satellite navigation system in use in a car on a road.
Last updated: June 19, 2020

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A GPS has become a highly popular tool for enhancing the driving experience. It helps drivers plot their position, identify and follow clear routes to a specific destination.  GPS manufactures have been creating increasingly better products, taking this device to a higher level. In this article we discuss some of these new features.

Given their usefulness, more people are opting to buy a GPS to help them on the road. However, finding the best GPS is not straightforward and requires some knowledge. We have prepared this shopping guide to help with that process. Here, we discuss some of the most frequently asked questions about GPSs as well as the top products on the Canadian market.

Key Facts

  • The GPS system links to a network of around 24 satellites.  In general, at least six satellites are accessible by the GPS receivers at any specific time.
  • When choosing a GPS, the first question to determine is its intended use. The best GPS will vary, depending on if you are driving a car, truck, motorbike or just hiking.

The best GPS on the Canadian market

The following is a list of the five best personal GPS systems currently available on the Canadian market. We have compiled this list after studying the market and identifying quality products at an affordable price.

Garmin Drive 50 USA LM GPS

The Garmin Drive 50 is our top pick.  It has advanced features, yet the price tag is affordable.  Its main features include: notifications before sharp turns, changes in speed, school areas, red lights, cameras and more.  The unit comes with free map updates for the life of the device. The Garmin Drive 50 also displays street names, speed, speed limits and estimated time of arrival.

This unit guides by identifying notable landmarks along the route. It integrates data from Foursquare including countless stores and restaurants along your route.  The display resolution is particularly high quality – 480 x 272 pixels.  The battery life lasts up to 1 hour, so you will need to make sure that there is an available charging device in your car.

GPS Navigation for Car 7 Inch Vehicle GPS Navigation Car System

In close second on our list is this 7-inch GPS by Junsun. It has excellent features and is especially suitable for people looking for a budget option. It offers a Lifetime Map that is updated for free. The unit comes pre-installed with 101 regions and maps that cover  Canada, the US and Mexico.

This GPS is also versatile. It can be used between different types of travel modes including car, truck, pedestrian, bicycle, emergency, bus and taxi options. It provides speed camera alerts, sound warnings and route planning. Notifications are provided in real voice with options for over 40 languages.  Junsun offers a 1 year warranty and a 90 days money back guarantee.

Garmin eTrex 20x, Handheld GPS Navigator

The Garmin eTrex 20x is an advanced GPS for hard-core off-the-beaten-track explorers. It is not cheap, but if you are a fan of back-country off-the-grid multi-day hikes in the wilderness, this GPS is for you. Its main features include enhanced resolution and expanded memory for access to a larger number of maps. It attaches to ATVs, bikes, boats and cars.

The Garmine eTrex 20x supports geocaching GPX files for downloading geocaches. It features 65K color display with excellent resolution (240 x 320 pixels).  An additional strength of this GPS is its ability to determine location even when located in thick forested areas. It is ideal for summer-canoe and hiking trips.

JRCX GPS Navigation for Car, 7 Inch Car GPS Updated 8GB LCD Touch Screen

This GPS by JRCX is a solid option, both affordable and offering the most important features a driver needs. It comes with free map updates for life. Voice guidance can be selected in several different languages. Its alert systems notify drivers to upcoming sharp turns, school areas, red lights, speeding cameras and more.

8GB ROM, provides enough space to download and store large quantities of maps that can be used on trips to new places. The unit also includes charger and attachment mechanisms and mounting device. There is a 90-day money back guarantee for nervous buyers.  Additionally, the unit comes with a lifetime warranty.

Garmin GPSMAP 64, TOPO

The Garmin GPSMAP 64 is the holy grail of outdoor exploration GPSs.  For most people this GPS is overkill – its specialized for way-off-the-beaten-track use and it comes with a hefty price tag. However, if you are working in remote areas of Canada in the oil industry or tree-planting for the summer – this GPS has your back. It includes full coverage of Canada. Additionally, it includes a quad helix antenna with high-sensitivity, that locates your position quickly and precisely and maintains its location even in heavy cover and deep canyons.

Garmin GPSMAP 64 comes with a compass, identifying your direction at all times. Its altimeter can determine your altitude, and can even help you monitor weather conditions. Last, the Garmin GPSMAP 64 synchs with your iphone and enables you to wirelessly receive email, texts and alerts – an invaluable feature in Canada’s back-country.

Shopping Guide: Everything you need to know about a GPS

Before you purchase a GPS, it is worthwhile to take into consideration several aspects. In this section, we examine information about GPSs and the most frequently asked questions by GPS users.

Man in the car and holding black mobile phone with map gps navigation

A GPS lets you choose between 2D or 3D maps as well as voice assistance.
(Source: Rostislavsedlacek: 74792461/ 123rf.com)

What is a GPS?

The GPS (Global Position System) or global positioning systems are satellite navigation systems that let you identify your geographic location. This technology was first created for military purposes, but over time, developed for civilian uses.

The GPS positioning system operates through several land-based control stations as well as a web of satellites. In order for a GPS to work, it must receive signals from no less than six satellites.

What are GPSs for?

Put simply, GPS devices help determine location. They help identify routes, and provide information regarding the location of all kinds of entities -restaurants, shopping centers, petrol stations. A GPS can alert you to the presence of speed cameras and notify you of upcoming speed limit changes.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of a GPS?

By using a GPS, it is possible to identify your position, establish the best routes and estimate arrival time. However, a GPS can also distract you when driving – if you are focusing on the screen and not the road – and increase the chances accidents. The following table highlights several advantages and disadvantages of a GPS.

Advantages Disadvantages
They let you know your position with a high level of accuracy Sometimes, they can distract you from the road and increase the risk of an accident
Some GPSs do not need to be connected to the Internet to determine your position. This way, you can use them in places where 3G or 4G internet coverage does not reach Updating maps can be an extra expense
They provide detailed information on the route and points of interest
They make it possible to estimate the approximate time of arrival
They offer information and warnings of fixed speed cameras
They help you drive more comfortably and safely, as you don’t need to rely on your mobile phones’ navigation system

Is a GPS worth buying?

If you are a frequent driver, then purchasing a GPS is worth considering. A GPS can you save you time and provide useful information during your journey. Additionally, they can help you prevent speeding fines.

Who should buy a GPS?

Anyone makes frequent journeys would benefit from buying a GPS. GPSs are especially useful for people who need to regularly take different routes. A GPS can also help when traveling in areas with limited Internet coverage. This device is also useful for farmers for tracking the movements of their tractors in order to reduce costs.

GPS Was used in the car

Some GPS devices include free lifetime map updates.
(Source: Chockchai Paralart: 38778182/ 123rf.com)

What types of GPS devices are there?

There are two types of categories GPSs fall into: portable devices and those installed in a vehicle. Portable devices can be used several vehicles.  Built-in devices, on the other hand, are installed into the vehicle’s dashboard. The following table highlights the key features of each category.

Portable Installed
Installation They are light and easily transportable. They have a bracket to attach them to any vehicle They are normally installed as standard in the dashboard of the car
Battery You usually connect them to the car’s cigarette lighter to charge the battery on long trips You don’t have to worry about charging the battery
Speed Turn on speed varies between models. You may need to wait while the navigator system is loading They work as soon as the car is started, so the waiting time is minimal
Use They can be used in different vehicles Can only be used in the car in which they are installed
Probability of theft Given their small size, they can be easily stolen if you leave them inside the car They cannot be stolen unless your entire vehicle is stolen

What are the most important functions that a GPS includes?

A GPS includes several features that make driving easier. Most models let you choose between 2D and 3D maps as well as offering voice guidance options. Voice guidance lets you focus on the road when driving. Another feature of some GPSs is an alert system that notifies drivers of obstacles or dangerous areas on the route.

An additional functionality is the signalling of fixed speed cameras. GPSs can also advise which lane is less congested.

Shopping Criteria

If you are thinking about buying a GPS, there are several factors to consider before buying. In this section, we highlight key criteria to help inform your purchase decision.

Intended use

The intended use of a GPS is the most immediate question to take into consideration.  GPSs are generally built for cars, but there are devices available specifically for trucks or motorcycles.

GPSs for trucks provide information on road width as well as tunnel height. GPSs for motorcycles are more hardy to protect against outdoor elements, and so they are often waterproof and have more attachment brackets.

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A GPS works by receiving information from at least 24 satellites that are in orbit around Earth.

Screen

Most people prefer a GPS with the largest screen possible.  Keep in mind that a larger screen is usually more expensive.  Additionally, brightness and minimal reflection are also important. If viewing the screen is not easy, there can be an increased risk of accident.

transport, road trip, car driving, technology and people concept - close up of male hand adjusting gps navigator while driving car

GPSs notify the presence of speed cameras, speed limits or other factors such as an upcoming school zone. (Source: Dolgachov: 52257259/ 123rf.com)

Updates

Some GPS models include free lifetime map updates whereas others require fees for updates. The former tends to require a higher initial cost, but in the long term, it could save you money.

Consider whether you will require frequent updates. This will help you decide whether to invest in a GPS with lifetime updates or simply pay for updates as needed.

Maps included

Every GPS includes pre-loaded maps.  When deciding on a device, consider which package of maps you need at the onset. The devices available to you will vary depending on if you want state maps, entire country maps as well as maps for neighboring countries.

There are currently two main map providers for GPSs: Navteq and Tele Atlas. Their functionalities are similar but it is still worthwhile to study the features and additional information that each provider includes.

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It’s useful if the screen includes a night mode and even better if it is a touchscreen.

Battery

For the most part, GPS batteries last between two to three hours. That said, charging your battery in the car is simple. If you plan on using the GPS with another type of vehicle, such as a motorcycle, charging becomes less straightforward and as such each use-case should be studied in detail.

Extra accessories

A good fastening system is an important aspect of your GPS. Also, it is important that the GPS has a charging system compatible with your vehicle. The most common form of charging in a car, for example, is through the cigarette lighter.

Another interesting “extra” is a Bluetooth connection. With Bluetooth, you can synch your phone with the GPS.  Some GPSs can connect to the Internet via WiFi for map updates.

Female driver sitting in the car and holding black mobile smart phone with map gps navigation application with planned route on the screen. Blurred car interior on the background.

A GPS system makes driving in new areas a pleasure.
(Source: Aleksey Boldin: 32493059/ 123rf.com)

Summary

Having a GPS can be helpful when you are on the road (or trail). They help plan routes, identify locations, find gas stations, as well as alert you about dangers along your path

When figuring out which GPS is best, consider how you will  use it. You should also study its specifications such as screen, maps, battery life and “extra” accessories.

Finally, if you found this guide useful, please leave us a comment or share it through your different social networks.

(Source of featured image: Moreno Soppelsa: 10480474/ 123rf.com)

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Our writers and editors at SWEETESTHOME.ca focus on making your life easier by selecting the best available everyday products in the Canadian market.