Help choosing a car GPS system
December 2, 2012 4:06 PM   Subscribe

We have been thinking of buying a GPS for our car; but been having a surprisingly difficult time making up our mind (at this point primarily between the Garmin nuvi 50LM GPS navigator and the pricier Garmin nĂ¼vi 1450LMT 5-Inch Portable GPS Navigator). Would love to have your recommendations/suggestions if you have used either one of them (or a similar product).

Based on online reviews, Garmin seems to have the best vehicular GPS product (True?). The nuvi 50LM model appears to have most of the features we wanted (except traffic) and the right price point.

The questions that I am wrestling with:

- Firstly of course - Is this the right model to go for? (if all I am looking for is an accurate GPS with good audio quality)
- Some online reviewers seem to have had trouble updating for maps in this model. Do you know anything about that?
- 1450 LMT seem to be a more advanced and robust product. Are the bells and whistles worth spending $80 more or am I simply buying traffic updates and adv. at that price?
- Talking of traffic updates - are they worth it? It seems to require agreement to watch adv. whenever the car is not moving. If you have this (or a similar) model - do you find the adv. intrusive (say at traffic signals) or do you over time learn to ignore them (like with most web adv. for example)?

Would very much appreciate any recommendation/suggestion if you have any insight in this area.
posted by justlooking to Technology (11 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
(or a similar product)

I and almost everyone I know now uses a smartphone for car GPS purposes. There might be reasons you have considered and rejected that option, but it's becoming the norm in my anecdotal experience.
posted by Forktine at 4:27 PM on December 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I have the 50LM navigator. It works great, I love it. As far as a traffic updater, there are many apps for that.
posted by JujuB at 4:28 PM on December 2, 2012

I have the 2455LMT, which seems to be the smaller brother of the 1450LMT. I put in 14k+ miles with it in the last year across the country, and it's served me well. The traffic updates are really handy in some places, and almost worthless in others. In Washington DC, NYC, LA, Houston, and San Francisco, the updates are fantastic. The traffic works in other places, but not quite as well.
In fact, the other feature I love, which my cheaper-than-the-1450LMT has, is the Exit Services feature. It's really nice to be able to push a button and know what kind of gas station/restaurant/park is available at the upcoming exits.
posted by piedmont at 4:38 PM on December 2, 2012

I have the 1490 with lifetime maps and traffic. In Toronto's notoriously snarly traffic, the traffic is useful, as it can route you onto something moving (often slowly) away from something that's stopped entirely. Lifetime maps are also good, although Garmin is often years behind community maps like OpenStreetMap.
posted by scruss at 4:54 PM on December 2, 2012

Best answer: This is not specifically regarding the models under your considerations, but general things I learned from my mistake.

- Make sure you get lifetime free map and traffic updates. Map updates cost about $50. Although not many things change, its always good to have latest maps. You won't spend this amount every year or two. Just not worth it.
- My Garmin 1390 (or something that I paid about $180 then) is so stupid that keeps me sending on different highways for small stretches as a mile. There Google maps excels but I do not rely on phone for this purpose. Instead, my next GPS will be able to import my planned route. I found this feature necessary when I go to new / crowded place.
- Consider lane assist feature, really comes handy. these guys are expert in this business. Take their opinion.
posted by zaxour at 5:19 PM on December 2, 2012

Best answer: I bought a 50LM about six months ago and really like it, so much that I got my girlfriend one too! My only complaint is the lack of traffic information, which can be a little annoying at times - instead I just use my smartphone to check traffic before I get on the road.

I'll also add that while using a smartphone with maps/navigation apps is a good option for short trips, I personally think a dedicated GPS unit is much easier to use while driving - not to mention that it'll still work if you enter an area with poor cell coverage. Well worth the extra money if you spend a lot of time behind the wheel.
posted by photo guy at 5:55 PM on December 2, 2012

Nthing lifetime free maps, otherwise the map update prices are ridiculous. I have a smartphone but feel that Garmin's interface is superior, and prefer not to burn data and battery while I'm navigating.
posted by randomkeystrike at 5:56 PM on December 2, 2012

Garmin seems to have the best vehicular GPS product (True?).

Broadly speaking, there are only two major road geo-databases: Garmin and TomTom. (And Google now too, but read on.) Any other provider is licensing one of the two. So Garmin or TomTom is your choice. I've found Garmin better here in Europe, YMMV.

I've also used a smartphone / tablet as a GPS/Satnav. It's certainly doable, albeit sometimes rough around the edges. And you want to have a decent size screen you can read from the drivers position and a mount for your phone.
posted by outlier at 2:09 AM on December 3, 2012

I learned from Black Friday 2012 to never buy a TomTom product. I know you are looking at Garmin products, but I just wanted to make sure.

The TomTom I purchased said "Merge onto Interstate Two West Five" for I-205 and that was the first sign it was a bad product. It only got worse from there, and was returned to the store the next day.
posted by tacodave at 3:43 PM on December 3, 2012

Response by poster: Thank you very much for your suggestions and feedback.

JujuB, Zaxour Thanks a lot for the links to the traffic update apps and the GPS review forum. The GPS forum looks awesome (I was wondering if something like this exists!). I'll dig through it before I pull the trigger.

Based on what I am hearing, I suspect I am going to end up buying the 50LM (I'll update this post).

Forktine - I have primarily been using iPhone based Google map. It works fine. But these days I drive quite a bit in new/unknown cities for work and over time found the clear audio instructions available in GPS systems (in rental cars) incredibly convenient and superior to the smartphone based GPS (besides my cellphone coverage sucks in parts of Dallas Fort-Worth area).
posted by justlooking at 7:38 PM on December 3, 2012

Response by poster: Ok. I ended up placing an order for 50LM on Amazon.

Right before thanksgiving the price for 1450 LMT came down to about $140 on Amazon and elsewhere (50LM is at $99), but ever since the price difference between the 50LM and 1450 LMT has been going up (right now, it is at the 1450 LMT is at $240 or so) and I got tired of waiting. 50LM seems to have most of what I need.
posted by justlooking at 1:10 PM on December 26, 2012

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