Nowadays, you’re likely to have a navigation app on your smartphone to get you where you need to go. But that’s still not as convenient as having a dedicated GPS navigation device in your vehicle. Although most vehicles now offer a built-in navigation system as standard or optional equipment, there are plenty of older or entry-level cars on the road that don’t have the luxury.
Fortunately, there are still a few companies manufacturing high-quality handheld GPS devices, which are also great to have when traveling if you want to save on roaming charges for your cellphone. Sometimes rental car companies don’t include a GPS device or upcharge you a ton to rent one, and if you don’t want to deal with having to use your smartphone, packing one of these units makes life a whole lot easier.
Best of all, most handheld GPS devices for your car are now very affordable, it’s just a matter of picking the right one for your budget.
Table of contents
1. Editor's Pick: Garmin Nuvi 2589LMT
Available in 5-, 6-, and 7-inch displays, the Garmin Nuvi 2589LMT (2689LMT, 2789LMT) is a higher-priced option, but offers Bluetooth technology for hands-free calling. The 5-inch version has a 480 x 272-pixel capacitive touchscreen, which can be oriented vertically or horizontally and has pinch-to-zoom capability. Its rechargeable battery offers up to 2 hours of battery life off the charger.
The GPS device comes loaded with detailed maps of North America with free lifetime map updates. This device also takes advantage of Foursquare to populate its POIs, but you can also use the Smartphone Link app to check-in on Foursquare and access more detailed information about the POI, including ratings, price range, and hours of service. Also included is free lifetime traffic avoidance, Garmin Real Directions, Direct Access, and Active Lane Guidance.
This is a voice-activated navigation with an integrated microphone and speaker for hands-free calling. Like other Garmin Nuvi systems, it can be paired to the BC 30 wireless backup camera.
The Garmin Nuvi 2589LMT package includes the navigation device, vehicle suction cup mount, antenna/vehicle power cable, USB cable, and quick start manual.
2. Garmin Nuvi 2639LMT
Featuring a bright 6-inch high-resolution (800 x 480 pixels) capacitive display, the Garmin Nuvi 2639LMT offers pinch-to-zoom capability that allows you to quickly get a closer look at any onscreen information. The device comes loaded with detailed maps of North America with free lifetime map updates. Like the other Garmin Nuvi device, the 2639LMT has millions of POIs sourced from Foursquare.
The GPS device also offers lifetime traffic, allowing the Nuvi 2639LMT to receive free traffic information without any ads or subscription fees. The data is delivered straight to the Nuvi, so it doesn’t require a smartphone. Like other Garmin devices, this one doesn’t rely on cellular signals, so it works just fine even when you’re driving in cellular dead zones.
Other features found on the Garmin Nuvi 2639LMT include Direct Access, Active Lane Guidance, and the ability to pair with the BC 30 wireless backup camera. Its built-in rechargeable battery offers up to one-hour battery life when unplugged.
Along with the GPS device, each box includes a vehicle suction cup mount, antenna/vehicle power cable, USB cable, and quick start manual.
3. Garmin Nuvi 57LMT
One of the highest-rated and most popular products in the market is the Garmin Nuvi 57LMT, a 5-inch GPS navigation unit that you can pay extra for lifetime maps, or lifetime maps and traffic data. It’s an easy-to-use GPS navigator with dual-orientation display and is preloaded with detailed maps of the lower 49 states in the U.S. Best of all, it doesn’t rely on cellular signals and is not affected by cellular dead zones.
The 57LMT also benefits from integration with Foursquare, giving access to millions of new points of interest (POIs), including businesses, stores, restaurants, and other destinations. There is also the “Direct Access” feature, which simplifies navigating to complex destinations. For example, Direct Access can give you additional location information for specific retail stores inside a mall: “Arriving at Woodfield Mall. Anthropologie is inside, on the upper level.”
It features a built-in rechargeable lithium-ion battery that has up to two hours of life, which means you don’t necessarily have to keep it plugged in to use it. This comes in handy if you have to charge your phone and you only have one port on your car.
The Nuvi 75LMT also displays speed limit, current speed, and arrival time, while issuing an audible alert and displays an onscreen warning whenever you approach a school zone. This unit can also be paired with the BC 30 wireless backup camera, which is sold separately.
It does, however, have a resistive touchscreen with a resolution of 480 x 272 pixels. Resistive touchscreens aren’t as responsive and easy-to-use as capacitive touchscreens that you’re probably used to on your smartphone. Some users report difficulty inputting information to the navigation due to its resistive touchscreen.
Each unit includes the navigation unit, a vehicle suction cup mount, USB cable, and quick start manual.
4. TomTom VIA 1535TM
A more affordable unit from TomTom, the VIA 1535TM features a 480 x 272-pixel resistive screen, which is lower resolution compared to the TomTom VIA 1525TM. The 5-inch device includes lifetime maps and traffic for the U.S., Canada, and Mexico, split-screen junction view, and IQ routes. It also combines Bluetooth hands-free calling and voice recognition technologies. While navigating, Advanced Lane Guidance shows exactly which lane the driver has to take before they approach an exit, turn, or difficult intersection.
Voice recognition makes the 1535TM convenient and easy to use. You can simply use commands such as, “Drive to an address,” or “Navigate to an address,” and let the device do the rest of the work.
Maps are updated every three months and do require downloading the latest versions to the device.
Each box includes the GPS device, a USB cable, car charger with integrated traffic receiver, adhesive disk, integrated mount, and documentation.
5. Garmin Drive 50 LM
One of the more affordable options is the Garmin Drive 50 LM, featuring a 5-inch resistive display with 480 x 272-pixel resolution. The device features driver alerts to encourage safer driving while increasing situational awareness. It will warn the driver of upcoming sharp curves, speed changes, railroad crossings, and even animal crossings. For longer drives, the Drive 50 LM has a fatigue warning that suggests break times and potential rest areas after hours of driving. Another nice feature is “Up Ahead,” which lets the driver easily see upcoming places and milestones along the route, without having to leave the map view.
It also features Garmin Real Directions, which are easy-to-understand driving directions that guide like a friend. It uses recognizable landmarks, buildings and traffic lights, such as “Turn right after the red building.” Like other Garmin units, this one takes advantage of Foursquare for millions of POIs. The Garmin Drive 50 LM also has Direct Access and the ability to pair the BC 30 wireless backup camera.
Included in each box is the navigation unit preloaded with detailed maps for either the lower 49 states of the U.S. or Canada, vehicle power cable, vehicle suction cup mount, USB cable, and quick start manual.
6. TomTom VIA 1525TM
TomTom is another well-respected brand when it comes to handheld GPS devices for your car, and the VIA 1525TM is one of the company’s most popular units. It offers essential navigation, free lifetime traffic, and free lifetime map updates, all wrapped in a 5-inch touchscreen device. The screen also has a nice, high-resolution display at 800 x 480 pixels, resulting in a clearer and sharper image. Like other products in this price range, however, it is a resistive touchscreen.
The TomTom VIA 1525TM also has a built-in battery that offers up to one hour of operation without needing to be plugged in. It is also available in 4.3- and 6-inch sizes, in addition to the 5-inch device.
One standout feature is the Advanced Lane Guidance, which helps the driver prepare for the next directional move by clearly highlighting the correct driving lane on the display. You can update the maps and software on the TomTom VIA device by plugging it into your computer. The company says it issues new maps seasonally and they include road changes and revised speed limits.
Included in each box is the navigation unit, an easy reversible mount, USB cable and car charger, car charger with integrated traffic receiver, and documentation.
7. Magellan RM6220-LM DashCam Navigator
The Magellan RoadMate 6620-LM is a GPS navigator and full HD 1080p dash camera in one. Featuring a capacitive touchscreen with 800 x 480 resolution, the 5-inch device also has a built-in rechargeable battery that offers up to two hours of life. It comes preloaded with maps of the U.S., Canada, and Puerto Rico, and has free lifetime map updates – up to four times a year.
The RM6620-LM also features traffic camera alerts by PhantomALERT, providing audio and visual warnings of fixed red light and speed cameras along a route. Speed limit alerts help the driver manage their speed with a notification that displays when the vehicle is going faster than the speed limit.
What sets this device apart from the competition is the built-in full HD dash camera. The forward facing camera is equipped with a wide angled lens and continuously records in 1920 x 1080 resolution. And if an accident does occur, the device has a built in G-sensor that continuously monitors the car’s 3-axis movement. If a vehicle is hit or abruptly changes directions, the sensor will lock the camera’s current video recording, the previously recorded clip, and the next recording. All video recordings are stamped with GPS location, time, and date data, so a detailed account of an accident or event is saved.
A microSD card is required for dash camera operation and is sold separately. The device supports up to 64GB Class 10 microSD cards.
8. TomTom GO 620
The TomTom GO 620 is one of the most expensive products on the list, but it’s also packed with the most features. It comes with lifetime speed cameras, lifetime maps, updates via Wi-Fi, lifetime traffic, road trips, MyDrive, smartphone messages, hands-free calling, Speak & Go, and is also compatible with Siri and Google Now. All this comes bundled in a 6-inch high-resolution (800 x 480 pixels) capacitive screen with up to one hour battery lifetime when it’s not plugged in.
This device is ideal for car owners who have older vehicles. It offers the capability to hear text messages from your smartphone safely, allowing you to keep your hands on the wheel and your eyes on the road. There is also hands-free calling, or talking to Siri or Google Now by tapping the button on the TomTom GO and using the built-in microphone.
Map and software updates are conveniently downloaded via Wi-Fi, which means you won’t have to access a computer to update data.
The TomTom GO 620 comes with the navigation device, an active magnetic mount, micro USB cable, car charger, and documentation.
9. Garmin DriveSmart 61 LMT-S
Featuring one of the easiest-to-see displays yet, the Garmin DriveSmart 61 LMT-S is a premium GPS device with a 6.95-inch capacitive, high-resolution 1024 x 600-pixel edge-to-edge display. It supports multi-touch and pinch-to-zoom, so using it is similar to your smartphone. The advanced GPS device provides real-time services such as life traffic and life parking, Bluetooth calling, smart notifications, and voice-activated navigation. Map and software updates are conveniently transferred thanks to built-in Wi-Fi.
The DriveSmart 61 LMT-S also incorporates driver alerts for sharp curves, speed changes, railroad crossings, and animal crossings. It will also notify the driver if they are driving the wrong way on a one-way street and alert them of nearby schools and school zones.
If you own a Garmin smartwatch, this device can be paired to it to send navigation right to your wrist, even if you’ve parked your car and walking toward your destination. The smartwatch can also help you locate your car with compass guidance.
The Garmin DriveSmart brings TripAdvisor so the user can view ratings for travel POIs, like hotels, restaurants, and attractions.
The box includes the navigation device, vehicle suction cup mount, vehicle power cable, USB cable, and quick start manual.
Magellan RoadMate 9412T-LM
Another from Magellan’s RoadMate lineup is the 9412T-LM, a 7-inch GPS device with an extra-large, vibrant display. It comes with free lifetime maps and traffic alerts, along with traffic camera alerts by PhantomALERT. Users can personalize their trips with the OneTouch Favorites Menu, allowing them to create icons of their favorite places and searches, such as a coffee shop, restaurant, gas station, or bank. By touching the customized icons, the GPS device will locate the nearest locations while within any city.
Traffic Camera Alerts are included at no extra charge for one year, which comes from verified crowd-sourced data. The device offers premium content for an extra cost, such as black-spots (high accident areas), school zones, and dangerous intersections.
Another feature is “Best Parking,” which provides hours of operation and entrance address for parking garages.
The device’s built-in battery is good for up to 30 minutes on a charge.
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