While many new vehicles come fitted with a built-in Global Positioning System (GPS) to assist with navigation and route planning, plenty of people don’t have a brand-new car. Plus, not all built-in systems are as useful, efficient, advanced or reliable as external GPS devices you can purchase.
Top car GPS devices
|Display size (inches)||Display type||Internal memory||Free lifetime maps||Purchase|
|TomTom VIA 1525SE||$140||5||Resistive touchscreen||8GB||Yes||Buy now|
|Garmin DriveSmart 51 LMT-S||$200||5,6.95||WSVGA/WQVGA color TFT|
with white backlight
|TomTom GO 520||$200||5||WVGA Capacitive||16 GB||Yes||Buy now|
|Garmin Drive 61 LM||$170||5,6||WVGA/WQVGA color|
TFT with white backlight
|TomTom GO 620||$250||6||WVGA Capacitive||16||Yes||Buy now|
|Pioneer AVIC-8201NEX||$675||7||WVGA Capacitive||16GB||No||Buy now|
|Aonerex 7″ Navigatior||$60||7||LCD touchscreen||8GB||Yes||Buy now|
What is GPS?
The GPS or Global Positioning System is a satellite-based navigation system that uses a network of orbiting satellites to transmit maps and directions directly to your GPS unit. The system is maintained by the US Department of Defense.
GPS allows you to determine your location from anywhere in the world with a GPS signal to four or more satellites. You can use a GPS device to access up-to-date maps and get accurate directions to your desired destination.
What types of car GPS devices are available?
When it comes to car GPS devices, there are two main types available.
- In-car GPS. These are basic portable navigation devices that can be affixed to a car’s dash or interior windshield and primarily assist by providing directions, among various other features.
- Hybrid GPS and dash camera. These devices include GPS and a front-facing dash camera to capture any accidents or incidents that may occur while you’re driving or stationary.
How much do car GPS devices cost?
A new GPS for cars typically ranges from $100 to $400, although some high-end systems can exceed $1,500. The total cost will depend on the brand, model and technological capabilities. These devices are usually sturdy, lightweight and portable, but these features aren’t necessarily guaranteed. Identifying essential attributes will help you determine the cost.
Important features to consider
The various features of car GPS devices can affect the capabilities, quality and total cost.
- Display size. Car GPS screens, measured diagonally, can vary in size from 3.5 to 7 inches. Opting for a larger screen is a sensible option that will generally allow for easier observation.
- Type of screen. Most newer car GPS models will have capacitive touchscreens, meaning they’re highly responsive and don’t need to be pressed firmly to function. Resistive touchscreens — which require pressure — are commonplace in older models, but some new car GPS devices still utilize this technology.
- Free lifetime maps. Many car GPS devices offer free maps for life, ensuring your system is always up-to-date. Check the specifications when you buy to guarantee that this is included with your purchase.
- Wi-Fi. Car GPS with Wi-Fi allows your device to easily connect to the Internet, providing easier access to updates and offering additional functionalities, such as location tracking and more.
- Smartphone compatibility. If you want to access text messages, make phone calls and use your car GPS as a hands-free device, check your device’s specifications to understand whether it’s possible.
- Mounting brackets. These aren’t usually sold with car GPS devices, so make sure to buy a system that has compatible brackets that are easy to obtain and meet your car’s requirements and budget. Some devices also offer magnetic and suction mounting options.
- Camera compatibility. For those who want to add — or already have — dash, rear-view and parking cameras, make sure that the car GPS you select is compatible with these devices, so you can cut down on space.
Where to buy car GPS devices
The most convenient way to buy a car GPS device is to shop online. Regardless of your budget or specific requirements, retailers generally offer the same deals and products online as they do in-store. In some cases, they’ll also offer exclusive online-only prices and discounts.
There’s no one car GPS device to suit everyone’s needs and budget. Below, we’ve compared five popular products and highlighted the pros and cons raised by users in reviews on Amazon, so you can see how well these devices perform in the real world.
|Type||The good||The bad|
|Eonon GA2170||In-car GPS|
|TomTom Start 42||In-car GPS|
|Magellan Roadmate 6630T-LM||Hybrid GPS and dash camera|
|Garmin DriveSmart 51 LMT-S||In-car GPS|
|Rand McNally OverDryve Pro||Hybrid GPS and dash camera|
If your vehicle doesn’t come equipped with built-in GPS, or if you prefer more advanced features, a portable GPS system for your car can be a good investment. Consider your personal requirements and preferences, as well as the device’s technical capabilities and price when shopping.
How did we choose these products?
To choose our list of the best car GPS devices, we conducted independent research to determine some of the most popular options currently available. We then compared the type, size, ease of use, overall features and price to select our final picks.
Frequently asked questions
Are GPS map updates free?
It depends on the model; this is something to compare before you buy.
Can a GPS be installed in a car after market?
Yes, some models can be purchased after-market and installed in-dash. However, these may be more expensive, and may come with the additional cost of the installation itself. But if you like a sleek, clean look, this might be a suitable option for you.
What are the top car GPS brands?
Lots of different brands manufacture quality GPS devices for your car, but a few of the most popular are:
- Rand McNally
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