Best GPS

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Even though many new cars sold today have the option of adding an in-dash navigation system, nothing beats the convenience of having a portable unit. However, one glance at the market can confuse anyone who simply wants a GPS navigator with useful features and good performance. We’ve narrowed down the selection and categorized them with respect to their particular advantages. For more information about how to pick a good GPS, have a look at the buyer's guide below.

Best all-around GPS:

While portable GPS devices have fallen in popularity due to smartphones in recent years, there are compelling reasons why you should consider one. The picks below have the ability to work in tandem with your smartphone for added functionality such as displaying call information, text messages, and map information overlaid with traffic conditions. Portable GPS systems also work great for people who travel off the beaten path without worrying about a network connection being lost like on a cell phone.

Garmin DriveSmart 55 & Traffic Portable Vehicle GPS

The Garmin DriveSmart 55 is feature-packed from its clear screen, numerous POIs, Bluetooth and app connectivity, and lifetime map updates. This Garmin will be a valuable companion for the average commuter to the avid explorer. Read Full Review

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    Garmin DriveSmart 55 & Traffic Portable Vehicle GPS

    Garmin DriveAssist 51 LMT-S Portable Vehicle GPS

    Garmin's DriveAssist 51 combines an easy-to-use GPS navigator with a built-in dash cam that opens up several unique features. Beyond detailed maps and live traffic alerts for North America, the camera enables this unit to provide alerts for forward collision, lane departure, and even a "go" alert if you inadvertently find yourself distracted in traffic. Read Full Review

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      Garmin DriveAssist 51 LMT-S Portable Vehicle GPS

      Best Budget GPS:

      These days, there are plenty of "budget" GPS options available for less than $200. Some of the better models offer large screens, text-to-speech capabilities, and lifetime map updates from the manufacturer.

      TomTom GO Comfort 5 Portable Vehicle GPS

      TomTom's Go Comfort offers plenty of top-notch features and lifetime map updates, but the maps themselves are limited to North America only. If you're not planning on relying on this unit for exploration, it's a great budget-friendly option. Read Full Review

      TomTom GO Comfort 5 Portable Vehicle GPS
       

      Finding the Best Car GPS

      When selecting a portable GPS unit, it's important to consider several important factors before making a decision. Some of the best GPS units strike a good balance between performance, features, price, and value. You want to make sure that the GPS unit you're potentially going to live with for the next couple years or so has all of the features you want, but you also want to make sure that you aren't overpaying for a feature-laden unit which performs poorly. All of the picks here approach that 'ideal' balance in different ways, so here's how we rate each according to our criteria.

      Performance
      Any good GPS unit will offer outstanding performance. We, like everyone else, prefer a GPS system that processes data quickly. A GPS unit with good performance will obtain a GPS lock relatively early, and will be able to plot routes and directions without much delay. The interface must be intuitive and responsive, and system slowdowns and crashes are not considered acceptable. Detailed maps are a must, and missing or incomplete streets are penalized.

      Features
      Another side of the equation is features. Simply having quick performance does not necessarily make a GPS unit a 'Best Pick'. The best GPS units will have widescreen displays, text-to-speech directions with spoken street names, lane guidance, and a high POI count (6 million or more). Better GPS units offer even more such as Bluetooth phone pairing, live traffic feeds, user-adjustable maps, and multiple guidance modes and capabilities. The general rule with features is 'the more, the merrier'. But, be sure that the features you want are also features that you truly need and will actually be used, or you may end up overpaying for your GPS.

      Price
      That leads us neatly to the price aspect. It's relatively easy for a manufacturer to offer a GPS unit that has blazing performance and tons of features, but these units usually end up costing much more than what most people are willing to pay. On the other end of the scale, there are bare-bones models which seem attractively priced at first glance. In a nutshell, what we're looking for when judging price is if the features justify the investment.

      Value
      Finally, a 'Best Pick' must offer outstanding value. A GPS unit priced at $1500 which offers the best performance and most features is not a good value simply because the price is too high. Likewise, a GPS unit that costs $80 but does not offer much in the way of features or performance is not considered a good value because there are much better options available. But when it comes to judging value, it's important to not get too hung up on the price. A GPS system which is loaded with features and performs well is a better value at $300 than one which has few features and basic maps for $150. A good value offering can also be referred to as a 'good deal' - you know it when you see it.

      Each of our picks approaches this equation in its own unique way. Garmin's products dominate the market simply because they do things better. The highly detailed maps and long list of user-friendly features that come with each Garmin GPS unit are the gold standard in this market. The only flaw is the fact that not all of Garmin's products can be considered to be the best value when compared to the competition.

      Leave a Question or Comment
      13 comments
      • maleka58 maleka58

      Garmin are the only car sat navs that actually work in the british channel islands. Jersey, guernsey etc! tom toms etc do not. this is something that should be addressed by the other makes of sat nav!!!!

      Posted on 7/6/2013 1:16 pm | Reply
      • melissaz melissaz

      I'm not very happy with Garmin. It's gotten me lost and nearly in an accident once because it told me to make a left turn at an intersection which only allowed right turns. Hadn't I seen the sign I would have crashed into another car.

      Posted on 12/27/2012 4:33 pm | Reply
      • paladin45c paladin45c

      I currently have a TomTom XL IQ Route Edition.The menu interface is fine,along with most of the options selections.My 2 points that I don't care for is it does not give me Real Time Traffic Updates and it doesn't store enough Favorites for what I need. I need to store at least 125 to 150 Favorites since I'm an outside salesman and I'm tired of reloading an address over and over.Will any of your Best Picks meet my needs?Thanks.

      Posted on 8/2/2011 9:37 pm | Reply
      • Invno1 Invno1

      Can anyone tell me just where Garmin, tomtom, Magellan & Mio are manufactured? I have been told that they were all made in China. Could that be true?

      Posted on 6/27/2011 6:47 pm | Reply
      • 100002047006965facebook 100002047006965facebook

      i lost my sd card for my garmin nuvi gps , what type of sd card will i use and where to buy this?

      Posted on 5/25/2011 11:10 pm | Reply

      You can use any SD card you can find, but make sure it's large enough to hold all of the map data that you'll need to download from Garmin directly or through a third-party service.

      Posted on 5/26/2011 8:26 am. In reply to 100002047006965facebook | Reply
      • odile odile

      I am going to Europe this June, and i would like to have a GPS with me, any recommendations . All the GPS here are for the U.S/Mexico/Canada, I would rather buy here vs there since the dollar is soooo low

      Posted on 5/9/2011 6:28 pm | Reply

      You can load Europe maps onto any GPS unit, but you'll have to buy the maps. TomTom GPS models are popular in Europe, so you may want to head over in their direction first.

      Posted on 5/12/2011 10:47 am. In reply to odile | Reply
      • broomist broomist

      Planning a coast-to-coast trip this summer - want to enjoy myself! On google-maps, there is an option for "avoid interstates and toll roads" when planning a route. Does any GPS offer this same option? If someone who knows could tell me, I'd sure appreciate it!

      Posted on 3/3/2011 10:36 am | Reply

      I believe most (if not all) Garmin units offer this feature. It's usually buried somewhere in the settings menu. You can set the guidance to avoid interstates or toll roads, or both.Keep in mind that it doesn't truly avoid interstates - if there is no other route to your destination, the GPS will put you on an interstate for the shortest amount of time possible. For avoiding toll roads, the GPS will go out of its way to get you around those, including detours which can add anywhere from a few hours to several days to your trip.With that said, I hope you have fun on your road trip!

      Posted on 3/3/2011 11:57 am. In reply to broomist | Reply
      • everett Hayward everett Hayward

      Any tests on the XXL550TM?

      Posted on 11/5/2010 8:04 pm | Reply
      • broomist broomist

      What is that (avoid toll/interstate) function called, exactly?Also - is there a website one can go on to "spot check" how a specific GPS works?

      Posted on 3/3/2011 12:28 pm. In reply to everett Hayward | Reply
      • bmmr bmmr

      Have to agree with the choicesIf it isn't a Garmin, don't waste your money buying it!

      Posted on 2/11/2009 10:50 pm | Reply