e-Circuit Vent Mount Auto Cell Phone Holder (Dollar Tree)

Stock image of e-Circuit Vent Mount Auto Cell Phone Holders, from Dollar Tree
Up to you to decide if the frustrations are negated by the $1 price point.

A few Special Buy cycles back at Aldi, I grabbed an Auto XS Cell Phone Holder for my wife's Jeep (see review above). I initially wanted to buy one for myself, as well, but by the time they marked them down to a price I was willing to pay (which, ironically, was just $2 less than retail price), there were only a couple remaining. I wanted one, but was a little hesitant about the quality; after taking it home and seeing how easy it was to install (just set on the windshield, and push down on the base to lock the suction/adhesive into place), I got a little jealous and regretful that I didn't grab one for myself while I was there. A couple days later, after seeing its smooth operation, I decided to go grab it.

Of course, Aldi had sold out of their last one by the time I had made my commitment, and so I searched for one at the cheapest place I could think of: Dollar Tree. According to their website, they carried a version that attaches to car vents, rather than the front window/dashboard. I much prefer the window/dash idea, because they feel sturdier to me and hold into place better (when they work), and don't block a necessary item for comfort on very hot/cold day. However, after seeing how much window and dash mounts were at other local places—and seeing how much even the vent clips were elsewhere—I decided to give it a go. After all, my comfort was just a small sacrifice to make for added safety while driving.

As expected, installation is easy: Just clip it to your car vent. I'm no rocket scientist, but it took me all of three seconds to figure that out. From there, just stretch the spring-loaded holder open wide enough to fit your cell phone, and voila, you're ready to use your phone, hands free. It really does make such a huge difference when using the GPS, and makes it much easier to pull up a quick song on the fly.

Now, obviously this is not going to be as sturdy or as solid as a more expensive holder, and I have to admit that I still much prefer the suctioned ones to these. Dollar Tree's holds the phone in place just fine, but has the propensity to easily pop off the vent if you're quickly trying to remove the phone one-handed, and can also slide around the vent if you don't place it just right. Hearing the tension in the springs as you slide open the holder is also a sobering reminder that it's probably going to snap at some point, and that point will probably be in the near future. That being said, I have to say that the tension doesn't feel shaky or weak, and the device itself feels fairly sturdy—well, as sturdy as a $1 piece of plastic can.

The only downside is the longevity factor: As can be expected, these things wear down pretty quickly, making them a better option for temporary situations. And when they do inevitably start to fail, it can be a very anger-inducing process: First, the rubber grips will fall off, leading to many frustrating “tear apart the car to find the little piece” moments. Then, the clip will start to weaken, something that will slowly build up to that inevitable moment when it can no longer hold its grip on the vent and slides off while you're driving. I'm not going to lie: I had a love/hate relationship with this product, but the final few weeks were filled with little more than intense hatred and seething rage, as something always seemed to be going wrong. (Ironically, it never had anything to do with the springs, which is the part I was worried about the most. Those held up pretty well, though I'm sure had it lasted longer, those eventually would have joined in on the “fall-apart fun”, too.)

Finally, I got so pissed at always having to fiddle with it that I just threw it away and decided to go without a mount at all. Looking back, I definitely can't say I have fond memories, but considering it lasted around six months, and all for just a dollar, I have to say the trade-off is both expected, and somewhat worth it, at least from a financial standpoint.

Overall: 5.5/10. At a dollar, this has to be the cheapest car mount possible, so just the fact it worked at all should be cause for celebration—that it lasted about six months should make it a “must-buy”. However, that designation is reserved for things that don't make my blood boil, something this did daily toward the end of its run: First, the rubber holders responsible for holding the phone snug would constantly fall off, leading to frantic searches throughout the car so I could put them back on. Then, the clips themselves weakened, leading to the possibility (and then the reality) of the holder just falling out of the vent during sharp turns or sudden stops. When it did work—which it did for about the first four or so months—it worked well, but be forewarned that this should definitely be regarded as a temporary solution.