General Question

Jeruba's avatar

How do I buy a GPS for a car?

Asked by Jeruba (51652points) November 17th, 2013

In other words, what do I look for, how do I make a good selection, and does it have to include some kind of data plan? I know nothing beyond having a fair idea of what the thing is for.

It’s a gift idea and not intended for my own use.

Thank you for sharing your technical and shopping knowledge.

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14 Answers

trailsillustrated's avatar

They should just use their phone but a garmin or tom tom is fine. But most people nowadays use their phones so, you might want to re-think the gift?? Otherwise, a garmin or tom-tom is about 99$ and you just turn it on and away you go.

Rarebear's avatar

Just go to your local Best Buy and pick one. They’re all about the same. Don’t worry about any of the extra bells and whistles, although you might want to get a sandbag mount or a windshield mount.

That said, I far prefer my iphone with Google Maps as it gives me up to date information with traffic info.

glacial's avatar

I have a low-end Garmin which cost about $130; there’s no plan or cost following purchase. The maps must be loaded from their website, and can be updated when needed, usually for free. That process is pretty irritating, and can take up a lot of disk space. If it’s someone who’s not into technology (and if they’re not using their phone as a GPS, perhaps they’re not), you might want to walk them through it. Extras, like more voices than those which come with the product, or more specialized maps, will cost more.

When I was shopping, I only looked for something cheap – but if I could, I’d try to find one that was more adept at determining and pronouncing street names. Mine is perfectly terrible at this, and routinely mistakes “St” for “street” instead of “saint”, and “Ch” for “church” instead of “chemin”, for example.

Pachy's avatar

No data plan—all free, including regular map updates. I’ve been a Garmin Nuvi user for years. Started with their cheapest and have worked my way up to their most expensive. But every one of them uses the same maps and works great.

Jeruba's avatar

The phone is “basic”; no data plan. Since I’m paying the bill, I’m not opting for extras.

I don’t have, need, or want a smartphone myself, either.

LuckyGuy's avatar

Look at a Garmin Nuvi. No data plan is required. It is self contained, and not very expensive. $120.

MagicalMystery's avatar

I suggest something cheap unless you want bells and whistles. A cheap basic one should get you there as well as an expensive one.

CWOTUS's avatar

GPS does not require a data plan. I’ve had one installed in my dash for several years and it’s as non-smart as they come. But it’s effective.

If you want one that is more interactive, such as not just showing you a route but also recommending alternates in case of heavy traffic or blockages on the road – which a “dumb” GPS cannot do – then you’d need a data plan. That is, a GPS that will sense what current traffic conditions are and make a recommendation on the fly. Even my “dumb” GPS can suggest alternate routes from any point to any other, but it isn’t able to “read” traffic conditions or road closures.

glacial's avatar

@CWOTUS “Even my “dumb” GPS can suggest alternate routes ”

This is something I’ve been wondering about for a while. I’ve talked to a few other people about their GPS units, and all bemoan the fact that they can’t ask them to look up alternate routes. We can change settings like “avoid toll roads” and we can ask for new routes once we’ve driven off the original path, but asking for multiple route options doesn’t seem to be a universal thing at all.

drdoombot's avatar

GPS units come preloaded with maps (which you can optionally update by connecting it to a computer). Some of them come with “traffic,” which costs extra. It basically just includes an extra antenna tuned to a terrestrial radio station that feeds traffic information to your unit. Having never used one, I don’t know how helpful the traffic feature is.

Your main concern when buying should be screen size. In my opinion, 3” is a little small. I think 4.5” is the minimum and 6” is ideal. There are really only two brands: Garmin and TomTom. Most people seem to prefer Garmin. Nearly all come with windshield or dash mounts in the box.

SecondHandStoke's avatar

THE VERY ELEGANT and COMPREHENSIVE solution and SO much more if you have Iphone 4 and possibly later:

SecondHandStoke's avatar


Works with models earlier than 4 as well.

Jeruba's avatar

Repeat: no iphone. No smartphone. None. Not.

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