Car GPS buying guide

Having a car GPS on your side when driving a car is a good choice. It will help you reach your destination safe and fast. I think that two things are the most important things that one might require when driving a car. Don’t you agree?
If you agree,then read on.This article is designed to help you find your way through the Car GPS buying guide to get the best unit for your needs at the best price.

What is GPS?

what is the GPS navigation system?GPS or Global Positioning System is a satellite navigation system developed by the United States Department of Defense. The GPS system incorporates 24 satellites that orbit the earth and transmit signals to GPS receivers on the ground. A GPS receiver uses signals from multiple satellites to determine its location, speed, direction and time.

GPS receivers have been used for defense, maritime and many industrial applications. Consumers are benefiting from cheaper GPS receivers for navigation. Lower cost GPS devices have become available integrated into mobile phones, as lower cost hand held units and as portable or integrated in-car systems.

Types of GPS – handheld, car and maritime

Handheld GPS

Personal handheld GPS devices have been highly recommended for bushwalkers and intrepid travelers for years. GPS receivers are now integrated into a number of mobile phones / PDAs and are easily available. It is not practical (and probably illegal in your state) to use handheld GPS devices while driving a car.


In car GPS navigators are either integrated into the dash or portable devices temporarily secured in the car. Integrated GPS devices have the advantages of bigger screens and better integration with the other electronic devices in the vehicle.  Portable devices have the advantage of being able to be swopped between multiple cars and offering the ability to program, customize or update the car GPS from the comfort of your house rather than out in the car.

Maritime GPS

These are GPS devices dedicated for use on boats and other maritime transportation. Often they are integrated with other electronic devices such as depth sounders.

How to choose car gps

Before you buy a GPS navigator, think about your typical driving conditions, how often you're in unfamiliar areas, and the features that are most important to you.

Next, focus on how well the system works for navigation. The highest-rated models we've tested make it especially easy to enter destinations and give the most helpful directions. Look for a GPS guide device that scored well for ease of use. Some interfaces are more intuitive than others, and low-scoring units can be awkward, slow, or both. Then consider what, if any, extra features you want. We'll take you through these steps and introduce functions to consider in this car GPS buying guide.

What type of driving do you do?
If most of your driving is spent commuting along the same route or running local errands on familiar roads, you might not get much use from a GPS navigator.
On the other hand, if you often encounter traffic congestion on your commute, choosing a nav system with real-time traffic information can help you avoid traffic congestion, accidents, or road construction, and plot a route around it before you even get to the trouble area. But traffic reporting on GPS units is not perfect; like other sources of traffic information, it can be inaccurate or outdated. Still, this can be a welcomed feature for many drivers.

Where and how often will you use it?

If you're buying a new car, check to see if a built-in system is available and how much it costs. These are nicely integrated into the car. But they are typically more expensive than portable systems, both initially and for subsequent map updates. Still, if most of your driving is done in one car, or if you'd prefer not to have a unit mounted on the dash or windshield, and you're not on a tight budget, you might be happier with a built-in system.

If you often fly to new places and rent vehicles, or if you own more than one car, a portable system might be the way to go, especially with prices for entry-level systems starting at less than $100.

Another increasingly popular option is a cell phone or smart phone. With these, you don't have to pay for an expensive in-dash system or worry about carrying around a portable GPS navigator.

There are two types of phone-based navigation available. One is a subscription-based service from your cellular service provider, which typically costs about $3 dollars a day or $10 dollars a month.

 Downloadable navigation applications are the other option, which range in price from free to around $60. Our testing has shown that as is often the case, you get what you pay for. A server-based solution can be great in a pinch, say for a vacation or if you get lost.

However, an application is a better buy for smart phone users, as the name-brand apps have the features and performance to rival dedicated portable devices, and they have the complete map onboard, so guidance isn't dependent on a cell signal. Whichever option you choose, you'll also need to purchase a mount, car charger, and possibly a data plan for your phone, if you do not already have one.

Compare the basic features for GPS Navigation


A clear, wide display with back lit and glare free touchscreen. For portable devices, at least 3.5 inches for car GPS navigation. For GPS integrated into phones or PDAs a readable screen size of at least 2.5 inches.

Check what options you can select for calculating the route between destinations. This may include walking, toll free, no unsealed roads, no highways, fastest, shortist, multiple stops.

Map Quality
There are two underlying map data suppliers in Australia. The GPS device provider should also provide points of interest such as petrol stations, hospitals and airports.

Map Updates
Updates for your gps maps should be easily sourced with simple PC connectivity for updates.

Map Display

Maps should be displayed as 2D or 3D and be easy to follow. Ideally the display should show more information, such as distance to next turn and current street name. The voice instructions should be clear and sufficiently loud to hear despite background noise. Get a demo in store or borrow a friend's car GPS as this comes down to personal preference.

A portable car GPS should be simple to mount and dismount, as you will need to take it with you rather than attract attention of your local car thief.

User interface
The quality of the user interface of a GPS device can vary greatly. Check the basics such as being able to program a home address, how easy it is to plot your destination and how you can personalise the device.

Battery life and recharging
Compare battery life, at least three hours for a portable. The GPS should be able to be charged in the car.

Then check out the nice to have features.

Spend more money or pick the right brand and you can step up a level in features for your GPS navigator.

Make Phone calls and access mobile data services
Bluetooth connectivity can allow you to use a Bluetooth compatible phone for hands free calling and/or for data services. Prior to purchase check the list of compatible devices to ensure that it can be used for voice services and specifically your handset.

Traffic lights and Alerts
Some GPS navigators can warn you of approaching traffic lights or alert you to other points of interest.

Text to Speech capability
It is simply much more pleasant driving to listen to specific street names, rather than "take the next right/left in 100 metres" over and over and over again.

Picture or Video viewing
Entertain your passengers with a picture or video show. Not very practical on a small screen portable car GPS with limited processing power.

MP3 Player

Play audio however once again not very practical on the speakers of a portable car GPS. The inclusion of FM Transmitter allows the use of the car radio speakers.

Live Traffic Data
Real time road traffic data for GPS navigation devices is now available from Suna Traffic Channel (http://www.sunatraffic.com.au/consumer/index.html). The initial launch has limited coverage (Melbourne) and approved car GPS navigators (Mio). The Suna Traffic Channel website has coverage maps for Sydney and Brisbane.
Suna Traffic Channel provides the GPS navigation device information on traffic incidents including location, cause and likely impact.

Voice Recognition
Some GPS navigators enable voice recognition, enabling hands free interaction with the device.

Fun Bits
Like the idea of John Cleese driving you around the next bend? Prefer to record your impersonation of Tom Cruise to send your wife crazy? Some GPS brands offer you additional voiceovers or the option of recording your own.

Special Requirements
Maritime – water resistance, fish finders, depth sounding, coast line charts

Check the local laws

Check the laws in your area and the mount types available before you buy. Minnesota, for example, prohibits drivers from installing any device on a windshield, the most common location to mount portable GPS guide units, and California has restrictions on placement.

Most manufacturers include a plastic disk that sticks to the dashboard to provide an alternative mounting location. Another option is a "bean bag" mount, which simply sits on the dashboard and has a rubberized surface to hold it in place.

If you travel outside the United States, look for a portable system that offers maps for navigating in other countries. Most will function in the United States and Canada, but some upper-level models from Garmin, TomTom, and others come preloaded with or can be retrofitted with maps of Europe and other regions.

Built-in battery convenience

All portables come with a rechargeable battery. If you want to use the GPS device for walking or accessing the multimedia features outside of a car, look for one that will operate for at least three hours on a charge.

While all systems include a plug for your car's 12-volt outlet, a built-in battery also gives you the option of using the power port for another device, such as a cell phone, and it eliminates cord clutter.

A battery also enables you to enter a destination and plot a route before you enter the vehicle. Some models are also packaged with a traditional AC plug for in-home use and recharging. Most also charge through a computer's USB port.

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