Most GPS devices in the U.S. have good maps of North America, but world travelers need reliable roadmaps that go well outside U.S. borders. To get around in a foreign land, especially one where you don't speak the language, you'll likely have to buy separate GPS maps for that region of the world. Before you purchase any navigation GPS device, make sure you'll be able to use it to navigate your way from Prague to Munich – or Johannesburg to Nairobi – on your next adventure.
The top navigation GPS devices come from three manufacturers: Garmin, TomTom and Magellan. We've compared the available maps and created our own summary charts for your quick reference.
You would think a company named after one of the most famous world explorers in history would provide maps for the entire world. Sadly, that's not the case. Most Magellan GPS navigators simply come with maps of the U.S., Canada and Puerto Rico. Unlike TomTom and
Garmin, their devices don't come with maps of Mexico, and there aren't many additional maps for purchase on their website. In fact, the only international map you can buy from Magellan is a map of Europe. Without maps for any other area of the world, Magellan isn't the manufacturer for the world traveler. Magellan devices also don't support any third-party maps, which renders the devices useless outside of the U.S., Canada and Europe.
If you don't plan to venture outside of North America and Europe, a Magellan GPS might still serve your needs. From their RoadMate line of car navigators, the only product that comes with European maps is the RoadMate 5045-EU. If you decide on the RoadMate 3120-MU, be aware that it doesn't have a map of Canada. And the RoadMate 2035 is missing both Canada and Alaska. If you plan to download the European map, make sure to check that the unit you buy is listed under the compatible units for the download.
As you can tell from the abundance of green on the TomTom and Garmin maps, the decision for the serious world traveler comes down to these two manufacturers. Most TomTom GPS devices are equipped with detailed maps of the U.S., Puerto Rico and Canada as well as a solid network of connecting roads and large cities in Mexico. Additionally, you can buy a detailed map on the TomTom website for navigating the roadways of Europe. There are also available maps that cover large portions of Africa, South America, Oceania and the Middle East.
TomTom's Asian maps are surprisingly sparse, leaving out major countries such as India, China and Japan. TomTom doesn't allow you to add any third-party maps to your device, so if they don't have a map for the region you plan to visit, you might want to look into other brands.
If you want European maps, we'd advise looking into the GO 2535 TM World Traveler Edition or the XXL 540 WTE models. They both come preloaded with comprehensive maps of most European countries and partial maps of others.
One important distinction between TomTom and Garmin is the price difference between their maps. Although Garmin sells maps that cover more countries, their individual maps each cover fewer countries. For example, although both companies have similar map coverage in Africa, Garmin requires you to purchase two or three maps for the same coverage you get with one map from TomTom. This makes TomTom the more affordable choice if you need maps for multiple areas of the world.
Garmin's maps cover the most countries. Garmin also supports third-party maps. This means even if you can't find the map you need on the Garmin website, you might be able to find it from a third-party map provider. Garmin's car navigators come with detailed maps of the U.S., Canada and Mexico, and the Nuvi 2475LT is also preloaded with a detailed European map.
Compared to TomTom's map selection, Garmin covers more of Central and South America, more of Africa and the Middle East, and much more of Asia. Surprisingly both TomTom and Garmin have no maps of Japan, but Garmin has TomTom beat with coverage of India, China, Vietnam and the Philippines. You'll find you have to purchase individual maps for certain countries, but it's well worth buying a map of India or China if you plan to navigate the roads there.
The GPS device you choose should guide you wherever your travels take you. If you plan to venture outside of North America and Europe, you're better off going with a TomTom or a Garmin. Just make sure the manufacturer you choose has a map for the areas you plan to visit. If you visit a lot of out-of-the-way locations, a Garmin product might work best because their maps cover more countries than TomTom and Garmin devices work with third-party map software.
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