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How To Choose A GPS For Your Car

Updated on April 10, 2014

Intoday'sdigital world, it is hard to imagine a life without many items of technology, such as computers, cell phones and even GPS. If you haven't used a GPS in your car before, you are missing out on a chance to get where you are going efficiently and with as little problems as possible. If you don't have a GPS unit in your car yet, or if you just want to upgrade to a newer unit, there are several things to consider before you make a purchase.

A just a note, this article is meant to discuss GPS units designed specifically for vehicles, if you are looking for a GPS for hiking, backpacking and other outdoor activities, check out my article on how to choose a handheld GPSunit.

Garmin GPS
Garmin GPS

Choosing A Brand

The first thing you will have to consider when deciding to use a GPS, is to pick which brand of unit you will use. There are numerous different brands out there, such as Garmin, Magellan, TomTom and others. Any of the more common manufacturers provide high quality units that will serve your navigation needs well.

To get an idea of the different brands, try to go to a store that carries several different brands. Many of the bigger electronic stores, such as Best Buy, will have display models that you can watch, touch and get a feeling for. After trying a couple different brands, you may find that you like the way that a certain one works compared to the others.

Selecting Options And Accessories

Now that you have started to get an idea of what brand or brands you like, it's time to start looking at the options. Probably the first one to look at is the size of the screen. Screens vary from less than 4" in diameter to over 7". While that may not seem like a large variety, it can really make a big difference. There are trade offs though, the larger the screen is, the easier it is to see your rout at a glance. But, the bigger the screen is, the more likely it will obscure part of your view while you drive.

You will also want to look at other options. Many GPS units designed for vehicles will include the ability to give voice commands for directions. This can be very helpful, by getting a voice prompt, you won't have to watch the GPS unit as close. You will also want to look for the ability to add additional maps to your unit and to be able to upgrade the maps. I'm sure most of us have heard the news stories that mention people getting in accidents by following GPS directions that lead them in the wrong direction. The first thing you can do to prevent this is to keep your maps updated, the second is to listen to commons sense when using your GPS. Just because an electronic device tells you to do something, doesn't mean you should pay attention to what you are doing.

iPhone navigation
iPhone navigation

Using A Smartphone

If you already own a smart phone, you are probably just thinking that you could use it instead of a dedicated receiver and you are right! There are several ways to do that. Google maps, for one, lets you plan routes, but does not give you voice commands for turns. I have used this many times when I needed to figure out a route, but didn't have a dedicated GPS unit with me.

Another option is to download a third party app that acts like a GPS receiver, commands and all. This is a great way to use a device that you already own to closely mimic a vehicle GPS unit. Usually you will have to pay for the app and some of them will require a monthly subscription. You will have to look at a couple of them and decide if they are cost effective in the long run, or if it would be better to by a dedicated unit.

If you are using your smart phone as a GPS unit, don't forget to check out a power adapter for your car, as well as a mount that will hold the phone so that you can still see it without having to hold it.

Making Life Easier

A GPS can make your life easier and allow you to enjoy your travels rather than stressing out about getting to where you need to go. Hopefully this article gave you some ideas about how to pick out a GPS unit. If you have any questions or thoughts, feel free to leave a comment below.

For more of my outdoor articles, check out my blog:


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    • Adventure Colorad profile image

      Adventure Colorad 6 years ago from Denver,CO

      They can change a lot. I went from a basic Garmin hiking model to a mapping model and couldn't believe all the extra features. Now that model is old hat and I have to decide if I want to upgrade again.

    • aygabtu profile image

      aygabtu 6 years ago

      How far they've come. Tempted to replace my Garmin from 3 years ago with one with all the bells and whistles.