Many people who shop for a portable in-car GPS navigator – especially first-time buyers – don't know where to begin. If you find yourself asking: What features are available? What do I need? What would be nice to have? What's a good value? You are not alone.
You can rely on our product reviews to help you find the right GPS unit, but the price and feature comparison chart below will help you understand the marketplace and become a more savvy and confident shopper.
As you can see within the chart below, more money often gets you a larger screen. Virtually all current navigators are controlled by a touchscreen, rather than buttons.
Modern high-sensitivity receivers provide superior signal reception in places where it may be challenging to pick up a satellite signal, such as amid skyscrapers, or in heavily forested or steep terrain. Don't settle for less. High-sensitivity receivers are available on some budget models.
Virtually all in-car GPS receivers offer audible directions. One difference between budget and higher-end models: a budget model may instruct you to "turn right, 100 yards"; while a higher-end model with text-to-speech would provide the more precise and sure instruction by naming the street: "turn right onto West Elm Street, 100 yards."
Hands-free Calling with Bluetooth
An in-car GPS unit can serve as the speaker, microphone and touchscreen display for your compatible, Bluetooth-enabled mobile phone. Hands-free calling is a great feature, and if it's important to you, make sure it's on your "must have" feature list.
Traffic Detection and Avoidance
Traffic detection and avoidance is being built into in-car GPS, or it may be available as an add-on receiver/accessory. If traffic delays are common in your region, consider spending enough to get this feature. It could save you a lot of time.
MP3 and/or Audio Book Player
MP3 players built into GPS navigators aren't nearly good enough to make you give up your iPod, but they are available.
These are the fundamental features to consider as you shop for in-car GPS, but there are more, and each manufacturer and model has strengths and weaknesses we'll be discussing within our reviews.
In-Car GPS Price / Feature Chart
|About $150||About $250||About $300+|
|Screen Size||3"W x 2"H-plus||4"W x 3"H-plus||4"W x 3"H-plus|
|Resolution||320 x 240 pixels||480 x 270 pixels||480 x 270 pixels|
|Accepts Data Cards||Usually||Yes||Yes|
|3D Map View||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Hands-free calling Bluetooth||No||Maybe||Yes|
|Traffic Alert & Avoidance||No||Maybe||Yes|
|Audio Book Player||No||No||Maybe|
|Navigation Without Signal||No||No||Maybe|
|Voice Address Input||No||No||Maybe|