The Best GPS Devices for Your Vehicle

By Jordan Maxwell

January 27, 2021

With the development of navigation apps on smartphones, a lot of motorists now opt for apps that help give them the fastest and most accurate route whenever they’re in transit. However, some motorists still like having their own navigation device designed specifically for use in their cars. With a lot of distractions that could pop up when using your phone while driving, GPS devices made for cars is a smart, safe and reliable option for motorists who travel a lot or just always want to find the fastest route to their destination.

The Global Positioning System (GPS) is a navigation system using satellites, a receiver and algorithms to synchronize location and time data for travel. Basically, GPS devices see what’s ahead of you, informing you on the best route for travel. With the advent of technology, gone are those days of reading big maps and tracing routes. GPS devices help assure you’ll never get lost even when you’re someplace you’re not familiar with. There are a lot of benefits that come with having your own GPS device for your car. Here, we’ll discuss our picks for the best GPS devices and what you should consider before getting one.

1. Editor’s Pick: Garmin DriveSmart 65 & Traffic GPS

ProsCons
  • Edge-to-edge-display
  • Compatible with voice-activation
  • Garmin Traffic available without use of smartphone
  • Bluetooth connectivity to smartphone for hands-free calling and more
  • Price
  • Voice commands can be frustrating to use

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Our top pick for the best overall GPS device is the Garmin DriveSmart 65. This brand is known for its excellent GPS devices and this recommendation proves why Garmin is so reputable. The DriveSmart 65 features a 6.95-inch edge-to-edge touchscreen display with simple on-screen menus and bright, clear maps that display 3D buildings and terrain. One standout feature for this particular GPS is that Garmin Traffic can be used without a smartphone, but you can also pair the navigator with a GPS-enabled smartphone for hands-free calling, smart notifications and live traffic through the Garmin Drive App. But if you don’t want to pair your phone, take advantage of Garmin Traffic with the included traffic cable, giving you updated traffic information so you know which routes to avoid.

This unit can be voice-activated for hands-free operation, and built-in Wi-Fi ensures your maps and software are up to date without having to plug the device into a computer. If you’re planning a road-trip, the DriveSmart 65 comes in handy since it’s loaded with TripAdvisor data, as well as millions of Foursquare points of interest.

2. Runner-up: TomTom GO 620

ProsCons
  • Active magnetic mount
  • Can be used worldwide
  • Compatible with Siri and Google Now
  • Real-time traffic alerts (requires connection to smartphone)
  • Not very many POIs
  • Limited customization options

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Another popular brand for GPS navigation systems is TomTom and the TomTom GO 620 is our runner-up pick for the best GPS devices for your vehicle. It’s one of the most feature-rich TomTom GO units the company currently has available and it integrates seamlessly with your phone. That means once you pair your device with it, the navigation unit can read out your text messages and gives you the ability to use your phone’s personal assistant, like Siri and Google Now. You can also use it for hands-free calling. Like most premium, modern GPS devices, built-in Wi-Fi on the TomTom GO 620 allows for easy updates without having to connect it to a computer.

Real-time traffic is another added benefit, but you’ll have to have your smartphone connected. Another reason why we like this particular device is that it uses a magnetic mount, so you can simply dock it into the mount and get going on your way without fussing around with suction cup mounts often found on other navigation devices. This navigation boasts a six-inch touchscreen and voice control.

3. Best Budget Pick: Junsun GPS Navigation

ProsCons
  • Multimedia support
  • Free lifetime map updates
  • Supports multiple languages
  • Volume could be louder
  • Display is a bit dim compared to other units

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If you’re shopping on a budget, you’ll have to give up some of the premium features found in our other recommendations. But when it comes to affordable GPS navigation, Junsun is our best budget pick thanks to free lifetime map updates and a seven-inch display. It’s a rather basic GPS, mainly designed to get you to your destination. But it does have speed warnings and voice broadcast (in over 40 languages), to keep you updated on the road ahead.

You can also use this GPS device for entertainment, as it can be used as an FM transmitter, MP3 and MP4 files, as well as videos, pictures and even some games. You’re obviously sacrificing a bit of functionality and even performance with a product with this price tag, but for drivers who are looking for occasional directions to their destination and don’t want to use their smartphone, Junsun’s GPS fits the bill.

4. Best GPS Truck Navigator: Garmin dezlCam 785 LMT-S

ProsCons
  • Built-in dash cam
  • Access to Truck & Trailer Services directory for repair and service locations
  • Customizable for big rig drivers to get the best routes based on vehicle size
  • Dash cam quality is below average
  • Requires separate traffic-enabled antenna if you don’t want to use the Smartphone Link app for live traffic

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If you drive a big rig, you’ll need additional features from your GPS device. Our recommendation is the dezlCam 785 GMT-S GPS truck navigator from Garmin, boasting a seven-inch screen with voice-controlled navigation and a built-in dash cam to automatically record video of incidents. The dash cam can also be used to enable other features such as forward collision and lane departure warnings. Bluetooth hands-free calling and smart notifications, along with built-in Wi-Fi checks all the boxes for features you’d want from a premium GPS navigation device.

What makes this recommendation ideal for big rig drivers is the preloaded maps that detail truck-related route warnings, including bridge heights, sharp curves, steep grades and more. You’ll be able to enter your vehicle’s profile information (height, weight, length, width, etc.) to get routes suitable for the size of your truck. It also has access to a Truck & Trailer Services directory with over 30,000 truck repair and service locations in the U.S. and Canada. This navigation is also compatible with an optional wireless backup camera.

5. Best GPS Device for Motorcycles: TomTom Rider 550

ProsCons
  • Glove-friendly touchscreen
  • Built-in Wi-Fi allows for easy updates
  • Compatible with Siri and Google Now via Bluetooth
  • Customizable routes designed for motorcycle riders
  • Overall UI can be confusing to use
  • MyDrive route planning is fairly basic

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As you can imagine, just like big rig drivers need a different type of GPS device, so do motorcycle riders. You’ll not only want something compact and easy to use, but a navigator that can tell you the best roads to ride on if you’re looking for some excitement. For this, you’ll want to consider the TomTom Rider 550, sporting a 4.3-inch screen that makes it an ideal size for motorcycle use. Choose from three levels of windiness and hilliness when choosing your destination and the TomTom Rider will help you come up with a route that matches the thrill you’re seeking. You can also use MyDrive to plan out your perfect ride, adding personalized waypoints and sharing that with the GPS via Bluetooth or Wi-Fi.

The touchscreen on this device is glove-friendly, allowing you to choose between light and heavy glove modes to match the gear you’re wearing. Its durable design allows for accidental drops and riding in all weather conditions. Even if it gets wet, the touchscreen remains accurate and usable. Along with built-in Wi-Fi for the latest data on maps and routes, you can also pair this device to your smartphone with Bluetooth to access Siri and Google Now.

Factors to Consider Before Buying a GPS Device

Here are some general features you should consider when shopping for the ideal GPS device for your vehicle.

Screen Size: GPS navigators come in all different sizes, so get one that suits your needs. Not everyone wants an extremely large display taking up real estate on their dash or windshield, while others may prefer a larger screen.

Live Traffic Option: Live traffic isn’t available on every GPS device, while others may require a separate accessory for it to work. Some GPS devices will need to connect to your smartphone for live traffic updates, so keep that in mind. If you want live traffic updates for the quickest routes, make sure the product you’re considering is equipped with a live traffic option.

Smartphone Compatibility: Bluetooth connectivity is important for those who want to take advantage of certain features, such as hands-free calling, reading text messages and more. Some GPS devices will also be compatible with your phone’s personal assistant, such as Siri and Google Now.

Voice Navigation and Command Feature: For those who don’t want to constantly mess with touchscreens, get a GPS device that has voice navigation. This way, you can speak your destination as well as issue commands to the navigator via voice. This is also an important feature to have, since you won’t have to take your eyes off the road or use your hands to access your navigation.

Frequently Asked Questions About GPS Devices

If your vehicle didn’t come with built-in navigation, these compact GPS devices are a great addition to your car. If you often travel for work and go to new cities all the time, you’ll want to bring along a GPS in case your rental vehicle isn’t equipped with one. For those who want more features, pick a premium option with Bluetooth and Wi-Fi connectivity, as well as a navigator with live traffic updates so you can get to your destination as quickly as possible. Check out some additional tips to consider when buying.

What is a GPS device?

The Global Positioning System (GPS) is a navigation system using satellites, a receiver and algorithms to synchronize location and time data for travel.

Why do I need a GPS device?

The primary benefit of a GPS device is to get you safely to your destination without the fear of getting lost. Other benefits include Bluetooth connectivity if your vehicle isn’t equipped with it, and access to points of interest if you’re looking for a restaurant or gas station.

Do GPS devices come in other languages apart from English?

Most do, but you might want to confirm if the product you’re considering has multiple language options.

Do GPS devices have memory slots?

Some GPS devices use memory cards to store their data, while others can also act as a multimedia player. It’s something to consider, especially if you have to separately purchase a larger memory card to store more maps or media.

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