Should You Spring for GPS Traffic Updates?

By Dan Hope
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With rising gas prices and more highway congestion than ever, GPS traffic updates may save you money.

According to a 2002 study by the Texas Transportation Institute (TTI), metropolitan commuters give up almost 3 full days per year on average stuck in traffic. And starting, stopping and idling takes a significant toll on gas mileage. Though subscribing to traffic updates on your navigation GPS won't prevent traffic, they may provide a way around it.

GPS units are reasonably priced, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re cheap. So people usually don’t opt for the additional monthly fee for getting traffic updates. However, traffic updates can mean the difference between a half hour commute and an hour and a half commute. Are the GPS traffic updates worth the cost?

If you live or work in a major metropolitan area, the answer is probably yes, if only to save you the medical bills associated with high blood pressure. The busiest freeways in America are frequented by well over 300,000 cars each day, and the traffic backups for these freeways are legendary. Most people are well aware of detours and alternate routes to avoid traffic, but what if these routes are also gridlocked?

GPS traffic updates pull information from traffic news sources and update your routes with information about wrecks, construction and heavy traffic that can affect your trip. The GPS unit then calculates the fastest routes based on all the new information. The advantage here is that the GPS unit can handle information about multiple routes faster than you can, giving you a more accurate measure of how to get through traffic fast.

GPS traffic updates can help with more than just commuting. Anytime you drive anywhere with heavy traffic, even if it is just to the store, the GPS unit can help cut down on drive time. And they are priceless if you are on a business trip or vacation where you are unfamiliar with the area, its traffic patterns and alternate routes.

Many people look at the cost of traffic updates and say that they are worth it simply for cutting down on driving time and frustration with traffic. But if you are sitting in traffic less you are also saving gas, which means that the additional cost of traffic updates might be regained through better gas mileage.

If you live in an area where traffic isn’t usually a problem, or if you won’t be using the GPS unit much in your car, it’s probably not a good idea to opt for traffic updates. But in high-volume traffic areas, GPS traffic updates could keep your commute time, your gas consumption and your blood pressure down to acceptable levels.

To see which GPS units can help you best avoid traffic, check out our review of Navigation GPS units, including expert and user reviews from across the Internet. At TopTenREVIEWS We Do the Research So You Don’t Have To.™

 
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