A car compass is an essential piece of equipment for those that need to navigate across rural and off-road areas. They’re available as magnetic compasses, clinometers or a digital compass but the budget that you set aside for the car compass will play a big role in terms of how accurate it is. However, even the cheap car compasses on the market are still able to navigate you in the correct direction.
If you want a quick answer, the best car compass is the Ritchie S-53 Explorer, which is viewable from every angle and comes with the brand’s reputable 5 year warranty. However, if you want a budget alternative, the VICTOR Suction alternative is the best option that can be installed in seconds.
To rate the car compasses within this article, we based our recommendations upon hours of research and a number of factors. The factors that we considered included their accuracy, ease of installation, visibility of the digits/lettering, build quality, warranty and value for money. We installed the Richie S-53 model (as shown in the image above) and we would highly recommend it to any off-road enthusiasts.
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Car Compass Comparison
|Ritchie S-53 Explorer
|Rugged Ridge 13309
Installing a car compass is fairly straightforward because most use a mounting bracket or suction cup for the installation. Many premium options even come with lighting for night driving, which uses a 12V power source to increase visibility. The Ritchie brand are the most popular manufacturer of car compasses but there are many alternatives with similar designs at a more affordable price.
Below is a list of the best car compasses that provide directions to help you navigate across rural areas.
The Best Car Compass
1. Ritchie S-53 Explorer Car Compass
Ritchie are a highly reputable brand within the compass industry and they produce a range of different models. The S-53 Explorer is designed to combine performance with value for money and is an excellent all-round car compass. In terms of the installation, it uses a bracket mounted design that can be mounted to the dashboard or a flat surface with ease.
Other features of the Ritchie S-53 Explorer include:
- 12V night lighting
- Includes a 5 year warranty
- Viewable from every angle
- 2 3/4″ (70mm) direct-read dial
- Available in a black or blue design
- Suitable for automotive or marine applications
- Built-in compensators for deviation adjustments
- Sapphire jewel and hardened steel pivot dial movement
The low profile design and internal green illumination of the S-53 Explorer looks great on most dashboards and can be installed with ease. It’s by far the best car compass for the money and it’s also backed with a 5 year warranty for complete peace of mind.
2. Ritchie Voyager Car Compass
If you are able to increase your budget, the Ritchie Voyager model is the ultimate car compass on the market. Unlike the S-53 Explorer model, it has a larger dial diameter that allows for further adjustments and features additional functionality. To extend the operating range of the Voyager model, it also uses a high temperature composite construction with a moveable sun shield.
Other features of the Ritchie Voyager Compass include:
- Adjustable and removable brackets
- Built-in green “NiteVu” illumination
- 45 degree lubber lines
- Powerful “DirectForce” magnets
- Built-in compensators for adjusting deviation
- Includes a 5 year warranty
Although most compasses made by the Ritchie brand come with a premium price tag, there are many reasons why they are a worthwhile investment. The brand claim that they are 100% repairable and they even come with an impressive 5 year warranty. Overall, the Voyager model is one of the best models they offer and it certainly won’t disappoint.
3. Pyle PHUD19 Digital Compass For Car
Digital compasses for cars are very desirable for many people because it can be easier to read in the day or night. It also doesn’t have the drawbacks of the older magnetic field functionality. In terms of the digital options available, there is a wide range of units available but most are designed primarily to be used as a car HUD. However, the Plye PHUD19 is a great example of a digital car compass that’s actually worth buying.
Other features of the Plye PHUD19 Auto Compass include:
- Plug and play installation
- Easily mounted to the dashboard
- Automatically syncs power with the ignition
- 2.6 inch LCD multi-color LCD display
- Dual core processor for real time data
Although there are many heads up displays that feature a compass, the Pyle PHUD19 is the best option. The intuitive LCD display is easy to read and it allows you to configure the device to best suit your requirements.
4. ACECAR T800 Digital Car Compass
Another digital compass for cars is the ACECAR T800, which is a premium option when compared to the Pyle PHUD19 above. It uses a 4.3 inch TFT LCD screen that displays an intuitive compass display along with other HUD functionality. It’s a universal fit for almost any vehicle and it’s able to start or turn off automatically with the vehicle’s ignition.
Other features of the ACECAR T800 include:
- Compass, speed, RPM, water temperature, voltage and more
- Multi-function or single display
- Automatic and manual brightness adjustment
- 1 year warranty and CE FCC RoHS certification
- Includes all accessories to use it straightway
Although it comes with an expensive price tag, the larger display and lower profile design of the ACECAR T800 makes it a worthwhile investment. For peace of mind, it has multiple certifications and it also comes with a 1 year warranty too.
5. VICTOR Suction Cup Mini Auto Compass
If you require a cheap car compass that’s simple to install and maintain, the VICTOR auto compass is a great option. Unlike the alternatives, it’s a portable car compass that can be used for several other applications too. A standout feature of this particular car compass is the large lettering, which can be read at any mounting angle.
Other features of the Victor Auto Compass include:
- Free floating ball
- Black design
- Mini suction cup for universal fitting
- Liquid damping for fast settling on rough routes
Although the Victor car compass may not be the most accurate, it’s still more than capable of providing navigation in the correct direction. Overall, it’s a cheap, easy to read and install compass that won’t disappoint.
6. Rugged Ridge 13309 Clinometer & Auto Compass
Rugged Ridge are a brand that are well-known for their off road products and this is their clinometer, which is designed for off-roading. It includes a pitch and roll dial along with a built-in car compass in the middle for tackling unknown territories.
Other features of the Rugged Ridge Clinometer include:
- Universal design for all vehicles
- Supplied with double sided tape and screws
- Most accurate when mounted to a flat surface
- 4.5 x 2 3/8 x 2.25 inches in size and finished in black
- Backed by an impressive five year warranty
Overall, the Rugged Ridge Clinometer is the ultimate car compass for off-road enthusiasts that require extra details regarding the roll angle and pitch. It’s also built to last and backed by a 5 year warranty for complete peace of mind.Check it Out
Car Compass Buying Guide
Installing additional components inside of your car such as a compass will provide you with additional information whilst behind the wheel. Although not every driver will benefit from these extra details, those that drive off-road or in rural areas where GPS isn’t available certainly do.
Due to heads up displays becoming more affordable, they are often being used as a digital compass for cars. However, the classic magnetic style compasses provide the OEM look and feel when installed correctly.
To help you make an informed buying decision, we have produced the below guide regarding car compasses.
Magnetic vs Digital
Choosing between a magnetic or digital car compass is a matter of personal preference. Traditional compasses use magnetic fields that can be mounted via Velcro, auto adhesive, suction cups or screwed into the dashboard for a more secure fit.
The best alternative to a magnetic based device is a digital car compass, which is available as a heads up display, rear view mirror attachment and other devices. They may require batteries or wiring but can be easier to read and are more visible at night.
Mounting the car compass on the dashboard is the main area for the installation. This is mainly due to the fact it can be viewable from every angle but the design of the compass can provide additional visibility. Features such as large digits/lettering, compass points, movable sunshades and adjustable brackets are highly desirable.
Illumination at Night
Depending upon the usage of the car compass, you may require illumination for low level light conditions. Most premium options have the ability to light up using a 12V power source but others may use battery power. It’s an important feature because trying to view a car compass can be virtually impossible at night.
Depending upon the type of compass that you buy, it may require calibration. Failing to carry out this task may reduce the accuracy and defeat the object of the compass in the first place. We recommend that you stick to compasses with built-in stabilizers or those that have a free-floating design to prevent calibration inaccuracies.
The dash of your car may have limited space and you will want to choose a compass that will fit with room to spare. Many brands offer low profile designs that can still be viewable at any angle. The last thing you want is a bulky compass that blocks your vision of the road or obstructs other components of the dashboard.
Installation of the Compass
As mentioned above, most are installed via Velcro, automotive adhesive, suction cups or permanently screwed into the dash. Velcro is the best option for temporary usage but it may not be able to withstand excessive motion if you are off-roading.
Many brands such as the desirable Ritchie brand include a mounting bracket with each of their compasses and this allows you to install it securely. Although it will be permanent , it won’t have the drawbacks of the Velcro, adhesive or suction cup alternatives.
All of our recommendations are suited to a range of budgets and are available as a magnetic or digital car compass. If you can stretch your budget, the Ritchie compasses are the best option and come with long warranties for peace of mind. The cheaper alternatives may seem tempting but they will not be as accurate and may use cheap materials within the construction that will easily break.