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Sunday, March 18, 2012

Auto GPS buyers guide

Auto GPS buyers guide

Looking for an auto GPS? Our buyers guide starts below…

Picking GPS for your car depends upon the price you can pay and the features you want. Our auto GPS buyers guide runs the gamut, identifying key features along the way. I’€™ll make a recommendation in each price category, based upon value and feature set. A few notes first:

Budget auto GPS receivers


Our choice:

The Garmin nuvi 40 is a 2012 model with a 4.3″ screen that is loaded with features like lane assist, junction view and speed limit display. Currently available for around $90. Alternative recommendation:

  • The 2013 Garmin nuvi 42LM has a faster processor and an improved mounting system

Mid-range auto GPS receivers

Our choice:

The Garmin nuvi 2455LT is a 2012 4.3″ model, loaded with features including lifetime traffic; at the time of our last update, this unit was running around $130. Alternative recommendations:

  • Get a 5″ screen with the nuvi 2555LMT
  • The TomTom VIA 1505TM gives you a lot of bang for the buck — a 5″ screen and lifetime map updates and traffic

High-end auto GPS receivers

 Our choice:

The 2013 Garmin nuvi 2597LMT 5” widescreen model is loaded with great features like custom avoidances and advanced detours. It also sports lifetime map updates, live traffic and voice commands.

  • If you have a big vehicle stop looking and get the new 7″ Garmin nuvi 2797LMT
  • The 2013 Garmin nuvi 3597LMTHD has more eye candy (3D terrain view and 3D buildings) and comes with a magnetic powered mount and an HD traffic receiver

More resources:

Image courtesy Reedz Malik

Comments

  1. Which GPS unit has multi directional system that you would recommend for travelling for the cost? We are driving from Indiana to NC in April 2013.

  2. Rich, first let me say wow what a great website. I’ve learned more in the last 20 mins then in the last 2 yrs. Here is my dilemma, I live in AZ I have a UTV (Polaris RZR) that is used for the sand dunes in CA and a lot of off road trail riding in AZ. I’m looking for a GPS that can do both of these well and then also occasionally be taken out and used as a hand held as I’m also a novice hunter. I need a 5″ screen to nav while driving trails and in the dunes. I am considering the nuvi 3550 or 3590 but after reading your review of the 3590 I’m not to sure. I know I will have limited battery use when not connected to the cradle but when out on foot I would just turn it on and off and not have it track me the entire time. I also understand that most of the units capability would be going to waste because I would never use it for city driving however I feel the Montana ‘s screen size just wouldn’t do the trick…. I’m so confused
    Another quick question, is there a way to travel forest roads (w a topo map) and not have all of the elevation rings clouding up the screen? My buddy called Garmin and they told him no. If not which is the best topo map system you have seen for forest roads that would not be on the regular maps? For times that we are out trail riding.
    Thanks in advance for your advice,
    Greg

    • I would avoid nuvis like the plague. They aren’t ruggedized or waterproof and don’t support tracks. I think the Montana screen is plenty big.

      You *may* be able to get maps without contours from http://gpsfiledepot.com. I would definitely check out their maps for off-roading. Or you could always use Garmin BirdsEye aerial imagery (it can’t be used on nuvis though). Hope this helps.

    • Here might be another solution to your needs. Delorme is the map maker who sells that oversize green road atlas you see in sporting good stores. They also make a USB attachment that converts a laptop into a GPS unit, and has the ability to store and use their road maps, USGS quad and contour maps, satelite maps, etc. at the same time. But in your case, they make a hand held GPS that is very rugged, can down load various types of maps, and use them together. The hand held is limited to smaller area than the auto GPSs though. You would not be downloading all the quads for the whole USA, for example. The laptop units with road map software are comparable in price to a low end auto gps. However I think the hand helds are a bit pricy. But Delorme does have sales. Give them a look at http://www.delorme.com. If you want to use their maping in a mobil device, they told me a few years ago, it must be Windows compatable. Probably still is. As for myself, I liked their system, however my laptop is a pain to use in my old and modern cars. And of course, I am too cheap to upgrade to these new fangled tablets.

  3. Kennie Garner says:

    Do all Garmin automotive GPS devices allow a person to enter Longitude and Latitude date for a place you want to go?

  4. Kennie Garner says:

    I am a geocacher. i have a hand-held garmin for that. i am looking for a less expensive auto gps for trips and possibly to take the car to the geocache so I can get out and find it with my hand-held. Suggestions?

  5. Jerry Swearingen says:

    Rich, I was wondering if the nuvi 2460lmt has the data option to download map data from Microsoft streets and trips. I drive a different route every day in the tri-cities area with about 35 stops. Each day I have to transfer the addresses from an excel format to streets and trips then optimize it and hand enter it all into my gps unit. I’m trying to find a way to make starting my day easier. I was looking at buying a 5″ refurbished Garmin 2460lmt from walmart.com. I like that you can speak commands to it if necessary. Unless you can suggest something that would work better for me.

  6. Rich- you have the best web site to narrow down choices for a GPS. My first GPS was the excellent Garmin Ique 3600 PDA+GPS and I still have 2 of those. I just wanted to add a comment about why, in spite of the beautiful hardware, I had to eventually sell my nuvi 3790LMT because of the crazy routing and unusable traffic information. It would recommend a different route each time for the same destination often opting for little side roads and sometimes keeping you on a little road parallel to a major road where you could see the traffic flowing well. It became really disconcerting on trips to other big cities where I was not familiar with roads. I live close to NYC and most of the time there would be no traffic ‘bubble’ on nuvi when my TomTom 540LMT would be showing live traffic. Also, when the traffic bubble did turn red, you had to touch it to see the detail. On the other hand, TomTom shows traffic and delays continuously on the right side of the screen. TomTom offers rerouting around a traffic delay but nuvi never did it even once.

  7. PM, I found the same about Garmin with the older models, the reason I got the Tom Tom 540 XXL540TM. To Tom also tells you the traffic delays and time of delays through the audio rather than having to keep touching the screen to find out the information as needed with Garmin.

  8. Suki Haseman says:

    I just purchased a Garmin nuvi Series 2405 and I hate it. It has a very long delay in letting me know that I am heading in a wrong direction so I am always somewhat nervous in knowing that I am indeed heading in the right direction (just moved to a new city). It is also very slow on the uptake when telling me to make a turn. I am often right at the road and have no way of getting over across traffic if necessary. My friend’s Garmin will almost immediately say, “Rerouting” when headed in a wrong direction and gives ample notice for turns, etc. They have an older model 1450MT. Also, it often sends me on the longest route to anywhere. I travel from Sacramento to Chico and it wants me to travel R. 99 which is SLOW instead of HWY I-5 which is a real freeway. I would love a model that would truly reroute me in a timely manner and give ample notice for turns, etc. I really don’t care about lifetime map updates. It took 5 hours to load when we first tried to register. Help and thank you.

    • Make sure your settings are for fastest route and not shortest. Also, check to see if trafficTrends is enabled. You may have better luck with it either enabled or disabled.

      • Also, as far as updates go, it’s best not to do it during primetime.

      • Suki Haseman says:

        Thanks for the answer. I will check the settings. But, I would really like to get a Garmin that I know is excellent at early verbal notices for turns, etc and one that will tell me immediately that it is re-routing me if I am going in the wrong direction. I don’t need any bells and whistles. Can you recommend a model?

        Thank you.

        Suki

  9. I need help in which TomTom to buy- TomTom START 55TM or TomTom VIA 1505TM. Both are available ‘used’ for the same price and I cannot really discern any significant differences between them. I will not buy a Garmin simply because the traffic coverage is poor and not useful.

    • I would probably go with the VIA, which has an improved mount.

    • Kris T. says:

      If traffic is important to you, then neither of those units will be the best option, since their RDS-TMC coverage will also be limited. Although IQ Routes from TomTom does help to guess the time required to avoid traffic by using alternate routes that are not major roads, even where RDS-TMC is not available, HD Traffic is by far the best option, and available almost everywhere (depending on signal from AT&T, not FM).

      Any current LIVE device will have one year of HD Traffic included. After that, it’s $60 per year, and well worth it in my opinion (in Los Angeles area). I will ignore any number of minor TomTom quirks for this reason alone, and it makes TomTom the ONLY navigation device I would ever use each and every day, without exception, even when I already know exactly where I’m going.

      TomTom’s LIVE traffic service has only been “HD Traffic” for just over two years in the U.S.A., but it improved dramatically after they switched from TrafficCast. I would say it is now the best traffic avoidance option available at any price today for this market. The GO LIVE 2535M with it’s stellar magnetic mount, excellent speaker, and bright capacitive screen is a much better product than the lesser GO LIVE 1535M, which uses a standard integrated mount, a mediocre (but acceptable, I suppose) speaker, and a simple, but responsive resistive screen (fewer reflections, but not as bright).

      The prices are around $300 and $200 respectively for those models. I own and use both.

  10. Ray Robinson says:

    Rich, I would like to acquire (purchase or donate to freeware) the best software and GPS device that will allow me to track my vehicle movements on Google maps in near real-time. Golenfound’s Google Maps with GPS Tracker, a free application that uploads one’s GPS position regularly via GPRS or 3G and then automatically updates one’s position on a Google Map display is highly rated by CNET (5 stars) but less so by users (3 stars). Colenfound’s GPS tracker requires a compatible GPS unit? What hardware/software would you recommend to make Google maps work with my computer or tablet while driving, or moving by any mode? I would prefer Bluetooth communications between my computer and the GPs.ray

  11. Joel Nisson says:

    A salesman at BestBuy today told me that the Garmin Nuvi 52LM has a higher resolution screen and new software, compared to other Garmins. Is this true?

    I’m looking for a good 5-inch GPS to replace my current TomTom 1605 (beautiful 6-inch screen, but annoyingly slow interface).

    BTW, great info site. thanks.

  12. I am looking to purchase my first auto GPS, and found your wonderful site. The higher-end Garmins are appealing, but upon looking at Garmin’s site for maps of Europe, which is where I will be using the device, I discovered a note indicating such maps will not be available until May. I am in need of it sooner, and am rather in disbelief. What are my options? Thank you very much.

  13. my garmin nuvi255w is freezing up on me . bought a nuvi 2555lmt , thinking it had eco-route like my old one which tells me total miles driven all day .payed 180.00 for it needless to say i took it back .im looking for one that comes with that for for about the smae price .

  14. Carla Gray says:

    I just bought a Nuvi2797LMT. It is my 1st gps and I am not understanding the trip planning. We travel a certain route between Florida and Michigan each year and I usually read the map and “direct” my husband. This year we are traveling seperate, therefore the need for the gps. I can”t seem to be able to program it for the route we take. I put in a starting point and an ending point and it gives me different choices but not my choices. I tried calling Garmin but after 30 min. on hold I hung up. Is this how they work?

    • You can add multiple “via” points to the route, using the Trip Planner, to force it the way you want it to go.

      • Carla Gray says:

        Is there somewhere that tells me how to do this. I’ve spent hours with this and can’t seem to find a way to by-pass their maps.

        • From the main menu, go to Apps > Trip Planner > New Trip and it will pretty much walk you thru it. Tap the + sign to add a new location. At the end you can name the trip and then tap the (3 horizontal lines) menu icon and Edit Destinations to change the order of destinations and make other modifications. Hope this helps.

  15. John Campbell says:

    Rich,
    Currently looking to buy a new, entry-level GPS to replace a few years old nuvi 1350LMT. Traffic is definitely not needed, so trying to decide between the on-sale 50LM ($99) or the newer 42LM ($129). The 4.3″ screen is big enough for us, so basically comes down to is the new 42LM worth the $30 in ‘new’ tech or save the cash and get the bigger screen?

  16. Eric Peterson says:

    I’m a Jeeper looking for Garmin that will take Garmin topo and back country maps. I like the big screen. I want to also use for daily navigation around town. Best choice???

  17. Are there Nuvi’s with large (5″+ )displays that are sunlight-readable that have long battery life. I need a unit for a top-down convertibile in Arizona. It will also be used as a hand-held periodically. The cost of the Zumo is a bit too steep. With a limited budget I am looking for something less expensive.

    Often I see the terms “high-bright display” and “qvga TFT with anti-glare”. What do they mean? My suspicion is I need both features to perform well for my applications. I have talked to Garmin Support but they keep steering me to the high priced Zumo.

    I have a Nuvi255W but it is several years-old and does not perform well in sunlight. My other unit is a GPSMap 60 CSX which works okay but the screen is to small.

    • No nuvis have a very long battery life. I’d be surprised if you’d find one that gives you more than two hours, even brand new, and it will likely get worse than that pretty quickly.

      How about a cheap nuvi and a cheap handheld?

      • Rich

        My latest research found Gomadic Corp. has a AA Battery Extender and a Lithium Rechargeable Pack.

        Would either of these devices actually extend my usage time when not connected to the auto 12 volt system? The Garmin site seems to be vague about battery extenders.

        Would you also please comment on the “high-bright”and “anti-glare” features?

        Thanks

        • An external battery pack should work, assuming it doesn’t send it into mass storage mode.

          Which nuvis are you seeing as having a high-bright display?

          • Rich

            Have been looking at Nuvi 2350LMT, Nuvi 500, Nuvi 765T, Nuvi 1450LMT and Nuvi 1490LMT as possible units but cannot find a Garmin specific statement about “high-bright”. I suspect the Zumo line is “high-bright” but not sure. The use of “Transreflective” technology which is an alternative to “high-bright”, is apparently not in use for any of the Nuvi product-line.

            I have found an innovative solution to shield from sunlight that may solve the reflection issue. It is at this web address:

            http://www.flickr.com/photos/48493040@N07/

            It uses disposable plastic food containers, Flat Black Krylon spray paint and velcro to make a GPS surround which might be a solution.

            When I see the term “white-backlight” what does it mean? Is this similar to “high-bright”?

            Would you please comment also on the Nuvi’s I identified in the first paragraph. If one of them is superior to the other in direct sunlight and has reduced reflection I would be eternally grateful for your help.

            Thanks

            Gary

          • I’m still not sure where you are seeing the terms high-bright and white-backlight on Garmin’s site. Can you provide a link?

  18. If you look at the Zumo 660 LM at “buy.garmin.com” under the Specs tab the Display Type is specified as “WQVGA color TFT white backlight”. The same is true of the Zumo 665LM,
    Zumo 350LM and the Nuvi 2350. The Zumo 220 Display type is different, it says “QVGA color antiglare TFT white backlight”.

    It is very confusing to me. What is the difference between “WQVGA” and “QVGA with the antiglare”?

    After further research I see that all Nuvi units say “white backlight”.

  19. Link to the specifications of the nüvi 3597 LMTHD, including “display type: multi-touch, glass, dual-orientation, WVGA color TFT with white backlight”.

    https://buy.garmin.com/en-US/US/on-the-road/automotive/new-2013/nuvi-3597lmthd/prod121762.html

  20. As you know Google Maps on their android phones are the best GPS navigation out there , there is noting better the Google Build in GPS navigation.

    I would like to ask you if there standalone GPS Device which is build on Google Maps System?

    • That’s a bit of a sweeping statement. My preference is to use Google maps only in pedestrian mode, in fact.

      1) Google maps are the most up to date maps available today, because they can be corrected continually without waiting for a quarterly update of the base map, which is how TomTom and NAVTEQ update their maps.

      2) Google maps have the most extensive information for Points of Interest, and voice control can sometimes work very well to help find these,

      but …

      3) “Google maps on their android phones are” absolutely NOT “the best GPS navigation out there”. At least, not for everyone in every circumstance, especially when driving. The quality of the phone will have a huge impact on usability (quality of sound, quality of screen, quality of GPS signal …), and there are a vast number of incredibly mediocre Android phones on the market that will not perform well at all. Only the most expensive models will offer a usable experience.

      4) Google maps on Android phones require a data signal to work. This is not always available, and can be very slow outside of major cities. You can download sections of the map to your device, but that too will require data. Because the map for an entire continent can be stored in memory, dedicated navigation devices require only a satellite lock to function, even in remote, mountainous regions.

      5) If you want to use Google maps for vehicle navigation, the mount is going be problematic. For regular use, rather than occasional use, fumbling around with those ubiquitous universal mounts and plugging in USB cables for power, especially at night, is far from an ideal user experience. There are too many Android phones and very few good mounts with the same astonishing ease of use of a magnetic mount such as what was launched by TomTom three years ago, or just recently by Garmin. If you can find a tablet or largish screen phone with a decent mount, then maybe that would improve the usability of Google maps. There are some excellent “drop in” iPhone mounts and Google maps will function on an iPhone as well.

      6) As vehicles with on board telematics capability become more common, it will be increasingly possible to choose Google maps on those systems, but there will still be some inherent limitations.

      • Thanks for your detailed reply

        In general no want will calculate a way taking in Traffic view as google do & this is the best feature

        Or I am wrong , if someone will do this Please let me know the model number

        • In my opinion, TomTom’s HD Traffic paired with IQ Routes technology is better than Google maps at avoiding traffic with dynamic rerouting. It’s not infallible, but in my experience over the last two years, arrival times can currently be expected to be accurate to within three minutes during rush hour about 75% of the time, or to within 5 minutes about 90% of the time, or close to it. It works best on routes of up to one hour. For longer routes, it will not be including traffic that is farthest away in it’s initial arrival time estimate, so in some cases, that will lead to inaccurate times which appear to deteriorate significantly.

          Depending on your country, to get this service you must choose any device with LIVE Services capability, since only those devices have an integrated SIM card. Frequently the first year subscription will be included with a new device. In North America, it’s $60 per year after that.

          TomTom also have a navigation app for either the iPhone or Android phones, and HD Traffic can be purchased within either app as an optional extra. Maps are included for life, and the HD Traffic subscription is cheaper than on their standalone devices.

          Traffic services based on RDS-TMC are much more limited, especially in North America (where coverage is limited to major metropolitan areas only, and major roads within those areas). Those account for most devices with “free” lifetime traffic.

          • So this is my point in order to get good traffic data you need to have the not so go brand like TomTom

            We can not have the better brand like Garmin for such an important feature like traffic

            On google devices you can have it for all places LIVE

  21. I am in need of a GPS that works in the USA, but also in Europe as I will be using it in Italy. I have been doing some comparisons, but it is confusing. I would like to spend $200 or less and get free lifetime maps. I know this doesn’t apply to the European maps for Garmin or TomTom. However, is there a way to get free lifetime maps for Europe? Or a good deal where you pay a one-time cost for continuous map updates for both USA and Europe? Can you recommend a TomTom and a Garmin model? Which one would be better? Please give your reasoning. I would like a current model, if possible.

  22. I found your cool site while searching for a new GPS unit. I’m trying to decide between updating the maps on my beloved, but old, Garmin nuvi 760 (which lied to me three times this last weekend in Tampa because of old maps) or replacing it entirely with a new unit. I copied your table into a spreadsheet so I could sort it various ways to select one with the features I wanted. Is there an easy way for you to add this feature selection to your table (e.g. Screen size=5.0″, Traffic=Lifetime, Bluetooth=N/A, etc.?

  23. Rich,
    Looking to upgrade from my 4-5yr old nuvi 1350LMT. First ones to catch my eye yet still fairly inexpensive are a manufacturer refurb nuvi 2595LMT and the new 55LM. Any lean in your opinion?

  24. Dear Valued Customer,

    We are located in Mali West Africa and we are large gold mining group.
    I am the end seller and signatory person to every contract and Full
    Corporate offers. We have our gold in dust and dory bar form and could
    be delivered in any form depending on the buyer’s choice.

    The purity of our gold is 93.5% minimum to give you 99.99% after
    refining. The price of our raw gold is $27,000 USD per kilogram. We do
    not ask for the payment of the gold until after the buyer’s refinery
    result but the buyer has to pay all the export costs before shipment
    and get it deducted from the total amount of the gold after refining
    before final payment. The export costs are 10% of the total amount
    while the buyer will affect the payment of 90% after refining. For
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    to
    your country/refinery to inspect the final refining and payment.

    COMMODITY SPECIFICATIONS:

    a) COMMODITY: Aurum Utalium(AU)

    b) FORM: Gold Bars.

    c) Purity: 92.05 % like minimum value and 93.05% like maximum value.

    d) Fineness: 22+ carats plus

    f) ORIGIN: Mali – West Africa.

    g) AVAILABLE QUANTITY: 150 kg

    PRICE: US$ 27,000 per kg

    If you are interested in proceeding with the above,then get back to us
    for our FULL CORPORATE OFFER.

    Thanks,

  25. After lots of research, I recently purchased a NUVI 3590LMT. The model is discontinued, but I found several vendors who said they had new devices. (None of the vendors were name-brand stores like Best Buy or Walmart.) I purchased one that was advertised as new. However, I suspect the device I received is reconditioned. Is there any way to tell whether a device is new or reconditioned? Thanks.

    • I doubt if there is any way to know for sure, but if you can’t tell the difference, then it has been reconditioned with care and must be showing no signs of normal wear and tear. Poor battery life might be the only detectable measure of an old device where the battery was not changed as part of the refurbishment. The battery is not that important, though, other than to enable faster boot up times. These larger models are not really to be considered as useful for pedestrian navigation in my opinion.

      I would think at this point that it boils down to how much you paid and whether or not it was a fair price. MSRP was $350, but they never sell for that after the first six months or so. By end of life, they would sell for about $250 new, and anywhere from $150-200 refurbished would seem fair.

  26. I like the spoken POI warnings on my TomTom XL350. For example, it will announce “Rest Area 1.5 miles, next opportunity 32 miles”

    Is that functionality to announce an upcoming POI and then state when the next one will be reached available in the Garmin units, too?

  27. I have a Magellan 1700, which I use constantly while traveling.

    I purchased another Magellan 1700, for my wife’s car so we donot have to change the one I have in my car from car to car.

    Can I transfer data from my 1700, to the new one electronically without having to type in each address individually?

    If so how?

    Thank you

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