The Best Car GPS

Garmin nüvi 2597LMT 5-Inch Bluetooth Portable Vehicle GPS

Our Top Pick for 2016: Garmin nüvi 2597LMT 5-Inch Bluetooth Portable Vehicle GPS
Read our full review.

See it on Amazon for $154.00*
*Price typically updated every 24 hours. Current price may be different.
Too expensive? See our budget pick.

Having a reliable GPS navigation system in your car can be the difference in arriving to your destination on time or driving around in frustration. Today’s GPS systems are reasonably priced, offer accurate directions, and several other beneficial features such as speed warnings and traffic alerts. You can even find high end units that provide you with hands-free calling when connected to your phone. It can be hard to figure out exactly which GPS will best serve your individual needs, but the following information should help narrow down your options.

Table of contents

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Bright 5″ Dual-orientation Displays
Easy-to-use
Lifetime Traffic Receiver
Lane Assist With Junction View
Dual Orientation
Eases The Stress Of Merging
Spoken Turn-by-turn Directions
Touchscreen Interface
Displays Nearby Services
School Zone Warnings
Garmin Real Voice Guide
Detailed Images Of Junctions
Easily Navigate Complex Interchanges
Traffic Feature Does Not Require A Subscription
Displays Restaurants, Stores, Hospitals And Fuel

*Price at time of publishing and may not reflect current pricing.

#1 Gold pick (Winner): Garmin nüvi 2597LMT 5-Inch Bluetooth Portable Vehicle GPS

Garmin nüvi 2597LMT 5-Inch Bluetooth Portable Vehicle GPS Gold Pick

View it on Amazon for $154.00*
*Price typically updated every 24 hours. Current price may be different.

2016-gold-winnerThe Garmin nüvi 2597LMT portable vehicle GPS is a simple to use device with touchscreen interface and dual orientation. It is our gold pick due to the many additional features that come with the unit. With this GPS you’ll get Garmin’s Real Voice guide with Garmin Real Directions that make finding your way easy by recognizing obvious landmarks and buildings. No subscription is needed for the traffic feature, and you won’t be charged any additional fees. The Up Ahead feature displays everything you’ll need as you travel. Here you can see an updated list of stores, restaurants, gas stations, and hospitals along your driving route.

The Smartphone link connects your nüvi with your Android™ smartphone or your iPhone through a free mobile app. Once paired with a phone, your nüvi can use your existing data plan to share important information like POIs, your destination, or where you’re parked. The Garmin nüvi 2597LMT weighs only 6.56 ounces and measures 3.3 by 0.76 by 5.4 inches. It has a five inch bright display screen that can be used vertically or horizontally. The smaller size keeps your windshield clear and the dashboard space free.

This GPS will come to you already loaded with North American detailed maps. You’ll also be able to enjoy lifetime updates to these maps for free. Each map of your route will reflect the most recently updated versions, navigation information, and points of interest. For the life of this device you will be able to download updates four times each year at no cost to you. Access to all of this data makes it simple for you to locate an address along with millions of points of interest that include restaurants, stores, and businesses. Each will be displayed with the businesses name for easy recognition. Select which POI you’re searching for and it will instantly take you there without the need to enter an address. You’ll also be given the chance to add your own POIs to the list.

You’ll spend more time actually travelling when you use this GPS featuring Garmin Traffic. Business people, truck drivers, or anyone who travels frequently will appreciate this feature. The driving map will be displayed on the screen throughout your journey, and traffic alerts will show up at the side as well as being voiced to you. You’ll get detailed information about any traffic issues such as how long of a delay to expect or if there are any possible detours to take. The Garmin nuvi 2597LMT even lets you know if you’re taking the fastest route. The days of waiting in a stopped line of traffic will be over.

Garmin traffic responds to your spoken requests with its voice activation, and Lifetime traffic means you’ll get free traffic information for the entire useful life of this device. You can keep your hands safely on the wheel throughout your travels while this Garmin GPS smartly responds to your voice.

You will no longer experience the stress of trying to read street signs as you drive through unfamiliar areas with the Garmin nüvi 2597LMT. The Garmin Real Voice speaks to you like a passenger would. It has a refined speech technology with a more natural sound than most systems do. It uses recognizable things along your path such as traffic lights and buildings to make navigation simple and stress free. In addition, you can sync Bluetooth enabled devices with this GPS for hands free use of our phone through the integrated speaker and microphone. Your phone can remain in your purse, pocket, or glove compartment while you take your calls. Your hands never leave the wheel, and your eyes stay focused on the road for a safer driving experience.

You will both see and hear the comprehensive driving guidance provided by this GPS. You’ll be driving through interchanges and using exits with confidence due to the Active Lane Guidance which will use prompts to see you through each move. Brightly colored arrows will mark your way along with a friendly voice offering further help. The bird’s eye view seen on the screen is quite detailed. It is so realistic that it even includes the area’s landscaping to further assist you, and it shows you real road signs as they appear along your course.

Don’t worry about all of this additional information blocking your view of the map. The map remains on the screen while all other information is displayed off to the side. Information that this Garmin GPS keeps you informed of includes speed limits, the name of your current street, arrival times, and school zone warnings. You can continue to keep all of this information updated by using Garmin Express. It will update your maps and software as well as transfer information to or from other devices.

When your Garmin nüvi 2597LMT arrives you’ll find everything you need packed in the box with the GPS. You’ll get a preloaded North American City Navigator along with Lifetime traffic and maps. You’ll also be getting the Lifetime vehicle power cable/traffic antenna, vehicle mount suction cup, USB cable, and Quick start manual.

Online reviews speak highly of this version of the Garmin nüvi 2597LMT. Garmin has fixed many of the issues found with the previous versions so those who have previously owned Garmin products are completely satisfied. When compared to other models, people enjoy the large screen that is easy to read while driving. It works well for anyone who travels often to unfamiliar cities. Images are bright and so realistic that many stated how true to the actual road and landscaping the depictions are. This unit doesn’t struggle to find a signal or go through directional screens reminding the driver to stay focused on the road. This was a big plus for many who purchased this particular system. Transferring information to the device was just as easy as described, and it is a very user friendly GPS.

#2 Silver pick (Runner-up): Garmin nüvi 55LM GPS Navigator System

Garmin nüvi 55LM GPS Navigator System

View it on Amazon for $119.87*
*Price typically updated every 24 hours. Current price may be different.

2016-silver-winnerThe Garmin nüvi 55LM GPS is a very good investment, and it has many beneficial features. The bright dual orientation five inch screen has easy to read displays, and it comes with Junction View Lane Assist. This means you can easily find your way through those confusing interchanges by following the brightly colored arrows. These arrows tell you everything from which lane to use to the next turn you’ll be making. In addition, you’ll be getting turn by turn spoken directions that reflect the latest technology in speech for these systems. Each step is heard from a friendly, natural sounding human voice. The Up Ahead feature gives you plenty of notice of any upcoming points of interest such as gas stations and restaurants. You’ll even be alerted to school zone warnings. Nothing is left to surprise.

This device will measure 0.8 by 5.5 by 3.4 inches, and it weighs 6.4 ounces. It provides you with Essential Series Navigation which means you will have a user friendly GPS navigator that doesn’t need cellular signals to operate. Dead zones are no problem with this unit. The device itself is preloaded with very detailed maps of all 49 lower United States along with a lifetime of free updates. You’ll find you can easily search for numerous points of interest as well as individual addresses.

The simple to use GPS Guidance found with this device allows you to put away your smartphone. You can now rely solely on your Garmin nüvi 55LM for the most updated maps. You’ll be aware of road changes, business hours, and fresher points of interest without paying any additional fees. Your search results will be more relevant with greater accuracy. The lane assist feature with junction view gives you a clear image of upcoming junctions while arrows indicate you path to follow. The nuvi 55 LM’s search field allows you to find POIs easily. All you have to do is enter the category, proper name, or address of any business and it will quickly help you find your way.

With this GPS system from Garmin you will no longer have to go in search of street signs you can hardly read, or worse, don’t exist. The screen will display current streets, speed limits, and your estimated arrival time. This model also uses Garmin Express to keep these maps and the software updated. It even makes it possible to transfer information to and from other devices.

What you can expect to find in the box with this GPS unit is the car power adapter and a mounting system. This mounting system has one piece that will clip on the back of the GPS and another piece that sticks to the window or dash. The two parts together will allow the device to move. Minimal instructions are included, but you can connect with a computer to find the online manual along with any updates. This information is extensive, and it should help answer any questions one might have about the system. No case or AC power adapter is included.

Those who have purchased the Garmin nüvi 55LM have posted many favorable reviews of this device. Most people liked the large screen that is quite sensitive to your touch. A feature that is appreciated, but not mentioned in the description, is how the speed signs will glow a soft red when you go to fast. Overall, it seems to be a very easy to use system. Installation was not difficult, and it clearly tells you the name of the streets as you turn on to them. It is repeated often in reviews that it does everything it says it will. The Essential Series Navigation feature was well loved by those who had problems with their other GPS systems. They no longer had to worry about losing a signal as they travelled through areas where cellular signals are not as readily available.

#3 Bronze pick (3rd place): Garmin nüvi 2797LMT 7-Inch Portable Bluetooth Vehicle GPS

Garmin nüvi 2797LMT 7-Inch Portable Bluetooth Vehicle GPS

View it on Amazon for $249.95*
*Price typically updated every 24 hours. Current price may be different.

2016-bronze-awardThe Garmin nuvi 2797LMT Vehicle GPS has a simple to use seven inch touchscreen interface. Embedded within the 12V power adaptor, which is included, is a Lifetime traffic receiver. You will also be getting Garmin Real Voice and Garmin Real Directions with this device. Together they use easily recognizable landmarks and buildings to guide you on your way. The Bird’s Eye and Photo Real junction views give you detailed overhead images of any intersections found along your route. The stress associated with merging on or getting off of major roadways will be eliminated. You simply need to follow the arrows as they guide you through the traffic without complications. The Up Ahead feature will display upcoming points of interest such as stores, restaurants, gas stations, and hospitals beside your map, and it will update as you travel. This is ideal for anyone trying to navigating areas they are unfamiliar with.

This particular GPS system will measure 4.5 by 0.9 by 7.4 inches, and it weighs 12.48 ounces. The 7 inch display screen is already loaded for you with North American detailed maps when you get it. The free lifetime updates to the maps means you’ll always be given the most up to date navigational information and POIs. Four times per year new updates will be offered at no additional cost to you. With all of this data, the Garmin nuvi 2797LMT can easily and quickly find your destination. There is no need for you to enter the individual address of the place you are searching for with so many destinations preloaded into the system. You simply select which business you need, or several businesses at one time, and this GPS will get you there fast and hassle free. It also allows you to add custom points of interest.

Garmin Traffic keeps your map displayed on the screen at all times. Additional information such as traffic alerts is found at the side of the screen where it won’t interfere with the map display, and all messages are voiced to you. When you come upon situations where traffic flow is slowed, you’ll be given specific details like how long the delay will be and if any detours are available. It will keep you updated as to if you are on the quickest route, and as it is voice activated, your hands won’t leave the wheel.

In addition to the above mentioned features, this GPS system is Bluetooth Compatible and Smartphone Link Compatible. Calls on your phone will no longer be a distraction to your driving as a microphone and speaker are found within the unit. No bulky headphones are needed. When paired with your Android smartphone through a free mobile app, you will be able to use your phone’s existing data. The Smartphone link will even allow you access to the Garmin Live Services. With this feature you will get real-time traffic conditions and weather alerts.

The Garmin nuvi 2797LMT comes with Garmin Real Directions and Garmin Real Voice that guides you along your route by using familiar landmarks such as traffic lights, buildings, and businesses so that you don’t have to search for specific street names while navigating unfamiliar areas. With Comprehensive Driving Guidance you both hear and see, you’ll have a bird’s eye view of exactly where you are at any given moment. Additional information like school zone warnings, nearby services, restaurants, and stores are displayed to the side of the main map.

When you get your Garmin nuvi 2797LMT with a seven inch screen you will find it comes with a Lifetime traffic receiver/vehicle USB power cable, a suction mount with USB input, and a Micro-USB cable. You’ll also receive the Quick Start Manual. On the device itself you will have the City Navigator preloaded with North American maps as well as Lifetime traffic and maps.

Those who have posted online reviews found this GPS to fit their needs perfectly. Some have questioned the larger seven inch screen, but many enjoy it. It works especially well for seniors. The fact that it will instantly reroute you if it knows of a delay ahead is a huge selling point to anyone who travels frequently. This feature alone can save one hours of aggravation. Map updates are fast, and a Safe Mode option is included. This allows all functions requiring attention to be disabled while driving. Many of the reviewers have had several Garmin GPS systems, and they find this one to be their best yet.

#4 Budget pick (Best cheap): SEASTAR 7 Inch Car GPS 4gb HD Touch Screen Navigation System

SEASTAR 7 Inch Car GPS 4gb HD Touch Screen Navigation System

View it on Amazon for -*
*Price typically updated every 24 hours. Current price may be different.

2016-cheap-budget-pickThe SEASTAR Car GPS Navigational System is a decent device for the price point. You won’t get all of the bells and whistles found with some of the pricier units, but it does a wonderful job of getting you where you need to go without breaking your budget.

The features the SEASTAR does have are quite impressive. You’ll be getting voice navigation with a choice of seven languages. This includes English, French, Finnish, German, Italian, Spanish, and Russian. It will give you quick and exact directions to your destination in a clear and understandable voice through the Plan Function. You’ll also find several different ways to search for your destination. You can use an address in the United States or a postcode in the UK as well as points of interest, categories, history, or a selection of your favorites.

The seven inch LCD touch screen on this GPS offers two map styles. One of them is for daytime use while the other is for nighttime. The anti-glare properties of the screen make it easy to read any time of the day. Maps include not only All American in America, but also those for Brazil, Argentina, Canada, Columbia, Chile, Costa Rico, and Mexico. The Advanced Speed Camera feature will warn you as you approach speed cameras so that you have plenty of time to slow down.

Set up is simple. Start your car first, and then select “more” followed by “Setting” and “Route Setting” and then “Vehicle.” Next, you’re ready to go. This particular unit comes with a high sensitive receiver and 128MB RAM-4G internal memory. There is no Bluetooth available, but it does work with an FM transmitter. The built in Li-ion battery takes two to three hours to charge with one hour of working time.

When you get your SEASTAR GPS it will come with a mount as well as a back bracket in the box. You’ll also find it includes the USB cable, a car charger, and the user manual. The device itself weighs 1.4 pounds, and it measures 8 by 5.8 by 3.5 inches.

Online reviews for this product state that you get a fair product for a fair price. It comes with several games and extra applications too. It is good at finding an accurate route to your destination, but it won’t read street signs for you. Those who have had any problems are quite impressed with customer service and their quick response times. The user manual doesn’t seem to be very helpful, but the system isn’t all that hard to figure out, so this isn’t a big down fall. Overall, you are getting a decent GPS system at a bargain price that works very well at finding accurate routes in a fair amount of time. Those using it for shorter trips close to home were most pleased with it.


Pre-purchase considerations

Screen Size

Screen size is often a person preference. While it boils down to what works best for you as an individual, five inch screens are the most desirable, middle of the road choice. Many newer models try to stay close to this size. You will find that smaller screens will cost less money, but if you have problems reading smaller print, it would be wiser to go with a larger screen. Large screens do take up more space on your dashboard as well as from the windshield, but it’s much safer to not be struggling to focus on your GPS while driving. The brightness of the screen also plays a role in this decision. A smaller screen that is brighter may seem more user friendly than a large but dimly lit screen.

Preloaded Maps

Almost all of the GPS systems available will have maps of the United States already loaded in them. Some systems may include maps for other countries as well such as ones for Mexico, Canada, or Puerto Rico or some combination of these foreign maps. While this feature won’t mean much too many of us, those who may be travelling into our neighboring countries frequently will want their GPS to remain reliable as they cross the border. Many times the manufacturer will offer additional maps that can be downloaded from your PC for a small fee. This allows you to customize exactly which areas are covered by your device.

Updates

The main reason most of us invest in a GPS is because we need help finding directions to our destination. The navigation system you purchase is only as good as the maps it is working with. Roads can change often due to new construction. You will want to keep the maps in your GPS up to date. Many vendors will include for free, or offer a one-time payment option, to update maps on their devices while other manufacturers will charge you for each individual update. Always check the update policy before purchasing your GPS. A system that comes at a bargain price but ends up costing you plenty in updates isn’t such a good deal after all.

Points of Interest

All GPS systems will come with a certain amount of points of interest (POIs) already installed. POIs include places such as stores, restaurants, and gas stations that you can readily recognize. The actual name brand of the business is given along with an exact location. This feature is most appreciated by those who travel long distances. Whether going on a family vacation or traveling for business, it is nice to know what lies just ahead once you are hungry or in need of a fill-up. The size of a GPS system’s POI database varies. Some have a far reaching design with accurate results while others leave you guessing. Researching customer reviews online will give you the best insight as to how well this feature works on a system you are interested in.

Live Traffic Data

Some GPS systems not only help you find your way, they can help you avoid traffic jams. These units allow you to avoid bottlenecks with their live traffic updates. They give you an alternate path so you can keep on moving along. Check for any additional fees that may apply to this service. It is sometimes given to you for free while other manufacturers may charge a subscription fee. Also find out how often this information is updated. Extremely accurate systems update their information every few seconds, but often they wait for fifteen minute intervals.

Hands Free Calling

Some GPS navigational systems include Bluetooth phone interface. This means you will be able to connect your phone and its contacts to the GPS system which allows you to make calls hands free. No awkward headsets are needed, and because it is voice activated, your eyes will never leave the road. This makes for a safer driving experience for you and those you share the road with. Not all units will support all phones. If this is an important feature for you, check the manufacturer’s website for phone compatibility before making a final decision on your purchase.

Conclusion (Wrapping it up)

Finding a GPS navigation system that works for your individual needs can be easier than you thought. Once basic features are decided on such as screen size and downloaded data, you can narrow down your options to a few of the best available ones on the market. Our gold pick, the Garmin nüvi 2597LMT, has everything you need in one reasonably priced device. The realistic images and voiced directions make finding your way easy and worry free. It allows for hands free operation, making your driving experience the safest it can be. All additional information is displayed at the side so that your map is always clearly visible to you. The Garmin nüvi 55LM GPS Navigator System and the Garmin nüvi 2797LMT both offer you many of the great features we’ve come to expect from Garmin in an affordable system that you can consistently rely on. Bright arrows show you exactly where to go, even threw hard to navigate junctions. Many of the updates to the maps and alerts are offered for free.

Those who simply want a trusted GPS that will get them to their destination without a lot of added features they may not use will find the inexpensive SEASTAR 7 Inch Car GPS to be a great find. It gives drivers a clear map to their destination any time of day and includes the option of selecting up to seven different languages.

Discussion and comments

We want to know what you think. Do you own any of the products we discussed? Which did you buy and how did it work out for you?

Do you know of an even better product?

Comment below and help your fellow consumers make the right choice. Over to you!

Resources

  1. Wendy Sheehan Donnell, How to Buy a GPS, PCmag.com, May 17, 2013
  2. Best GPS Buying Guide, Consumer Reports, January 2015
  3. GPS Buying Guide, CNET.com, July 3, 2013
  • Looks like Garmin takes the cake with car GPS. This comes as no surprise though, if they can provide airplanes with navigation equipment I am sure I can just them in my car. I have a 5 year old GPS that I desperately need to update. It’s touch screen is barely responsive. These all look sleek and full of features. I love the bluetooth connectivity option

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