A Buyer's Guide on the GPS

Quick Navigation: Getting Started - Types - Features - Brands

Anyone that needs directions or has a difficult time reading maps should invest in a GPS. This device allows the user to enter their destination and receive turn-by-turn directions. A GPS plans the route and shows the user's progression along the route. In most cases, these devices allow the user to set routing preferences such as routes without tolls, shortest distance, and fastest time. A GPS can also be used to quickly locate different points of interest such as nearest gas stations, hotels, restaurants, ATMs, and tourist attractions. These devices are ideal for any driver, pedestrian, or bicyclist.

Getting started

Prior to purchasing a GPS, the user should consider what features are important for everyday use. It is also important to understand how often the user will need the device. More importantly, when selecting a GPS, find out how well the device works. The best models are easy to use and easy to read.

For drivers or commuters that generally use the same route for running errands or going to work, a GPS may not be a useful device. However, for those that use different routes and experience severe traffic congestion; a GPS can help avoid stressful traffic congestion and provide a clear route. This device is most useful for drivers or commuters that require directions and traffic assistance on a daily basis.

For drivers that have a newer car, a GPS may be built-in. If this is the case, the amount of daily use does not affect purchasing a portable device. However, for drivers that visit different places frequently or rent cars, a portable GPS may be an ideal investment. These devices can travel with the user and are helpful for navigating new places.

A GPS is generally equipped with:

  • MP3 Player
  • Trip Computer
  • FM Transmitter
  • Bluetooth Technology
  • Voice Command
  • Live Traffic Information
  • Weather

When using a GPS, check local laws to ensure that restrictions are not placed on certain devices. Some states put a restriction on mounting a GPS to the windshield. If this is the case, use a device that sticks to the dashboard or sits on the dashboard.

All portable GPS are equipped with a rechargeable battery. For anyone that uses the device for walking or cycling, choose a device that will work for up to three hours on a single charge. All devices include a car plug for the vehicle’s 12-volt outlet. Some devices are charged via a computer's USB port, but this connection is generally not standard.

A portable GPS can range in size. Some devices are the size of a wallet and others are as large as a tablet. In most cases, a 3.5-inch diagonal screen is perfect for viewing directions. The screen on these devices can range from a 4 inch wide screen to a 7-inch screen. The size of the screen depends on the user’s individual needs.

Types

There are several different types of GPS devices that include:

  • Portable Navigation Systems
  • Aftermarket In-Dash Systems
  • Cell-Phone-Based Navigation
  • GPS Compatible Smart Phones
  • Built-In Factory Systems
  • Telematics Systems
  • GPS Receivers For Computers

There is a GPS available for the user's specific needs and budget.

Features

Spoken Street Names. This feature verbally tells the user to turn onto a route number, street, or highway by speaking its proper name.

Real-Time Traffic Reports. The device has current traffic information that alerts the user to potential issues or traffic slowdowns. In most cases, this allows the user to find an alternate route.

Dynamic Search and Predictive Data Entry. Predictive data entry makes entering information faster. The device’s keyboard highlights letters that help the user complete a recognized word or name. Most GPS’ models include a dynamic search function as well. This feature helps the user narrow down potential addresses.

Other features include:

  • Detour Feature
  • Routing Options
  • Reality View
  • Lane Assistance
  • Mounts and Mounting
  • Video Player
  • Photo Viewer
  • Foreign Languages

Brands

Below are 5 of the more popular GPS brands:

  • Garmin: this company is the biggest selling brand. Garmin was founded in 1989 and has consistently scored top ratings for their devices.
  • Magellan: developed the first widely available GPS receiver in 1989. The company creates portable devices for drivers, hikers, and bicyclist. This company is also the supplier of the GPS devices in Hertz rental cars.
  • Mio: this company is not as dominant as others in the marketplace but Mio is a well-known brand that offers several devices that fit all budgets.
  • Nextar: is somewhat new to the portable GPS marketplace; however, Nextar sales are skyrocketing. The price for these devices is relatively low and they can be purchased anywhere from a drug store to an electronics retailer.
  • TomTom: this company is the world's largest GPS provider. TomTom has sold their devices online and in over 30 countries and online. For the most part, TomTom devices are among the easiest to use.