Last updated: June 22, 2020

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A Satellite Navigation (Sat Nav) or GPS is a driver’s best friend when it comes to accurately locating their geographical position and providing a detailed driving route to specified destination. In recent years, GPS manufacturers have been adding new and interesting innovations which you will discover in this article.

GPSs can be very beneficial and as they are now much more affordable, more and more people are deciding to buy a device for their cars. Selecting the right GPS for your needs is not always easy, with numerous makes and models on the market it can feel as though you need significant knowledge of the technical characteristics of these devices in order to make the best choice Luckily, we have done the hard work for you and below you will a find a complete guide to GPS, including information, frequently asked questions and the top products on the UK market to help you make an informed decision when making your purchase.

First Things First

  • The satellite navigation or GPS system is based on a series of land-based control stations and a network of at least 24 satellites orbiting the Earth, so that at any one time, at least six satellites are accessible by the GPS receivers.
  • In order to choose the most suitable GPS device, you will firstly need to consider its intended use, different devices are available for different modes of transport. For example a device you may purchase for your car may be different to a device suitable for use on a motorbike or bicycle.
  • The UK is to build its own satellite system post Brexit after Prime Minister Theresa May rules out using Galileo, an Europe-centric version of the Global Positioning System reported to eventually be more accurate than GPS when it is fully functional in 2026. The cost of building its own system is an estimated £3bn-£5bn. The UK will also work with the US to continue accessing its GPS System.

The best Sat Navs on the UK market

Here is a list that we have prepared of the five best personal GPS systems currently available on the UK market. We have made this list by choosing a wide variety of items with the key principle of only including products that offer very good value for money.

SLIMLINE SAT NAV by Navpal

This GPS is an Amazon favourite, it comes pre installed with the latest 2019 UK & European maps with many more countries available and FREE Lifetime Updates. It has the latest touchscreen technology with HD display providing clearer viewing for poor eyesight and can be seen in bright sun light.
It will connect to your mobile phone via Bluetooth and has many outstanding features such as Driver Alerts, Active Speed Camera Detection, Current Speed, Estimated Arrival Timed, Multiple Vehicle Modes.

British brand with 24/7 english speaking support, 90 day money back guarantee, and a lifetime replacement warranty.

Garmin Drive 51LMT-S 5 Inch Sat Nav with Lifetime Map Updates for UK and Ireland and Free Live Traffic, Black

This dedicated 5-inch GPS includes free lifetime map updates for the UK, Ireland and Western Europe, helpful driver alerts and live services that bring you up-to-date information including built-in data from TripAdvisor to help find everything you need along the way.

Beat the traffic jams with time-saving routes and live information. Download the Smartphone Link app, which connects your Garmin Drive with your compatible smartphone and receive traffic alerts, relevant rerouting directions and up-to-date weather forecasts. The Smartphone Link app also enables LiveTrack, which lets drivers share their location so friends can track your whereabouts whether you are running errands around town or taking a long road trip.

TomTom Car Sat Nav Start 52.

This TomTom car GPS is a 5 Inch with Lifetime UK and Republic Of Ireland. The TomTom START GPSs offer essential navigation and free lifetime map updates. Finding destinations is simple from the Search menu or by touching a point on the map. Advanced Lane Guidance helps you prepare for exits and intersections by clearly highlighting the correct driving lane for your planned route.

Advance warnings on your TomTom START notify you when you’re approaching a speed camera, and remind you of the required speed limit. You can also track your true average speed between Average Speed Cameras to ensure you are below the zone limit. You can download updated camera locations for 3 months, at no extra cost, by regularly connecting to your computer.

Winston UK -GPS Navigation for Car

From Winston UK this 7 Inch screen 3D Navigation select landmarks in 3D to help you place your position with the real world. It makes you easily choose exactly which lane to take before you approach an exit, turn or difficult intersection.

Alerts you for upcoming sharp curves, speed changes, school zones, a fatigue warning, nearby red light, speed cameras and more.  It has updated an 8GB Sat-Nav LCD Touch Screen GPS Navigation System, Lifetime Free Maps. 90 DAYS MONEY BACK GUARANTEE AND LIFETIME WARRANTY The package includes a car GPS with car charger, back bracket & mount.

Jimwey – SAT NAV GPS Navigation System

The Jimwey boasts a 7 inch screen, Bluetooth 8GB 256MB. This GPS is Pre-installed with the most up-to-date 52 countries 2018 maps in Europe, which has 2D / 3D map display. Further maps which are available for download but not pre-installed include: USA, Canada and Mexico.

Other features include Hands-free Calling via Bluetooth 2 which allows you to connect your mobile phone to the navigations device. You can search Postcode, Address, Coordinates and POI Search.  It provides Intelligent Current Speed Camera Alerts, Current Speed, Estimated Arrival Time, Various Route Planning and  7 vehicle modes between Car, Pedestrian, Bicycle, Emergency, Bus, Taxi and Lorry.

1 year warranty and 30 days money back guarantee.

Shopping Guide: Everything you should know about a Sat Nav

When choosing a GPS, it is important to consider the the various functions and applications available in different models available on the market today. The following section goes into more detail and covers general information about GPSs along with the most commonly asked questions by GPS consumers.

Man in the car and holding black mobile phone with map gps navigation

A GPS lets you choose between 2D or 3D maps and voice assistance.
(Source: Rostislavsedlacek: 74792461/ 123rf.com)

What is a Sat Nav exactly?

Satellite Navigation (Sat Nav) or Global Positioning System (GPS) is a global navigation satellite system that allows you to establish your position on the earth within a few metres. This is a technology that was originally created for use in the military field but expanded dramatically with multiple applications for civilian use.

GPS works thanks to a series of land-based control stations and a network of at least 24 satellites in orbit around the Earth. For GPS to work accurately, the device must be able to receive a signal from at least six satellites. GPS devices such as those in many cars today receive and replay the information they receive from the satellites.

What are Sat Navs for?

GPS devices can locate your geographical location to within 2 metres which makes it much easier to understand where you are and how to get to a particular destination. A Sat Nav device can offer alternative routes such as avoiding tolls or motorways on the journeys you wish to make as well as providing accurate information about the time of arrival and points of interest such as restaurants, shopping centres and petrol stations.

A GPS device can also display the speed limit (where known) and warn you about the presence of speed cameras, speed limit changes and specific information such as the warning of an approaching school zone or dangerous road. Some advanced agricultural GPSs allow users to monitor the land of cultivation to help farmers reduce the costs of fumigation and harvesting.

Journalist Chris Grahamtelegraph.co.uk

“The UK is to build its own satellite system post Brexit. The cost of building its own system is an estimated £3bn-£5bn. The UK is expected to work with the US and other ‘five eyes’ partners.”

What are the advantages and disadvantages of a Sat Nav?

There are a number of important advantages as well as some disadvantages to using a GPS. With a GPS, it is possible to determine your position with a high degree of precision which allows you to establish the most efficient driving routes and estimate the time of arrival. However on the contrary, a GPS can distract you from the road and increase the risk of an accident. It is important to ensure the correct positioning of your GPS within your vehicle which is the bottom right hand corner of your windscreen. The following table elaborates further on the advantages and disadvantages of a GPS.

Advantages Disadvantages
They let you know your position with a high level of accuracy Sometimes, they can distract you from the road and increase the risk of an accident
Some GPSs do not need to be connected to the Internet to determine your position. This way, you can use them in places where 3G or 4G internet coverage does not reach Updating maps can be an extra expense
They provide detailed information on the route and points of interest
They make it possible to estimate the approximate time of arrival
They offer information and warnings of fixed speed cameras
They help you drive more comfortably and safely, as you don’t need to rely on your mobile phones’ navigation system

Is a Sat Nav worth buying?

Whether you’re a regular driver or not, the purchase of a GPS device is always worth considering. A GPS can help you save time on the road, be it on your regular journeys or further a field. It can inform you of the quickest/fastest route whilst identifying traffic build-up and roadworks as well as offer “extra” information that can be very useful. Could it also encourage you to drive more safely, knowing the speed limits and potentially avoiding speeding fines?

Who should buy a Sat Nav?

Anyone who uses a vehicle and wants to get from A to B with ease. A GPS device is particularly beneficial to those who spend a lot of time on the road such as taxi drivers, delivery drivers and sales representatives who would benefit from knowing the most time efficient route. Plus anyone else who wants to make a journey suitable for their needs, perhaps including restaurants or places of interest.

Additionally, a GPS is particularly useful if you travel in areas where the Internet coverage is poor or non existent as in more remote areas of the UK. A GPS system is also highly recommended in the agricultural industry for farmers to track the movements of their tractors or harvesters to improve efficiency and reduces costs.

GPS Was used in the car

Some GPS devices include free lifetime updates to the included maps.
(Source: Chockchai Paralart: 38778182/ 123rf.com)

What types of Sat Navs are there?

A GPS can be divided into two distinct categories: portable devices and those installed in a vehicle. The portable type can be used in different vehicles, while the built-in devices are integrated into the dashboard of the car. The following table breaks down the main features of each type.

Portable Installed
Installation They are light and easily transportable. They have a bracket to attach them to any vehicle They are normally installed as standard in the dashboard of the car
Battery You usually connect them to the car’s cigarette lighter to charge the battery on long trips You don’t have to worry about charging the battery
Speed Turn on speed varies between models. You may need to wait while the navigator system is loading They work as soon as the car is started, so the waiting time is minimal
Use They can be used in different vehicles Can only be used in the car in which they are installed
Probability of theft Given their small size, they can be easily stolen if you leave them inside the car They cannot be stolen unless your entire vehicle is stolen

What are the most important functions that a Sat Nav usually includes?

A GPS usually includes a number of innovative and interesting features to make driving easier. Almost all models let you choose between 2D and 3D maps as well as the option of voice guidance, which means you don’t have to continuously watch the screen to know where to go. Another feature present in some GPSs is an alert system that warns drivers of an upcoming”black spots” or dangerous stretches of roads.

Another function available in most GPSs is the fixed speed camera alert which works by using your location and checking against a database of known speed camera locations. GPSs also indicate points of interest and may even advise which lane is more suitable for driving.

Shopping Criteria

If you are thinking about buying a GPS, it is important that you take into account a number of different factors before making your purchase. To help you in the selection process, we have selected the criteria that we believe are the most important. We have done this with the fundamental objective of creating a shopping guide so that you can find the GPS that best suits you.

Intended use

What is your intended use of the GPS should be one of your first questions along with what type of vehicle with which you are going to use it. GPSs are usually built for use in a car, but there are also specific devices for HGV (Heavy Goods Vehicles) motorcycles and bicycles.

GPSs for HGV’s usually inform drivers about the width of the road or the height of approaching tunnels or bridges. GPSs designed for motorcycles are usually built to withstand heavy rain and have more secure brackets for attachment.

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GPS works by receiving information from at least 24 satellites that are in orbit around Earth.

Screen

When it comes to choosing GPS, most people generally opt for one with as large a screen as possible. However keep in mind that a larger screen size usually means a higher price. In addition, the screen size isn’t the only nor the most important aspect to consider when comparing the different GPS screens.

When it comes to the screen, the resolution, the level of brightness and minimal reflection are just as important.If it is not easy to see the/GPS screen in sunny conditions, this may distract the driver and increase the risk of an accident.

transport, road trip, car driving, technology and people concept - close up of male hand adjusting gps navigator while driving car

GPSs warn you about the presence of speed cameras, speed limits or other factors such as an upcoming school zone. (Source: Dolgachov: 52257259/ 123rf.com)

Updates

Some GPS models include free lifetime updates to the included maps meanwhile others require you to pay each time an update comes out. The former tends to require a higher initial economic investment, but in the long term, it may be more economical.

With this in mind, it is important to consider whether you will need new updates frequently or whether you plan on using the same regions and therefore do not need new versions. This will determine whether it is better to invest in a GPS with lifetime updates or simply pay for them as they are needed/released.

Maps included

Every GPS includes a certain level of pre-loaded maps with the device so it’s important when choosing a device, you understand the package you will need eg UK only or to include European maps.

There are currently two main map providers for GPSs across the world: Navteq and Tele Atlas. In general, their functionalities are very similar but you may wish to analyse the points of interest they show and the additional information that each provider includes.

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It’s useful if the screen includes a night mode and even better if it is a touchscreen.

Battery

Generally, the battery of a GPS will last for two to three hours. Fortunately, charging your battery in the car is usually quite simple. If you plan on using the GPS with another type of vehicle, such as a motorcycle it may not be so easy and therefore the life of the battery takes on greater importance.

Extra accessories

Often the attachment system of the GPS is not given much thought, but a good fastening system can save a lot of headaches. It is also essential that the GPS has a charging system that works in your vehicle. The most common form of charging is via the cigarette lighter which is reliable and easy to use.

Another interesting “extra” is a Bluetooth connection. With Bluetooth, you can usually synchronise your mobile phone contacts with the GPS to use your phone via the GPS screen. With this extra feature you can drive much safer and more comfortably. Some GPSs also have the ability to connect to the Internet via WiFi for easy map updates.

Female driver sitting in the car and holding black mobile smart phone with map gps navigation application with planned route on the screen. Blurred car interior on the background.

A GPS navigation systems is also be recommended for agriculture.
(Source: Aleksey Boldin: 32493059/ 123rf.com)

Summary

Having a GPS can be very helpful when you are on the move. Not only to plan routes or find locations on the map, but also to know places of interest and potentially to help you drive more carefully with the indication of the speed limit and warnings of upcoming speed cameras. It’s no wonder that GPSs are so popular.

To decide which GPS is best for you, the first thing you should consider is how you are going to use it along with the technical specifications such as the screen, maps included, battery life and the ‘extra’ accessories available.

Finally, if you found this guide useful for your GPS selection process, please leave us a comment or share it through your different social networks.

(Source of featured image: Moreno Soppelsa: 10480474/ 123rf.com)

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