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How to Use a GPS Car Navigation System

written by: Misty Faucheux•edited by: Rhonda Callow•updated: 1/11/2010

GPS systems for cars can save you a lot of headache. That is if you know how to use one. Learn how to use your car's GPS navigation system today!

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    Selecting a Car GPS Unit

    If you’re heading out on vacation or even a place within your own city, it’s helpful to have a GPS car navigation system. But, the system does you no good if you don’t know how to use it. Generally, however, once you’ve used it, it’s pretty easy to get the hang of it.

    Perhaps the first thing to consider is what type of system you should buy. Well, you need to consider how your car is set up. Most GPS units sit on the dashboard. If this is going to obstruct something, for example a vent, then you may want to consider getting a different unit. You can always get a cheap unit that is a bit smaller.

    You next want to consider how complicated and how expensive you want your unit to be. If you’re looking for all the bells and whistles, those units can run into the hundreds of dollars. But, you should consider buying a unit that has an updateable points-of-interest database. These databases will give you information on attractions, gas stations and even ATMs. They can be very handy if you’re looking for somewhere to stop on the open road.

    Finally, get a unit that gives you both text and voice commands. The voice commands are a good safety feature since you don’t have to constantly look at the screen to see where to go next.

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    Read Your Manual

    Gamin Streetpilot Now, it’s time to learn how to use your GPS car navigation unit. First of all, read your manual. Each manual is going to be different. With many units, you will simply have to plug in your starting and ending point, and the system will give you directions by either voice commands, text or both to your end destination.

    There are other units, however, that will allow you to speak where you would like to go. While you probably won’t be able to speak an exact address (usually you can only put in the city), you will still be able to give the system commands by just speaking aloud your destination. So, it’s important to read your manual.

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    Basic Overview of How to Use Your Car GPS Unit

    For whatever system you have, below is a generic overview of how to use your GPS unit.

    • Turn on the engine of your car.
    • Type in the exact location of where your car is parked. Some units will automatically do this for you with GPS tracking.
    • Type in the location where you would like to go. You can put in an exact address, or you can simply input the street name or city. Some units will even search by points of interest, including places such as national parks.
    • The device may ask you if you are at your starting location. Simply say yes.
    • Now, the device will give you turn-by-turn directions to your location.
    • Sometimes, you may have to deviate from the directions. For example, certain roads maybe closed, or you may run into bad traffic. The system will ask you if you took a detour, just say yes. The device will then reroute you.
    • With some older devices, you may have to say “Next" or “Navigator Next" with each new turn. Or, you may have to say “Previous" if you need to hear the directions over again. Again, you need to read your manual.
    • Once you reach your destination, the device may give you a sign off of some sort and turn itself off.

    This is a pretty standard overview of how the systems work, but each device is going to be a little different. Remember, the manual is your friend.