Spring is on the way out and thoughts are turning towards the brighter days of Summer. If you’re off on holiday or have plans to visit friends & family, you might well be wondering which is the best sat nav to buy at the moment. First off, a sat nav that’s right for other people isn’t necessarily the right one for you – it very much depends on where and when you’re planning to use it. If you’re after some occasional simple A to B navigation then, to be honest, an app on your mobile phone will probably do the job as well as any basic sat nav, or there are some entry level models available such as the Garmin Nuvi 68LM or TomTom Start 25M. Expect a basic sat nav to set you back somewhere between £50 and £100.
If, however, you like the sound of digital traffic, free worldwide maps, advanced lane guidance, and a nice big screen, then there’s some great sat navs out there. The table below shows our top 4 current favourites including the Garmin DriveSmart 61LMT-D model which was voted sat nav of the year last year.
Always Connected TomTom Traffic, Free Lifetime Speed Camer Updates
Free Smartphone Traffic integration, WiFi Updating & Siiri Integration
New Bezel-less Design, Free Lifetime Digital Traffic
Built-in Dash Cam Functionality, Free Lifetime Digital Traffic
Lifetime Map Updates
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So which is the best sat nav right now?
Personally, we’d recommend the TomTom Go 6250. It’s a bit pricey but you get what you pay for, and this is definitely a class leading sat nav. It has an integrated sim which means you always get the latest live traffic updates instantly, for free. This applies whether at home in the UK or abroad on your holidays in Europe or the USA. If you want a slightly smaller screen than the 6 inch 6250, but want similar high-end features, check out the TomTom Go 5200 with its more manageable 5 inch screen. It has recently won the IF Design Award.
One major benefit of the high-end TomTom models, (and the latest Garmin Drive models), is WiFi connectivity. More than just a gimmick, having WiFi available means an end to the rather tedious update process where the only way to update your sat nav is to bring it in from the car, connect it to your desktop via USB, and download & install the updates. With WiFi, updates can be done automatically wherever you have a WiFi signal, most likely when parked up on your drive. You don’t even need a desktop PC.
The models we’re suggesting are very much current at the time of writing this article, which is April 2018. Be aware that the older TomTom models are still available (the TomTom 6100 preceded the 6200), and you may well find some big discounts available on them as retailers clear old stock.
Why not see what other sat navs people are buying – that’s always a good guide. Check out Our Most Popular Sat Navs right now.
Best Caravan & Truck Sat Nav for 2018
If you’re towing a caravan or driving an HGV you may well find that your typical in-car sat nav doesn’t quite route you appropriately all the time. Depending on your vehicle it’s pretty likely that you’ll need to avoid narrow roads and low bridges, which wouldn’t normally be an issue for car drivers. Not to mention the fact that you may well have requirements for a larger screen, and extras such as input for a rear parking camera.
Although we used to be a great fan of the TomTom Camper, it’s sadly been discontinued. However, the latest camping sat nav is now the Garmin Camper 760LMT-D, and we’re pleased to say it really delivers.
The Garmin Camper 770LMT-D has been out there a while, but is still the latest model. The Camper models have all the style that you usually find with Garmin, with some great extras such as the photoreal junction view, and lane assist which shows actual road signs and landscape detail. The model name has a ‘D’ after it, indicating that it has Digital Traffic, a free lifetime highly detailed and accurate traffic update system.
The DEZL 770LMT-D replaces the DEZL 760LMT-D. Easy to use 7 inch glass touchscreen display truck sat nav with detailed maps of Full Europe (45 countries). Free lifetime map updates and digital traffic alerts. Custom truck routing for the size, weight and load of your truck. Truck & Trailer Services Directory, plus points of interest (POIs) highly-rated by truckers. Road warnings, including sharp curves, bridge heights, weight limits and more.
Also Consider: TomTom
The UK’s favourite in-car sat nav maker brings you dedicated truck sat nav hardware and software. With the latest map guarantee you can be sure you’ll get the very latest maps when you buy your TomTom. TomTom Truck models have all the usual features such as lane guidance, trucking points of interest (such as motorway services etc), speed indication and IQ Routes. The TomTom Trucker 5000 model has the same specs as the 6000 but has a 5″ screen rather than a 6″. The TomTom Trucker Series has now been superseded by the TomTom Professional Series.
Best Motorcycle GPS & Sat Nav for 2018
Garmin Zumo 595LM
Well, this one is easy. Our favourite motorcyle sat nav is definitely the Zumo 595LM. The Garmin Zumo motorbike sat nav improves on the earlier Zumo 590LM model with a wide 5 inch dual-orientation, sunlight-readable, glove-friendly touchscreen display. The 595LM comes with preloaded street maps for the UK and Europe (45 countries) with Free Lifetime Map Updates. Hands-free phone control and spoken directions heard in-helmet via Bluetooth technology. Includes MP3 player, control iPod and iPhone right on the display. Rugged, withstands fuel vapours, UV rays and harsh weather (IPX7 water rating). And it also has the curvy roads function.
Also Consider: TomTom Rider 450
A fair bit cheaper than the flagship Garmin Zumo 595LM, the TomTom Rider can also be considered a good buy.
The latest TomTom Rider 450 includes lifetime maps of Full Europe and lifetime TomTom Traffic. With the new screen this is a step up from the TomTom Rider 410, and is leaps away from the earler 400 and Urban Rider models. It includes an exciting winding roads feature and bluetooth hand free calling. Also includes lifetime speed camera updates.
Our Top 10 Sat Nav Buying Tips
So you’ve decided that you want to buy a sat nav, but which one do you go for? There are so many out there and it’s not immediately obvious why some are £50 and some are £350.
Things you should be looking out for when buying your sat nav are:
1. Screen Size
Gone are the days of the small, square screens on the 3.5 inch sat navs, but there are still a few models around with a smallish 4.3 inch screen such as the Garmin Drive 40LM (all sat navs are considered ‘widescreen’ or ‘XL’ these days). The most popular mainstream size for in-car use is now the 5 inch models (such as the TomTom Go 5200 or Garmin DriveSmart 51LMT-D). However, a number of people prefer the slightly easier-on-the-eye 6 inch models, especially for use in larger family cars (6 inch models include the TomTom Go 6200 and Garmin DriveSmart 61LMT-D). Bigger still, there’s the option the 7 inch models (such as the Garmin DriveSmart 70LMT-D), which are probably most suited to motorhomes or trucks.
2. Maps & Navigation
Adding new maps to your sat nav is always possible, but can be more expensive than you might think, so it always makes sense to include the maps you’ll need into your initial purchase. So by all means stick with UK & ROI maps if you’re sure you’re not going to want to take the sat nav on your travels, but if you think it might come in useful on your next trip to France etc, then go for a model with EU maps. Also, a lot of models sold in the UK offer a ‘Western EU Maps’ version which includes France, Italy, Spain etc, but not Croatia, Bulgaria etc. Buying Western EU maps over Full EU maps can save a bit of money. Just to avoid confusion, all sat navs sold in the UK include maps for the full UK & Ireland!
Whilst extras such as ‘text-to-speech’ and ‘lane guidance’ used to be considered premium features, you’ll find these as standard in any sat nav that’s been released in the past couple of years.
There’s a few different ways of getting traffic updates on your sat nav these days. The most basic sat navs (such as the TomTom Start) don’t have traffic updates and have no way of adding them. The more intermediate sat navs (such as the Garmin Nuvi 2599LMT) offer lifetime traffic updates via a RDS/FM transmitter. This is special traffic information broadcast over the airways like radio. Whilst useful, it’s not as accurate or updated as frequently as ‘Digital’ traffic. The high-end sat navs (any Garmin with LMT-D after it, or the TomTom Go 5200/6200) offer a SIM card based service that uses data broadcasts to give the most accurate traffic info available. This service works abroad as well as at home, for no extra charges. Somewhere between intermediate & high-end models, (such as the TomTom Go 52), the ‘Digital’ traffic service is offered, but only by pairing the sat nav with your smartphone (and therefore using your mobile data plan and roaming charges accordingly).
Bluetooth allows you to connect your smartphone to your sat nav. If you want access to Digital Traffic (see above), want to make phonecalls using the sat nav as a microphone/speaker, or use smart features such as Siri integration, you’ll need Bluetooth.
5. Screen Type
There are two types of screen. A resistive screen is found on the entry-level sat navs. This means you have to slightly push the screen to register a touch. The higher-end models have a capacitive touch screen, which is what we’re more familiar with these days, (the type of glass found on smartphones), and allows multi-touch features such as ‘pinch-to-zoon’.
Not an immediately obvious choice to make, but whilst low resolution on the entry-level sat navs is perfectly fine for maps & directions, if you intend to use smart features such as Google search or TripAdvisor reviews, then a high resolution is much better for reading. In reality, you shouldn’t have to worry about this as the high-end models have a high resolution anyway.
Entry-level models have a pretty standard suction-cup type mount that you stick on your windscreen. The higher-end models have some neater magnetic solutions which allow the sat nav to be mounted and unmounted with ease, and even to be swivelled around for a dual orientation view.
8. Voice Control
Voice control is found on all high-end sat navs, but not necessarily on the more basic models. Voice control allows you to talk to the sat nav, e.g. “Take me home”, rather than have to type it in using the screen. Whilst not always perfect, it can be safer and quicker than touch screen entry.
9. Caravan, Truck, Car, Motorbike?
Whilst we’ve focussed on in-car sat navs, there’s no such thing as ‘one sat nav fits all’. If you’re towing a caravan, driving a motorhome, or navigating a truck/HGV, a specialist sat nav may well be your best choice. See our selection of the best caravan and camper at navs right now. The primarly advantage of a dedicated camping/trucking sat nav is the ability to add vehicle weight & dimensions to ensure only suitable routes are given. There’s also dedicated sat navs for motorcyclists such as the TomTom Rider and Garmin Zumo. And whilst not exactly a traditional sat nav, there are Garmin Forerunner GPS devices for runners and Garmin Edge GPS devices for cyclists!
10. Smart Features
A relatively new thing to consider on sat navs, but if you’re a fan of the latest technology then look out for features such as text messaging, Siri integration, Google integration, and integrated TripAdvisor reviews.
Sat Nav Unit or Phone App?
So should you use a dedicated sat nav or just an app on your smartphone? Here’s a few pros & cons…
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Two of the most popular satnav phone apps are Google maps and Waze, available on both iOS and Android.