Top 5 Best GPS Navigation Devices for Cars

gps for cars


Some people might think that owning a self-contained GPS unit is kind of silly. After all, most of us have GPS navigation on our phones. But having a dedicated car GPS system actually makes a lot of sense. When you get lost, it can be frustrating to have to exit your GPS app and call your friend to get directions. A GPS unit is also superior to some phone apps when it comes to map quality, particularly if you’re in an area without 4G or Wi-Fi. Plus, a GPS unit can be shared among a family, which makes it perfect for families with teen or senior drivers who don’t have a smartphone with GPS apps. That being said, the rise in smartphone popularity has made it harder to find new, dedicated GPS devices for your car. With so many people relying on their phone as their sole GPS tool, fewer GPS navigation devices are entering the market. If you want to buy a new GPs unit for your car, here are five options to consider in 2015.

Love GPS devices? Read up on the best GPS running watch, or learn about Garmin’s GPS products in our post on the best car GPS units.

1. Garmin nüvi 2797LMT 7-Inch Portable Bluetooth Vehicle GPS

gps for cars


The whole Garmin nüvi line is well-reviewed, but many people prefer the larger screen of this unit. The touchscreen interface makes this GPS tracker easy to use while driving. And if you have a smartphone, this Garmin works with a companion app called Smartphone Link. This app, available for iPhone and Android, lets you pair your phone with the Garmin. You can then share and track info on destinations, or info about where you parked your car. Garmin Live Services are available for free, and by subscription. If you want a device with smaller screen, consider the Garmin nüvi 3597LMTHD, which is about two inches smaller. It scored an “Excellent” rating when it was reviewed by CNET.

Price: $231.29 (comes with lifetime maps, traffic, and Bluetooth)

Buy it here.

  • ‘Up Ahead’ feature highlights gas, food, and hospitals along your route
  • Lightweight
  • PhotoReal and Bird’s Eye junction views offer detailed images of junctions along your route
  • Added features that work with iPhone or Android
  • Comes with vehicle suction cup mount with mini-USB input

  • Expensive
  • Battery life limited about 2.5 hours
  • Only under warranty for one year
  • Somewhat older device (first debuted in 2013)
  • Fine print for lifetime maps states: “You will receive up to 4 map data updates per year, when and as such updates are made available on Garmin’s website, for 1 compatible Garmin product until your product’s useful life expires or Garmin no longer receives map data from its third party supplier, whichever is shorter”

Find more Garmin nüvi 2797LMT 7-Inch Portable Bluetooth Vehicle GPS reviews and product information here.

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2. TomTom GO LIVE 1535M 5-Inch Bluetooth GPS Navigator

gps for cars


Lifehacker points out that the whole TomTom Go series offers spoken word driving directions, and they don’t need mobile data or an internet connection to work. The TomTom GO LIVE 1535M comes preloaded with maps, and also includes an integrated mount, car charger with integrated traffic receiver. It also plays nice with Yelp while you’re on the road, helping you to find a decent place to eat when you are far from home.

Price: $213.99

Buy it here.

  • Supports Bluetooth
  • Advanced lane guidance
  • Offers maps for all of North America
  • Advanced voice recognition
  • Pair with your phone for hands-free calling

  • Somewhat small touchscreen
  • Battery life of two hours
  • Warranty for only one year
  • Older device (dates back to 2011)
  • Low screen resolution

Find more TomTom GO LIVE 1535M 5-Inch Bluetooth GPS Navigator reviews and product information here.

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3. Magellan RoadMate RV9145-LM 7-Inch GPS Navigator

gps for cars


Are you an RVer? If you spend every summer driving across the country in your RV, then this GPS is tailor-made for your lifestyle. RV drivers have unique navigational needs, due to the oversized nature of the vehicles they drive. This GPS navigator offers “Multi Destination Routing,” which lets you plan a route with multiple stops along the way, including pit stops, points of interest, and camping locations. All of the American and Canadian campground locations pre-programmed into the device come from the Trailer Life Directory and the Good Sam Club. There’s even an auto night view feature, which makes it easier to use this GPS navigator during evening drives.

Price: $199 (48 percent off)

Buy it here.

  • Larger screen than some other GPS navigators
  • Designed with RV drivers in mind
  • Free lifetime map updates for the life of the GPS navigator
  • Comes with Heavy Duty Extension Mount designed for vehicles with deep dashboards
  • Identifies Big Rig-friendly spots, Wi-Fi locations, and pet-friendly sites

  • Limited battery life
  • Somewhat older model (debuted in 2012)
  • No pre-loaded maps for Mexico
  • No Bluetooth
  • No lifetime traffic reports

Find more Magellan RoadMate RV9145-LM 7-Inch GPS Navigator reviews and product information here.

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4. Bushnell Nav 500 3.5-Inch Portable GPS Navigator

gps for cars


For people who want something to use in the car, but maybe also want to take their GPS navigator on hikes, this versatile Bushnell GPS device is a smart choice. While the screen size may be a bit small, this GPS unit can work great in the car if you have a human copilot. It can be mounted in your car, and it will give you turn-by-turn directions. This GPS tracker even has a built-in MP3 player, which is nice for people with older cars that offer no other way to enjoy digital music. This is an older unit, but it will still serve people who have very simple navigational needs quite well.

Now, if you know that you will only ever use the GPS unit in a car, and not want to take it out for other purposes, you might want to get a GPS head unit that can become a permanent part of your car. One option to consider is the Lanzar SDNV66B, which costs about $200. It’s also much more recent than the Bushnell unit.

Price: $218.68 (62 percent off)

Buy it here.

  • Good for car trips or hiking
  • Includes MP3 player
  • Includes points of interest
  • Has SD card slot

  • Small screen
  • Not waterproof
  • Older model
  • Limited ability to upgrade
  • Expensive given its age

Find more Bushnell Nav 500 3.5-Inch Portable GPS Navigator reviews and product information here.

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5. Garmin nüvi 52LM 5-Inch Portable Vehicle GPS with Lifetime United States Maps

gps for cars


Looking for a great bargain? This Garmin is dirt cheap, especially compared to some of the other options on our list. It has a decent-sized display (though certainly not the biggest on our list.) The device comes with “lifetime” map updates for the continuous US, but you can pay a little extra to get a model with US and Canadian maps. There’s also a nice lane assist feature that will help you stay in the right lane to take the correct exit or junction. In addition, you will also see the current speed limit displayed on the device, as well as your estimated arrival time.

Price: $92.99 (38 percent off)

Buy it here.

  • Inexpensive
  • Turn-by-turn directions
  • Lane assist with junction view
  • Includes suction cups, supports SSD
  • Lightweight

  • Limited battery life
  • Only comes with maps for continental United States
  • Smaller screen than some models out there
  • Getting Canadian maps costs extra
  • Fine print for lifetime maps states: “You will receive up to 4 map data updates per year, when and as such updates are made available on Garmin’s website, for 1 compatible Garmin product until your product’s useful life expires or Garmin no longer receives map data from its third party supplier, whichever is shorter”

Find more Garmin nüvi 52LM 5-Inch Portable Vehicle GPS with Lifetime Maps reviews and product information here.

Heavy, Inc. is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by linking to Amazon. Our product recommendations are guided solely by our editors. We have no relationship with manufacturers.

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  1. Anyone aware of any GPS navigation which tells you whether you can safely overtake a vehicle on turns by alerting you of any vehicle in opposite direction

  2. As an extensive Canadian driver, and an owner of both Gamin & Tomtom, I found that Tomtom is much quicker with Canadian road and highway updates than Garmin. On some instances, Garmin was more than two years late with their Canadian updates. With both highend Garmin & Tomtom highend units, they have features that 90% of drivers do noTomto nor need. The voice recogntion features are a nice to have feature for delivery drivers; however, for the average driver, it is nothing more than a “look what mine has”. The end cost of both Garmin & Tomtom’s bluetooth live updates feature can be prohibitive if you need to purchase extra gbytes from your phone provider to make this feature work.

    I would recommend the next level down from all highend models of GPS units, unless you are a vain “look what I have” personality.6

    • An add on comment to my post above: Garmin is very good at updating US road and detour changes. Not so for Canadian changes.

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  4. I have own a Magellan, two Tomtom and one Garmin (this is the one I own now) the feature i like about Magellan GPS is the BELL it sounds at the moment you have to turn or exit, i work at night and this is very important and helpful specially if you are in a residencial area (very dark areas that you have never been before) I travel a lot thru North America (Canada USA and Mexico) Magellan stops working as soon you enter to the Mexican customs and immigration building, not too good, and because of this I giving Magellan GPS 4 stars, for missing Mexican maps if you only travel thru the USA this is a great GPS for you, of course you have to make updates like ALL GPS, they are always new areas in all big metropolitan areas, Now lets see the Garmin GPS, I own the Nuvi 2639 Refurbished and only two weeks working with this GPS,(with North American Maps) very good settings very simple but lack of many features that you would like to change, like different voices (not too many voice options, Samantha is in this GPS) and different languages, does not have the BELL like the MAGELLAN when making turns or exits, when using Garmin and you have to make a turn or an exit the map on the GPS is showing like five blocks or more around the area you are at that moment, it makes it very confusing ( it is very hard to drive and check the screen of the GPS because of the big area that is showing) and again if your in a big avenue with traffic in a residencial area it is very confusing, this is when the BELL in all Magellan’s GPS help a lot, (Garmin does not have this BELL) also if you want to program all the places that you have to work that day if you connect the Garmin GPS to an electrical outlet to save battery, it will turn on into computer mode, very bad specially if you planning ahead, the cable that you connect in the car to the cigarette lighter, it comes with an antenna for traffic updates very good feature, other GPS you can connect with a USB cable with the lighter transformer with two inputs so you can connect two different things like an mp3 player and your GPS but the traffic update won’t work in this Garmin GPS, TOMTOM GPS I have own two of them, one I had to buy an SD Card in order to have all the maps of North America (TomTom Via 1605TM) if you do not buy the SD card, any SD Card like the ones for Mobile Phones will work, if you do not have an SD Card at this VIA 1605TM GPS,you are only going to see maps of your region so if you are in Miami and you need to drive to New York City you will need an SD Card, in the other hand TOMTOM GO 60 you do not need an SD Card, is ready to use in North America, at the settings you can change US English,(the famous Samantha, she is in all GPS Tomtom, Garmin, is she the same Samantha? ) and many others like Mike, Australian English, British English, New Zealand English, French Canadian, German, Spanish from Spain, Catalan, Spanish from Mexico,Italian, Portuguese and many more languages,also “in places that you have been or visit” you can delete only the ones that you want, this is good feature, in Magellan and Garmin if you want to delete places “you have been before” you have to delete ALL the places of your list at once, the only feature missing in this TomTom GO 60 is the BELL when you make a turn or an EXIT like the Magellan