Can you recommend a car GPS for North America and continental Europe?
January 11, 2014 3:50 AM   Subscribe

I need some GPS advice.

Hi everyone, when I travel, I tend to get lost, and then I kick myself ("I wish I had a GPS"). Among contemporary models, can you make any personal recommendations on a model that is suitable for North America and eastern/central Europe too? (Austria, Hungary, Croatia, Slovakia...)? I am in North America, can I find one preloaded with Europe or will I need to download Europe/buy a CD-ROM?

posted by thermonuclear.jive.turkey to Travel & Transportation (9 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I have a Garmin 2597LMT.

It comes with lifetime map updates, which is nice, and also traffic (which I've never actually used, since my area isn't covered).
I've not used it in Eastern Europe, but I did use it in the UK, and it worked fine.

I find the lane assist/junction view feature very useful. This is where it shows a rendering or photo of a junction or exit, and shows you the lane you need to be in and also, in select instances, a rendering of what the intersection looks like. Very handy when you are driving by yourself.
I also like the size of the screen, much better than using a small smartphone screen when trying to drive.
The voice guidance as well is often superior to the google navigation equivalent.

I do not like that entering destinations is still awkward (as compared to using something like google maps). This model has voice recognition, which works surprisingly well in a car for things like "Home" or "Find gas station".
Also, displaying a list of the directions suffers from bad UI, it's non-intuitive.
Finally choosing an alternate route or specifying a specific road is awkward.

In order to load European maps, you'll need to buy them separately, but they can be downloaded and installing them on the device is really simple.
posted by madajb at 4:39 AM on January 11, 2014

Just something to think about. If you have a smartphone, an app like OSMAND may be all you need. Here's an article about it. Please read the comments...they seem to have included house number search.

With OSMAND you download your maps when you have an internet connection (on my phone, it's only via WiFi). From then on you only need the GPS satellites in order to navigate; no internet connection needed while navigating.

I bought the paid version (about $7 or $8) and it gives me unlimited map downloads. They have maps for the entire world.

Disclaimer: I have an old Garmin NUVI 275T with lifetime maps for both North America and Europe, and use that for actual driving. The one on my smartphone is for walking or as a backup. I am moderately unhappy with the Garmin map updating procedure. It can take hours to update a continent's maps.
posted by mbarryf at 5:32 AM on January 11, 2014

I travel worldwide extensively. I gave up 100% on using an automotive GPS. The maps are always old, theyre crap devices generally, and they never ever ever cover you planet wide. I carry a nexus 5 (just replaced the 4 which was fine too) smartphone. Its cheap (16gb is nearly same cost as a decent GPS at $349) It's unlocked from the factory so I can shove a Sim card in it wherever I am (they're ludicrously cheap for oodles of data everywhere but north America) and I use Google maps. I experimented with the navigon app which was fine but they overcharge for maps from your non home region.... I also used waze which was great but they got assimilated and baked into Google maps so I mostly stopped using waze.

But for real. Smartphone. It works perfectly and hey. Its a smart phone too.
posted by chasles at 6:36 AM on January 11, 2014 [5 favorites]

Much as I'm a huge OSM fan (and minor contributor), routing using OSM can be challenging. In a recent trip to the UK, OSM routed us by what could only be described as the “scenic route”, down old A roads without bypasses. I wouldn't want to try routing in the US based on the imported TIGER data, because it's old and suspect.
posted by scruss at 7:34 AM on January 11, 2014

It depends. What do you want from a GPS ?

If you have a smart phone, CoPilot is a decent turn by turn navigation GPS that has maps worldwide - and it's like 15 dollars. The maps are downloaded and will work without a data connection. I've been using it for years and it works well.

If you are backpacking and would like/need need topo maps, an app like Back Country Navigator lets you download topo maps from a variety of sources. Again, it is designed to work without a data connection. It's 15 bucks + any costs for other map sources.

In that same vein, there is this device; the first units of which are shipping soon. It's 350 for the high resolution topo maps but, it includes a FMS/GMRS radio, a shortwave and weather radio receiver, a barometer, anemometer, thermometer, hygrometer, bluetooth and wifi, and a solar panel for charging. If it lives up to its promise it is going to be slick as hell.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 7:52 AM on January 11, 2014

IPhone or android phone. They're also useful for other things and they have the most options for different maps and such. I even have marine navigation charts for my iPhone.
posted by tylerkaraszewski at 9:49 AM on January 11, 2014

I've had several TomToms and like them. They last long enough that my latest one isn't even to be found in their catalog, but here is the closest to my model. They've kept their word about free updates and the maps are good. There's one built in to my France car, and it will take you down all kinds of tiny alleys and get you around a lot of congestion.

Smartphone nav is pretty much viable, I use Maverick on my Nexus 4. Using smartphones as navis is illegal in California unless it's in a mount.
posted by jet_silver at 9:50 AM on January 11, 2014

We just use Google Maps on our Android phones for both the US and Europe. It speaks and works perfectly.
posted by DarlingBri at 11:13 AM on January 11, 2014

For TomTom it looks like you need to pay extra for and download European maps. I looked into car GPS systems a couple of years ago and this TomTom seemed to have the best live traffic on the market, but it costs $60/year after the first year.
posted by Dasein at 7:40 AM on January 19, 2014

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