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Buying in-vehicle GPS Satellite Navigation


Before you invest in a GPS Satellite Navigation device, you should decide how often you intend to use it. Consider the layout of your car.  Many GPS Satellite Navigation systems come with a monitor that displays a map. The monitor is commonly installed on the windscreen, dashboard or on a pedestal extending from the dashboard. In some cars, such an installation may block air vents or make it somewhat uncomfortable for a passenger to enter or exit the vehicle or sit in the passenger seat.  Remember, thieves love Satellite navigation devices; the units are small, easy to hide and often the owner makes a gift of the device by leaving it in plain sight. So, remove the unit from sight and either lock it away or remove it from the vehicle when you exit.


Select a satellite navigation system that features multiple ways of getting to your destination. This can include by address, by post code, by a personal address book or via a location selected directly from the map.

Look for a satellite navigation system that gives you vocal as well as graphical directions. The satellite navigation systems that use a map and monitor include arrows that show you the direction of a turn and also indicate where your car is on the map in relation to the destination. Other satellite navigation systems use the head unit or radio to display the name of the street on which you are to make a turn or on which you are travelling. Both of these satellite navigation systems also give you verbal directions as you approach a turn.   


Select a satellite navigation system that includes point of interest data. Most GPS satellite navigation systems include locations of airports and other transportation services, ATM’s and banks, restaurants, hotels and a host of other sites.

Choose a satellite navigation system that offers updates of the point-of-interest data.

Many Pocket PC’s or palm type devices can be fitted with external GPS receivers and navigation software.  Some devices come fitted with an integrated GPS receiver. This modular approach gives you cost effective dual functionality.

The latest Smartphones are compatible with GPS software designed specifically for use with mobile phones. This might provide a low cost solution to your basic satellite navigation needs.

Which type of satellite navigation device is right for me? (source)

Screen size

screen size
Not to scale

GPS Satellite Navigation devices come in varying sizes, starting at  3.5 inches. If you think you will use it often and that you will benefit from a  larger screen, you should definitely consider 4.3 inches or 4.7 inches.

Larger screens are clearer and make using the  touch screen even easier. They also allow you to view a greater area of the map at any one time. As you can see below there are various maps  to choose depending on whether you want to use your sat nav in the UK  or when you travel abroad.

Mapping type



UK and ROI  mapping GPS Satellite Navigation devices are ideal for business users, day trips and those who  travel regularly domestically. Think about upgrading to a European sat  nav as  the majority of European mapping  GPS Satellite Navigation devices also feature street level mapping of UK and ROI.

Western Europe or Full Europe


Europe mapping GPS Satellite Navigation devices are ideal for those who holiday or travel regularly on the  continent. If you travel to Eastern Europe you need Full European  mapping.

North America and Canada


USA and  Canada mapping GPS Satellite Navigation devices are  pre-loaded with the  latest and most  accurate maps, these GPS Satellite Navigation devices are ideal for  those who holiday or travel for business regularly to North America and  Canada.


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Key features to look out for include

traffic sign

Traffic and routing

The traffic function is a great feature  that enables the sat nav to re-route your journey should there be a  traffic jam or an accident on your route. The sat nav receives traffic  updates continuously as you drive and will update your route in seconds  to avoid heavy traffic. This saves you wasting time and fuel when stuck  in traffic jams and gets you to your destination faster.

safety camera

Safety cameras

With this function a sat nav will alert you in advance to any fixed safety cameras on your route. This gives you  greater awareness of the actual speed limit and could stop you picking  up a speeding fine. Some GPS Satellite Navigation devices receive camera updates free for life;  others require a monthly or annual subscription.

point of interest

Points of interest

Alerts you to local services such as petrol stations, car parks, cash points, cinemas, restaurants, hotels and many other points of local interest.  This is great for when you are in a place at which you are unfamiliar. On longer journeys this feature can be used to  plan breaks.



Use your sat nav as a hands free kit for  your Bluetooth mobile phone. This is a legal, safer and easier way to  make and receive calls while you drive.

Remember, using your phone without a hands  free device can result in 3 points on your driving licence and anything  from a £60 up to £1000 fine. (Department of transport 2008)


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Plus some additional features to look for on  different models:

Touch screen

You can  choose options on your sat nav by touching the screen with a finger “  easier than a keyboard, especially when you're driving.

2D/3D mapping

The sat nav can display both flat 2D maps  (as you'd see on a printed road map) and 3D views that look more like  the view from your car.

Postcode search

Allows you to search for your destination by postcode.

Mapping loaded

The type of map on the sat nav system.  There are several, such as 21 Euro (which covers most of Europe) and  UK/ROI (Britain and Ireland).

Advanced lane guidance

Shows which lane to take at junctions so you don™t miss your turning.

Text to speech

Speech technology can give you directions, inform you of the latest traffic messages and even read your text  messages.

Voice command and  control

Selected TomTom GPS Satellite Navigation devices can be controlled by using voice commands, from planning a route to  making a call.


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What to look for when subscribing to map and traffic information updates.

tmcTo  keep the maps in your sat nav up to date, you'll need a  subscription. (Many GPS Satellite Navigation devices offer you several months' free service,  after which you pay a small fee per month). It's a small price to  pay for having information about new petrol stations, closed or  new roads, and speed camera locations at your fingertips.

Traffic updates reach your sat nav in one of  two ways. The radio system, called Traffic Messaging Channel  (TMC) is usually free, while updates through your mobile phone  (connected to your sat nav wirelessly) need a subscription.  There's a bonus: some Bluetooth GPS Satellite Navigation devices can help you make hands-free  calls or even read your text messages to you!



Satellite Navigation

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