Nothing still beats dedicated GPS devices in helping you reach your destination safely rather than getting lost somewhere along the way. Sure, mobile apps and software like Google Maps and Waze are great, but once you enter a rural area, the signal becomes weak, or your phone dies, you’ll be stuck with little to no alternative.
The good news is, there are plenty of amazing options when it comes to GPS devices. Companies like Garmin, for example, continuously update their maps to give you better and more reliable real-time service while you’re on the road, so you can be guaranteed safer travel.
With the best GPS for cars, you’ll never have to worry about finding yourself in a new locale, or looking for a nice restaurant, rest station, or hotel nearby whenever you’re in need of a break from your road trip.
- 10 Best GPS for Cars
- The Best Car GPS Buying Guide
- Final Verdict
10 Best GPS for Cars
Here’s a list of the best GPS for cars, dash devices, and GPS units alike, that you should check out if you want to enjoy safe and convenient travels without getting lost, stuck in traffic, or into a generally sticky situation.
We’ve reviewed tons of options from Garmin, a highly reputable brand with a wide selection of GPS devices, and we also included a few other picks from different brands to help you pick.
The Garmin DriveSmart 65 is our top pick simply because it’s the best in terms of capability and performance. This GPS unit comes with highly detailed and North American maps with advanced direction features including live access to traffic cameras and live parking information along your route.
It also features both WiFi and Bluetooth connection to allow for easy updates not requiring the use of a computer, as well as pairing with a smartphone to gain access to additional features with the use of the free Garmin Drive app.
Moreover, it boasts a large 6.95-inch display with a slim frame that won’t take up too much space in your console. The display screen is adequately bright to let you see easily, and its touchscreen function is accurate and responsive.
- Real-time traffic and driver alerts on-road situations and speed limits
- Excellent features that help enhance driver awareness
- Hands-free calling and touchscreen display functions
- Easy to download updates and free access to additional features
- Expensive option
We also really like the Garmin DriveSmart 60, which boasts incredibly clear on-display graphics and an easy-to-use system that enables you to follow directions without much confusion. The maps shown on the screen, for one, are easy to understand even for the most clueless of individuals with zero sense of direction.
That’s because this GPS unit makes its direction format easy to understand by using landmarks and other similar tactics to give you a quick real time reference of your location. The device also makes use of plenty of detailed maps of North America.
As for the display, Garmin DriveSmart 60 features a decent 6-inch display screen that is bright enough to make the details easy to distinguish under full sunlight. You can even zoom in on different spots on the map with the use of the touch screen function.
- Useful and easy to understand directions
- Preloaded maps of North America
- Zoom function on the touchscreen display
- Driver alerts and notifications for apps, texts, and calls
- Voice control feature
- Voice activation is difficult to use at times
One of Garmin’s finest navigation systems to date is the Garmin DriveSmart 55 and Traffic, which comes with a wide variety of excellent features that make it highly useful for road trips and daily commutes alike. Much like the other options above, this GPS unit comes preloaded with North American maps, and even includes free lifetime updates of said maps.
This is a unit that can be connected to the WiFi in order to access various features as well as download the free updates. It also lets you customize your route depending on certain factors with regards to the roads you’ll be traveling on such as weight restrictions, which can be a highly beneficial resource for drivers who need to haul trailers or big loads.
Furthermore, we really like how the touchscreen display extends right to the very end of the frame, giving you a bigger display without sacrificing size and portability, not to mention making it easier for you to read the maps while you’re driving.
- Compact design that maximizes usable display space
- Bright, high definition screen makes details easy to read
- Clear and easy to follow directions and other convenient features
- Multiple language options for Spanish-speaking users
- Requires smartphone pairing to access extra traffic features
You should also check out the advanced Garmin Drive 61, which comes preloaded with maps of the United States and gives you detailed, easy to understand directions at a glance. The accurate route information this unit offers comes from a 14 geosynchronous satellite network, so you can trust that it’s reliable.
Of course, you can also choose to connect it to your smartphone if you want more real-time information on road conditions, traffic, and parking options. You’ll also get various Smart Reminders including visual displays and voice announcements with regards to speed limits and complex intersections, along with notifications on upcoming red lights, stores, gas stations, etc.
What’s more, you have the option of getting this in either a five or six-inch screen, both of which feature touchscreen functions that are easy to use and highly responsive. That said, we recommend the six-inch display as it gives you a bigger viewing area and lets you see directions, especially when the device is on split-screen mode.
- Only USA maps are preloaded
If you’re looking for an attractive option, check out the Garmin Drive 50, which is ridiculously easy to use, and makes following directions an absolute breeze. Actually, what we find attractive about this unit is how simple and no-frills its design is, so you don’t have to get distracted by all those unnecessary details and just focus on the road ahead.
In fact, you can even rely on concise voice directions if you don’t want to look at the screen at all. Either way, the screen is there to help you when you want, and it’s perfectly clear and responsive as well. It’s very user-friendly and even makes use of landmarks and traffic signs to better help you have an idea of your current location as well as where you need to be.
Plus, all the preloaded maps are updated regularly, and the device itself is compatible with certain platforms such as Foursquare to give you even more accurate and up-to-date information on your location, thereby making this one of the best choices for modern users who like to hit popular and out-of-the-way hangouts alike.
- Easy navigation with a wide range of direction features
- Excellent on-screen graphics with dual screen
- Voice direction/ navigation functions
- Real time driver alerts and frequent updates
- Maps of rural areas are not always updated
- Long routes may need to be refreshed
One of the many different Garmin models that really stands out for us is the Garmin Nuvi 57LM, which combines some of the other units’ best features, such as the use of traffic lights and landmarks, clear spoken directions, up-to-date preloaded maps, compatibility with Foursquare, and so much more.
What this all means is you can get to your destination without a hassle and with no chance of getting lost. You can focus more on the road and less on the screen, and you’ll also be able to look up popular restaurants and stores, as well as local airports and malls with the use of Garmin’s Direct Access feature.
Sure, the display screen may be a bit small on this system, but it still has a touchscreen function, and with straightforward navigation and lots of other features that offer easy-to-follow directions to guide you wherever you have to go without having to examine various details, the screen size isn’t really all that important.
- Maps of 49 US states are preloaded
- Easy and straightforward directions
- Touchscreen display with dual screen mode
- School zone warnings and easy establishment lookups
- Small display screen
- Touch screen function isn’t the most responsive
Looking for something with an even wider scope for those cross country drives? The Garmin Drive 51 might just be the answer. While it may be an older model that needs updating before use, it does come loaded with your USA and Canada maps, and once you update the unit, the navigation will be so much better and you will get to enjoy more efficient routes.
It also offers plenty of helpful features such as concise directions at every turn, and the use of landmarks, easily recognizable buildings, and traffic lights to help make your navigation easier, all to help make your travel more convenient, especially at night when reading street signs along the road can be difficult.
Furthermore, like the Garmin Drive 61, this unit is also offered in two screen sizes- five and six inches- so you can choose whichever works better for your needs when it comes to visual directions and compact design.
- Easy to read maps with top directional display
- Compatible with the Garmin BC 30 backup wireless camera
- Free lifetime updates on the preloaded maps
- Highly affordable, value for money option
- Needs to be updated before initial use
- Real-time information on traffic is not included in the basic model
Moving on to GPS navigation systems from other brands, we’ve got a few different options for you, starting with the Arova GPS Navigation for Car, which not only features preloaded North American maps, but also maps Australia and different European countries, therefore making it an ideal choice for drivers who frequently travel abroad.
This model also comes with a sizable display screen that lets you easily see maps at a glance. It has a highly responsive touch screen function that lets you conveniently make any necessary changes with little to no delay. It even comes with a removable sunshield that lets you see the screen better in particularly bright environments where the harsh glare can be a problem.
To top it all off, this unit also sends lots of additional alerts as you drive, including approaching red lights, sharp curves up ahead, and tracking speed limits to let you know whether you’re entering low-speed zones such as school vicinity.
- Preloaded maps of over 40 countries in North America, Australia, and Europe
- Various supporting features and helpful driving alerts
- Digital media support for viewing photos and MP3 audio playing
- Removable sun shield included
- Real time traffic information is not provided
You’ll also like the TomTom Go Comfort 6, which boasts of a unique technological feature in the form of an IQ route function that really stands out with the way it gives you accurate estimated times of arrival by compiling data from various traffic and navigation databases. These IQ routes also identify the shortest possible commute so you can reach your destination on time.
Moreover, the Comfort 6 also features advanced lane guidance to help you deal with confusing street layouts and tricky junctions by telling you when and where to turn so you don’t accidentally enter one-way streets and have to drive too far before finding a U-turn spot.
Another thing we really like about this model is that it comes preloaded with maps of not only the United States, but also of Canada and Mexico, making it great for traveling cross country and taking out of town trips.
- Reduces travel time and helps you avoid traffic
- IQ route function and advanced lane feature
- Allows hands-free operation of your smartphone
- Provides voice commands and helpful driving alerts
- Not suitable for use in other continents
- The small screen size may be difficult to use
Last but not least is the OHREX GPS Navigation for Truck & RV & Car, which is similar to some of the other models here in the sense that it comes preloaded with maps of North America, and also offers free lifetime updates of these maps with a simple installation of the unit on any Windows PC with WiFi connection.
It has the unique option of letting you choose between 2D or 3D mode when displaying the maps so you can see directions in the best visual style that works and makes sense for you. It also offers lane notifications as you approach highway exits and intersections so you can prepare for any upcoming turn.
And, with seven-inch screen size, this model has, by far, the largest display you’ll see on a GPS system. This is great as it lets you easily and clearly map details without making the screen too much of a distraction on the road. This is true even with the relatively low resolution of the screen, as you’ll still be able to read directions at a quick glance.
- 2D and 4D mode display with smart route planning
- Speed limit warnings and lane notifications
- Preloaded North American maps with lifetime updates
- Good value for money
- No real time information on road conditions
- Relatively low screen resolution
The Best Car GPS Buying Guide
There are many undeniable benefits to having a dedicated GPS system on board. You get peace of mind from knowing that you can always get to your destination even when you’re entering new, unfamiliar locations, without having to ask strangers for directions.
You don’t have to use your smartphone or look at a physical map, so you won’t be distracted while driving since you can simply rely on voice-activated directions. No need to depend on your phone’s data or WiFi signal just to get accurate road information. And, since you’re not using your phone, you’re also not draining its battery.
Furthermore, with a GPS unit, you can navigate traffic jams effectively by receiving alerts about highway conditions and road situations. You’ll also be able to find stops, amenities, and rest areas along the way, and figure out the best route to get there.
Portable vs in-dash system
A portable GPS system makes use of either satellite or cellular networks to give you dependable navigation assistance in urban and rural areas alike. Though in this aspect, satellite ones are naturally better and more reliable. In any case, the portability factor of the compact design makes the unit convenient to use in more than one car.
Meanwhile, in-dash GPS navigation systems are built-in units on a car’s console, which is great in the sense that it’s integrated into your radio and call receiver, so it automatically takes over when alerting you of urgent road issues.
That said, even though in-dash units are becoming common these days with their growing presence in consumer vehicles, they are still quite expensive and can also become outdated.
We wrote this guide for US-based customers, so naturally, the best GPS systems will be ones preloaded with the US and North American maps. If you live in a different country, it goes to say that you should purchase a GPS system that is set to your location. That said, a unit with a wide range of preloaded maps from various countries will be great for frequent international travelers.
There are also GPS models that let you download maps of other places, or even insert a microSD card to add more maps. These features are great, but the number of preloaded maps should still be your focus, as these let you navigate even when the device cannot get a signal.
The best GPS systems will have voice activation features that let you dictate your intended destination so you don’t have to spend too much time typing it in on the screen. You can even dictate locations while you’re driving. And, this voice feature goes both ways in the sense that the device can also tell you where you need to go rather than having you look at the screen.
While you can always just plug the GPS unit in your car’s DC power outlet, you’ll still want a model with a decent battery capacity so you can use it for a significant period of time while it’s unplugged. This will be beneficial whenever you need to use the outlet to charge your smartphone and other electronic devices.
GPS systems come in different screen sizes ranging from three to seven inches. While you may like the portability and space-saving benefit of a small three-inch screen, this means your view of the maps and other navigation details will be compromised, especially when a visual alert pops up on the screen and takes up even more of that limited screen space.
As for anything that comes with a display screen, the higher the resolution, the better, since this will let you see clearer and in more detail. When it comes to GPS units, the bare minimum should be 480 x 272 pixels, but if you can, try to opt for something that has a resolution higher than 800 x 480 pixels.
Ease of use
The best GPS for cars isn’t necessarily the most advanced one. Rather, it’s the one that’s the most user-friendly and easy to use. This means giving you easy to understand step-by-step directions, intuitive and concise instructions, simple icons, and a generally easy to use interface.
Route and lane assistance
One of the many excellent and helpful features you can get from a GPS system include route and lane assistance, which is usually voice-activated, and informs you of upcoming turns and tells you to change lanes whenever necessary, so you never miss your turn.
Speed limit indicator
Speed limit indicators are also common features of many GPS navigation devices, as they tell you in clearer terms how fast you’re going and how this compares to the location’s speed limit. This way, you’ll know whether you’re going too fast or too slow, and therefore make any necessary adjustment.
The higher-end models of GPS systems sometimes come with a dash camera, with a few even allowing 360-degree recording. This can be helpful in terms of offering information in the event of a road accident and other noteworthy situations on the road.
3D map feature
For those of us who don’t particularly like dealing with flat maps or know how to understand them, GPS units with 3D map modes can be really beneficial as they let you see more relatable depictions of landmarks such as buildings and bridges, allowing you to better reconcile what’s on the map vs what’s around you.
GPS systems can cost anywhere from a hundred dollars to almost three hundred. Much like many other material purchases, the price is often indicative of quality, so it’s important to find a balance between finding a good quality system while also trying to save money.
The best GPS for cars lets you safely navigate anywhere, anytime. One of the most suitable options we found that can do this job is the Garmin DriveSmart 65, which is loaded with amazing, top of the line features to make reaching your destination easy and convenient.