Navigation GPS units use a combination of onboard maps and a connection with GPS satellites to give you turn-by-turn directions through unfamiliar territory. They have suction-cup windshield mounts and draw power from your car's cigarette lighter.
The best navigation GPS units we reviewed are the Garmin Nuvi 3597LMTHD, the Garmin Nuvi 2589LMT and the TomTom Go 500. Keep reading to find out what to look for in a navigation GPS, or check out our additional articles on navigation GPS units.
These units are far superior to smartphone apps when it comes to navigation. We broke down the products in our lineup using the following criteria:
The most basic feature that every car GPS should have is preloaded maps of North America. This means the device comes ready to help you navigate anywhere in the United States, Canada or Mexico. Secondly, make sure you get a GPS with lifetime map updates so your device won't become outdated in a couple years.
The best navigation GPS units have traffic avoidance systems. Look for a GPS with a built-in traffic receiver, so you don't have to pair the GPS with your smartphone to get traffic updates.
One of the most important things to look for in a car GPS is voice-activated navigation. This enables you to speak addresses to your GPS so you don't have to manually type them into the device.
Look for a device with lane assistance so you'll know in advance what lane to get into prior to turning. You should also get a GPS with a speed limit indicator. These units simultaneously display your speed and the speed limit of the road you're on, which can help you avoid accidental speeding.
You should also look for a GPS that has a 3D viewing option. This makes navigating city streets a simpler task, because it helps make landmarks much more recognizable.
Look for a vehicle GPS with a capacitive touchscreen. This is the kind of touchscreen found in smartphones, and it's much more user-friendly than the old resistive touchscreens.
You should also look for a GPS that is multi-touch capable. This lets you pinch to zoom in and out on the map, just like a smartphone. Multi-orientation capabilities, which allow you to orient the device in either portrait or landscape mode, are also important.
Help & Support
We interacted with the customer support teams of each GPS company and assigned them each a score based on wait time, knowledge and friendliness. Look for a company with a warranty of at least one year. You should also look for a company with a social media team, as this can be the best way to get quick support for your GPS.
A dedicated navigation GPS gives you turn-by-turn directions without draining your phone's battery or using your data. Check out our in-depth reviews to find the best GPS for your needs.