Sunday, March 18, 2012


Garmin nuvi 40 review


Hands on with the best entry level Garmin nuvi yet

UPDATE: This model has been replaced by the nuvi 42 (49 states) and nuvi 44 (US + Canada).

The Garmin nüvi 40 is a 4.3” navigator in Garmin’s new 2012 Essential series. The models in this series are meant to be basic navigators at a budget price, lower than what we’ve previously seen for Garmin entry-level models. Nevertheless, they do come with some features not previously found on low-end nuvis, such as speed limit display, lane assist and junction view.

Related units

  • Drop down to the nuvi 30 and you’ll get the same features, but with a smaller 3.5” screen
  • Step up to the nuvi 40LM, to get the 40’s feature set and 4.3” screen, plus lifetime map updates
  • Or move up to the nuvi 50 to get an ultra-wide 5” screen
  • To see how the nuvi 40 stacks up against other models, check out my Garmin nuvi comparison chart

Two versions

Two versions of the nuvi 40 series are available – one with the entire US except for Alaska and Hawaii, and one for all 50 states plus Canada.

Key features

Generally speaking, all nuvis will get you from point A to point B; when you pay more, you’re primarily doing it to get bells and whistles. Nevertheless, the nuvi Essential series has some nice features. Here’s a look at several:

Speed limit display and warning

As noted above, the nuvi 40 includes speed limit display. In my testing, I’ve seen speed limits not just on highways, but on many secondary roads as well.


And if you exceed the speed limit, the current speed field will turn red…


Lane Assist

The next turn icon in the top left corner highlights the proper lane to be in. You’ll primarily see this on freeways and on some surface streets in urban areas. Coverage is fairly extensive.


Junction View

The model I tested was a pre-production unit, and it did not have the Junction View .jcv file installed. Nevertheless, it is a listed feature for the Essential series, and should look something like this…


Customizable data fields/display

If you tap the lower left data field, you can customize what is displayed there. Different choices are offered for whether you are or are not navigating.

Want more info displayed? Go to Settings > Map, press the down arrow icon and select Map Data Layout > More Data, to get the setup shown below, giving you two extra data fields. Tap a data field to change what is displayed.


Trip Log

The trip log allows you to display where you’ve been (which can be a big help navigating mega-mall parking lots, and even in everyday city driving). The trip log is the thin blue line shown below.


There are options to Show or Hide this info, but unfortunately (unlike on other nuvis) there appears to be no way to clear the trip log short of a hard reset! Perhaps this is just an oversight that will be fixed in an upcoming firmware update; I’m certainly hoping Garmin hasn’t decided that privacy features should be limited to higher priced models!

Where am I?

Tapping the car/current location icon on the map brings up the Where Am I? screen, with the options shown below.


What’s missing?

Not much. There is no multi-destination routing (although you can add a single via point to a route) or powered mount, two popular options. The latter means that you’ll need to attach the mini-USB lead for the power cord each time you use the unit. Also, unlike other recent low-end models, you cannot add a traffic receiver. Here is Garmin’s rationale for this:

The nuvi 30, 40, and 50 series devices are not compatible with any traffic receiver or traffic service. Although these devices come with a variety of popular features, other features such as traffic compatibility have been left off so that we can provide our customers with the option of more basic devices at much lower price points.

Garmin nuvi 40 performance

I noticed no routing irregularities while using the Garmin nuvi 40, nor did I notice excessively long waits for satellite acquisition. Except for the missing bells and whistles, it performed as well as my other nuvis. I did have trouble getting it to go into USB mass storage mode when connecting to my computer, but this was solved by ensuring that the unit was on before connecting it. And this issue went away entirely once I updated to firmware version 2.10. The only other item of note is that I found the mount a little awkward to clip the nuvi into at first, but after awhile I got used to how it attaches and rarely had problems with it.

Garmin nuvi 40 pros

  • Low cost
  • Speed limit display
  • Lane assist and junction view
  • Customization options

Garmin nuvi 40 cons

  • No powered mount
  • Cannot add a traffic receiver
  • Can only hide Trip Log; cannot clear it without resorting to a hard reset
  • Only includes maps of 48 states (although a version that adds Alaska, Hawaii and Canada is also available)

Conclusion and recommendation

Highly recommended. This is without a doubt the best entry level navigator Garmin has ever released. It has a generous 4.3” wide screen along with features previously restricted to mid-range units. You can’t hardly go wrong with this one.

More Garmin nuvi 40 reviews

I’ll be posting more hands on GPS reviews as they appear, but in the meantime, here are some…

Other Garmin nuvi 40 resources

Compare prices on the Garmin nuvi 40 at these merchants:

About Rich Owings

Rich is the owner, editor and chief bottle-washer for GPS Tracklog. Connect with him on Twitter, Facebook or Google Plus.


  1. The fact that you cannot clear the tracklog just shows how aggressive Garmin is getting about harvesting your track data for use with trafficTrends (and who knows what else). Are all the new 2012 models like this?

    • No. In the Advanced and Prestige series (according to the manuals), there is this option…

      Settings > About Device and Privacy > Clear Travel History

      • The [Clear Travel History] function does not clear the track data.. I just got the same in official response from Garmin Tech Support, that the only way to clear the track/breadcrumb data, is to do a master reset of the unit.. Which, on most GPS units, was a standard function to clear the track. Instead, you’re left with the screen cluttered with a flood of green lines.. Personally, I think this detracts from Garmin’s quality, because if it is indeed forcing you to retain the data, you’re left with a cluttered screen, and IF you do, do the master reset, you now must re-enter ALL favorite locations.. (which, I’m sure you could do with the Garmin Custom Waypoint loader, but not too easily unless you’re also lugging a laptop along with you on your trip.) What are they thinking? this has been a standard function! Why remove it, unless as someone said, they intend to harvest the info somehow. My suggestion to Garmin, there’s plenty of room.. Put the function back in the next firmware update..

        • Aargh! They absolutely need to fix this!

          Until then, the best solution is to backup the current.gpx file in the GPX folder before doing a hard reset. Then transfer it back to preserve your Favorites.

  2. Rich,

    Any idea when you might be reviewing any other Nuvis in 2012 line?

    • Yeah, I lucked out and should be getting a 24×5 and a 25×5 today or tomorrow. Will get up a first looks post as soon as I can, so if you have any questions, let ‘er rip!

  3. Can’t wait for your review !
    Thank you

  4. I believe Garmin writes s/w so that after the ‘Life of Device’, the device takes (~3 min) to ask you if I still want to hook up to a satellite signal. Of course I say yes & then at 10 min it might catch signals finally. I belive this might be on way to force users to go & buy newer units. What about this one?

    • If you have a device that’s doing that, it could well just need to download the full satellite almanac. Leave it on, under open skies for half an hour. Do not turn it off as soon as it locks. Infrequent use causes this problem.

  5. This is a good, succinct review. You did a good job at keeping it brief, knowing that your audience is likely largely familiar with the basics of how a Garmin GPS works. Seems that Garmin is able to put out refined products quite easily these days.

  6. Thought this product would allow me to plan my own route on Mapquest and then give me turn by turn instructions while on the road. Nope. The Nuvi will override the route you planned on Mapquest, unless you break your trip into small waypoints and reset your destination at each waypoint while on the road. Also, the Garmin plugin software says it installs on my pc, but it will not communicate with my Garmin, so the optional data cord I purchased is worthless. I can use the memory card to connect the info from pc to the Garmin Nuvi. It does have a nice large touchscreen.

    • What won’t it communicate with? The Mapquest site? Will the unit show up as a mass storage device?

      The Garmin relies on its own data for routing decisions, which is why it’s behaving the way you describe.

      • When you connect any of the Nuvi units, (even back to the original, I imagine) it’ll act like a 2gb flash drive, but for a Windows-CE based computer. (which, majority of GPS units are now-a-days.) Garmin’s Updater software, sees the device, and determines where to place data, But I too, don’t see how you can put a route file onto a Nuvi, or any other car type GPS.. I usually copy the .gpx file from the GPX folder, to my computer, to review where I’ve been, but I usually will delete it (and along with it, the track data, still a thorn in my opinion,) from the unit, leaving the Favorites data intact.

        One thing I did notice with the 40, comparing to a 1300 it replaced. (Poor design.. I’ve run into a few Magellan devices with the same problem. the data/charging connector (the 5-pin USB socket) tends to separate from the internal PC board, because of sloppy soldering, and the direction the power cord pulls the contacts away from the surface. I imagine the 40 will do the same sooner or later.)
        A standard feature, the Eco-Route challenge software, is now a “You Pay” premium, while it was a standard feature in past models. and, when I say, You Pay, I mean, for $14.95, You get it.. otherwise, it’s not included.

        My opinion on the pop-up detail of lanes, is it’s a little too invasive.. when it pops up, there goes your direction/ETA/distance/speed info, until you’re past that intersection.

  7. Christopher says:

    Is this the lane assist junction view split screen something new they added? Is this something that they could add to older models like the refurbished 1490 I picked up a few months ago.

  8. Thanks for your research work, my question is can a Mexico map card be used with
    this unit.

  9. David Parks says:

    I have an older nuvi 260 and would like to upgrade to the nuvi 40 lm.
    My question is, with the 260 if I miss a turn (always my fault) the unit immediately
    recalculates a new route.
    Does the nuvi 40lm perform the same recalculation?
    Thanks for any help you can give.

  10. Hi, thanks for your review and i think this model is just good enough for me. However, may i know can i load different map? Like Malaysia map?

  11. Mark Leiner says:

    I plan on purchasing this gps and I am new to gps venue, my question is…does thus gps have free map updates? and how do I acquire the up dates?

    • Hi Mark, if I’m not mistaken, the Garmin Nuvi 40 has another models that is Nuvi 40LM. This model come along with Lifetime Map Updates but slightly expensive than the Nuvi 40 model. You can get the map updates from Garmin website.

      • Mark Leiner says:

        thank you very much so then this model does not have map updates and I will check out the model you have suggested.

        • Yes, the 40LM adds lifetime map updates. It’s usually cheaper to buy them bundled with the device than pay extra for them later.

        • One side note, there is only 1 update when you get the unit new, and that’s it.. as others have suggested, it’s a bit more, but the LM model will allow constant updates.. Otherwise, purchase the Life Maps software/license.

  12. Just got a nuvi 40 on Xmas. I am having trouble with keeping a strong signal. appreciate any positive feedback. Thanks

    • When you start your GPS, it begins to look for satellites. Once it locks onto them, it also begins downloading the satellite almanac data for the next week or so, speeding satellite acquisition for that time period. It can take up to half an hour for this data to be fully downloaded.

      If you use the GPS infrequently, or for short five-minute trips, the data will expire or not get fully downloaded. Other things that can make satellite acquisition a challenge include environments such as urban canyons. Also, in my experience, units are slower to lock onto satellites while moving than when stationary.

      If possible, you should try leaving the GPS on, under open sky or on your windshield, stationary, for a full 30 minutes and see if that helps.

  13. Robert Jarvis says:

    I have a 30 day old Nuvi 40. Today when I turned it on, it forced me through a VERY lengthy calibration. (Like over 20+ touches, unfortunately I thought something was wrong so I rebooted the unit a couple times during the calibration sequence). Finally I just kept tapping the screen repeatly and then it rebooted naturaly. When it came back on, I had no maps installed and the “unlock code” file was missing.

    Tech Support emailed me a new gmmapprom.unl file with my unlock code, but my maps were still missing. I luckily am able to download the map update durring the first 30-60-90 days (or something like that) and it is installing all new maps now (3 hours to install – rediculous and requires Windows Media 11 and .net update – another rediculous feature I shall hold back additional comments….)

    My question, since this cheap device appears to have some serious flaws in software, has anyone come across any documentation to “backup my maps” and preferably “backup my software”? Ideally, I will try to make an image of the drive if possible, but I would welcome any specific instructions that anyone has already successfully discovered. Thanks to all! I love reading your posts!!!

  14. Robert Jarvis says:

    Rich, you sir, ROCK! Of course, it would be nice if most simple systems could be backed up so easily, which is why I rarely opt for the simple solutions and head right for Drive Image or other image programs. However, it appears this garmin software is of the simple nature, so I’m still confused how the maps could just disapear. Anyway, have a great day and thanks!

  15. CanIGetAWhatWhat says:

    Thanks for the review… it’s been a while, anyone know if Garmin has made it possible to clear the trip log without doing a full reset?

  16. Mona Reynolds says:

    recently in jax fl my nuvi 255w stopped calculating. went in to best buy store and was told that i probably need map updates, but it would be cheaper to purchase the nuvi 40lmt with lifetime maps, so i did. it kept losing satellite reception at the store. they suggested that i download new maps which i did (…5hours…). kept telling me the same thing as my the 255w…not on digitized road, when i really was. luckily i had mapquest when it stopped navigating. after no satellite reception for more than 1-2 hours i returned it to the store for a refund. what is the problem?

  17. Just purchased the Garmin 40LM yesterday.. I tried to register it on the my.garmin website and after selecting the “automotive” button, it tried to determine what kind of GPS it was with no luck.. I left it running over night and still no luck. I had the GPS connected to my computer with the USB cord that was supplied… any clue what I should do now?


    • Please don’t shout.

      To delete a Favorite, select it, then the information balloon, then Edit > Delete.

      To delete all addresses from the recently found list (you can’t delete just one), select Where To > Recently Found > Clear.

  19. Rich, I just bought a nuvi40LM and was wondering if it was possible to map a route with this Garmin, i.e. whats the fastest way to hit 20-30 points that are all in a selected area without planning the route on another site, copying it down, then plugging them in or tapping them from my favorites page.

    Thanks in advance,

    Apu K.

  20. Art Cummins says:

    Hi Rich, 2 unrelated questions. Does the Nuvi 50 have any features over the Nuvi 40 other than screen size?
    Can one track (continuous distance and time) in a free form pedestrian walk without having a specific destination?
    Thanks much, Art Cummins

  21. @Luca – You may well be aware of this, but the hard reset I linked to is different from the ten second power button press. The only other thing I know of to try is a 30 second power button press. It works with units that won’t start, but I haven’t heard of this problem before.

  22. gino neto says:

    Garmin nuvi 40LM …… held every corner and then I called. trying to reset. He remains locked garmin initial screen. Help. My English is bad … I’m from Brazil

    • It’s the lower right corner. Here are the instructions. It may take a few times to get it right.

    • The same behaviour as mine.
      No way to reset it .
      Boot procedure stops before screen became sensitive (I can see only the first boot screen “GARMIN” : the scendo screen with software release and other info does not appear).
      I think we will need Garmin assistance 8)

      SO you are the second…

  23. do they make a motorcycle mount for the nuvi 40 lm?

  24. I just bought one of these things and am thinking of returning it. Haven’t updated it yet because I can’t figure out how to edit or delete. There is no information balloon. I like my old Garmin 255 way better.

  25. I have a NUvi 40LM and I was wondering if there is a way to delete the cities that i have entered, for example, I click the where to button, i type in an address, and it says enter city, but I can’t figure out how to delete the city that I just typed in.

  26. Hi Rich, I have a problem, my Garmin nuvi won’t shut off, I got to the svreen where it says Garmin and I tried to shut it off but it won’t shut off, what can I do to shut it off?

    • Is it plugged into your car or computer? If not, have you tried holding down the power button for 10 seconds?

      • it is worse than I thought, I managed to shut it off but now it won’t go past the Garmin loading screen, it gets to the screen that says Garmin and that’s as far as I can get. I was downloading a map and I unplugged it before it was finished and now it seems like something is corrupt, I called garmin and they tried everything to get it working but they couldnt get it to work. any ideas on what to do?

  27. I very much like the unit,However recently I noticed that the screen is forming white horizontal lines. I thought it might be the software so I decided to do a software update. Turns out this was not the case. I may just have a model with a defective screen. Otherwise the unit works just fine, it’s very fast and responsive. I have two white lines that go across touch screen so far. I hope no more will develop. Otherwise if they get too numerous I may have to buy a new model. Does anyone have any idea how I could eliminate these lines? Or am I just stuck with them?

  28. this NUVI 40 is useless,it keeps losing satalite navigation for some un known reason then the maps keep vanishing of screen leaving just the vehicle indicator on screen and it does not pronounce the treet names properly,i have spoken to HALFORDS from where i purchased the item they don’t want to know they just passed me on to GARMIN but the problem as not been resolved,not bad for a brand new sat nav,£89.99 out of pocket for an item that does not work properly,THANK YOU GARMIN,1 DISGUSTED CUSTOMER.

  29. george morris says:

    When one registers a GPS product, is it possible that information may be shared with auto insurance company’s, government agencies, or others wanting information on your whereabouts, travels, or other private information. The GPS sends a signal to a satellite the first time it is turned on and a signal is received that tells the mfg. your GPS model and serial number etc.

    • No. Most GPS devices have no transmitter and none send signals to the GPS satellites. They are only GPS receivers. Now if you’re using a GPS and are a suspect in criminal activity, the police can get a warrant and use your GPS to see where you’ve recently traveled.

  30. I just bought a new Garmin Nuvi 3590. I try to shut it off, even push the “off’ button on the screen, but a few seconds later it comes back on, even going into Demonstrator mode. It won’t save previous addresses I put it, either. So much for all the positive reviews?

    • If you simply press the power button, it goes into sleep mode until the next time you press it or connect power. To fully turn it off, hold down the power button for four seconds.

      To save a destination, before you press Go, tap the menu icon (three horizontal lines) and press Save.

  31. Have a 40LM unit that has been updated and works fine most of the time however the last few days it reads “cannot calculate the route” on almost every entry. I have checked avoiadances and maps and still does not calculate. Any suggestions?

  32. Larry Bedford says:

    I just purchased a used nuvi 40 from someone so far works great. I do have a couple questions, when I make a turn somewhere other than the planned route I don’t hear it say recalculate, not a real problem because it automatically show and tells me where to go from there. Also, I was wondering if there is any way of knowing where the coverage for junction views are, I live in North Carolina. Thanks!

  33. Forgot to add earlier, I did get the junction view on I-40 in Hickory today and again on Hwy 321 coming form Gastonia.

  34. bruno rios says:

    There’s a Powered Mount accessory compatible with nuvi 40: https://buy.garmin.com/en-US/US/prod88088.html

  35. bob paridee says:

    which is better the garmin 265T ot the garmin nuvi 40M ? thanks whats the difference ?

  36. Rich, I work for a small tour bus company and have been putting in new speedometers, you can drive the bus 1 mile and push the button on the speedometer and it will calibrate it. I have a 255w I’ve been using but the other day I took my 40 series and put it on the trip data and noticed in only about 1/2 mile it was showing 1 mile. I checked it with my 255 and all the settings are set the same. Anything I can do or is it just a malfunction, I also tried it in my car and did the same thing. Thanks, Larry

  37. It is showing 1 mile at half mile mark.

  38. It is showing 0 miles.

  39. OK, I know by now you’re probably tired of me, but, I’ll tell you what I found out today. I drove both my vehicles, same thing happens in both vehicles. I drove for a long distance today and at .5 miles on my odometer my GPS shows one mile, but after I drive one mile on my odometer the gps doesn’t change until I drive 2 miles the the gps changes to 2 miles and I drove 14 miles and the gps showed correct mileage and kept up with my odometer correctly, it’s just that you cannot determine where 1 mile is with the first mile drive, does this make any sense?

  40. Thanks for all your time and help. I’m just not going to worry with it anymore.

    Larry Bedford

  41. How do I turn off the Garmin nuvi 44 after leaving the car

  42. Rich, what GPS would you recommend that has come out that is somewhat compatible to the 255? I don’t use one as often as I did since I retired but I still would like to purchase a new one instead of updating mine. I now have a 255W and Nuvi 40 but not the 40LM.
    Thanks, Larry

  43. Jane Slowgrove says:

    I have just updated my Garmin 40 & it says my internal memory is almost full & to get a micro sd disc. Thing is I have one, fitted as per instructions. If I search on my pc in the f drive it says I need to insert a removable disc, yet if I remove the disc when its searching it immediately knows something has changed & tells me to insert a disc, otherwise it searches for a minuter or so & then tells me I need to insert a disc. What am I doing wrong???

  44. I’m hoping someone can help me. I purchased the Nuvi 40LM for my son (who has no sense of direction) to get him to his first job which is 40 some miles but takes about an hour and a half (we live in MD near DC) He wants to drive the back roads and stay off 270, where the Nuvi wants to take him. So here’s the question, when he drives the back road route we chose, is there anyway he can save that route so when he gets in the car he can just pick that destination and go? Thanks a bunch for any help!

    • Hi kat. When your son gets to his destination, have him click view map on the main screen ( it is located next to where to) then he will see a picture of his car and a question mark, click on the car and it will say “save location” on the bottom of the screen, click on that and it should be saved to his favourites list.


  1. […] Garmin nuvi 40 review – GPS Tracklog – Sep 19, 2011 · Garmin nuvi 40 review including comparisons to similar units, links to owners manual, price comparisons, message forums and more… […]

  2. […] Garmin nuvi 40 review – GPS Tracklog – Sep 19, 2011 · Garmin nuvi 40 review including comparisons to similar units, links to owners manual, price comparisons, message forums and more… […]

  3. […] Garmin nuvi 40 review – GPS Tracklog – Sep 19, 2011 · Garmin nuvi 40 review including comparisons to similar units, links to owners manual, price comparisons, message forums and more… […]

  4. […] Garmin nuvi 40 review – GPS Tracklog – Garmin nuvi 40 review including comparisons to similar units, links to owners manual, price comparisons, message forums and more […]

  5. […] Garmin nuvi 40 review – GPS Tracklog – Garmin nuvi 40 review including comparisons to similar units, links to owners manual, price comparisons, message forums and more […]

  6. […] Garmin nuvi 40 review – GPS Tracklog – Garmin nuvi 40 review including comparisons to similar units, links to owners manual, price comparisons, message forums and more […]

Speak Your Mind

Tell us what you're thinking...
and oh, if you want a pic to show with your comment, go get a gravatar!


seven + 9 =