Buying Guide: Navigation Devices

Complete Buying Guide to Navigation Devices

GPS devices are more popular than ever. They allow you to simply get in your car, enter your destination, and voilà! the system plots a course for you. So if you’re thinking about buying a new GPS device, consider your options like screen size, map updates and extra features. Not only does it pay to do your homework, you’ll be happier with your purchase in the end.

Here’s a simple guide to help you buy your next GPS device:

GPS That’s Right for You

To find a GPS device that best fits your lifestyle, you have to start asking yourself the right questions. What type of travel do I plan on doing? Do I want to take the device with me wherever I go? How important are extra features like Bluetooth? Once you start answering these questions, you’ll have a good idea of what to look for, and which GPS models are right for you.

Screen Size Matters

Currently, most portable GPS devices feature screen sizes from 3.5"-7". A 5-inch screen like the one featured on the Garmin nuvi® 3590LMT gives you more room for maps and data. On the flip side, if you drive a small car, the 3.5-inch screen on the Garmin nuvi® 30 won’t obstruct too much of your view.

Map Suppliers Make a Difference

The latest version of a map is normally supplied with your new GPS. Over time, roads and points of interest change, requiring you to update your system with a new map. It’s simply the nature of our fast-paced world — as things rapidly change around us, our GPS is only as good as its latest update. For example, knowing that your GPS device is loaded with NAVTEQ maps means you’ll always have access to the most current data available. When purchasing a map update, you may have the option to purchase a Single Map Update or a Lifetime Map Update. A Single Map Update is a one-time purchase that updates the maps that came preloaded on your device. Meanwhile, a Lifetime Map Update traditionally gives you the most-up-to-date maps for the lifetime of your device. This update is a better value as it allows you to download the newest map data up to 4 times per year without monthly fees or maintenance costs.

Live Traffic to Avoid Trouble Spots

Besides keeping you from getting lost, some GPS devices feature live traffic updates so you can bypass traffic jams and street congestion. The “T” in the Garmin nuvi® 2555LMT’s model name means it’s equipped with a traffic receiver so it will let you know if you’re heading into a bottleneck, and offer alternate routes. Even better, Garmin has introduced next-gen traffic services that check for traffic as often as every 30 seconds, though only available on newer, higher-end models like the Garmin nuvi® 3490LMT.

Extra Features Worth the Extra Cost

While most GPS devices come with standard features like points of interest (POI) that help you locate pre-programmed attractions and retailers, you may want to upgrade to a higher-end model for these extra features:

  • Text-to-Speech:

    With this feature you’ll receive spoken directions using specific street names. You’ll hear “turn right on Oak Street” instead of “turn right in 200 feet.”

  • Voice Activated Navigation:

    This feature provides hands-free communication with your GPS for performing certain tasks – like entering addresses and points of interest – with your voice.

  • Lane Guidance:

    This gives you instructions to make lane changes on the road ahead. You’ll find the advance warnings are especially useful in rush hour traffic and urban areas with multiple lanes of traffic.

  • Multi-media:

    Many devices come with MP3 players and offer media playback. So you can view photos, listen to music and watch videos.

  • Emergency Screens:

    These handy screens provide your current location and offer options showing the location of the nearest hospital, police station, gas stations, and more.

Now that you’ve got some food for thought, check out the latest GPS reviews at GPS Product Guide. Whenever possible, you should also read reviews that are written by actual consumers. Plus, be sure to check out The 10 Best GPS Devices for the best products tested by PC Magazine. Finally, never buy a GPS without comparison shopping online first. Odds are you’ll be able to find the model you want for less than the list price if you do some savvy web shopping before you buy.