Ask LH: How Can I Make My GPS App Give Me Better Directions?

Ask LH: How Can I Make My GPS App Give Me Better Directions?

Dear Lifehacker, My GPS sometimes gives me ridiculous directions: It’ll ask me to turn in a “no right turn” lane, drive me in weird little circles, or sometimes even take me on a 10-minute detour before getting to my destination. How can I get it to give me more accurate directions? Sincerely, Random Routes

Dear Random,

A GPS app (or GPS device) can give you wrong directions for any number of reasons, but usually it’s just an error in the map. Maybe it doesn’t know there isn’t a right turn restriction at that intersection. Some users have even had issues with their navigation app asking them to drive off a bridge or onto some train tracks. However, sometimes all it takes is a few settings tweaks to fix the problem. Here’s how to make sure you always get where you’re going.

Turn Off Route Preferences

Most GPS apps and devices have options for things like “Avoid Tolls”, “Avoid Highways” and “Avoid Dirt Roads” that, if set, can take you a pretty roundabout way to your destination. Check through your particular app and make sure these are turned off. While these options mean well, more often than not they’re just going to take you on a route that isn’t as fast as the default. You’re better off just leaving them disabled.

I’d also recommend using the “fastest route” over the “shortest route” option. Your GPS is just a computer and will not understand that saving you a half hour of driving is preferable to saving you 100m on your route.

Update Your Maps (Or Fix the Issues Yourself)

TomTomsubmit corrections to the maps provider

Know Where You’re Going Before You Leave

wean yourself off that GPS dependency as much as possible

Remember that your GPS doesn’t have common sense — but you do. If your GPS asks you to take a turn that sounds wrong — you know, because it drives you into a lake — it probably is wrong. Ignore the instructions, and your GPS will recalculate the route and (usually) correct itself right away. The better you know where you’re going, the better judgment you’ll be able to make in these kinds of situations.


PS Got any other tricks, tips or solutions to bad GPS directions? Share your experiences with us in the comments.

Got your own question you want to put to Lifehacker? Send it using our contact tab on the right.


  • I really miss the fine tune settings on my old GPS where routing preferences weren’t On-Off toggles but were 1-5 scales. It also allowed me to gray-out rectangular areas on the map so the route didn’t go through that area…

Log in to comment on this story!