Travel

Five Best Car GPS Units

If you’re on the road in an unfamiliar location, a GPS unit for your car is essential. This week we’re looking at five of the best, based on your nominations.

Photos by Michael Sheehan, daveiam, and Yun Huang Yong.

GPS units designed for car use tend to have the same basic feature set: the ability to offer turn-by-turn directions without requiring anything other than a GPS, set your own favourite locations for frequent use, and search for points of interest as well as specific locations. Most providers offer basic budget models and then more advanced features in pricier systems. Paying more scores Bluetooth integration, free map updates, traffic information and other extras.

While you’ll pay more for those options, we’re not talking huge sums; there’s a consensus that in Australia it’s hard to charge more than $250 for a GPS unit. (You’ll invariably pay more for maps for use outside of Australia if you decide to go overseas; in that context, it can make more sense to buy a cheap unit in your destination.)

Garmin Nuvi Series

Novel features offered in the Nuvi line include active lane guidance (telling you in advance if you need to shift lanes) and “photoReal”, which shows a mockup of what the road should look like. The higher-end models offer free lifetime map updates.

TomTom Go Series

The Go series is TomTom’s top-end range, and sports features aimed at frequent city drivers such as its live HD Traffic update service. It also offers frequently-updated speed camera information and free lifetime map updates.

Navman MY Series

As well as offering free lifetime maps, Navman’s most recent releases also offer monthly map updates on the top-end model, ensuring you won’t be caught out by long-term roadworks or new streets springing up on the outer reaches of major cities. The range also offers free traffic information.

An In-Dash GPS Unit

Whether it’s pre-installed with your vehicle or added as an after-market extra, many readers picked a permanently installed GPS as their top choice. The big advantage here is that the device isn’t a target for thieves and can be better integrated with other in-car systems (high-end models will offer additional controls on the steering wheel). The downside is that map updates are fiddly and can be expensive, and upgrading is much more complex than with a standalone unit.

Your Smartphone

With the ubiquity of smartphones, it’s not surprising many people favour using those for directions, especially if driving in unfamiliar locations is a rare event. The big disadvantage? You can chew through data very rapidly. There are GPS apps for iOS and Android that offer complete map packs that you can use online or offline, and Google Maps also offers an offline mode as well.


Have something to say about one of the contenders? Want to make the case for your personal favourite device, even if it wasn’t included in the list? Find your way to the comments and park a remark.


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