Satellite navigation is essential for a stress free car journey and there are plenty of sat navs to choose from. However, in the last couple of years smartphones have been causing the decrease in sales of the GPS Sat Nav systems.
You will want to find the best portable car sat nav that is is reliable and great value for money. The Garmin Nuvi 2789LMT is our recommended car satellite navigation system that ticks every single box.
The pricing of the units usually comes down to the brand and the features on the device. However, some of the features you can get these days are questionable.
Table of Contents
- Best Portable Car Sat Navs
- Garmin Nuvi 57LM Sat Nav
- Garmin Nuvi 2789LMT Sat Nav Review
- TomTom VIA 1535TM Sat Nav Review
- TomTom GO 600 Sat Nav Review
- Cheapest Sat Nav – Xgody 886 Review
- Why You Need A Car Satellite Navigation System
- How Does a Car Sat Nav Work?
- Satellite Navigation Advantages
- Satellite Navigation Disadvantages
- Satellite Navigation Applications
- Car Sat Nav Buying Guide
- Final Thoughts On The Best Car Sat Navs
|Sat Nav||Screen Size||FREE Updates|
|Garmin Nuvi 57LM||5 Inch||Yes|
|Garmin Nuvi 2789LMT||7 Inch||Yes|
|TomTom VIA 1535TM||5 Inch||Yes|
|TomTom GO 600||6 Inch||Yes|
|Xgody 886||7 Inch||No|
As smartphone applications are starting to come extremely popular, the GPS sat navs are not dead, they are still wanted by people who prefer pre-installed maps. The major problem with the mobile application sat navs are that you have to pay for your usage and there maybe connection issues, incoming call interruptions and more.
Finding the perfect sat nav for your car is a minefield due to the vast amount of units available online. Below is a list of the best car sat navs for the money that include a intuitive user interface and excellent features.
Garmin is one of the main players that was founded in 1989 by the American founders. Ever since, they have been one of the top providers of GPS satellite navigation units. The Garmin Nuvi 57LM provides directions via a spoken turn by turn instruction whilst also warning drivers of upcoming speed cameras and the limit you should be traveling.
One great aspect of owning the Garmin branded products is that they provide lifetime map updates with all devices. The update will include the latest new roads, speed limits and new points of interest.
This GPS navigator provides an intuitive design on a 5 inch dual orientation display. As mentioned above, the 57LM will have free lifetime GPS map updates from the preloaded detailed maps of the lower 49 states. Using the Foursquare you are able to find popular landmarks, restaurants and shops.
The Garmin is excellent value for money provides all the features that are essential out the box. You can even pay for bolt-ons such as live traffic updates and more. The intuitive design and clear speech is excellent for older drivers that want clear instructions.Check it Out
The 2789LMT is Garmin’s premium version of the Nuvi that includes excellent upgrades from the 57LM model. For starters the 2789LMT comes with a FREE lifetime of traffic updates and the screen size increased to 7 inches.
You are also able to connect your phone to the Garmin via Bluetooth for hands free calling, which is great if you don’t have a Bluetooth device in the car. The 2797LMT also benefits from voice control, which means you can keep your eyes on the road and still change the locations.
The 2789LMT has faster processor speeds and improved routing features that work out the quickest route to your destination. The only reason to get the 57LM model instead of this one would be because you are either on a budget or have a small car, which would make the 7 inch display rather overwhelming.Check it Out
When thinking of Sat Navs, the first brand that comes to mind is most probably TomTom that have been market leaders for a while. The TomTom VIA 1535TM is more expensive that the Garmin and some lower down TomTom models, however the feature list is excellent.
Included in the full package is over millions of miles of roads with the inclusion of FREE lifetime traffic update without the dreaded adverts. The 1535 model allows the driver to easily navigate using detailed maps of the whole of the US, Canada and Mexico.
The screen size is the standard 5 inch LCD screen and the TomTom also has a great battery life of 3 hours. I personally own this TomTom and thinks the design is excellent to understand when driving with clear instructions and good use of colours.
I previously owned an early TomTom that was indestructible and the 1535TM feels like a high quality GPS Sat Nav. If you are able to spend the extra on a sat nav, then the TomTom would be my pick over the Garmin, especially due to the free lifetime traffic updates. It is the best sat nav for simple instructions on screen that older drivers may prefer.Check it Out
The TomTom GO 600 is a fully interactive touch screen sat nav that allows pinch to zoom and swipe screen features. Differences from the TomTom above are the physical design of the GPS navigator as well as the GO 600 offering landmarks and buildings in 3D display, which looks excellent.
The TomTom GO 600 Sat Nav comes with a lifetime FREE map updates as well as the ability to connect via Bluetooth to your smartphone for life traffic updates. Another great feature is the ability to connect to “MyDrive” that allows you to choose your destination and send it to your 600 before you get into the car.
The TomTom GO 600 is by far the best car sat nav for a 3D display where the 6 inch display provides a high quality vision of the map.Check it Out
If you are on a budget then the others may be too pricy but the Xgody 886 GPS navigator is here to save your bank balance. The Xgody has the largest screen size in this article with a huge 7 inch LCD display that is more than is required. Personally I think that the 5 inch display is the perfect size because any larger would become distracting.
The battery life is only rated at one hour, so when using this GPS navigator, it is vital to bring the charger for a long journey. There are no automatic updates and the only way to update the maps is to contact the customer service. Another reason why the price is very cheap is because there will be no warranty upon purchase.Check it Out
No one likes to get lost in traffic. No one likes wasting time squinting down at maps that don’t show up to date information, and having someone sitting next to you reading a map can be stressful in itself – that person may be accurate or not, and they can get things wrong.
A sat nav can give you piece of mind.
Sat navs are ideal for people who travel around a lot and have a poor sense of direction. No street directories. Sat navs can also help veteran drivers find their way around places they’re unfamiliar with and save plenty of time.
Satellite navigation devices work by calculating the best route from your starting point to your destination. Sat navs use GPS in order to find their way around and help you find your way around. GPS, which stands for Global Positioning System, involves a series of satellites in orbit of the Earth. The GPS devices – like the sat nav you wish to buy – simply takes information from the satellites to find out where they are to within a position of a few meters. This makes the sat nav accurate, and they’re transferable from one vehicle and ready to work straight out of the box.
The best sat nav will give you clear and detailed information, and since roads change everyday – new traffic lights, speed cameras, etc – the information relayed to your device will know about it and will let you know in enough time to slow down when you approach a speed camera so you don’t be photographed speeding, saving you money in case you are charged.
A map book doesn’t do that. The information in such a book is, naturally, fixed. And it doesn’t update information the same way satellite navigation does.
If you are feeling hungry or if your car is running low on fuel, then the sat nav will let you know whether you are approaching a restaurant or a petrol station on your route.
As a bonus, some sat navs, the best ones, are fed live traffic information. With this information provided, a sat nav can suggest routes to help you avoid congested areas.
Like many other modern pieces of technology, a sat nav has disadvantages.
- Maps might need to be updated, and some might cost you.
- Weather conditions might foul up the system.
- High Buildings can also cause interference.
- Features may be irrelevant – do you really want something like a 3D or 2D viewing of the road?
- Sat nav might go out of range – even the best sat nav is prone to losing contact with the satellite it was connected with, and will need to wait for another satellite coming into range.
Sat nav apps are available alternatives to the trusty sat nav. They’re cheaper than a sat nav, but they have many of the same features and functions of the traditional devices.
- They’re cheaper and easy to update.
- Convenient since you’re likely to always have your phone on you.
- Free sat nav apps are easy to download and try – and if you don’t like the app you’ve already purchased then you can simply delete it and swap it for something different.
- For occasional users, it’s simple and convenient.
- Most smartphones come with one already built in.
- Size – they’re easy to carry.
- Easy to mount in a car
- When you receive incoming calls, the phone automatically switches from navigation mode to phone mode, which can be distracting, especially for drivers.
- Downloading maps to the app could use up your devices’ mobile data allowance if you’re not able to do so via a WiFi connection before you set off on your journey.
- Might not come with voice directions, which can be essential for drivers.
- Performance can depend on the phone you have. Some can require a constant data connection. This can be costly if you’re on a limited data plan. You might need to pay for mounting on your dashboard or on your windshield and buy a suitable power cable.
- Quality is highly varied when it comes to apps – anyone can make them available in an app store.
- Using the GPS can wear your battery down very quickly.
- Smartphone sat nav apps don’t always update. It could cause you to miss instructions.
- Smartphone sat nav apps (and indeed other satellite navigation devices) can fail sometimes when the satellite is out of alignment, meaning you’ll have to wait for a strong enough signal.
In theory and practice, a sat nav helps you get to your destination easily and as quickly as possible. For the best sat nav, you want a device that will let you select the route you want. Fast and the shortest, avoiding traffic, avoiding tolls and giving you alternative routes if the previous one is suddenly congested, with updates coming in to alert you of problems. Unfortunately it wasn’t always so simple. In the past, sat navs caused problems – and they still do because of defects – but technology has improved by leaps and bounds, and now the technology is more versatile, so as long as you, the user, inputs the right type of data into the sat nav you should receive the correct route, and gather the right amount of information you’ll need if traffic conditions change – you really don’t want to find yourself in the middle of a traffic jam on your way to a job interview.
Not all sat navs come from a box, so unless your car is a model which comes with its own built in sat nav, the best sat nav can come in two ways – a standalone device that fits snugly onto the windshield or on the dashboard, or an app downloaded onto your phone.
Maps cost money. So, the more maps you wish for your sat nav, the more money you will need to spend on it. So its best to take into account what you’re going to use the sat nav for, but that could be a matter you can address when you come to it instead of concerning yourself early on.
However, you can purchase a sat nav that cover areas further afield.
Many models offer maps that are updated at a later stage that you either have to pay on demand, or are completely free. Sometimes this can be a year or a lifetime.
When you’re thinking of purchasing a sat-nav, its a good idea to check the size of the route on the map. Road safety is important, and you do not want to scrunch up or squint your eyes at. Look at the screen size and customize it into something you are more comfortable with. You will find most range from 4 and 6 inches, and you also have a choice between standard screens and widescreen models.
When it comes to choosing the best sat nav for you, think about buying a model that comes with free map updates. Most models these days from the big brands will come with them. Slightly older ones will or may not – and they can cost.
Another feature to consider is 3D map views. This is a feature common to some models, and while its not obligatory, its good to know this feature allows you to see the road ahead of you, or a 2D bird’s eye view of the road. It’s worth trying them out in a shop first before deciding whether this particular feature is worth it when you decide which model to go for.
Safety camera alerts are featured on many of the best sat nav models, warning drivers of known cameras approaching. As a bonus, these devices can also provide you with speed imit restrictions along the road, as well as your current speed, but you should check the sat nav model if it offers free updates for this and other services.
Many of the best sat nav models come with traffic warnings and updates on roadworks. This can save you time from frustrating queues, the sat nav just has to suggest an alternative route. For certain models, this can be a subscription based service, and for business users it can be an invaluable service to have at your disposal.
When choosing the best sat nav for you, it’s a good idea to look for one that comes from one of the big brands. For some, and this is true of sat nav apps, they can be advertised by pop ups.
Additional features include:
- Help to access the emergency services in case of a breakdown, or a major accident on the road.
- Bluetooth technology allowing hands free calls or smart notifications by linking up with your mobile phone.
- There are specialized sat navs designed for motorcyclists and for truck drivers – cleverly HGV sat navs will only guide you down roads and routes that don’t violate height and weight restrictions.
What sat nav system suits you the most? The information listed above has given you the advantages and disadvantages of the sat nav apps, and the features the best sat nav system should have either in design or as optional extras designed to attract you.
But choosing something like a sat nav doesn’t need to be complicated.
If you just want something straight forward and simple, something that is more convenient than going in for a sat nav app, and they can come with other features. But they can drain a smartphones’ power supply, but they can replicate a traditional sat nav though they sometimes require a constant connection to gather updates.
On the other hand, it might be better to buy a more traditional sat nav if you believe a smartphone app, although many smartphones come with the feature already, is not practical for your needs. Indeed an app is more convenient if you plan to use it sparingly, and a traditional sat nav device can come with a voice that gives you instructions. Standalone sat navs do just one job, no distractions, no phones calls or texts or notifications or power worries.
Also sat navs come in various sizes starting at 3.5 inches and can be as big as 4.7 inches in size. The larger screens give you a great view at any one time. If you believe you’re going to be on the road, then the widescreen option may be more suitable.
Things to Consider
- Will the sat nav work in the car? Where is the antenna? Built in sat navs will have antennas that provide continuous streams of data.
- You might find the maps too technical, but even so a sat nav is still a benefit for you to consider, and live traffic updates are good news for any driver. It stops you getting trapped in jams, and can even suggest alternative routes. Any driver would want that.
- It’s safe to use.
- Do you want a portable unit or one that sticks to the dashboard?
- Points of interest which include petrol stations, restaurants or diners, hotels, cash points, etc. No serious sat nav will go without this feature.
Do you have a budget? Sat navs don’t cost a great deal, no. But downloading new updates and maps for the sat nav might prove more expensive, so it’s a good idea to plan ahead and buy a sat nav that downloads these maps freely.
Be realistic – what are you going to use the sat nav for? Are you going to be in your car for prolonged periods of time, or are you planning on just taking a few trips and believe a sat nav will help you anyway? If it’s the first option, using your car for prolonged periods of time, then invest in a sat nav device – research the features, check whether or not it gets updates on traffic and roads and gives vocal instructions. Also think about which features you believe are relevant and irrelevant.
But one day to do your research is to ask for advice. Many of your friends and work colleagues may or mot not have experience with sat navs, and they might even give you advice about how useless, they are judging by their own experiences, but if so then try to be impartial. Remember, it is your decision, not their’s. If you know someone, or someones, who own their sat navs and use them frequently, ask for advice on how they have found the experience. Take a ride with them after asking if they would mind you coming for a trip in their car, and see how it goes from there. In the car, you might even notice features you believe would suit your needs – size, vocal instructions, traffic and road updates, etc. Research their features and benefits when you have access to the internet and read reviews.
Even if you decide not to buy it online from a site like ebay or Amazon, it’s a good idea to see the reviews on both sites and help you make your decision. Amazon is also a good place to find other sat navs which are considered the best, and you can research them as well.
Remember sat nav technology comes in different shapes and sizes, but there are also simple and advanced models to choose from.
Other features to consider are:
- Parking location guidance which works when you take the sat nav out of the car, it will make a note of where your car is parked in order to guide you back. This is a benefit if you park your car somewhere unfamiliar and you need to reach your car again quickly.
- FM transmitter converts sat nav instructions (or even music) so you can then hear them over your car speakers, via the car’s radio.
Not all sat navs are the same. Think carefully about the features you feel you need for your sat nav.
There are safety concerns for sat navs despite being useful to help you reach B from A and is a good aid to get you were you want to go.
They can be distracting, and you should be in control of the car at all times even with the sat nav in your car. The satellite navigation system is designed to be a guide. You need to look out for road signs, and potential accidents that the satellites can’t detect quickly enough. Bear in mind that sometimes a satellite will go out of range of the sat nav, meaning you will need to wait for another to come into range, but in that time frame there is a chance you will be caught up in a traffic jam, or you could miss an important update.
Sat navs can also make mistakes. They’re not infallible. There are reliable road signs, markings that means you shouldn’t rely on the sat nav. New drivers might also become distracted by their sat navs, which is dangerous because on the road you need to pay attention to what’s going on around you. Don’t take any route you don’t know after you’ve passed your drivers license. It’s also worthwhile getting used to driving and finding your way around before investing in something like a sat nav.
They can also give instructions that cause drivers to veer dangerously into the traffic, because the driver spent more time listening to the instructions from the device rather than paying heed to common sense.
Another problem is map accuracy – while satellite navigation offers information at tremendous speed, it can also show roads that haven’t even been constructed yet, or even show ones that have. Relying too heavily on GPS can lead to an accident, even the best sat nav you can find is not immune to these kinds of problems.
But the problem could be exaggerated – too many people are simply not experienced enough at driving to know any differently, so if you buy a sat nav it might be a good idea to find one that gives out vocal instructions to you so, then you can pay more attention to the roads ahead, so you can read the signs and see if the device is accurate enough. You won’t know for certain if the device works properly unless you use it.
Sat navs are a useful piece of technology, but like many technologies it’s a good idea to research the devices before you make your decision. Remember, speak to friends and colleagues if you know they’ve got a device in their car, or have an app on their phone.
Tell them about what you want, what you’re interested in, and ask them if they’d mind taking you for a drive and see the sat nav in action. Take notes on the model to see if the information it receives, and the instructions it sends out is accurate. Ask your colleagues and friends about the systems they use, what features they believe make the product worthwhile. Check on Amazon or ebay for the reviews of the product to find out if there are potential glitches you feel you should be aware of.
Don’t let the advice from your friends or the reviews blind you to the possibilities of what a sat nav can offer you. Remember, they can give vocal instructions, download fresh updates on traffic and on roads that could help you get to where you need to go. But even if you like the models your friends favor, look for something you believe is a benefit to you.
There are so many portable sat nav units for sale on the market today varying at all prices. The main thing before purchasing a Sat Nav unit is that the company offer FREE map updates as this may come to bite you later on. Personally, I would avoid the cheap Xgody and go for the well known TomTom or Garmin.
All four units are highly rated but if you are used to either, I would carry on using the same brand. This will make setting up the sat nav quicker and easier but also when travelling you will know what to expect and the layout.