Goldie Locks Method for Determining Best GPS for You

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GPS devices remain one of the must haves for all drivers.  Carmakers, navigation technology companies, even cell phone providers are catching on to this growing trend and are offering more choices for car navigation systems.

Virtually all carmakers today offer factory-installed, built-in navigation systems in at least some of their 2012 models. Typically in dashboard navigation runs about $1,000 to $2,000additional, plus installation fees. In-dash systems often consist of a CD stereo with a built-in monitor that ranges from 6.5-8 inches. Most in-dash systems require an external GPS antenna, can play DVDs, and transmit the system’s voice prompts through the stereo.

Many  automakers are even providing year trial runs of their OnStar and eAssist features.  Another popular trend is semi-automated navigation system offers no visual cues, but gives drivers turn-by-turn voice prompts.

For the commitment-wary, plug-and-play navigation systems like the TomTom, Garmin, Navman, Navigon or Magellan can be mounted onto the windshield or dash. The only downside is many are run off of batteries so you have to make sure to have back-ups for long road trips. Plug-and-play models commonly feature more points of interest, and the monitors range from 3.5-8 inches. These models can cost from $100 to $1,600, depending on the size and sophistication of the unit. Technological advances are allowing companies to expand the range of navigation system features. Navman introduced a camera that stores GPS information in image files you can share online with friends. TomTom has launched a program called Buddies which allows you to track location of friend and family logged on.  This feature can be turned off as well.

Cell phones have been compatible with navigation technology for a while now, but they’ve mostly been marketed as on-foot navigation systems. However, with the powerful app libraries iPhone and Android have smartphone users are covered on foot and in the car, plus offer traffic updates.

In-Dash Vs. Plug and Play Comparison
In-Dash Plug and Play
Pros Cons Pros Cons
  • More accurate in determining speed/mileage
  • Better-looking
  • Can be paid in monthly installments with car payment
  • Most include DVD playback
  • More expensive, plus installation fee
  • Must bring in car to repair navigation
  • Pricier map updates
  • Factory-installed systems not available on all models
  • Cost-effective
  • Usually portable
  • More points of interest featured
  • Some systems offer map updates via internet
  • Some monitors small/difficult to read
  • External GPS antenna not available on all models
  • Must mount on dash or windshield
  • Some assembly required

Whether an in-dash or plug-and-play model is right for you will depend in large part on how often and how you plan to use the resource.  The system should fit the layout of your car so it doesn’t obstruct air vents, the passenger seat or your view of the road, and the screen size and resolution should make maps easy to read. Make sure to visit Penske Automotive Group for installation, sometimes going to an unauthorized dealer affects your warranty.

The most important things to look for in a navigation system are accuracy and speed and ease of use. Your system should provide multiple ways of getting to your destination, vocal and graphic directions, and a strong GPS satellite signal reception.  Another great feature is “text-to-speech” technology eases travel by giving specific street names rather than a general directive. Be sure you’re comfortable with operating the menu via touch-screen controls, exterior buttons or a remote control, and make sure the system won’t distract you as you’re driving.

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