Buying Guide – Are You Lost?


GPS Buying guide

GPS Buying guide

By Anne Ahira

If you have seen all the news and the adverts on TV for the amazing talking GPS systems, then you may well be considering buying a GPS system.

This can be an excellent purchase for a person who often drives in a city or area they do not know well or at all. A GPS is a boon to directionally challenged people who get lost even in familiar areas and besides, it is cool looking.

A GPS is a great device for determining location and even getting directions but if you rarely if ever go to new places, then it is possible it is going to be just an expensive gadget you do not use.

Consider this before making your decision to purchase. It is a great little piece of technology and comes with a hefty price tag so if you do not have a use for it, the money may well be better spent elsewhere.

GPS How It Works – Simplified

To know what type of GPS you may want to buy you need to know something about how a GPS system works. GPS stands for Global Positioning System and uses a network of 30 satellites orbiting the earth. Your GPS device requires an unobstructed view of the sky because it will determine your position, speed and direction based on information from at least four of these orbiting satellites.

If that explanation is too technical, it is ok, that just explains why your GPS unit is not accurate or may not work at all if you pack it away in a suitcase or obstruct it in some manner such as in city driving surrounded by tall buildings.

Its functionality and accuracy depends on being able to communicate with the orbiting satellite system. Some cars offer a built in GPS system and that is great, but if you often rent cars for travel the old saying, “You can’t take it with you” applies.

GPS Buying Overview – How to Decide

You know you want a GPS system and now it is time to decide what system to buy, what size you need, which one will fit in your budget, and how much of a learning curve you can stand in learning to use your GPS. Easier is better with most people and with GPS units the idea is to be able to easily input a location and receive clear and understandable directions in return. Not all GPS systems are created equal and some are simply hard to use.

The size of the GPS unit can be a factor in the purchase decision. The larger GPS units can be more than 32 oz and large, while others are less than 8 oz and not too much larger than a credit card. Less is more since most portable GPS units are placed on the windshield to get the best satellite reception and larger ones can obstruct the driver’s view.

Do you need Extras?

Not all GPS units come with voice recognition software, and this is considered an extra. However, it allows hands-free input of location or street names and can increase safety while driving.

Voice command does not mean you will receive your directions anywhere but on screen. Text to speech is a feature offered on some GPS units and translates the text you would usually be reading on the screen into voice prompts letting you listen and watch the road and not requiring you use the screen.

What about points of interests, these are also considered extras but if you frequently stop to sightsee as you travel, it can be a valuable little extra. Updated information such as local weather or traffic information is also an extra on some GPS units. Will you use it? If so then be aware that the updates will probably require a recurring subscription fee in addition to the purchase price.

GPS Buying Guide – Direction for Your Purchase

At this point, you have decided that a GPS unit is for you. You know if you want to have it built into the car, and you are not expecting a voice that demands your newest jewelry purchase, as in certain advertisements. A GPS unit can be a very useful and safe tool, but it comes with a price tag and is useful for only some consumers.

If you rarely travel or want a GPS unit that is very portable, then perhaps a GPS integrated with a PDA or perhaps a cell phone is a better choice in your situation. There is a subscription that is around $30 a month for this feature but it can better suit some people’s use than a separate GPS unit can.

When you go shopping for that brand new GPS then there are a couple of questions you should ask or details to research if you are buying a GPS online. How long is the warranty? Can you return the GPS unit if it is unsatisfactory? What accessories are available for this GPS unit? Is everything included in the box or must you buy special connectors for this GPS unit?

If you are buying your GPS unit online then ask how it is shipped, and how much shipping costs will be. This should be added to your total purchase price and considered in your budget.

When buying a GPS online consider purchasing from a site that offers customer reviews (not all good) of the particular unit you are considering. Other consumer’s opinions may help you decide especially if they include where they used the unit, what they expected from it and what it delivered.

One last item to consider when buying a GPS unit is that some features will require a subscription fee, which directions are good, but a computer-guided system is only a computer and may insist on making a U-Turn when none is necessary. GPS with traffic and prices can be good as well, but information is only as good as the last update so some of these features may not always work as well as you expect.

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