By Louis DeNicola, Cheapism.com
These days, if you ask someone for directions, they're likely to pull out a smartphone and fire up a mapping application. But as Apple's "mapgate" showed, smartphones don't always deliver the best navigation solutions. This is especially true when driving, which is why many people stick with GPS units designed specifically for navigating roadways. Moreover, in places where it's illegal to talk or text on a mobile device while driving, using a navigation app without a mount or a helpful passenger can lead to a hefty fine.A cheap GPS navigational system can take you anywhere.
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Still, it doesn't always make sense to spend big money on a dedicated GPS device, so take the budget route instead. Cheapism.com has identified three options, all modestly priced below $120 and designed to provide driving directions loud and clear:
The Garmin Nuvi 40LM (starting at $90) is considered the best of the entry-level Garmin GPS units by some expert reviewers. Consumers have also highlighted the easy-to-understand interface, the unit's responsiveness, and the signal in online reviews. This model comes with free map upgrades for life, more than 5 million points of interest, a speed limit indicator, and lane assist to signal upcoming turns. The included maps cover the continental U.S., as well as Hawaii and Puerto Rico, and can be upgraded to include Alaska and Canada.
The Garmin Nuvi 50 (starting at $80) is slightly larger than the 40LM, featuring a 5-inch screen instead of 4.3 inches, and foregoes lifetime map updates. Otherwise it mirrors the smaller model, sharing features such as lane assist and a speed limit indicator. The large screen and ease of use win over reviewers.
The TomTom Via 1405TM (starting at $114) garners a few critical reviews claiming the device takes longer than expected to offer up directions. But this may be due to its ability to incorporate traffic alerts and data on current traffic conditions into route calculations. One setting lets drivers request routes that will use the least amount of gas. This 4.3-inch GPS unit includes maps of the U.S., Canada, and Mexico and offers lifetime map updates.
The maps provided by these GPS devices are one of their most compelling features. In addition to detailed road plans, there are millions of points of interest, from hotels and gas stations to shopping, which can make road tripping easier and more enjoyable. These units also come with safety features that pinpoint your location and find the nearest emergency services. If you're traveling outside North America you'll need to buy additional maps, which can be expensive -- one set of Garmin maps of Europe costs $100, for example.
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All GPS models can provide the essential service of getting users from point A to point B, but the ones listed here also advise drivers which lane to be in and display renderings of upcoming turns (a welcome feature for complicated highway on- and off-ramps). Other less practical but nonetheless fun features include the ability to upload different voices to the device and receive commands from celebrities and TV personalities.
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