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Tips on How to Buy a GPS System

written by: Brenda Barrett•edited by: Daniel P. McGoldrick•updated: 10/20/2010

There are so many reasons to get a GPS navigation system but are you really sure about which one to buy and how useful your device will be to you after you get it? Here are some tips on how to buy a GPS system that will help you choose wisely.

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    What Type of GPS Should I Buy?

    So you want to buy a GPS system and you're wondering where to start. Well first you will have to assess your needs. A car navigation system gets you around from point A to B, it shows your exact position, the distance from your intended destination; and among other things, it may indicate things like points of interest, traffic jams, and blocked roads along the way. If the only use for this device is in your car, then this is the device for you.

    However, if you are an occasional camper or hiker, and you don’t want to be limited to just your car, then a handheld GPS device would be perfect. For persons who are involved in marine activities, such as fishing, boating, or sailing, a marine GPS that is built to be on or around water would be the perfect device for your situation.

    Finally, most modern cell phones have a GPS receiving capability built in. However, some phones such as the Smart Phone and several Motorola phones have a complete GPS receiver capability and can do location tracking, turn by turn service, and so much more. Find out if your device has GPS receiving capability and find the appropriate applications to get you started with some basic GPS activity.

    GPS prices have decreased as the competition has increased and the technology has improved. Interestingly, the features available are getting more and more ingenious and can confuse a buyer if they are not really sure what to get. Here are some factors to consider before you buy a GPS.

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    What to Look for in a GPS System

    1. Performance

    Navigation systems are supposed to navigate and that is the most important feature of any GPS device. Look for GPS devices with a reputation for reliability, even if the device is inexpensive or small it is still supposed to offer accurate directions, quick re-routing with an up-to date map, be able to receive a GPS signal within four to six seconds after turning it on, and have a relatively good battery life (anything less than four hours is not good). The Garmin GPS devices are known for long battery life and have built a reputation for reliability according to reviews. Check out the Backpacker's Top Ratings for Handheld GPS.

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    2. Price

    With so many options and a smorgasbord of available features, setting a budget is probably the best way to start your search for the right GPS. Inexpensive GPS systems are priced at $200 and below; these units are suitable for most drivers, and offer features like turn-by-turn navigation, JPEG picture viewing, touch screen, and other extras. Mid-range GPS systems are priced between $200 and $600; extras include Bluetooth connectivity, FM transmitters, real-time traffic, and MP3 players. At $600 and above, advanced GPS systems are loaded with features that go beyond basic navigation and car travel, they can take pictures, play music and movies along with other basic features. Check out the best prices on Garmin GPS Units for an idea of the cost of Garmin units.

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    3. Easy to Use and Easy to Carry

    Simplicity is usually preferred by most consumers when using any device. Choose a device that is easy to use and will not confuse or frustrate you with the controls or overdone graphics. Weight is measured in ounces for GPS devices and that should be taken into consideration, especially if the device will be used for outdoor activities. Also note how well you can see your screen, and how easy it is to mount and read.

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    4. Features

    GPS devices come with a host of features, and the most sought after features are the text to speech functionality. This means a voice (and you can download many different options for voices) announces street names, corners and turns; real time traffic where free traffic updates are given, voice-guided directions, Bluetooth connectivity, MP3 playback, and FM transmission.

    So before you buy a GPS device think about the performance, price, simplicity, and features that are relevant and available for your specific needs. We have plenty of reviews for the best and most popular makes and models right on our site.