These days it seems everyone is buying a GPS unit for their vehicle - but do you need one, and if so, which one is right for you? Our GPS buying guide will help you decide.
Do I need GPS?
Not everyone requires a GPS device for their car, motorcycle or other vehicle to get them from A to B. If the majority of your driving is around areas you are already very familiar with, then you won’t get that much benefit out of one. GPS is intended mainly for drivers who require directions with at least moderate frequency.
Do you do most of your driving in the city CBD? If so, GPS may not be worth it. Many GPS units struggle in high-rise areas, although some are better than others - so make sure you read expert reviews of the latest devices before purchasing.
Then there is the issue of tech-savviness. If you are at least somewhat proficient with gadgets then you will be able to use most GPS devices with ease. If, however, you struggle to program your 20-year-old VCR, then you may not be the ideal candidate (let’s not forget that everything seems ten times more frustrating when you’re in the car or in heavy traffic).
Last but not least, price is also a consideration. GPS units cost upwards of around $100 for the most basic units, all the way up to several hundred dollars. So if you’re happy with your old street directory and generally stick to your local area, consider whether it’s worth investing in GPS.
GPS devices come in three flavours: dashboard, portable and handheld. Dashboard units are the ones that are incorporated into the vehicle’s actual dash - usually during the manufacturing process, though they can also be installed later. Dashboard GPS units tend to be more expensive, however they look neater than the portable kind and tend to work better with other devices installed in the car. Maps for these units are usually stored on either SD card or hard drive.
Portable GPS devices meanwhile can be attached to the interior of your vehicle via suction cups and are powered by a car charger. They are cheaper than the integrated dashboard models and are usually either SD card or flash memory-based.
Last but not least, GPS is also available on handheld devices, both standalone units like the Nokia 6110 Navigator as well as smartphone-type devices such as the iPhone. These tend to be smaller and less powerful than the two types mentioned above.
Generally with GPS units, bigger screens are better, given that you’ll be reading from the screen in the car. Portable devices usually have either a 3.5-inch or 4.3-inch widescreen, which will of course cost you more.
Many devices today offer voice navigation as well as on-screen instructions, though some entry-level models will only provide on-screen instructions. Be careful with GPS units offering voice navigation, however - some overseas software struggles with New Zealand pronunciations so it’s a good idea to listen to a demonstration before you buy.
It’s important to update your map information regularly to account for any road changes.
Other GPS features
Some of the more expensive units offer other features, which aren’t really necessary to the function of getting you from A to B, but can be a nice add-on. These features include Bluetooth, MP3 playback and more.
Best GPS devices
There are several manufacturers of quality devices, including Garmin GPS units (pictured here is the Garmin Nuvi 760). Also worthy of consideration is Navman and TomTom GPS devices, especially the ever-popular TomTom ONE and TomTom GO units.