How to Buy an In-car GPS

Find the unit that best meets your needs, at the best price

Garmin Nuvi 57LM GPS Navigator System
The Garmin Nuvi In-car 57LM GPS Navigator System. Photo from Amazon

When you walk into a big electronics store, you can often try out the item you're thinking of buying, whether it's watching a big screen television, checking out a laptop's display or listening to a stereo. Buying in-car GPS can be a bit more challenging because you can't take it for a test drive. GPS units are often sealed in packages, and even if they're on display, it's difficult to know how they'll perform in real-world conditions.

People often become bitten by the GPS bug when they ride in a friend's car that has a GPS. By all means, try out a friend's GPS if you can, but I find that owners often don't know all of the features of their own units, or they aren't aware of important differences in performance and features up and down the price scale.

This article is designed to help you find your way through the GPS buying maze to get the best unit for your needs at the best price.

Understand Your Needs and Evaluate Features

Your first step is to understand what features are available; what you need based on anticipated use; what would be nice to have if you are willing to spend a little more, and what's a good value. This price and feature comparison for in-car GPS will get you started.

Read the Reviews

Here we acquire and test the newest and most popular in-car GPS models as they come onto the market. Every unit is rigorously road-tested, rated, and compared to others in its class in our car GPS review section.

Find Out More About Features Such As Traffic Detection/avoidance and Hands-free Calling

An in-car GPS unit can do more than give you turn-by-turn directions. Most higher-end units can help you detect and avoid traffic backups and can be used, along with a Bluetooth connection to your mobile phone, as a hands-free calling device.

Get the Most From Your Car GPS (and Drive Safely)

Once you've purchased your car GPS, there are some simple setup steps you can take to get the most from your navigator.

A GPS can distract you from your most important job, driving safely. However, you can learn to avoid common beginner's mistakes, and become a safer driver with GPS by following some guidelines.

Here are some terms you will find useful as you shop for car GPS: