Looking for your input on GPS navigation systems.

OK gang I need your help again. Anne and I will be taking a trip to Iowa over Memorial Day Weekend in May in the Civic we just bought to hang out with one of her best friends. In preparation for that trip one of the things we’re looking at buying is a GPS Navigation system for use in the car. I’ve been seeing all manner of deals on DealNews.com for new and refurbished systems from various manufacturers, but I’m not overly familiar with which features and whatnot we should be looking for. The big three appear to be Garmin, TomTom, and Magellan and prices seem to range from $65 all the way up to almost $400. I’m sure some of you out there in SEB Land have a GPS system or two so I’d love to hear from you on what you think are the absolute must-have features, any favorite models you’ve owned, and what we should plan on spending to get a decent system.

If I’d had my way we’d have bought a 2009 Civic with the GPS Navigation built-in, but this’ll have to do instead so I’m looking to you guys to help me get educated on this stuff.

25 thoughts on “Looking for your input on GPS navigation systems.

  1. I got the TomTom One 125 http://www.amazon.com/TomTom-ONE-3-5-Inch-Portable-Navigator/dp/B001H9NR2Q a few months back, and had no complaints about it. 

    I took a 2,500+ mile trip through Virginia with it, and it didn’t lead me wrong after I updated the maps, has numerous voices to choose from (including the option to make your own), had a nice price (got mine for $109.99) and is very easy to use.  There are also a bunch of extra features you can get like real-time traffic updates (though it requires an additional accessory that I do not have).  I don’t know what is standard features for GPS, but considering the low cost of this one, I’d recommend it, though I’m only going off my personal experience with this one device.

  2. We have the Tom Tom One as well.  It’s served us extremely well.  One bad direction on our 10,000 mile road trip this summer.

    An added bonus:  You can download the voice of John Cleese (and others..but we have John working for us) for the voice of your Tom Tom.

  3. Garmin is good (heard stuff about their return policies) and TomTom is solid. I’ve heard nothing bad about TomTom, and it’s kind to your wallet.

  4. Sixpaxk, Regardless of manufacturer :
    1) Make sure maps are current.
    2) Traffic jam advisories / re-routing via radio.
    3) Dimmable for night use.
    4) Portable/removable as an anti-theft measure.
    5) Audio ouput, so you don’t have to watch it.
    6) Neat option : warns of stationary radars wink

  5. I sell all three at the store. I’d recommend the Tom Tom. All of them do well on basic guidance within the US, but the Tom Tom is much better at handling alternate routes when you hit a snag (like construction or an accident).

  6. Moloch asks…

    What happened to a road map, pretrip planning and observational skills?

    Nothing. Just as nothing happened to pen and paper for sending messages when the telegraph first came on the scene. Those options are still available to people who wish to pursue them.

    I’d prefer to not have to pull over to the side of the road every time I want to consult the map. A GPS unit makes that possible plus it will tell me about possible points of interest along the way.

  7. I downloaded Cartman from Southpark for my TomTom, but it got old real fast so I put it back to generic British lady.

  8. A GPS unit makes that possible

      if the map has been updated by the company.  Which they don’t always keep up with. 

    We’ve lived in our neighborhood since it was built in 2000.  Most GPS navi systems cannot find our street, nor can OnStar – we had a party about 2 years ago, and everyone who used GPS navi or OnStar had to call us for directions b/c they keep getting sent to the wrong city.  Only one GPS navi I looked at the end of last year had our street, but the house numbers were in the wrong direction.  Mapsco had our streets in the book in 2001 and Google Street view has our house in the right place(although the Google maps app for the iPhone I looked at had our house numbers in the wrong direction as well). 

    My advice is to check them out at the store or a friend’s and make sure they can find all the places you want to go.

  9. I’d prefer to not have to pull over to the side of the road every time I want to consult the map.

    You’ve never seen people driving down the freeway with a map on the steering wheel?  shock

  10. Unless you travel frequently and need to know different routes and addresses, I don’t recommend you buy one.

    I drive a truck, and like to know if the road ahead of me is going to T-Bone in the next mile in dense fog, or a sharp corner is coming up and need to slow down. I have a Garmin nuvi 750. 

    But you mentioned this would be a short trip…

    Garmin ( Sam’s Club ) gives you 30 days to return the product. So try out the best one they have and then return it.

  11. I would consider Garmin products for three reasons:

    1. They have a large range of products in every price range and, because of that, there are a lot of refurbs with full factory warranties.

    2. Customer support is top notch.

    3. Check out the cost of updating and the frequency of those updates. I find that Garmin is very cost competitive.

    I’ve had a Street Pilot 2610 for 4 nearly years and carried it many thousands of miles in a car and a motorcycle. It continues to work flawlessly.

  12. My recommendation would be to take the few hundred that would be spent on a GPS and get a nice cell phone like an iPhone instead. The Google Maps that comes on full featured cell phones is amazing, much better than my Garmin Nuvi. It tracks as you drive, shows directions, has much better searching functions than any GPS, shows free traffic info, and is way more expandable than any GPS unit because it runs on Google technology. Not to mention you get a ton more features out of combining an iPhone or of full feature cell phone with GPS than what a GPS unit can offer.

    But if you HAVE to get a GPS unit I recommend Garmin or TomTom purchased from Crutchfield. Crutchfield has great service, offers pre-owned devices in great conditions, and you can get all your money back if product doesn’t perform to your liking.

  13. We bought a Garmin Nuvi about a year ago.  It’s been handy on vacations when traveling—and also handy for “Hey, some people have invited us over to dinner, and we’ve never been there,” as something more convenient than printing out something from MapQuest.

    My impression, from talking with many GPS owners, is that whatever system you first buy is what you’ll think is da bomb.

    Voice output, including naming of locations (“Turn left … on Washington Boulevard”) is very useful. 

    We didn’t get the traffic update versions.  Not what we necessarily want the GPS for.

    It’s endlessly entertaining changing around the voices on our unit.  We usually have “Sheila,” the Aussie lady. She has some … interesting pronunciations.  OTOH, a gay French-Canadian friend of ours highly recommended the male French-Canadian voice.  YMMV.

    Bottom line, I’d been using the (Magellan-based) Ever-Lost system on Hertz Rentals when doing business travel, and it finally occurred to me that GPSes were getting cheap enough to buy one for home.  We use it maybe once a month, but it’s helpful enough for that sort of thing to have been worth it.

    I can dig out the model we got, if you’re interested.

  14. Webs writes…

    My recommendation would be to take the few hundred that would be spent on a GPS and get a nice cell phone like an iPhone instead.

    I’m just not an iPhone kind of guy. I use my current cell phone to make phone calls and take the occasional crappy picture and that’s about it. I don’t text message, I don’t watch TV on it, I don’t have a data plan for it, etc. etc.. Not to mention the fact that it starts about $100 more (with mandatory 2 year contract and even more without) than the GPS units I’ve been looking at and would cost me extra on my wireless bill as I’d need a data plan of some sort.

    ***Dave, I’d love to know what model you’re using.

    Paul, I don’t know that I’d call driving to Iowa from Michigan a short trip or not. It’s somewhere around 7 hours according to Google Maps.

    Everyone else, thanks for your input. I’ve gotten a lot of feedback and it helps. I had been debating if getting the traffic module would be useful and most folks seem to think it’s not worth the extra cost.

  15. I’ll look it up tonight.

    Re the traffic module:  if you’re someone whose job requires driving around a lot, professionally, it’s worth it (IMO).  Otherwise, tune into your local news radio for “traffic on the 7s” and use your knowledge of local highways to avoid the traffic jams.

  16. And, if you get a GPS, you don’t have to worry about how to fold it up after you’re finished.  tongue wink

  17. I have a TomTom XL one.  Here are some of the features it has that I enjoy. 

    It can tell you exactly where you are at.  For instance I’m @ N 45 56 08, W 88 53 15.  Not all that helpful?  It also states it in English I am on Commonwealth Dr, FXXXXXXXXXX WI, between Mxxxxxr Place (75 yd) and XXXXX ST (350) yd.  It shows you the nearest police station, gas station, pharmacy etc.  (The above information is for demonstration purposes and has been changed)

    You can dim the display for night driving, use 2D or 3D display, use kilometer, miles, operate left handed (flip the screen) change keyboard preferences i.e. qwerty or hierarchal order letters and numbers.

    It displays arrival time and the speed at which you are traveling.  Distance to destination and once you come within 10 minutes of arriving at your destination it counts down the time in 5 sec intervals. 
    There several options for viewing your route, as well as planning your trip.  For instance do you want to avoid toll roads, find the quickest route, or take the scenic route?  There are options for all of those, most useful for construction areas.

    I drive to O’Hare Airport very often, even though I know the route, and it’s very simple to get there, from my home, the GPS, as the trucker driver stated several posts ago, helps you to see what’s ahead.  Hence I know where my exit is and am prepared even when I cannot see it with my own eyes, especially nice in inclement weather. 

    Before buying check out epinions.com for other user data, the reviewers are not professionals but often times they will give you hints and tips that you can’t get anywhere else.  Lastly, the cost of the upgrades and how often you choose to have them done is the true cost of the GPS.  I would suggest that you get one of those dash board bean bag like mounts for your suction cup.  Otherwise the ring the suction cup leaves on the windshield is a telltale sign that you may keep something very valuable in your car.  I always take mine with me when I exit the car. 

    Hope this helps.


  18. I can tell Les is going to get one..It’s the tecky thing to do. And he does not want to miss out.

    I will be upgrading soon, but I still like the Garmin nuvi 750. Some things to look for in GPS.

    Multiple way points. Not just one.

    Music MP3 compatible with voice over-ride in directions. Blue Tooth…Absolutely !

    And most important. Coordinate based locations finder.

    Say a single rock in the desert is worth seeing.

    You can get the coordinates from a friend and the GPS will lead you to the exact spot.

    I use mine for finding a parking space near the receiver. First go to Google Earth and look around the destination. When found, you enter the coordinates into the GPS and it will lead the way.

    They are fun. As for the suction cup issue. It will collapse based on altitude. It can be a safety issue falling on the floor whilst driving. If you cross Loveland Pass in Colorado at over 10,000 feet. When you descend the suction cup will release. So I took the little round stickum plate and secured it to the dash with two way tape. Then I cut Velcro to fit the round piece, and another piece ( The receiving end )on the suction cup itself. It doesn’t suck anymore. It Sticks and is much safer.

  19. It doesn’t suck anymore.

      big surprise  tongue wink
    See what can happen when you take something out of context?

  20. We have a Nuvi 260w.  We’re happy with it, and I don’t recall anything about it that we particularly felt was lacking. They run about $150-180 on Amazon.

  21. I have an older Garmin (StreetPilot series) that is now discontinued. I love it. I spent the last few days playing with a Nuvi 200 series and really liked it too. If I had to buy another, I’d look closely at a Nuvi.

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