’s head can move far enough forward to hit the front seatback and collide with the items in the organizer, which can cause a serious injury. So we recommend skipping seatback organizers.

Safe car packing

 

Jennifer Stockburger, Director of Operations at Consumer Reports' auto test center and mother of two, tells you how to stay safe on the road.

When loading your minivan or SUV for a family trip or after a day of shopping, pack heavy or bulky objects at the bottom and toward the front of the cargo space. Put softer items like sleeping bags or clothing on top, toward the back. That way, if the vehicle comes to a sudden halt, passengers are less likely to get hit by heavy flying objects.

Got car upholstery stains?

Here’s how to get rid of them

 

Staff member Pat Slaven, a chemical engineer with a master's degree in textile science, tells you how to clean up any mess like a pro.

If your seats are cloth

  • Gently blot the stain with a damp towel dabbed with some carpet shampoo or upholstery cleaner. Work inward from the stain's outside edge to avoid spreading it.
  • For tougher stains, try a handheld hot water or steam extractor. Buy one at Target or Sears, or rent one from RugDoctor.

If your seats are leather

  • Immediately blot the stain with a cloth or paper towel to keep it from setting.
  • Try using a leather cleaner.
  • If that doesn’t work, hire a pro. Look in the Yellow Pages under "car detailer."
  • Consider buying seat covers, especially if spills are a regular occurrence.

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