Whilst mobile phone apps have replaced sat navs for many, a number of people still prefer a dedicated unit mounted in their car. The latest sat navs are more advanced than ever, and we’ve listed our favourites below.
First off, a sat nav that’s right for other people isn’t necessarily the right one for you – it very much depends on where and when you’re planning to use it. If you’re after some occasional simple A to B navigation then an app on your mobile phone will probably do the job as well as any sat nav, or there are some entry level models available such as the TomTom Start 52. Expect a basic sat nav to set you back somewhere between £70 and £120, which is a lot less than a several-hundred pound smartphone.
If you like the sound of digital traffic, free worldwide maps, advanced lane guidance, and a nice big screen, then there’s some great dedicated sat nav units out there. The table below shows our top 4 current favourites including the Garmin DriveSmart 65 LMT-D model which was voted sat nav of the year last year.
So which is the best sat nav right now?
The TomTom Go Professional 6250
We’d recommend the TomTom Go 6250. It’s a bit pricey but you get what you pay for, and this is definitely a class leading sat nav. It has an integrated sim which means you always get the latest live traffic updates instantly, for free. This applies whether at home in the UK or abroad on your holidays in Europe or the USA. If you want a slightly smaller screen than the 6 inch 6250, but want similar high-end features, check out the TomTom Go 5200 with its more manageable 5 inch screen. It has recently won the IF Design Award.
One major benefit of the high-end TomTom models, (and the latest Garmin Drive models), is WiFi connectivity. More than just a gimmick, having inbuilt WiFi means an end to the rather tedious update process where the only way to update your sat nav is to bring it in from the car, connect it to your desktop via USB, and download & install the updates. With WiFi, updates can be done automatically wherever you have a WiFi signal, most likely when parked up on your drive. You don’t even need a desktop PC.
This TomTom is specially made for HGV drivers. It routes you in the direction where lorries are permitted to travel and keeps you updated with all the necessary information such as weight restrictions. You also get access to all the truck stops and parking spaces available nearby. It is easy to hook up to Google Now or Siri to make your assistant tasks easier to complete. Hazmat, speed, type, size, and personalization are factors considered when routing. This TomTom uses capacitive touchscreen which is sensitive to fingertips. The other kind of touch screen is the resistive which is found on lower priced sat navs and requires more of a ‘press’ rather than a touch to activate the button.
What about the TomTom Go 6200/5200?
Sitting underneath the TomTom Premium and TomTom Professional range, you’ll find the TomTom Car Sat Nav Go 5200/6200 is still available. The 5-inch model is called the 5200, and the 6-inch model is called the 6200. It has lifetime world map updates and connects to Wi-Fi from where you can also install new updates. These are modern models with good quality screens.
The interface is designed to be user-friendly, and the touch-screen is quick to respond to finger movements. Your vehicle is displayed as a blue arrow on the map and points in the direction in which you are facing. You can pair the sat nav with Google Now or Siri. It even supports hands-free calling. And because you can slide in the provided sim card into the corresponding receptacle, real-time traffic updates and speed camera information can be accessed.
Features such as live traffic technology, accurate ETAs, and USB connectivity are found on these models and above – not on the TomTom Basic or Essential models.
I prefer to go with the 6-inch model because the extra viewing space makes navigating roads easier. There also isn’t much of a price difference between the 6200 and 5200.
What about the TomTom VIA 52?
This TomTom Sat Nav is basically like the GO but has minor features and is significantly cheaper. You get lifetime free map updates of Europe. You also get handsfree calling via Bluetooth and can see and receive calls through the device. One downside is that you only get three months of speed camera updates that notify you about upcoming speed cameras. We found this to be a HUGE helper while driving because it can save you hundreds of dollars in penalty tickets and keeps your record clean. You do get lifetime free TomTom traffic updates via smartphone which gives real-time updates, but you need to use your data which makes it useless if you don’t have enough GBs on your phone plan.
What about the TomTom Start 25?
The TomTom Start 25 is an entry-level sat nav that is currently available as a certified refurbished product. It’s pretty cheap, but the quality and build of the product are however excellent. Lifetime map updates for 48 European countries are included at no cost. IQ Route technology means you get the fastest routes and most accurate arrival times. The quick search feature lets you get fast access to common destinations as you type. One of the best things about this sat nav is that it has this technology called advanced line guidance. This highlights the correct driving lane to take when approaching intersections or exits. More often than not I have found myself dealing with the problem of choosing the wrong lane on an exit because I thought it to be the correct one. Luckily, the TomTom Start 25 solves that problem through clear highlighting of the right driving lane. You get a one year supplier backed warranty, and even though this model is refurbished, it looks as if its brand new. Refurbished means that any item or sat nav that was returned and never used is repackaged and sold after thorough testing to ensure functionality.
What about the TomTom Start 60?
The TomTom Start 60 is as its name implies, an entry level satellite navigation system. It comes in a wide variety of map configurations and screen sizes. For example, you can get a 6- or 5-inch screen size with lifetime map updates for UK & Ireland, Western Europe, or for All of Europe. Map updates don’t cost you a dime and with the Wi-Fi connectivity, you can effortlessly install the updates via your Smartphone. 3D imagery gives you a bird’s eye-view and assists you when making lane-sensitive turns. One of the downsides compared to the more expensive models TomTom offers is that you only get 3 months of Speed camera location notifications. The speed camera notification system has been favoured by many users because it tells the driver ahead of time to slow down in order to avoid collecting a speeding ticket. You get an EasyPort mount with your purchase and a USB cable for added connectivity.
What about the TomTom Camper?
The TomTom Camper Sat Nav is designed for campers that often visit rural areas where there is little connection. There are thousands of camper points of interest pre-programmed into the device. You can connect your smartphone for hands-free calling. The specialty behind the camper sat nav is that you get customized routes based on your camper or caravan’s weight, dimensions, max speeds, and cargo type, so you don’t pick up an additional ticket along the way. It will also route you in the direction where there are points of interest along the way, so your road trip is a visually pleasing one with lots of beautiful landscapes. Other features include lifetime world map updates, sim card services, speed cams, USB connectivity, and a magnetic mount is included with purchase.
What about the TomTom Rider 500?
This TomTom is a 4.3 inch sat nav which is designed explicitly for motorcycle riders. It is not cheap by any means, but it is one of the only satnavs available that will undoubtedly enhance the motoring experience of any motorcyclist. It uses thrill planning into its routing decisions, so you get the most enjoyable ride. It uses a quad-core processor to pick up global positioning signals up to 5 times faster. The construction of the sat nav is weatherproof and works with gloves on. Furthermore, you’ll get a motorcycle mount and RAM mounting kit, a USB cable, and the device itself. Updates for traffic, speed cameras, and maps are free for 48 European countries and can be installed via Wi-Fi. Smartphone messaging and handsfree calling are enabled on this TomTom sat nav.
Alternatively… the Garmin Drive 60LM
The Garmin drive 60LM Sat Nav is one of the leading models on the market. It is available in 4, 5, and 6 inch configurations all which have their own corresponding model number. Driver awareness technology lets you know when dangerous curves are up ahead, when the speed limit changes, railroad crossing, speed cameras at intersection, and more. For road trip users, this sat nav will provide the benefit of fatigue warning and upcoming rest areas for where you can stop at. The 3D imagery makes it easy to figure out where you are in the map regarding your surroundings. Furthermore, traffic lights and landmarks are vividly displayed to provide detailed guidance. Lane assist is another bonus feature that helps you know which lane is the correct one at complex junctions and roundabouts. You can opt for lifetime map updates either of the United Kingdom or Full Europe. Safety is paramount with this sat nav and Garmin as taken the time to add in the technology that the cautious driver would appreciate.
Which is our favourite cheapest sat nav?
For the cheapest option, we love the TomTom Start 42 for only £79 right now. It’s a bit old now, but comes with a bright 4.3 inch display, which is plenty big enough for some basic navigation. It has maps of the UK & Europe which are updated free for life. It includes some great features which you’d normally only expect to find on some higher priced models, such as special alerts for dangerous curves, red light cameras and speed cameras. it even has a ‘fatigue warning’ when you’ve been driving for too long. It also includes lane assist for complex junctions. If you’re just after simple navigation on a small screen then you can’t go wrong with this. If you want traffic updates, bluetooth connectivity, a multi-touch screen, or live services, you’ll need to look at a higher priced model such as the Garmin DriveAssist or DriveLuxe.
Which is the best sat nav with built-in dash cam?
Well in all honesty, there’s not a lot of choice. Other than a couple of lesser-known brands such as Mio, there’s only one you should be considering, and that’s the Garmin DriveAssist 51 LMT-D. Luckily, this is a great sat nav and is good value at around £270. We can only think of one reason why you wouldn’t consider this, and that would be if you want a bigger screen. A 5 inch screen isn’t small by any means, but some people tend to prefer 6 inches these days.
Our Top 10 Sat Nav Buying Tips
So you’ve decided that you want to buy a sat nav, but which one do you go for? There are so many out there and it’s not immediately obvious why some are £50 and some are £350.
Things you should be looking out for when buying your sat nav are:
1. Screen Size
Gone are the days of the small, square screens on the 3.5 inch sat navs, but there are still a few models around with a smallish 4.3 inch screen such as the Garmin Drive 40LM (all sat navs are considered ‘widescreen’ or ‘XL’ these days). The most popular mainstream size for in-car use is now the 5 inch models (such as the TomTom Go 5200 or Garmin DriveSmart 51LMT-D). However, a number of people prefer the slightly easier-on-the-eye 6 inch models, especially for use in larger family cars (6 inch models include the TomTom Go 6200 and Garmin DriveSmart 61LMT-D). Bigger still, there’s the option the 7 inch models (such as the Garmin DriveSmart 70LMT-D), which are probably most suited to motorhomes or trucks.
2. Maps & Navigation
Adding new maps to your sat nav is always possible, but can be more expensive than you might think, so it always makes sense to include the maps you’ll need into your initial purchase. So by all means stick with UK & ROI maps if you’re sure you’re not going to want to take the sat nav on your travels, but if you think it might come in useful on your next trip to France etc, then go for a model with EU maps. Also, a lot of models sold in the UK offer a ‘Western EU Maps’ version which includes France, Italy, Spain etc, but not Croatia, Bulgaria etc. Buying Western EU maps over Full EU maps can save a bit of money. Just to avoid confusion, all sat navs sold in the UK include maps for the full UK & Ireland!
Whilst extras such as ‘text-to-speech’ and ‘lane guidance’ used to be considered premium features, you’ll find these as standard in any sat nav that’s been released in the past couple of years.
There’s a few different ways of getting traffic updates on your sat nav these days. The most basic sat navs (such as the TomTom Start) don’t have traffic updates and have no way of adding them. The more intermediate sat navs (such as the Garmin Nuvi 2599LMT) offer lifetime traffic updates via a RDS/FM transmitter. This is special traffic information broadcast over the airways like radio. Whilst useful, it’s not as accurate or updated as frequently as ‘Digital’ traffic. The high-end sat navs (any Garmin with LMT-D after it, or the TomTom Go 5200/6200) offer a SIM card based service that uses data broadcasts to give the most accurate traffic info available. This service works abroad as well as at home, for no extra charges. Somewhere between intermediate & high-end models, (such as the TomTom Go 52), the ‘Digital’ traffic service is offered, but only by pairing the sat nav with your smartphone (and therefore using your mobile data plan and roaming charges accordingly).
Bluetooth allows you to connect your smartphone to your sat nav. If you want access to Digital Traffic (see above), want to make phonecalls using the sat nav as a microphone/speaker, or use smart features such as Siri integration, you’ll need Bluetooth.
5. Screen Type
There are two types of screen. A resistive screen is found on the entry-level sat navs. This means you have to slightly push the screen to register a touch. The higher-end models have a capacitive touch screen, which is what we’re more familiar with these days, (the type of glass found on smartphones), and allows multi-touch features such as ‘pinch-to-zoon’.
Not an immediately obvious choice to make, but whilst low resolution on the entry-level sat navs is perfectly fine for maps & directions, if you intend to use smart features such as Google search or TripAdvisor reviews, then a high resolution is much better for reading. In reality, you shouldn’t have to worry about this as the high-end models have a high resolution anyway.
Entry-level models have a pretty standard suction-cup type mount that you stick on your windscreen. The higher-end models have some neater magnetic solutions which allow the sat nav to be mounted and unmounted with ease, and even to be swivelled around for a dual orientation view.
8. Voice Control
Voice control is found on all high-end sat navs, but not necessarily on the more basic models. Voice control allows you to talk to the sat nav, e.g. “Take me home”, rather than have to type it in using the screen. Whilst not always perfect, it can be safer and quicker than touch screen entry.
9. Caravan, Truck, Car, Motorbike?
Whilst we’ve focussed on in-car sat navs, there’s no such thing as ‘one sat nav fits all’. If you’re towing a caravan, driving a motorhome, or navigating a truck/HGV, a specialist sat nav may well be your best choice. See our selection of the best caravan and camper at navs right now. The primarly advantage of a dedicated camping/trucking sat nav is the ability to add vehicle weight & dimensions to ensure only suitable routes are given. There’s also dedicated sat navs for motorcyclists such as the TomTom Rider and Garmin Zumo. And whilst not exactly a traditional sat nav, there are Garmin Forerunner GPS devices for runners and Garmin Edge GPS devices for cyclists!
10. Smart Features
A relatively new thing to consider on sat navs, but if you’re a fan of the latest technology then look out for features such as text messaging, Siri integration, Google integration, and integrated TripAdvisor reviews.
What is TomTom?
TomTom is a foremost manufacturer of satellite navigation products and services. TomTom’s products are created with effort on innovation, quality, ease of use and value. TomTom’s products include all-in-one navigation devices which allow customers to start navigating right out of the packaging; these are the award-winning TomTom GO family, the TomTom VIA and the TomTom Start. TomTom was founded in 1991 in Amsterdam and has locations in Europe and North America.