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Buying a GPS: What do I need to look for?

GPS Tracking Devices are versatile and useful consumer technology systems. There are four main types of GPS units; the car navigation system, the portable outdoors unit, the marine system, and the PDA/GPS hybrid. If you’re mainly planning on using your GPS to get you from point A to B in your car and don’t think you’d use it for much else, your best bet is the in-car navigation system. In this section, we will focus on the portable GPS Vehicle Navigation System.As new manufacturers enter the market, GPS prices are coming down and budget-priced units include features previously available only on more expensive models. These features include the ability to speak street names, speed warnings, music player, or photo viewer. We also find in higher-priced models features like a wireless FM transmitter, Bluetooth-phone compatibility etc. Premium services, such as traffic and weather reports, are becoming widely available, although they often require a subscription.

There are many different kinds of GPS devices and brands available today, making it difficult to select the GPS device to perfectly fit your needs. We will discuss in this section of the Arrive Alive website the most important aspects to consider when buying/purchasing a GPS device.

Basics of Vehicle GPS Navigation Systems
The most basic function of a vehicle GPS device is to give you the best possible route toward a particular destination. It must be able to recalculate your route in case you miss a particular route instruction. It must also have a text and/or voice system for giving directions. Most GPS receivers perform four basic functions: location, distance/direction info, route creation and tracking.

If you often travel to new places for work or pleasure, have trouble reading maps, or simply hate to ask for directions, you might consider a vehicle GPS device for your car. The vehicle navigation GPS device can do things that paper maps are incapable of, such as automatically showing your exact location anywhere on the globe, providing precise turn-by-turn instructions on how to drive from any Point A to any Point B, identifying where the nearest gas and coffee stores are, and warning you when traffic problems make a detour highly advisable. Most let you choose your routing preferences, including the shortest distance, the fastest time, or even routes with no toll roads.

GPS technology works day or night, rain or shine. When you’re venturing into alien territory, a GPS device can give you greater security and confidence that you’ll ever get from paper.

Questions to be asked when buying a GPS Navigation Device
With so many GPS devices from so many manufacturers, the prospective buyer is best advised not to be swayed by sales talk and fancy brochures – but rather to take time and consider some important features of the product!

We would like to suggest that the prospective buyer ask a few questions:

What type of driving do you do? / How often and how far will I travel?
Consider your typical driving conditions, how often you’re in unfamiliar areas, and the features that are most important to you. If most of your driving is spent commuting along the same route or running local errands on familiar roads, taking short trips, and need directions only occasionally you might not need an expensive GPD device with many features.

If you expect to use it daily (for sales calls, for example) and you have complicated travel itineraries, you’ll find that a GPS unit quickly becomes indispensable. In that case, buy the best one you can afford.

Where will I attach it in my vehicle?
Most car GPS kits include a mounting bracket with a suction cup designed to stick to your windshield or a flat surface on your dash. Not all dashboards are flat, and many have pebbly surfaces that prevent suction-cup mounts from adhering to them. Some GPS kits include a flat disc that is designed to adhere to your dash, allowing the suction cup to stick. You should be able to attach your GPS device where it is visible but not obstructive!

How important are frequent map updates?
If you expect to use your GPS device primarily to find well known or “older” destinations during occasional travels (or retail outlets that you’ve never visited before), working with less-than-up-to-the-minute mapping data is probably okay. On the other hand, if getting from one place to another on time is essential or you are going to newly developed areas, you’ll want to update your mapping data as often as possible, even if you have to pay for it.

Where and how often will you use it?
If you travel outside your own country, look for a portable system that offers maps for navigating in those other countries. If you often fly to new places and rent vehicles, or if you own more than one car, a quality portable GPS device might be the way to go.

How’s your eyesight?
You should always select a screen type and size that is easily readable.

What are you expecting

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