Best Car GPS of 2018

Video may have killed the radio star, but smartphones haven't killed the GPS. At least not yet. The best GPS devices come loaded with tons of features your phone either doesn't have or that are hard to access on your phone while driving.

Your phone is subject to all sorts of other limitations that make using a GPS a smart idea. But go with just any GPS and you're back to square one when it comes to cluelessness and usability.

You want a GPS that meets the needs you have. Ideally, you want a GPS that predicts your needs before you even make them clear! And let's be honest, you also want a GPS with a pleasant voice.

We can help you find the GPS that's right for you. Read through our automobile GPS reviews to find your new driving and navigation assistant.

Why Use a GPS Instead of a Smartphone?

Before we get to the reviews, let's review why you'd want a GPS in the first place. The devices can be big and clunky. They can seem like just one more piece of equipment. So why would you ever use one?

Here are some things you may not have thought about.

1. The Larger Screen Is a Plus

One of the reasons using your phone to navigate is dangerous and downright illegal in some areas is the size of the screen. When you have to squint to find your next turn, that's precious time you're not looking at the road. And that's on top of the time you're taking away from your drive by looking at a screen in the first place.

A GPS device solves this problem. Those big screens that may look clunky to some offer an elegant solution to navigating while keeping your eyes on the road. A large enough GPS will offer clear directions with barely a turn of the head.

The display on a GPS can also offer visual contrast not always available on a phone. When roads, turns, and delays are clearly visible, you get where you're going faster and with fewer wrong turns.

2. It Doesn't Multitask

A GPS only does one thing. A phone has all your music, contacts, and every game of Words With Friends you've ever played. All that added functionality must make a phone so much better, right?

Wrong. It's precisely the fact that a GPS is limited to one task that makes it useful. Just like you shouldn't do anything else while you drive, neither does your GPS. Its only purpose is to get you to your destination, and it's nice not to have the directions on the drive to your vacation destination interrupted by a call from your boss.

3. Think of the Data

We mean this in two ways. First, the map function on your smartphone can use up a lot of data on your plan, especially if you're using it for long road trips.

Second, a GPS won't save your private data, so it's more secure than using your phone. It also keeps your information a bit off the grid. It's nice to think Big Brother isn't tracking your every move.

A Comprehensive Automobile GPS Review Guide

Are you convinced yet that you can make good use of a GPS? If not, read on. We're about to dive deep into some of the best devices on the market. Even if the abstract idea of a GPS doesn't appeal to you, these individual units might.

Garmin Nuvi 57LM

Garmin is a big player in the GPS device world, and there's a good reason for that. The first GPS on our list is one of theirs, and it's got plenty of features to love.

Benefits

  • User-friendly menu
  • Free map updates
  • A screen that's large and bright: The 57LM boasts a display that is six inches, which is quite mammoth for a GPS device
  • FourSquare data integration
  • Landmark recognition
  • Speed limit indicator that turns red when you're going too fast, which helps you avoid speeding tickets
  • Customizable voices: The 57LM plugs right into a PC or a Mac to download the voice you want navigating you

Drawbacks

  • This isn't a full drawback, but the 57LM's traffic avoidance system is spotty, unless you live in or near a big city.

TomTom VIA 1535TM

This unit brings the heat in the voice recognition department, and that may put it over the top for many drivers. However, it does come with a significant downside.

Benefits

  • Automatic updates, so you get traffic alerts and other information updated daily. And this is all free.
  • Voice recognition: Without having to touch the VIA 1535TM at all, you can get to exactly where you're going. The software picks up voices with ease.
  • Smartphone-integrated: It will display the calls you get on your phone on its own display panel, which may be a positive or a negative, depending on your preference.
  • Multiple mounts are included, one for the dashboard and the other for the windshield.
  • Pre-installed maps
  • Powerful processor, which makes for a responsive navigation experience. Nothing is worse than a GPS that is constantly updating.
  • Alerts to changes in speed and the locations of traffic cams help you avoid tickets.

Drawbacks

  • The display. It's a pretty big bummer that, with all these other killer features, the VIA 1535TM had to let us down in the display department. But we'd be remiss if we didn't mention that the device's screen is smaller and less bright than its competitors.

Garmin Nuvi 2589LMT

This is another entry in the Garmin canon, and it offers a bit more connectivity that the Nuvi 57LM.

Benefits

  • Responsive: It handles vocal commands with ease. You won't have to repeat yourself to the 2589LMT.
  • Bluetooth integration
  • User-friendly directions: Not only is the default voice on the 2589LMT pleasant, but the directions it gives include pointing out things like landmarks along the way to guide you.
  • Rear-camera compatible: If your car is not already equipped with a backup camera, you can install one and send the feed directly to this device.
  • Lane guidance, which keeps you awake and helps you avoid collisions that can occur during merging.
  • FourSquare data integration, which assists in finding dining and entertainment options near your current location and your destination.
  • Pinch-to-zoom

Drawbacks

  • This is related to the final benefit, but this unit's zoom feature is only available via touching the screen. You can't use vocal commands to zoom in or out.

Magellan RoadMate 6230-LM Dashcam Navigator

True to its name, this device offers a dashboard camera that can record video. The unit is also compatible with Magellan's Wireless Back-up Camera, but we won't include that feature in our review, since it's an extra.

Benefits

  • Free lifetime map updates
  • Traffic camera alerts
  • Dash cam
  • 4GB memory card
  • Digital Video Recorder (DVR)
  • Mount included
  • OneTouch menu, which allows you to create shortcuts for your favorite destinations and program in the numbers for local emergency services.
  • Bell that sounds when it's time to turn or exit a highway.
  • Voice navigation can include landmarks if requested.

Drawbacks

  • Touch screen is not incredibly responsive, as some users claim they have to press reasonably hard to get use out of the RoadMate 6230-LM.
  • Start-up can take a while.
  • Voice navigation occasionally announces the next two moves at once.
  • Slightly expensive

TomTom Go 600

This is another option from TomTom. It's on the bigger side, and many users praise the clarity of its six-inch screen.

However, it comes with a literal price. It's more expensive than the other units we've featured, and it has some other confusing features.

Benefits

  • Large touchscreen
  • Free traffic alerts
  • Voice control
  • Pinch and zoom options on touchscreen
  • Dash mount included

Drawbacks

  • Voice prompts can be confusing.
  • Traffic alerts require a link to a smartphone.
  • Higher price point than other devices on this list.
  • Large and overwhelming menu

TomTom Go 50 S

This TomTom GPA is the one to focus on if what you're looking for is affordability and value. It packs a lot of features into a smaller package than the 600.

Benefits

  • Smart mapping technology
  • Five-inch touchscreen with the option to upgrade to a six-inch screen for only $10 more.
  • Free lifetime traffic and mapping updates
  • Displays landmarks as 3-D renderings
  • Long battery life

Drawbacks

  • No dash cam
  • No Bluetooth calling available
  • Does not include some of the more advanced driver assistance technology included in other GPS devices.
  • Does not include an integrated traffic receiver, which means it relies on integration with your smartphone and its data plan to update traffic conditions.

Garmin DriveAssist 50LMT

Here we have another model that bears the Garmin seal of quality. It's their way of splitting the difference between the least expensive systems and the fully loaded ones, and it does a great job of that.

Benefits

  • Alerts to potential collisions
  • Records your drive
  • Intuitive turn-by-turn instructions
  • Voice search function
  • Bright, five-inch navigation screen
  • "Up Ahead" feature, which shows you the next steps on your route.
  • Free lifetime traffic information
  • High-resolution dash camera
  • Forward collision alert, which alerts you when you are approaching another vehicle too quickly.
  • Audible alerts, which let you know when stopped traffic has started moving again.

Drawbacks

  • Right now, there are none that we can see! It's more expensive than the most budget units on our list, but it's hardly the most expensive, so that feels like splitting hairs.

Garmin Nuvicam LMTHD

Our final entry on the list comes again from--surprise, surprise!--Garmin. We'd feel bad about including so many of their products on our list if they weren't so varied. Each one caters to different needs, and it's worth exploring as many as possible before deciding on the GPS device that's right for you.

Benefits

  • HD dash cam, which is always recording and saves footage automatically in case you get into an accident.
  • Camera senses if you're following a vehicle too closely whenever you're going over 30 miles per hour, and it alerts you audibly and visually.
  • At speed over 40 miles per hour, the NuviCam alerts you when you're drifting out of your lane, which can come in handy on long car rides where music and A/C aren't enough to keep you fully alert every second.
  • Six-inch, high-resolution screen
  • Pinch-to-zoom display
  • Quick and accurate touchscreen
  • "Points of Interest" feature, which points out nearby retailers, restaurants, and gas stations.
  • "Real Directions" feature, which uses traffic lights and local landmarks for guidance.
  • Destinations entered manually or via voice command

Drawbacks

  • Cost: The Nuvicam LMTHD is fully stocked with high-tech features, but such an impressive array means you'll spend a pretty penny to get your own. These devices cost right around $350 each.

Which GPS Is Best?

This is the moment you started reading for. Now that you've taken the deep dive and really considered the pros and cons of each of these devices, it's time for us to give you our pick for which one is the cream of the crop.

Here's the thing. We can't pick just one. Since people use their GPS devices differently and require different features based on the kind of driving they do most often, their budgets, and their data plans, we've decided to give two awards that reflect the variety of driving and navigating experiences.

Best Fully Loaded GPS

The Garmin Nuvicam LMTHD takes the cake here. It's only downside is its price point, and it takes all of the features of the other Garmin GPS devices and one-ups them.

Best Budget GPS

The TomTom VIA 1535TM is the best your money can buy for around $100. The device's screen could use some work, but at this price, you're going to make some sacrifices. Fortunately, it's the only one you'll have to make as far as features go.

The Long and Winding Road

We've made it! You're at your destination when it comes to researching GPS devices. Hopefully, you've arrived more informed and more ready to make the decision of which one is right for you.

If you enjoyed this automobile GPS review feature, take a look at our other gadget reviews.

Leave a Comment