Road trips can be a lot of fun. Family vacations, a relaxing day at a faraway park or beach, or just plain going for a long ride; no matter what the occasion, sometimes it’s just fun to drive. Getting lost, however, can ruin a nice trip. It’s also very frustrating to be looking for a destination you’ve never been to, trying to follow directions which look like they were written by someone who’s a master at hieroglyphics, and wasting a full tank of gas driving in circles. Fortunately, human beings have evolved to the level of being superb technological inventors. We can now take the age-old profession of cartography, place it on a little screen, and let the map do all the work for us. As with any other type of technology, some are better than others. Some will get you to where you’re going in no time flat with very little hassle. Others can have you more lost than if you were trying to find where you’re going with an old-fashioned sixty-three-fold paper map. So, since we care about getting you to where you’re going, take a look at the best aftermarket navigation systems you can buy.
1. TomTom XXL 540TM
The TomTom interface is perhaps one of the most user-friendly interfaces you’ll find in a GPS navigation system. The 540TM features a 5” widescreen with touch interface, and lifetime traffic and map updates. TomTom also utilizes what’s called “IQ Routes.” Basically, this means that when you input your location and destination, it figures the most efficient route for you to take. This can also update on the go. All street names are spoken through the device, and the Advanced Lane Guidance is handy to have so you can avoid having to cross over lanes at the last second, risking a dangerous accident. Even the battery life is above average.
2. Garmin Nüvi 3790T
The 3790T is one of the thinnest, lightest portable navigation systems available. That can definitely make it more convenient for travel, but it does increase the risk of destruction. The voice command is actually quite good on this one, even turning it on only requires asking it politely to do so. The Garmin user interface is quite different than other manufacturers and does require a bit of a learning curve, but once you’ve mastered it, it becomes like riding a bicycle and somebody may have to twist your arm really hard to get you to switch. It features Bluetooth so hooking up to your cell phone for hands-free telephone calls is very simple. The only drawbacks are the pop-up ads and the high-glare glossy screen.
3. Magellan Roadmate 1700
For those who are looking for something a little larger in a navigation system, you’ll want to check out the Roadmate 1700. In a couple words – it’s huge! A seven-inch screen may not sound big, until it’s hanging in front of your windshield. But the large screen area actually makes for a more convenient experience for many drivers who don’t like searching for little letters on a map. It possesses many of the same features as leading competitors, such as highway lane assist, multi-destination routing, and spoken street names. It also has an A/V input on the side for those who have a video camera, turning it into a seven-inch television set for your car. Actually, let’s amend that – a seven-inch television set for your passengers. Always better to keep your eyes on the road.
4. Motorola Motonav TN765T
One of the best affordable options for a navigation system, the TN765T can run with some of the models costing twice as much, and outrun many more. It has a 5.1” screen with rerouting and voice recognition. It also features Bluetooth for hands-free cell phone usage, as well as Bing™, streaming traffic updates, and Google Mobile Services. Unfortunately, this is also a model that requires you to look at various pop-up ads. The 3D view is not the greatest, but there are plenty of extras that come along with this one, as long as you’re willing to pay a little extra to upgrade to the Professional Installation for the enhanced features.