Last updated December 11, 2008
Quite often, I am asked to recommend a GPS receiver. The answer typically is, it depends -- primarily upon the price you can pay and the features you want. So here is an auto GPS buyers guide that runs the gamut, identifying some key features along the way. I'll make a recommendation in each price category, based upon value, feature set and user reviews.
A few notes first:
- I'll admit a bias towards Garmin. They manufacturer quality units with intuitive interfaces. Many of the models listed below are Garmin nuvis. You may find this Garmin nuvi feature comparison chart useful.
- All the receivers listed below have a color touch screen interface and give voice-prompted turn-by-turn directions.
- These lists of features worth paying extra for and features you don't need may prove helpful.
- Prices on GPS receivers are dropping rapidly. The prices listed below are current as of the last update of this post. Keep an eye on our companion GPS Deals site for some great values.
- Finally, unless otherwise indicated, the links go to auto GPS reviews here at GPS Tracklog, where you'll find several places to track down each model's current low price from trusted vendors.
The Garmin nuvi 200 has maps of the entire U.S., except for Alaska. Like all the nuvis, the 200 has around 6 million points of interest (POIs).
The nuvi 200's retail price is $399.99, but as of this posting it can be
found for around $140.
Mid-range auto GPS receivers
The nuvi 255W has maps of the entire U.S. and Canada, a 4.3" wide screen and adds quite a few features not found on the early 200 series models, including speed limit display. It also has text-to-speech, so you'll hear "drive one-half mile, then turn left on Oak Street," instead of just "drive one-half mile, then turn left."
As of this posting the nuvi 255W can be found for around $215.
- An even newer model, the Garmin nuvi 265WT adds lifetime traffic and Bluetooth for hands free cell phone use
It gets a little more complicated at this end of the spectrum, because Garmin has two high-end lines, and the key features don't overlap. Both of the units below will give you a 4.3" screen, multi-destination routing and an integrated FM transmitter that sends MP3s, Bluetooth-enabled cell phone calls, audio books and spoken turn-by-turn directions to the vehicle's speakers. So here are our two choices, and the features that you'll find on one and not the other...
- Lane assist - an extremely helpful feature
- 3-D buildings - eye candy, but not that helpful
- Lifetime NAVTEQ traffic - while it is ad-supported, that's not as bad as it sounds (read our nuvi 765T review for details)
- Bluetooth that works better than on any other unit I have tested
- Currently priced at around $490
- Voice recognition - the best voice command system of any GPS on the market
- MSN Direct - live traffic, weather, fuel prices and more
- A brand new release, the nuvi 880 is yet to be discounted much; currently available for around $610
- The Garmin nuvi 850 drops Bluetooth and the MSN Direct receiver (which can be added on later) from the 880's feature set; currently about $485.
- The Garmin nuvi 755T gives you all of the nuvi 765T features described above except for Bluetooth. Currently available for under $400
- The TomTom GO 730 offers more customization options, with only a slightly more complicated interface than a Garmin nuvi. As of this update, the 730 goes for around $335.
Additional auto GPS reviews