For many drivers, Global Positioning System (GPS) navigation devices have replaced traditional road maps. They are an excellent navigation tool & surprisingly affordable. Depending on your model and make, GPS devices have differing features that can make your trip easier, more secure and enjoyable.
This guide will help you to understand these features and decide which ones are important to you.
How does GPS work?
Relying on a series of satellites that are in orbit around the earth, a GPS navigation system can guide you to your destination as well as pinpoint your exact location, showing your progress along the route.
A car GPS navigation system is an excellent navigation tool without a hefty price tag. While a number of new cars are available with a factory-installed car GPS navigation systems, an after market GPS, for instance from TomTom or Navman, has many benefits:
Some of the most important features to consider when choosing your new GPS unit include:
Say goodbye to time-consuming detours or getting lost on unfamiliar routes as navigation systems help you work out the quickest route to your destination – some devices will even let you plan a trip with multiple destinations in advance. With a GPS, you can avoid the stress of taking a wrong turn or looking out for street names, and the neat device is less fiddly than a paper map or driving atlas.
Many GPS devices are also equipped with the function of receiving real-time traffic updates, helping you avoid traffic jams, accidents, or road construction by guiding you around the affected area. Some GPS navigation systems have pre-installed points of interest, such as petrol stations, hotels, ATMs and restaurants, and are able to generate a list of parking options close to your current route.
To avoid encounters with unnecessary obstacles while travelling abroad, check and update pre-installed maps in your GPS device before heading out. While a detailed map of Australia should be standard, a map of New Zealand or other countries may not be pre-installed, in which case you would have to install it separately. Also keep in mind that while the maps used in conjunction with the positioning system are updated regularly to ensure precise road information, there may be unanticipated changes to roads that the navigation system won’t be able to pick up.
Not only can a GPS make travelling more convenient, but it can also help your driving a safer experience. Some GPSs may advise you of changes to road conditions ahead, like sharp turns or stop signs, making driving in unfamiliar surroundings less stressful. There are also GPS navigation systems that have pre-installed fixed speed and red light camera alerts, to reinforce your awareness of speed limits and safe driving. Pretty much all car GPS devices come with spoken instructions and some of them even feature spoken street names. This allows you to keep your eyes on the road rather than the screen. Further, if your navigation system features Bluetooth , you will probably be able to connect your Bluetooth mobile phone, allowing you to make hands-free phone calls! In case your car breaks down, roadside assist features may also be available that can help pinpoint your location and provide a list of local Roadside Assistance phone numbers.
Extra features & things to consider
Some car GPS navigation systems provide extra features that can make your journey even more secure and pleasant. With a keyword search function you will be able to locate points of interest within a few seconds. Advanced lane and landmark guidance gives you extra clarity when navigating difficult junctions, decreasing your chances of missing a turn. And if you tend to lose track of time while driving, choose a GPS device that can recommend driving breaks after several hours, such as the TomTom Start Classic In-Car GPS. Some units can even alert you not to leave the device in the car or remind you to drive on the correct side of the road when you are overseas.
Factory installed GPS systems are nicely integrated in the car’s console. After market devices on the other hand have to be mounted, on the windshield, dash or even onto a cup holder or air vent2. These mounts either come with the navigation unit or have to be purchased separately. Typically, the GPS device slides onto the mount or snaps into it. You should make sure to mount your GPS device to a spot on the windshield that doesn’t deprive you from a clear view of the road to avoid safety hazards for yourself and other road users.
At Big W we have a great range of portable GPS navigation devices available to suit you and your driving needs. Browse through the great range of portable GPS navigation systems Big W has available to buy online or visit your local Big W.
1. Allen, M., 2009, The Trouble with In-car GPS Systems, Popular Mechanics, http://www.popularmechanics.com/cars/how-to/4281172
2. Zahradnik, F., Altenative GPS Mounts, About.com, http://gps.about.com/od/accessories/tp/Arkon-Mounts.htm
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