Automobile GPS navigation systems provide drivers with dynamic street and highway maps, driving directions, and directories of restaurants, hospitals, car services, and other points of interest (POI). Voice prompts and alerts let the driver keep his attention on the road.
The newest and best GPS systems have full-color 3-D street maps, traffic alerts and rerouting, integrated hands-free cell-phone use, and easy touch-screen controls. Some of the best GPS models, such as the Garmin Nuvi 1690 and 1490, have wide-screens, FM transmitters so that you can hear your voice prompts and alerts through your car stereo system, Bluetooth wireless connection to your cell phone, theft prevention features, long-life battery operation, and more.
People who use such systems for the first time are usually amazed at the devices’ incredible accuracy and almost-magic capabilities. They often wonder why they didn’t get one sooner and how they could possibly do without one in the future.
There are three ways to acquire a car GPS system.
One is to buy a new vehicle with the navigation system already installed. The second method is to buy an aftermarket in-dash unit (e.g., Pioneer) that replaces your standard radio or stereo system. And the third method is to buy a separate portable unit, such as those by Garmin and TomTom, that can be easily mounted to your vehicle’s dash or windshield.
There are advantages and disadvantages for each of these methods.
New-car built-in GPS navigation systems offered as standard equipment or as options on new vehicles are more expensive than add-on units, often much more expensive. However, the LCD screens are usually larger, allowing for better visibility, especially while driving. The navigation system’s LCD display is usually shared with other systems in the car, such as radio, climate control, and hands-free cell phone. Also, with built-in units, the antenna and power attachment are already part of the vehicle.
A disadvantage is that built-in sytems are usually a step behind in new features and map updates. Map updates are usually offered annually and must be purchased at a dealer. The updates cannot be downloaded by computer. Most new-car makers now offer built-in GPS navigation systems in at least some of their models.
Add-on In-dash GPS navigation systems replace a vehicle’s normal radio or radio/CD player and typically include a large LCD display, navigation system, AM/FM stereo, and CD player. Some even include a DVD player to watch movies on the LCD screen (not while driving, of course). The LCD folds into the unit when not being used.
This type of system is ideal for RVs. These systems are moderately expensive, should be installed by professionals, and usually require installation of an outside antenna. These are not good for leased vehicles since vehicle modifications are not allowed. These systems cost less than new-car built-in units but cost more than portable units (discussed delow). The Pioneer AVIC-U310BT is an example of an in-dash add-on GPS unit.
Portable GPS navigation systems , such as those from Garmin, Magellan, Navigon, and TomTom, have more flexibility in where and how you use it, the ability to swap the unit from one car to another, can have more features, and are less expensive than a factory-installed built-in or add-on units. If you frequently rent cars, drive business or leased vehicles, or trade cars often, a portable unit is a great solution.
Portable GPS units come with a wide variety of features and screen sizes – and a broad price range, depending on your needs. Some are wide-screen, some standard screen. Many have features such as Bluetooth connection with your cell phone while driving. Others have music players and photo displays. A few offer real-time traffic display, usually for a monthly subscription fee.
Most portable GPS systems easily mount to a vehicle’s dash or window, allowing quick removal when not being used. Most new devices have powerful satellite receivers and built-in GPS antennas, eliminating the need for an external antenna. Some work from batteries while others require the use of a power plug.
It’s easy to update portable GPS devices with new maps and updated software by attaching it to your PC and downloading from the manufacturer’s web site.
Another growing use for GPS systems is for tracking vehicles. Car tracking devices are often used by parents to track teenage drivers, by companies to track delivery vehicle routes, and by sales people to record vehicle use for tax purposes. These small unobtrusive devices use GPS to periodically record vehicle location, speed, stops, routes, and times. Depending on the system, the data can be viewed in real-time on a PC, or downloaded from the device later.
When buying a auto GPS navigation system, look for ease of use, voice directions, updatable maps, and a bright screen. A touch screen helps if you have to interact with the unit when driving. Some all-in-one (AIO) portable GPS units such as the Garmin Nuvi 765T, now offer travel-related features such as language translators, MP3 music players, audio book players, and more. If you don’t need all the extra features, buy a lower priced unit such as the Garmin 255. To mount your GPS in a vehicle, look for a unit that provides a mounting method that will work in your particular vehicle.
Reprinted with permission from LeaseGuide.com