Best Car GPS 2017 – Reviews & Buying Guide

The Global Positioning System, or GPS for short, is one of the best inventions humanity’s ever created. Using multiple satellites located in outer space, the system is able to accurately and quickly determine any given position. Operated by the United States Air Force, the system of satellites was first only used for military purposes. Realizing its full potential however, the U.S. Congress authorized its modernization in the year 2000, after which it became a widespread gadget in lots of industries. Today, life without a GPS unit is unimaginable for many.

Being able to quickly find out where you are, locate where you need to go and browse through almost every street on the planet is extremely valuable to say the least. Let’s say you’re visiting a country or a state you’ve never been to before. In the olden days, you had two options. The first one is pretty obvious. You had to ask for directions from locals, stopping every couple of minutes or so. The second was better, but it involved using large printed maps. Anyone who’s ever used one knows how difficult it is to navigate in a city like that, let alone drive at the same time.

Car GPSScreen sizeMain benefits 
Garmin Nuvi 57 LM6-inch- Garmin Real Directions
- Direct Access
- Free Lifetime Map Updates
Garmin Nuvi 2777LT5-inch- Detailed maps of North America
- Free Lifetime Map Updates
- Real Directions
TomTom VIA 1515M5-inch- Free Map Updates
- IQ Routes
- Expansive Map Coverage
Magellan RoadMate 30304.7-inch- OneTouch menu
- Highway lane assist
- Pre-loaded maps
XINDA Portable GPS Navigation7-inch- Ultra thin

The modern-day GPS unit made navigation a breeze. Found as a factory unit in some modern vehicles, it’s the next best thing after the invention of A/C. Luckily, if your car doesn’t come with a built-in GPS or if you simply dislike your unit, there are plenty of aftermarket alternatives. When purchasing an aftermarket GPS unit, there are a couple of things you have to consider. For starters, the maps. Most GPS devices come with built-in maps for a single continent, so don’t go expecting each unit to come with global maps for the entire world. Second, you want to make sure it’s compact and light. You might need to take it with you, especially if you’re changing vehicles often. With that said, we present you the five best car GPS units.

Garmin Nuvi 57 LM Car GPS Review

Best Car GPS - Garmin Nuvi 57 LMGarmin is often regarded as the best manufacturer when it comes to anything GPS-related. They’ve been in the business longer than anyone else, designing and producing top performing products at the entry to medium-level segment for the most part. The 57LM is the pinnacle of Garmin’s mid-range lineup. Equipped with Garmin Real Directions, a guidance system using easy-to-understand landmarks and traffic lights to guide you, and Direct Access, software simplifying the navigation selection process to complex destinations such as airports and hospitals. It’s the best GPS unit if you’re after a high-end unit but don’t want to spend the premium associated with them.

Garmin Nuvi 57 LM key specs

  • 5-inch and 6-inch screen versions
  • Garmin Real Directions
  • Direct Access
  • Backup Camera Compatibility
  • Free Lifetime Map Updates

First off, there’s the actual size of the GPS. It’s really compact, more so than most of the other devices in this review. You get a choice between a 6-inch display and a 5-inch one, and although they’re not that different, feel free to go for the 5-inch car GPS if size is a big factor. The screen is big enough to make reading just as easy and effortless as in the 6-inch version. Its size makes it versatile and applicable in any situation, whether it’s a car or a bike. We already mentioned the features, but it’s worth noting that the 57LM offers backup camera compatibility and foursquare POIs, something most rivals don’t have. It comes with preloaded maps and you get a lifetime subscription to free updates. Should you go for the Lifetime Maps and Traffic option, you get frequent updates on traffic situations as well.

 

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Garmin Nuvi 2777LT Car GPS Review

Best Car GPS - Garmin Nuvi 2777LTThink of the Nuvi 2777LT as the 57LM’s big brother. It’s still a product of the Nuvi lineup, but it sits at the top of the class. It’s the respective flagship model, whereas the 57LM is a midrange contender. It comes with even more standard features compared to the 57LM, using the same maps but with added detailing. And if all that wasn’t enough, it adds in Bluetooth connectivity and is fully portable. What’s there not to like about it?

Garmin Nuvi 2777LT key specs

  • Detailed maps of North America
  • Free Lifetime Map Updates
  • 5-inch touchscreen
  • Bluetooth

Let’s start with its size. Although it is a state of the art GPS, it hasn’t lost any of its compactness. Garmin knows how to design a light, thin unit that punches far above its weight better than anyone. The 2777LT is a firsthand example of that. What’s even more amazing is the touchscreen quality and characteristics. The display organizes the information in an ergonomic and intuitive way, always keeping the main map in the middle. The screen itself is responsive and clear. Certainly one of the best touchscreen displays out there. The 57LM wasn’t exactly short on systems to begin with, but the bigger model takes that to a whole new level. You get the same Real Direction with Real Voice feature giving you directions in a friendly manner, but it also boasts Active Lane Guidance, photo Real/Bird’s Eye junction views and an Auto Sort system sorting out multiple destinations to give you the most direct route possible. It’s one of the most advanced GPS systems currently on the market.

 

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TomTom VIA 1515M Car GPS Review

Best Car GPS - TomTom VIA 1515MIf you want an affordable but reliable GPS navigation device for your car, look no further. The TomTom VIA 1515M offers excellent performance and great features. The 5-inch Touchscreen has a split-screen view for junctions, and with high resolution and true color, everything is easy to read and understand.

TomTom VIA 1515M key specs

  • 5-inch screen
  • Free Map Updates
  • IQ Routes
  • Expansive Map Coverage

The 5-inch screen isn’t that large if we’re honest, but it does mean the entire GPS is rather compact. It’s light too, meaning you can use it for different applications rather than just as a car GPS. You get free lifetime map updates at no extra cost, which is always a welcome feature with any product. People love when manufacturers offer extra downloadable content free of charge, and TomTom is no exception. The maps updates come quarterly, i.e. you can get as many as 4 updates in a single year. That, coupled with the unit’s massive TomTom database of real travel times means it’s always up-to date on the latest changes. It offers the fastest routes as well as extremely accurate arrival times. Installation has been made easy thanks to a Fold and Go EasyPort mount, which when attached to the compact unit makes for an elegant and unique design. Because it’s a TomTom, you get a 1 year warranty which is always nice.

 

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Magellan RoadMate 3030 Review

Best Car GPS - Magellan RoadMate 3030The RoadMate series represents Magellan’s affordable GPS unit lineup, and the 3030 is positioned right in the middle. It’s affordable, but not badly built, with lots of features but nothing too over the top. Though not as famous or popular of a brand as Garmin or TomTom, Magellan sells quality products which rarely disappoint.

Magellan RoadMate 3030 key specs

  • Wide 4.7-inch touchscreen
  • OneTouch menu
  • Highway lane assist
  • Pre-loaded maps

Let’s start off with its best feature: the screen. Now, there’s nothing special with the screen color or sensitivity, because although good, they’re average. We’re talking about its size. At 4.7 inches it’s 17% larger than most comparable 4.3 inch screens, and believe it or not, that makes a world of difference when we’re discussing GPS devices below 5-inches. The menus themselves are ergonomically organized and understandable. The OneTouch Favorite Menu is a unique option which allows you to bookmark favorite locations, search with personalized bookmarks and even access them with a single touch. Really clever. There’s even a great AAA TourBook Guide, requiring no membership or internet. It’s completely built-in into the GPS, giving you ratings and reviews on AAA-approved places for sleeping, eating, etc.

The base GPS comes with pre-loaded maps of the U.S., Canada and Puerto Rico, but you can pay a small premium to get the lifetime maps package, which we highly recommend. It saves you the hassle of fiddling with alternative routes once you get stuck due to old maps. There’s even a version with Bluetooth called RoadMate 3065 if you need it.

 

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XINDA 7-inch Portable GPS Navigation Review

Best Car GPS - XINDA 7-inch Portable GPS NavigationIt may not wear a premium badge and name like the rest of the GPS units in this article, but the XINDA is actually a great proposition for what it does and offers. If you think about it, all you really care is that the car GPS works and delivers. The badge isn’t that important. And if the XINDA can deliver, then why not?

XINDA 7-inch Portable GPS key specs

  • Windows CE 6.0
  • 7” TFT touchscreen
  • Ultra-thin
  • Voice Alerts

Although it’s not as small as some of its competitors, it is extremely thin, so you can carry it around with you easily if you need to. It supports most audio and video player formats, so it’s not like you’re ever going to get an error due to incompatible formats. The hardware inside is pretty neat, although it has to be said it isn’t the latest. It uses a 8GB NAND Flash with a supporting TF card extend, up to 32GB, and it has 256MB of DDR2 Ram. Hardly a supercomputer, but it gets the job done more than effectively. With features like speed cameras warning, speeding warning and restricted roads warning thanks to the built-in voice alerts, it’s not short on any technology either.

 

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Conclusion

If you want the best GPS unit out there, the Garmin Nuvi 57 LM is the only choice for you. Available in 5 and 6-inch versions, it’ll meet everyone’s requirements, whether they’re after a smaller, more compact unit, or a great all-rounder with a bigger display. Bearing that mind, you can also go for the Nuvi 2757LM. With a 7-inch screen and effectively the same features as the 57 LM, it’s designed for people who aren’t satisfied by the 57LM’s 6-inch screen. TomTom did a great job with the Via 1515M, falling just short of the Garmins. Magellan is once again at it with the RoadMate 3030, a great mix of features, compactness and lightweight. If you’re not fond of Garmin or TomTom, it’s a viable alternative. Last but not least, there’s the XINDA unit. Don’t let its name fool you, it’s a good GPS, but don’t expect it to match the rest of the products above it.

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