Finding the Best GPS Navigation System

Every smartphone already has access to GPS and comes with a free navigation app. So, why do you need to find the best GPS navigation device?

Well, your smartphone is already your music player, camera, messaging platform, news checker, alarm clock, calculator, and flashlight—your everything and anything all-in-one device. It has but one screen and fairly limited battery life.

Having a standalone system relieves some of the burden from your phone while you’re driving. But it does much more than that. For starters, and most importantly, it provides you with reliable navigation regardless of cellular reception. It helps you avoid traffic jams and alerts you of speed cameras. It keeps detailed logs of your travels and helps you plan your route. The best GPS does all of that while helping you navigate difficult exits and intersections in a calm, friendly voice, using visible landmarks as reference.
You’d be surprised at how many options there are. The cheapest GPS is around $130, while high-end, specialized models run $400, $500, or even more.
Here’s a roundup of the best products on the market with precise specifications and feature descriptions to help you decide based on your needs and budget.

Our Top 3 Recommendations

NO.
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PRICE
9.4
FROM $154.99
8.8
FROM $483.00
7.8
FROM $99.99

GPS Reviews

Garmin Drive 52

PROS
  • Relatively cheaper

  • FourSquare points of interest

  • Easy to use

CONS
  • Multi-destination routing

  • Ability to clear the Trip Log

You can’t talk about navigation devices without mentioning Garmin GPS systems. They’re everywhere and for good reason.

The Garmin Drive 52 is the smallest inexpensive GPS Garmin makes. You can get it with or without Traffic, Garmin’s road-congestion warning system, with a $20 difference in the price.

Both models implement a full complement of Garmin’s staple features to make traveling easier, safer, and more enjoyable. For starters, the Drive 52 comes with fully detailed maps of the US (mainland and offshore) and Canada. Maps are easily and quickly updated through Garmin Express, a free program for Macintosh and Windows PCs.

The software and menus on this best GPS device are intuitive and easy to use, which is one reason why Garmin is a leading brand in the GPS navigation system industry. The menus and search bars on the highly responsive five-inch touchscreen display are specially designed to be clear and unambiguous even for first-time users.

A voice assistant guides you through streets with ample time to prepare a turn and change lanes. It uses street names and obvious landmarks to help keep the driver oriented. It warns you about sharp turns and streetlights that are coming up.

Another feature that makes this the best navigation system is that the software includes a database of national parks and historical landmarks. So, you can take educational detours on family trips. It pulls data from FourSquare for the best pit-stop destinations in any part of the US and Canada.

If you need to use the car’s power port for anything else, you’re in luck: The Drive 52 comes with a rechargeable internal battery that can keep it running for up to an hour.
Garmin lists this basic car GPS navigator at $150 without the Traffic antenna.

Garmin DriveSmart 55 & Traffic

PROS
  • Best value for your money

  • Voice commands

  • Traffic alerts

  • 720p screen resolution

CONS
  • Small battery

  • Compass needs the car to move to be calibrated

This is a middle-priced product in the Garmin family. It has most of the same features as the Drive, but it has a smart element too: voice recognition.

The DriveSmart 55 can be controlled by voice. Simply say “OK Garmin” and ask for directions to anywhere on the North American continent, including US islands and offshore territories. Since all of Garmin’s products are loaded up with data from FourSquare, you can ask for good restaurants or hotels in the area completely hands-free.

While a voice-activated GPS greatly increases the safety of your trip, Garmin’s Traffic feature increases its efficiency. The Traffic hardware is an antenna embedded in the navigation system’s power cable. It picks up FM information about traffic conditions on the road ahead. It warns you which stretches of road are to be avoided because of backups, accidents, or roadwork.

Thanks to mobile integration and the Garmin Drive app, you can even go a step further—access available traffic cameras, checking on road congestion, or even free scouting a parking space at your destination before you get there. It’s no wonder this device is a contender for the best Garmin GPS on the market.

Moreover, maps are updated via Wi-Fi. You can even do it with your phone if you want.

The DriveSmart 55 has a 1280 x 720 touchscreen display with a crystal-clear image and a one-hour lithium battery. It can serve as a display for your car’s backup camera if you have one.

Garmin lists this product at $229.99.

TomTom GO 620

PROS
  • Free lifetime maps for most of the world

  • Learns your driving habits and predicts destinations

  • Upgraded processor chip for blazing loading speeds

  • Voice commands

CONS
  • Inferior battery life

  • Traffic updates need a Bluetooth connection via smartphone

Investigators say that one out of four traffic accidents occurs because of texting and driving. More than being a GPS navigation system for your car, the TomTom GO 620’s Bluetooth mobile integration includes the pleasant voice of the navigation unit.

This will read your text out loud so you can keep your hands on the wheel and your eyes on the road. You can then issue a call command with your voice, all while your phone is in your pocket, and the GPS device will oblige while keeping you straight on the road to your chosen destination.

The TomTom GO 620 gets acquainted with your driving habits, a feature that makes it the best GPS navigation app. After a while, it can predict where you’re most likely to go at different points in the day and automatically set you on your course.

If the artificial intelligence guesses wrong and you want to set your destination manually, simply say “Hello TomTom.” This will activate the voice-control options, which allow you to operate the device completely hands-free. You can also connect Siri and Google Now personal assistants to the TomTom Go 620.

The TomTom GO 620 is one of the best voice-activated GPS devices on the market. However, voice control isn’t the only way to set destinations and access settings. The 6″ display has a very responsive touchscreen with clear and unambiguous instructions.

The processing chips in TomTom’s navigation devices have recently been upgraded to have ample computational strength for a quick and seamless experience.

But let’s say that you’re somewhere you’ve never been before in your life. Say, Vietnam or Croatia. Every purchase of TomTom GO 620 gets you free access to maps of almost the entire world. With TomTom’s best GPS navigation, you’ll get the same free deal on speed cameras and info on traffic congestion even if you’re traveling across Europe. This information is all stored on a 16GB SD card.

TomTom GPS updates are accomplished via Wi-Fi. You don’t need to add a computer to the mix.

The TomTom GO 620 has a simple magnetic mount and is easy to set up. It powers through the car charger via a USB cable that comes in the box. The manufacturer lists this item at $279.99, so it’s really not a cheap GPS device.

Magellan RoadMate 6630T-LM

PROS
  • Best dashcam and GPS system combo

  • Alerts for speed cameras

  • Junction View provides 3D realistic view of road

CONS
  • No voice-activated navigation software

In the 16th century, Magellan was the first person to go west and reach the east. He was an explorer on a mission to find new routes and ways of circumnavigating the globe. But don’t worry, this brand of the best GPS navigation system in 2021 that carries his name will not send you halfway around the globe to reach your destination.

Even though a connection to three satellites is enough to properly pinpoint a device’s location, Magellan’s GPS system connects to six. This, combined with the most up-to-date maps and sophisticated route-calculation algorithms, means that you can depend on Magellan’s devices to help you consistently and reliably reach your destination in the quickest way possible.

Aside from being precise, the maps are also clear and easy to interpret. Magellan’s Junction View displays realistic 3D images of roads, intersections, and highway exits unambiguously. You’ll never have doubts about when and where to turn with the best GPS for your car.

The Magellan RoadMate 6630T-LM also saves you money. The PhantomALERT system gives you audio and visual notifications when approaching speed cameras. It also informs you of the speed limit of the stretch of road you are driving on.

The RoadMate 6630T-LM’s a twofer—a GPS navigation system and a dash camera in one small plastic case. A frontal camera captures the road in 1080p HD quality. The footage can serve as evidence in court in case of an accident or just a keepsake of a scenic journey. The top-rated GPS module stays in standby mode when the ignition is off and uses motion sensors to detect impacts and bumps. If your car is being tampered with, the camera starts recording and has a chance of capturing footage of the perpetrator.

This GPS navigation system comes loaded with maps of the USA, Canada, and Puerto Rico. The map updates, as well as a subscription to the Traffic congestion service, are free.

Magellan recommends a retail price of $299.99 for this combo GPS navigation system/dashcam. This is definitely a steal considering this is one of the best GPS devices in 2021.

Magellan TRX7 CS Dual Mount Trail and Street GPS Navigator

PROS
  • Best off-road GPS navigation device

  • Community-contributed trails all over the US and Canada

  • Shock and weather-resistant

  • RAM mounting system

CONS
  • Customer support is only through email

Lewis and Clark are long gone, but lots of people still seek the thrill of the great outdoors and the unique, humbling experience of nature. The main difference between the age of the pioneers and modern times is that now, every inch of the Earth has been scanned and mapped by satellites. Even if human feet have never touched a patch of soil, a camera floating way up in orbit has already taken thousands of pictures of it.

Being the best GPS for rural areas, the Magellan TRX7 comes with more than 160,000 off-highway trails in the US and Canada in its database. Many of the maps are community-contributed—another great benefit we have over the days of yore, before the invention of the internet.

That means that this device is more than a failsafe in case you get lost. With the simple push of a button, you can begin tracing your own trails on the detailed 2D and 3D topo maps that come loaded in the device. The best GPS update for these maps is free for as long as you own the system.

Create waypoints on the map with a simple button-push. You can use these waypoints to mark significant locations such as scenic views or meetup points. If you ever feel lost and you want to go back the way you came, simply press the backtrack button and the navigation system will guide you back to your starting point.

This GPS warns you as soon as you stray off course. If you’re looking for the best car GPS, look no further. This device can connect to the internet if you set up a hotspot on your phone. It also has a Social Post button that automatically tweets your location so that rescuers can find you in case of an emergency.

Driving conditions aren’t exactly ideal when you embark on off-road escapades. Stress can be put on a GPS even in a city, especially in undeveloped countries. The Magellan TRX7 has an IP67 rating for drop and shock, the highest available for water and dust resistance. It also comes with a suction cup mounting system that’s specially designed to withstand bumpy rides on rough terrain.

This best off-road GPS device for your car is listed at $549.99, which might seem like a lot. But it’s a small price to pay for safety in the wilderness.

Rand McNally IntelliRoute TND 730 LM GPS

PROS
  • Great GPS for trucks

  • Immense help with fuel economy

  • Separate mileage counters and fuel consumption gauges for tandem drivers

  • Traffic and construction work details for trip optimization

CONS
  • Can freeze up

  • Sometimes makes routing mistakes

Even when you’re on the road as much as a trucker, it’s impossible to know every stretch of road. The best truck GPS device is an indispensable tool and the best copilot a trucker can have.

Thanks to its powerful processor, the Rand McNally IntelliRoute TND 730 LM calculates the most efficient routes to any destination in mere seconds. It calculates much more than that, however.

The TND 730 LM calculates toll costs. It suggests alternate routes that don’t have toll payments. It has advanced lane guidance for tricky interstate exits, helping you prepare ahead of time. A missed exit costs time and, more importantly, gas.

It’s the best GPS for fuel economy in two more ways. The TND 730 LM compares fuel prices in different regions, which can help plan the fuel purchases on your trip. It also keeps tabs on fuel economy and calculates how much gas will be spent on a particular stretch of road. This crucial information can save you time and money.

This device can keep separate logs of mileage and fuel consumption for tandem drivers, which also helps keep things fair and efficient. It serves as a virtual dashboard, with detailed information on progress and productivity. For instance, it shows sunrise and sundown timers so drivers can plan their shifts accordingly.

In this automotive GPS review, it’s worth mentioning that the Rand McNally IntelliRoute TND 730 LM GPS leaves a “bread-crumb trail” of the current trip, on and off road. Drivers who get lost can easily retrace their steps. It can issue warnings of upcoming traffic, stormy weather, and even construction sites—all obstacles that can ruin the profitability of a trip.

It comes with maps of the USA and Canada, which get updated for as long as you own the device. All information is clearly displayed on a 7-inch screen, and the two interface color themes—“Ice” and “Carbon”—complement the map layout perfectly. Additional information, such as traffic reports, is downloaded onto the device via Wi-Fi. This service carries no subscription fee.

Efficiency is the name of the game for transportation services, and the Rand McNally IntelliRoute TND 730 LM is one of the best GPS navigation tools for achieving the goal of a perfect trip. You can upgrade your fleet for as low as $259.99 apiece.

Garmin RV 760LMT

PROS
  • Best RV GPS navigation device

  • Maps come loaded with RV points of interest

  • Helps you avoid bridges and overpasses too low for your vehicle

CONS
  • Lacks a built-in Wi-Fi feature

  • Not the most accurate voice command feature

Life on the road is addictive. Recreational vehicle owners can’t sit in one place for too long. Even when you have no place to come back to, you still want to get where you’re going. The best GPS navigation for your car can help you achieve that goal.

A carefully planned route has a much higher chance of success. In that regard, the Garmin RV 760LMT ensures smooth sailing from start to finish. Here’s how.

There are more than 20,000 RV campgrounds all over the US and Canada loaded into this Garmin GPS unit. You can filter them by the features they include, such as being pet-friendly or having electrical hookups.

If and when the unexpected happens, Garmin’s best android GPS unit is also there as a safety net: More than 14,000 road assistance services are loaded into the map system. The maps are also densely dotted with point-of-interest locations such as national parks, historical landmarks, and other scenic destinations. Points of lesser interest, such as traffic jams, are also marked for easy and timely evasive maneuvers.

If you enter your RV’s height, weight, length, and width, the Garmin RV 760LMT will automatically disqualify incompatible roads—those with bridges and overpasses that are too low for your vehicle, for example.

Another feature that makes it one of the best GPS navigation tools is that it reads information and instructions in a friendly, calm voice. The Garmin Real Directions and Real Voice software instructs you in a natural way, using clearly visible landmarks such as gas stations and restaurants as reference.

The Up Ahead and Active Lane Guidance features make sure you navigate tricky interchanges and exits with ease. When approaching an exit, the display changes to a 3D viewing mode with clearly visible lane instructions.

The device contains a one-hour lithium-ion battery, useful for when you need the cigarette port for something else. The update is done via Wi-Fi and it’s free for as long as the device is operational.

You can get this device for just under $400, which can be pretty pricey.

TomTom Rider 550

PROS
  • Best bike GPS navigation device

  • Maps preloaded with challenging and scenic trails

  • One-tap route sharing to your riding buddies

  • Lifetime free updates on TomTom world maps

CONS
  • Audio quality could be better

Bikers know better than anyone that the journey is more important than the destination. Sure, you can just hop onto a freeway and get where you’re going fast and easy. But that’s not why we ride bikes.

The TomTom Rider Motorcycle GPS seems to have this in mind when suggesting roads to take. It comes loaded with the world’s most thrilling and captivating riding routes: windy, hilly roads laced with hairpin turns and captivating sights, ocean-side tracks, and never-ending rural plains.

When you decide your route, sharing it with your fellow riders is instantaneous via Wi-Fi. That makes sure your entire gang is on the same page and all that’s left is to ride into the sunrise. All of the rides have an ETA and difficulty rating based on the terrain. This is handy for picking a route that everyone is comfortable with.

Unlike the car version, a motorcycle GPS doesn’t have a nice home in the warm and dry interior. Like the rider, it’s exposed to the rough elements that come with the open road. That’s why TomTom put extra effort into making this unit durable.

It’s very rugged and has metallic edges, making it highly water and drop-resistant. Of course, no piece of electronics is fully waterproof. So, don’t expect you can recover it from a lake. But if the bike’s at the bottom of a lake, the GPS would be the least of your worries, right?

TomTom’s best GPS navigation tool easily and securely attaches to the handlebar. It works in both landscape and portrait mode, so you can choose which orientation is suitable for specific rides and specific bikes.

The TomTom Rider 550 has a 4.3-inch smart screen. What’s smart about it is that it is not only glove-friendly, which is crucial for bike riders. It also has different modes for summer and winter gloves.

The unit comes with regional maps of countries you may not even have heard of. Updates are free via Wi-Fi. It can connect to your smartphone via Bluetooth for a completely hands-free experience.

This best GPS road buddy can be yours for just under $400.

List of GPS Navigation Features—A Buyer’s Guide

  • Map database

You’d be hard-pressed to find a GPS navigation system that does not come with a detailed map of the United States. If you plan to use it only domestically, you’ll be all set with almost any product on the market, at least as far as maps go. Garmin products usually include a map of Canada, while TomTom devices come with a much richer library. Most manufacturers of the best GPS tools let you download extra maps later, but there is often a fee.

  • Map updates

You’ll often find a “lifetime” guarantee of free map updates. What this actually means is that the company will update the maps four times a year for products that are still under service. Older models are often excluded. Map updates are usually made via Wi-Fi if the device is capable of connecting to the internet, or via specialized software that comes with the product.

  • Display

The size of the display makes a big difference in the price of the unit. The screen is usually between five and seven inches measured diagonally. The touchscreen interface on the best car GPS should be responsive and the buttons should be large to minimize the effort of setting your destination.

  • Traffic

Nobody ever said, “Let’s spend two hours sitting in a metal box that moves 20 feet every 30 minutes.” Most GPS devices have a Traffic feature that alerts you of congestion and jams in a timely manner and offers alternate routes to evade them. This saves time and money. It even helps solve congestion problems for other drivers as it directs customers to alternate routes. Some top-rated GPS devices get traffic information from an FM antenna embedded into the power cable, while others get it via Wi-Fi.

  • Speed alerts

GPS navigation systems should alert you of speed limits, a useful feature especially when traveling in foreign countries. It should also issue timely warnings of approaching speed cameras.

  • Clear lane information

A great way to ruin your trip is to miss a highway exit. A good auto GPS will provide detailed and timely information about lane changes and exits, as well as a 3D view of junctions.

  • Wi-Fi connectivity

A Wi-Fi connection allows for quick and easy map and software updates. Moreover, many of the advanced features of the market’s best GPS navigation for Android systems require an internet connection.

  • Points of interest

The best part of traveling to places you’ve never been to is checking out the sights and trying the local delicacies. Your GPS navigation system can serve as a surrogate tour guide, with points of interest such as restaurants and historical sights already marked on the map. Garmin models have access to FourSquare databases with reviews of attractions.

  • Predictive route calculation

Every day at 7 a.m. you start your commute to work; your GPS should know that. There’s no need to map the route manually each morning. The best GPS navigation systems employ artificial intelligence to learn your driving habits and set destinations automatically.

  • Voice commands

All driving gear should be hands-free if possible. This way, you can keep your hands on the wheel and your eyes on the road, greatly increasing overall safety. Some devices can connect to assistants like Alexa and Google, making your GPS navigation system even smarter.

  • Internal battery

GPS navigation systems usually have an internal battery with a life of an hour or so. This can be very helpful in situations when you get stranded or need to use the car’s electrical port for another device.

  • Price

You can get a budget GPS unit with all of the most important features, like free map updates and traffic prediction, for less than $200. GPS navigation specialized for a certain type of vehicle, such as an RV or a motorcycle, can cost up to $500.

Summary

In this age of smartphones that can do everything for us, you probably wonder why you should get a dedicated car GPS. Aren’t phones enough?

The problem is that smartphones are multi-purpose tools, and they can’t compare to a dedicated tool if we look just at the primary purpose. A dedicated device has better GPS sensors. Moreover, it’s less prone to outside interference, which is very common in large cities with high radio waves pollution.

All in all, if you find the right GPS navigation tool for your needs, it is definitely worth every penny. While you’re at it, you might as well get the best GPS tracker for your car as well.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

What is the best GPS navigation for a car?

The best GPS brands are Garmin, TomTom, Magellan, Rand, etc. Additionally, when it comes to specific models, we can recommend one of the following: Garmin RV 760LMT, Garmin Drive 52, Rand TND 730 LM, Magellan TRX7, Magellan RoadMate 6630T-LM, and TomTom GO 620. Whichever you decide, you will not be disappointed. They all feature great GPS sensors and many other useful options.

What is the best affordable GPS?

When it comes to GPS, buying an entry-level model doesn’t mean you will get less precise GPS. It only means you will have fewer special features and options. Going for an economy model from a trusted brand is a good call for people who want a simple GPS. There are several affordable options on the market, and most of them are under $100: Garmin Drive 51/52, Garmin Drive 50/40, Leroux 7-inch GPS, TomTom GoBasic, and TomTom Go Comfort.

How do I choose a GPS?

When choosing a dedicated GPS, you first have to consider your needs and your budget. If you have enough room on your dashboard to fit a larger screen, always go bigger. Keep in mind, though, that the device shouldn’t block your vision. You would want detailed and regularly updated maps. Also, if you live in a big city, traffic info will come in handy.

Is buying a GPS worth it?

The answer to this million-dollar question is yes. We often rely on our phones, but they are multi-purpose devices. That means that they were designed with compromise in mind—doing a little bit of everything. That makes them more prone to failure and less reliable than a device that is dedicated to performing only one function. Furthermore, dedicated devices have better GPS sensors. They will acquire satellites quicker and won’t lose connection.

How much does a GPS cost?

As with any product, their prices can vary a lot. You can get an affordable but reliable device for under $100 but also pay more than $600 for a device that combines GPS with advanced features and multimedia. Fortunately, having a lower price does not mean that the primary function of the GPS is compromised. Even the cheaper GPS devices provide excellent signal and great maps.

Is Garmin or TomTom better?

It’s hard to say which one is better. They are both world-famous companies with a long tradition, good quality products, and a wide range of solutions for every need. Depending on the price, they come with different features but provide excellent functionality even in the entry-level models.

We can say that Garmin has a better selection of POI (Places of Interest), and TomTom has better route customization, but the differences are barely noticeable. So, it all comes down to personal preference when deciding which is the best GPS navigation for you.

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