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Old 11th April 2017, 11:10 AM   #1
Bob001
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Tell me about portable auto GPS

I'm looking for a portable (as opposed to permanently mounted) auto GPS unit at the lower end of the price scale just to travel in unfamiliar areas. It looks like the major manufacturers are Garmin, Magellan and TomTom. Are any brands better or worse than others? Are there features worth paying more for? Etc.
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Old 11th April 2017, 11:23 AM   #2
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Originally Posted by Bob001 View Post
I'm looking for a portable (as opposed to permanently mounted) auto GPS unit at the lower end of the price scale just to travel in unfamiliar areas. It looks like the major manufacturers are Garmin, Magellan and TomTom. Are any brands better or worse than others? Are there features worth paying more for? Etc.
Do you have a Smartphone? Get Wayz

Otherwise, we've had at TomTom for years and have been very satified. Map updates are a must if you plan on keeping it for anything more than a year. Traffic alerts was worth it to me as I live on the East Coast and traffic problems are expected.
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Old 11th April 2017, 12:08 PM   #3
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Google Maps on my Android phone, velcroed to the dash, I find to be just as good as the built-in system in my wife's car. Other than screen size, of course. I'm not sure why anyone would buy a standalone GPS these days.
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Old 11th April 2017, 12:21 PM   #4
Bob001
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Originally Posted by Trebuchet View Post
Google Maps on my Android phone, velcroed to the dash, I find to be just as good as the built-in system in my wife's car. Other than screen size, of course. I'm not sure why anyone would buy a standalone GPS these days.
That one I can answer. There are still parts of the country that lack cell service, and those are the places where you'd be most likely to get lost. Some people still use basic phones without paying for data plans. And of course, there's the old argument against putting all your eggs in one basket; if you keep the GPS gadget in your car, it doesn't matter whether your cell is charged, has a signal, has the right app, etc.

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Old 11th April 2017, 12:23 PM   #5
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Another vote for TomTom. Had the same unit, without updates, for 8 years. Still kickin', still use it. Keep it in the glovebox and forget about it until, maybe once every couple of months I use it.

It just works.
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Old 11th April 2017, 07:53 PM   #6
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Originally Posted by Bob001 View Post
That one I can answer. There are still parts of the country that lack cell service, and those are the places where you'd be most likely to get lost. Some people still use basic phones without paying for data plans. And of course, there's the old argument against putting all your eggs in one basket; if you keep the GPS gadget in your car, it doesn't matter whether your cell is charged, has a signal, has the right app, etc.
You can download areas of Google Maps to your phone so it is usable without a data signal.
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Old 12th April 2017, 03:31 AM   #7
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"Here" on a smartphone has been what I've used.
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Old 12th April 2017, 09:03 AM   #8
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Originally Posted by Trebuchet View Post
Google Maps on my Android phone, velcroed to the dash, I find to be just as good as the built-in system in my wife's car. Other than screen size, of course. I'm not sure why anyone would buy a standalone GPS these days.


Because the interface on my Garmin is a lot better than Google Maps on my phone, and Garmin doesn't annoy me by trying to sell me stuff as I drive past stores.
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Old 12th April 2017, 09:12 AM   #9
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I mount my Garmin on a stand on the dashboard, in front of the steering wheel and thus have a heads-up display. I also can alternate between the 3D view in town and the 2D on the highway. Then, there's the larger screen, traffic displays, and various information I can put up. While driving from Michigan to San Diego, for instance, I liked having the altitude reading right in front of me. My wife, who has virtually no sense of direction, likes having the compass heading displayed.

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Old 12th April 2017, 09:58 AM   #10
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Google is online, true .. but that means it can navigate you around jams .. quite handy sometimes. There are also some nice offline maps for Android like Maps.me (and I guess tons of others) .. I don't see any advantage to specialized device these days either.
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Old 12th April 2017, 10:10 AM   #11
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Rand McNally makes one that I pick up free at AAA every year. They update it annually, and it's pretty accurate.

I can look ahead as far as I want to. Moving between screens is almost instantaneous and you can't beat the screen size! It's like 10 inches x 13 inches or so. Huge!

It's thin, so it stores nicely out of sight either under or along side my seat, but not so small that I worry about losing it. Thieves really don't care about it either.

The streets around me have all these markers that correspond to symbols on the screen, so I know pretty much exactly where I am at all times. Plus - no batteries!

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Old 12th April 2017, 11:58 AM   #12
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Originally Posted by Horatius View Post
Because the interface on my Garmin is a lot better than Google Maps on my phone, and Garmin doesn't annoy me by trying to sell me stuff as I drive past stores.
Google Maps doesn't annoy me by trying to sell me stuff as I drive past stores. If you investigate deeply you may find that your carrier is doing it, on Virgin Mobile and Google Fi I've never seen an ad on any screen besides web pages or apps that told me up front that I'd see ads. The live traffic has saved me from being very late for business appointments more times than I can count is the last two years.

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Old 12th April 2017, 12:45 PM   #13
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Originally Posted by Bob001 View Post
I'm looking for a portable (as opposed to permanently mounted) auto GPS unit at the lower end of the price scale just to travel in unfamiliar areas. It looks like the major manufacturers are Garmin, Magellan and TomTom. Are any brands better or worse than others? Are there features worth paying more for? Etc.
Smartphone.

Hans
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Old 12th April 2017, 01:01 PM   #14
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I had a Tomtom for several years, it was OK - better than the competition and relatively reliable. If you are worried about cell coverage rather than GPS coverage, I'd pick the Tomtom.

I ended up giving it to my son because my new Mercedes has a built in satnav, though I generally use the Waze app on my phone.
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Old 12th April 2017, 02:27 PM   #15
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We have an old Garmin with lifetime updates. It is one of their smaller units and I can recommend it as a good GPS unit. My wife finds it easy to use and follow. I haven't used it in years, but I keep it updated for her.

We typically use Apple's Maps app. The traffic aspect is handy even if I know where I am going. Just last weekend we avoided a major backup by taking some backroads. I'm not certain it saved us time, but it was a much more relaxing route and I got home on time.

In my truck I replaced the old cassette only stereo with a CarPlay unit and it works great with Maps and gives you a very large screen to boot.

I'm not sure how much beyond cell coverage you can venture with Maps, if that is an issue.

I really don't like Google Maps as much as iPhone Maps. It seems slower.
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Old 12th April 2017, 02:33 PM   #16
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Originally Posted by Dr. Keith View Post
In my truck I replaced the old cassette only stereo with a CarPlay unit and it works great with Maps and gives you a very large screen to boot.
Uh, how old is that truck?



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Old 12th April 2017, 02:48 PM   #17
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Originally Posted by Beady View Post
Uh, how old is that truck?



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It's a MY2000, and now that I think of it, the problem wasn't cassette only, because that could be fixed with an adapter, it was CD only. No aux input and no cassette. So no way to play from my phone without pulling it out and trying to rig up an aux-in via some factory input.

Thanks for the catch!
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Old 12th April 2017, 06:20 PM   #18
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Garmin Nuvi with lifetime maps and traffic. I think I paid about $160 five years ago. I haven't seen a need to upgrade to a newer unit.

It works well, is easy to use and program despite minor glitches Occasionally has map errors, but most of them are related to road changes between updates.

Also, like Beady, I enjoy seeing elevation.

(Despite all this, I still keep a magnetic compass mounted in my vehicle. It's surprising how often I look at it.)

My SO has a Toyota Prius with built-in GPS. We refer to it occasionally, but it's not as convenient nor can it be updated without cost, both in money and convenience. In fact, we put the portable GPS in her car if we use that vehicle for longer trips.

One thing I have done is not mount the unit on the windshield, but put it on a mount on the lower left side the dashboard. It's easier to see, and does not obscure the view of the road.

Waze works well for traffic, but on my phone it is a battery-hog. If you're going to use it for more than a few minutes, put it on a charger.
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Old 12th April 2017, 06:46 PM   #19
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I've had Garmin and Tom Tom, and both worked well.

Make sure you get lifetime maps. The cost of continual updates can be high.
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Old 13th April 2017, 12:32 PM   #20
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Originally Posted by Spock Jenkins View Post
Rand McNally makes one that I pick up free at AAA every year. They update it annually, and it's pretty accurate.

..
Does that require AAA membership..

Ive looked at their membership fees, and I fail to see how anyone justifies it unless they are on the road virtually constantly...
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Old 13th April 2017, 12:42 PM   #21
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Originally Posted by Skeptical Greg View Post
Does that require AAA membership..

Ive looked at their membership fees, and I fail to see how anyone justifies it unless they are on the road virtually constantly...
It's like 50 or 70 per year (wife paid this year - I don't recall). You don't have to have their insurance. Free maps, trip planning help, free tows, vehicle lockout, etc.

If I get towed once, I've paid for the service. We planned a big road trip to the western US last year, and received maps of every state, plus regional maps - all highlighted with our route. Also a page by page travel plan highlighted by route. No cost beyond the membership fee. Used to be better discounts too for hotels, etc. but the internet kind of leveled that playing field.

I realize I can follow the blue dot on my phone plus map the whole route. But I'm kind of old fashioned. I like a nice paper map to follow.
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Old 15th April 2017, 12:43 PM   #22
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I used to work for a state wide delivery company, lower MI, USA. When you are travelling all over to numerous locations, you will get incorrect hits from time to time.

My supervisor was also a delivery person and had been doing the job for many years. He went through several GPS units. He found the Garmin models to be much more reliable and gave fewer bad results. For occasional use by the average person, most any major brand would probably do but professional advise says to stick with Garmin.
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Old 17th April 2017, 04:09 PM   #23
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I have five vehicles with Garmen Nuvi. They range in age from 2 to 5 years old. I never have any trouble with them and the user interface is simple. Not many bells and whistles but all I really want is to get to the destination.
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Old 17th April 2017, 04:53 PM   #24
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Originally Posted by Dr. Keith View Post
It's a MY2000, and now that I think of it, the problem wasn't cassette only, because that could be fixed with an adapter
Some of 'em. I have a VW in that configuration, but it hates cassette adapters (at least the ones I've tried). I guess they don't fake a tape closely enough. When I put it in, it only plays for a few seconds, then thinks it needs to play the other side and whirs and clunk-clunks. Play another 3-4 seconds, then repeat. Ugh.

Quote:
So no way to play from my phone without pulling it out and trying to rig up an aux-in via some factory input.
I've used the FM retransmitters as well. Sometimes they work okay. If you're in a big city though (and have strong stations everywhere on the dial), may not work well.
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Old 17th April 2017, 08:37 PM   #25
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Bob001,

What have you decided to do about your GPS situation?
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Old 21st April 2017, 08:15 AM   #26
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I had an early Garmin. Cost of updates was an annoyance. Speed of satellite acquisition at device startup was bad, but that was probably just the problem of being an early model. I liked the basic features and interface.

I bought a 2010 Prius with a built in map device. I didn't want it, but it came with the model I wanted. Cost of updates is ridiculous from Toyota, and my local area now diverges from the car map bigly.

Going forward I will just do cell phone, but I do understand issue if you need to be out of cell range. I like being able to verbally request directions using the phone. I do find some device to hold the phone in a convenient location to be very helpful, if not essential. If you are driving a vehicle with no place to put the phone in an easily viewed location, it can be dangerous to look away.

Good luck.

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Old 21st April 2017, 09:47 AM   #27
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If you're in a familiar location the cell phone option is adequate for final guidance. If not a Garmin Nuvi is essential. There is a lot more information available on the Nuvi than on a Cell Phone app. Either will work depending on your needs. Also, it depends on your data limit. I have used Garmin's apps since the days if the puck with computer interface. It all works pretty well. Paper maps work too. I simply depends on your needs.
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Old 21st April 2017, 09:50 AM   #28
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All integral vehicle mounted GPS updates are expensive. They are generally a rip off.
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Old 21st April 2017, 10:25 AM   #29
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Does cellphone navigation offer the same options as my Garmin Nuvi? Things like...

Avoid tollroads.
Avoid highways.
Avoid unpaved roads.
Plot a detour around heavy traffic.
Choose a route that gets me there the fastest.
Choose a route that is the shortest distance.
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Old 21st April 2017, 07:01 PM   #30
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Originally Posted by William Parcher View Post
Does cellphone navigation offer the same options as my Garmin Nuvi? Things like...

Avoid tollroads.
Avoid highways.
Avoid unpaved roads.
Plot a detour around heavy traffic.
Choose a route that gets me there the fastest.
Choose a route that is the shortest distance.
Yep. Waze does all of that.
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Old 22nd April 2017, 03:52 AM   #31
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I've had Garmin, Tom Tom (including their Smart phone app) and a number of cheap non updatable models, all have done the job and the Garmin and Tom Tom offerings have always been at the upper end of what's avaliable at the time. I wasn't too impressed with Google Maps when I first started using it as it left me stranded a couple of times due to lack a of data connection, but now you can download areas to offline storage I'm no longer having a problem with it. My last paid for sat nav app wouldn't let me move it to my new phone, that was two phones ago and I've been using Maps ever since. I don't get adverts either FWIW.
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Old 22nd April 2017, 02:19 PM   #32
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Additional Google Maps advantages:
On-the way search: Halfway to your destination and running out of gas in an unfamiliar town? Just say "Ok, Google: Gas Station". Maps will then highlight gas stations near your current route.

Mass transit integration: Want to take the subway today? Use Maps the same as if you were driving.

No prep necessary (for civilized areas, even foreign ones): Maps is able to download data for foreign cities without needing to preload any maps or use a computer. Just find a Starbucks or equivalent when you get there and use your phone's wifi (hotel wifi works, too).
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Old 22nd April 2017, 03:13 PM   #33
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Originally Posted by GodMark2 View Post
Additional Google Maps advantages:
On-the way search: Halfway to your destination and running out of gas in an unfamiliar town? Just say "Ok, Google: Gas Station". Maps will then highlight gas stations near your current route.

Mass transit integration: Want to take the subway today? Use Maps the same as if you were driving.

No prep necessary (for civilized areas, even foreign ones): Maps is able to download data for foreign cities without needing to preload any maps or use a computer. Just find a Starbucks or equivalent when you get there and use your phone's wifi (hotel wifi works, too).
My Garmin GPS also tells me this, as will GasBuddy -- although for the latter I need a wifi connection because my phone does not act as a hotspot. The advantage of GasBuddy is that it lists prices, so that if I'm willing to drive a mile or so away from a freeway or major route, I can save maybe 40 or more cents per gallon.

On the other hand, a GPS doesn't let me search 100 miles radius of the current location to find some place interesting. A map does. So I still use paper maps, especially if I am "nomading," rather than going from one place specifically to another.

My last trip was 44 days across the US and back, using both GPS and maps for navigation and places to see.
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Old 22nd April 2017, 03:19 PM   #34
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The Garmin Nuvi has lifetime maps and traffic. I've used mine, as well as its predecessor all over the US, Canada, and Mexico. Allows me to switch from MPH to KPH easily, and in Montreal, even talked in English and displayed the signs in French -- quite useful.
It even blue-tooths with my phone, and accepts voice commands (Which is sometimes disconcerting when the radio guys say a trigger word)

The only gripe about it is here in Texas, if you forget to turn it off, the heat can kill it. It does have overheat protection, which is pretty reliable, although I did manage to brick one last year that way...
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Old 23rd April 2017, 01:09 AM   #35
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Originally Posted by xterra View Post
My Garmin GPS also tells me this, as will GasBuddy -- although for the latter I need a wifi connection because my phone does not act as a hotspot. The advantage of GasBuddy is that it lists prices, so that if I'm willing to drive a mile or so away from a freeway or major route, I can save maybe 40 or more cents per gallon.

On the other hand, a GPS doesn't let me search 100 miles radius of the current location to find some place interesting. A map does. So I still use paper maps, especially if I am "nomading," rather than going from one place specifically to another.

My last trip was 44 days across the US and back, using both GPS and maps for navigation and places to see.
Well, my last Garmin didn't have features like that, but it was a backpacking model, not a car nav. It was able to use AA batteries, had about a 30-hour life, and defaulted to pretty good topo maps. Sadly, "waterproof" isn't the same as "Oregonproof".
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Old 23rd April 2017, 03:14 AM   #36
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Waze searches for fuel along your route too, but it's not nearly as convenient as just saying "hey, gas".
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Old 24th April 2017, 12:10 AM   #37
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I have a Windows Phone (stop laughing ! ) and the Maps application is excellent IMO.

I can download detailed maps for countries or parts of countries and get point to point guidance without requiring any data access at any time and without any adverts for anything.

It's all the GPS I'll need
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Old 24th April 2017, 12:13 AM   #38
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Originally Posted by William Parcher View Post
Does cellphone navigation offer the same options as my Garmin Nuvi? Things like...

Avoid tollroads.
Avoid highways.
Avoid unpaved roads.
Plot a detour around heavy traffic.
Choose a route that gets me there the fastest.
Choose a route that is the shortest distance.
Yes, but for the highlighted bit you need data access. I'm with "3" (Hutchinson Telecom) in the UK which means that I have my "at home" data in most European countries and in the US, Australia and so on so in those countries I also have detour planning.

While I was in South Africa the last two weeks I didn't have it but fortunately traffic was so light that it wasn't an issue.
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