Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Choosing the Right Navigation System for You

If you are in the market for a new vehicle, you probably are hoping to get the most modern features and customizations available, provided that the price is still right. There are a number of technological advances that have become indispensable once we got a taste of them.

GPS mapping technology is one such advancement, and many Americans can scarcely remember a time when obtaining driving directions involved bulky road atlases and frequent stops to ask for help.

But what is the best option for consumers who are searching for a new vehicle and also want to get the most out of GPS technology? There are many options out there, and a wide range of pricing points, and each comes with its own unique set of advantages and disadvantages.

The first option for a new-car-buyer to consider is the factory-installed navigation systems. Factory systems have been given some bad publicity in recent years for being too costly, but manufacturers have been slashing prices recently on these optional upgrades, and there are some significant advantages that the factory models have that you cannot get in a handheld device, and for many consumers these benefits will make the modest extra costs well worth it.

Let’s take a look at the advantages of the factory navigation systems:

  • Aesthetics – If a sharp-looking, uncluttered interior is important to you, a factory system will probably be the way to go. The factory systems are fully integrated into the design of the vehicle, and generally include larger screens and a sleeker look than portable options. They also have the capability of working with other vehicle features such as voice-activation and steering wheel controls.

  • Warranty – Factory-installed navigation systems are almost always covered by bumper-to-bumper warranties. So if something goes wrong with the system, you simply take it to the dealer and have them service it for you.

  • Security – Portable navigation systems have become a popular target for thieves who see them as enticing grab-and-dash option. On the contrary, criminals are going to be less inclined to mess around with a system that has been integrated into the dash.


The downsides to factory systems are mostly related to the costs, both of the feature itself and for the mapping updates that customers may choose to add over time. However, especially when considering that factory systems have been shown to help with a vehicle’s resale value, the factory-systems may still come out on top when a comprehensive cost-benefit calculation has been made.

If the factory system is not for you, you have three other options:

  • Portable devices – These popular devices, such as the Garmin or TomTom, are very popular due to their portability – you can move them from car to car, or use them when walking/biking – but they are a magnet for thieves and there is little recourse when one is damaged or broken.

  • Aftermarket Systems – There are a number of aftermarket alternatives available for consumers who want integrated navigation but choose not to go with the factory system. The advantages of the aftermarket systems are that there is a wider variety of customization options and sometimes there are more features available. On the downside, these systems are a frequent target of crooks as well, since they are much easier to remove than factory models.

  • Smartphone technology – Most smartphones have GPS/navigation apps available at a very low cost, and some consumers prefer to use them for their in-vehicle navigation needs. This is a dangerous option, however; using your smart phone while driving is not only a safety hazard, it has become illegal in many states. Furthermore, with many smartphone plans, maps and directions will not be available in certain areas -- and those areas are likely to be the ones where you need directions the most!


I recommend researching the specific options for the vehicle you are considering purchasing and talk over the factory systems with your dealer. Like many consumers you may find that in the long run it is advantageous to go with the factory system.

About the Author: Jack Payton is a car nut in the purest form. He loves to write about everything gear related, and rebuilt his first engine at 15. He works as the online publisher for the online tire retailer www.tires-easy.com. In his spare time he enjoys cruising, attending car shows, and watching NASCAR.

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