How to Buy the Right GPS for Your Car

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Today's GPS systems offer a plethora of useful and nice-to-have features, including dynamic maps, destination directions and even a hospital locator. Some GPS systems also feature voice alerts and prompts, three-dimensional color maps, automatic traffic condition updates, detour information, hands-free cell phone service, and a touch-screen [source: LeaseGuide].

With so many features to choose from, how can you choose the right GPS for your car? Here's how to narrow down the choices:

  • Draw up a list of the driving conditions you normally encounter throughout the year. Include things like how often you travel to unfamiliar territory. Write down what GPS features would be most useful in each situation.
  • Read reviews for several GPS systems to see how good they are for navigation. The better models make it easier to enter a destination and offer better directions.
  • Consider your daily driving routine. Do you normally commute to work or do errands via the same route, because you don't know an alternate route? If so, a GPS guide device could come in handy. If you usually run into traffic problems en route, you may want a GPS with a navigation system, to help you find a way out of or around traffic.
  • Consider how much you drive on highways. If it's significant, an optional real-time traffic information service could be a time saver (but will add to the cost of the GPS). Keep in mind, though, that the traffic information provided by a GPS is sometimes inaccurate or out of date.
  • Consider purchasing a built-in GPS system with your new car. This may be more expensive than buying and installing a separate system, but if you do most of your driving in the same car -- or you don't like the look of a dashboard- or windshield-mounted GPS device -- an integrated GPS system may be the way to go [source: Consumer Reports].