If Google Maps or Waze on your smartphone just isn’t cutting it, then you right decide it’s worth it to buy an external GPS for your car. These larger GPS devices will usually be synchronized and streamlined with your vehicle and smartphone to give you the best experience possible, and they’ll probably be more accurate than the maps app on your phone. Besides, it’s much safer to have that larger screen to look at for guidance than peaking at your tiny iPhone screen. On top of that, they may have some extra features that will really make you feel like you’ve joined the future.
If you’re looking for a new GPS for your car, Garmin is a trusted and well-known brand that can act as a great jumping-off point. And lucky for you, we’ve made this list of the best Garmin GPS’s, so you can save yourself all that time and effort and find the perfect GPS for your road trip by reading one short article.
Carry on reading to see our full list of the best Garmin GPS, followed by a recap breaking down what makes each product on our list stand out. Or jump straight to our number #1 pick on Amazon here.
What Should You Look For in a Garmin GPS?
Now, what separates the good GPS’s from the bad ones? If you’re used to relying on your smartphone for navigation, then you probably haven’t been exposed to the deeper world of external GPS units. Not to worry, it’s a pretty easy world to jump into, as most of the features to look out for are pretty intuitive. But for the sake of prudence, we’re going to write it all down anyway. This way, you can understand the exact metrics we used, and you can know how we devised our list. Plus, this will give you the information you need to conduct your own research on the off chance that our list doesn’t show you the GPS you’re looking for.
Criteria #1: Voice Commands – We want you to be able to drive safely while navigating your GPS, and a huge part of that is keeping your hands on the wheel. Fortunately, voice command technology is becoming pretty standard, but we want to make sure that your GPS has good voice command technology. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve yelled “Hey Google!” to an empty room only to feel like an idiot when my phone doesn’t respond. We’re only looking for Garmin GPS units that have responsive voice recognition which doesn’t require overly exact commands.
Criteria #2: Traffic Information – Especially if you live in a crowded city, you’re going to want to stay flexible and on your toes with your driving route. A good GPS unit with reliable traffic information will help you beat rush hour and take the quickest, quietest, route to and from work every day. just as with voice recognition, this feature is becoming pretty standard, but again, we’re looking for live traffic information that’s reliable. Unfortunately, there’s no one number to look at to determine if a GPS’s traffic information is accurate, but we will make sure to do extensive research to evaluate the efficacy of this feature in every GPS on our list.
Criteria #3: Size – We mentioned before that one of the main reasons to opt for a separate GPS and not rely on your phone is the bigger screen. Of course, how big you want your screen to be is entirely up to you, but I think, for the most part, it’s a case of the bigger, the better. I will mostly abstain from making any real opinion- or quality-based input on the size of a GPS, but I will give you the exact measurements so that you can make your own decision.
Criteria #4: Price – We’re not here to make you spend a ton of money for no reason. Meeting this criterion is less about being cheap and more about justifying your price. We’d rather buy an expensive product that’s cheaper than it should be than waste money on a cheaper product that isn’t worth the money and that will just break on you or not perform well. Luckily, Garmin features a wide variety of products and prices in their catalog, so everyone should be able to stay within their budget.
Here’s How We’ve Determined the Best Garmin GPS
We measured the specs of the top products on the market against our listed criteria to see how they held up and if they’re worth buying. We then checked customer reviews, blog posts, and “best Garmin GPS” articles to see if the products on our list performed as advertised. We also made sure to take into account any extra features that don’t squarely fit into any of our criteria, plus we made sure to include a wide variety of GPS’s from different price ranges. This way, everyone can find exactly what they’re looking for in terms of both function and budget.
And without further ado, here is our list – tailored to your specific needs – of the best Garmin GPS.
#1: Garmin Drive 50LM GPS Navigator System (Best Value – All-Purpose)
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Our list of the best Garmin GPS units gets started with the Garmin Drive 50LM GPS Navigator System. This navigation system is Garmin’s most popular model and their flagship product. As such, it has all of the features you can ask for, and it’s deliberately priced to be affordable and approachable for all customers.
In addition to coming with free Lifetime Map updates, which allows you to avoid those pesky traffic jams and stay moving for your entire commute, our best car GPS unit has useful driver alerts to help you stay on your toes. These include alerts for upcoming sharp curves, speed changes, school zones, nearby red lights and speed cameras, and more. Whether you’re up in the mountains, passing through the city, or driving around suburbia, you’ll be ready for anything the road can throw at you.
The Garmin Drive 50LM GPS Navigator System also comes with pre-loaded data from Foursquare which adds millions of new and popular stores, so you can always make a quick and easy detour for lunch while you’re on a longer trip for the weekend. Plus, this navigation system uses real-life points of interest and landmarks to help you navigate. So instead of hearing, “In 500 feet, turn right,” you’ll hear, “Turn right at the Carvel.” I don’t know about you, but I can’t eyeball 500 feet, so the second form of directions is much more helpful to me.
Perhaps my favorite feature of the Garmin Drive 50LM GPS Navigator System, and most Garmin GPS devices for that matter, is that it gives you an accurate picture of the road when showing you the route. Instead of a meaningless blob of lines and colors, your car GPS will show you what you see in real life, so more those ambiguous and confusing turns will be as clear as ever. With its 5-inch display, you should have no problem keeping your eyes on the Garmin Drive 50LM GPS Navigator System and on the road at the same. I definitely recommend getting a stand for your GPS device, and I’m sure convenient bundles exist on Amazon or other websites.
The biggest drawback of the Garmin Drive 50LM GPS Navigator System is probably it’s short 1-hour battery life, though since almost all cars have a USB port built-in these days, it shouldn’t be too much of a problem to just keep it plugged in and pretend it’s a wired device.
Coming in at a great price, this navigation system is one of the best values out there in terms of return on your dollar. In addition to being featured on multiple lists of the best GPS devices, the Garmin Drive 50LM GPS Navigator System has been reviewed over 5,000 times on Amazon, so you can be sure you’re getting a crowd-approved product. One reviewer exclaimed, “A Life-Changing Device For Me!” while another raved about the offline navigation that you can’t get from any smartphone.
If you want to keep things cheap and you don’t want to stress over which car GPS is best for you, then buy the Garmin Drive 50LM GPS Navigator System. It has all of the best features at an affordable price.
#2: Garmin Nuvi 2699LMTHD GPS System (Best Overall Garmin GPS)
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We just finished showing you Garmin’s flagship product in the Garmin Drive 50LM GPS Navigator System, and now we’re ready to show you their real best car GPS device, full stop. Think about how Apple releases all of their iPhones with a standard version and the “plus” version and you should have a good idea of what to expect from the Garmin Nuvi 2699LMTHD GPS System, but more of it.
The Garmin Nuvi 2699LMTHD GPS System is a bit more expensive than our best car navigation system, but it has those extra features that might just be too much for some people to say no to. Here are the big selling points that might convince you to splurge for the Garmin Nuvi 2699LMTHD GPS System over their standard 50LM GPS.
Reason #1 to Choose This Product: Larger Screen
Coming in with a 6-inch screen size, the Garmin Nuvi 2699LMTHD GPS System has a slightly larger screen than that of the Garmin Drive 50LM GPS Navigator System. Now, if you have a good memory, you may be thinking something along the lines of, “Hey! That’s only an extra inch!” And it’s true, but that one inch can make a bigger difference than you realize. If find that you’re having trouble getting all of the relevant information from your car GPS while still keeping an eye on the road, then the extra inch of the Garmin Nuvi 2699LMTHD GPS System could be the difference-maker that gives you a much smoother, safer, and less stressful driving experience.
Reason #2 to Choose This Product: Bluetooth Capability
This is the real big seller of the Garmin Nuvi 2699LMTHD GPS System. It comes with Bluetooth capability that lets you connect your smartphone and streamline everything. This means playing your music and using hands-free calling from the speakers of your navigation device, and it also means you get that game-changing voice navigation that lets you control everything while still keeping your hands on the wheel and your eyes on the road. You also get certain live features, like live weather updates, that are only available through your smartphone. The Garmin Nuvi 2699LMTHD GPS System offers the safest driving experience possible.
In addition to the larger screen size and the Bluetooth functionality, the Garmin Nuvi 2699LMTHD GPS System comes with all of the amazing features of the Garmin Drive 50LM GPS Navigator System. That includes the live active lane guidance that gives clearer instructions than Google Maps, the Garmin Real Directions points-of-interest navigation that will make you feel like your friend is riding shotgun giving easy-to-understand directions, and Direct Access navigation that shows exactly where to go even if you’re going to complicated destinations like a store in a mall or a specific terminal at the airport.
Just as with our number one navigation system, the Garmin Nuvi 2699LMTHD GPS System comes with free Lifetime Map updates so you can always be sure that your map is 100% accurate. If you want to splurge for the best car GPS that offers everything but the kitchen sink, then the Garmin Nuvi 2699LMTHD GPS System is the GPS for you.
#3: Garmin Nuvi 2689LMT North America (Best for Road Trips)
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If you don’t have the same terrible sense of direction that I do, you may not need a car GPS unit for your daily commute. However, unless you want to go back to the days of giant maps or printed out MapQuest instructions, you’ll probably want a good car GPS unit for longer trips through unfamiliar roads. And there’s no Garmin GPS that’s better for road trips than the Garmin Nuvi 2689LMT North America navigation system.
As the name implies, the Garmin Nuvi 2689LMT North America is tailor-made to give you the best navigation anywhere in North America, with the same free Lifetime Map updates we’ve come to expect from Garmin and pre-packaged detailed maps of all of North America.
But that’s not all! The real reason the Garmin Nuvi 2689LMT North America is so fantastic for any road-trip enthusiast is that Up Ahead navigation similar to the points-of-interest navigation that lets you see all of the potential stops coming up without leaving the navigation. I know from experience how annoying and stressful it can be to ask my friend riding shotgun to play around with the GPS so we can easily find a gas station or pit stop. It’s almost more annoying to just follow the signs but deal with hearing the GPS device rerouting every twenty seconds because it thinks I’ve gone off the path. The Garmin Nuvi 2689LMT North America is the best car GPS device for anyone who wants to stay flexible while exploring the wide landscape of North America.
In addition to the fantastic Up Next feature, the Garmin Nuvi 2689LMT North America comes with hands-free calling, thanks to Bluetooth and Garmin Drivesmart technology. You also get a convenient voice-activated navigation system that’s as easy-to-use as, well…talking. Throw in the aforementioned points-of-interest navigation, Active Lane Guidance, and Direct Access for those confusing malls and plazas, and the Garmin Nuvi 2689LMT North America is one of the best car GPS units on the market.
In terms of price, it falls somewhere in between our two best GPS devices, so it’s still pretty affordable, and it as a whole slew of glowing reviews on Amazon for you to confront before making your decision. If you’re planning a big road trip and want to make sure it goes as smoothly as possible, go and pick up the Garmin Nuvi 2689LMT North America.
#4: Garmin DEZL OTR700 7-inch GPS Truck Navigator (Best for Truck Drivers)
Not everyone is driving the same kind of vehicle, and not everyone is playing by the same rules. If you’re driving around in a bigger truck all day, then all of a sudden you’re dealing with a very different set of roads, rules, and regulations than most other drivers out there. And there’s only one GPS that’s perfectly designed to special give truck drivers the best GPS experience possible, and that’s the Garmin DEZL OTR700 7-inch GPS Truck Navigator.
The Garmin DEZL OTR700 7-inch GPS Truck Navigator sends a loud and clear message about who its target audience is by offering a custom truck routing (not available in all areas) based on the size and weight of your truck and letting you see alerts for upcoming bridge heights, sharp curves, and more. Never get caught off guard by a low-hanging tunnel or “No Trucks” lane ever again.
But it’s not just the custom truck-routing that makes the Garmin DEZL OTR700 7-inch GPS Truck Navigator the best friend of truck drivers everywhere. This amazing GPS navigation system also offers Load-to-Dock guidance that shows potential loading zones or storage lots when approaching your destination.
On top of that, you’ll get a preloaded truck and trailer services directory, and you’ll be able to view truck-friendly parking information along your route. Equally useful for any truck driver is the massive screen, which has a screen size of seven inches, so even in the front of a truck, you won’t have a hard time positioning it somewhere that you can easily see it. If seven inches doesn’t cut it for you and you need the biggest screen size you can get your hands on, then there are also 8- and 10-inch models. Though be warned – they’re insanely expensive.
The Garmin DEZL OTR700 7-inch GPS Truck Navigator comes with wi-fi capabilities and can access a lot of the extra features we’ve come to love without Bluetooth integration, including hands-free, voice-activated navigation and assistance. You also get constant live updates of weather, traffic, and fuel prices, so you’ll always be up to date and in the loop.
The biggest drawback of the Garmin DEZL OTR700 7-inch GPS Truck Navigator is that it’s incredibly expensive, even if you get the smallest screen size. Of course, if you’re using it for work, then maybe you can write it off and get an employer to pay for it.
The utility of this truck navigation system is a little all-or-nothing. If you don’t have a truck, there’s no reason to pay for it. But if you do own a truck, then the Garmin DEZL OTR700 7-inch GPS Truck Navigator is hands down the best GPS device for you.
How Do I Set Up a Garmin GPS?
I’ll start by saying that there’s actually no setup required for most Garmin GPS units, so all the technophobes reading can rest easy. Of course, there are still some measures you may want to take to maximize your experience with your GPS navigation.
The first important step I recommend is buying a good stand so you can keep your GPS unit fastened in a convenient location and ensure a hands-free experience. You can easily find a cheap and decent stand online or at any electronics store.
After that, it’s a good idea to connect your phone to your GPS through Bluetooth to get ready for hands-free calling and voice-activated navigation. Most GPS units will come with instructions on how to do this, but it’s pretty easy, and rummaging through the settings of the GPS device should honestly be enough to figure it out on your own.
Definitely do this all before you actually start driving, for obvious reasons. That’s really all there is to it. You’ll be ready to go with the best GPS navigation in no time!
Verdict: Your Best Garmin GPS
We’re reaching the end of our list, and you’re hopefully starting to get a good idea of which of our products is best for you. But if you haven’t made up your mind yet, not to worry. We don’t want to rush, and we know how important it is to make sure you’re getting the Garmin GPS that’s perfect for you. That’s why we’re going to recap all of our Garmin GPS’s and focus on their standout features. This way, you’ll be able to see the highlights and really know what each product has to offer for you.
If you want the best value for your money, pick the Garmin Drive 50LM GPS Navigator System.
The Garmin Drive 50LM GPS Navigator System has every feature you can need from your GPS except Bluetooth functionality. But you’re still getting free Lifetime Map updates, amazing GPS navigation based on points of interest, and the Garmin Drivesmart technology that will show you the road as it appears in real life so you can understand exactly where you’re going and not miss any highway exits. This 5-inch GPS also comes at a cheap price, and aside from short battery life, there’s no real downside. The Garmin Drive 50LM GPS Navigator System is the best car GPS unit for anyone who values a good deal.
If you need a GPS unit for truck driving, pick the Garmin DEZL OTR700 7-inch GPS Truck Navigator.
Truck drivers need GPS navigation too, and the Garmin DEZL OTR700 7-inch GPS Truck Navigator is just about the only Garmin GPS device that offers driving directions specifically for truck drivers with different needs and different regulations. This amazing truck-friendly GPS gives you driver alerts of weather and fuel prices and helps you easily find docking stations. It comes with preloaded maps specifically aimed at truckers, and it has voice-activated navigation for a hands-free design. You also get all of the amazing features we’ve come to expect from any Garmin GPS. The Garmin DEZL OTR700 7-inch GPS Truck Navigator is hands-down the best GPS unit for any truck driver.
If you want something perfect for a road trip, pick the Garmin Nuvi 2689LMT North America.
You know the drill by now – free Lifetime Map Updates, Garmin Drivesmart technology, points-of-interest based navigation, and hands-free calling and voice-activated navigation thanks to Bluetooth technology. These features are standard in all of our Garmin GPS units. But what the Garmin Nuvi 2689LMT North America offers over other Garmin products is the Up Next navigation that shows you all of the upcoming gas stations, restaurants, and pit stops without leaving your navigation. Never hear the word “rerouting” ever again with the Garmin Nuvi 2689LMT North America. This is the best GPS for any avid road tripper.
That brings us to the end of our list, and I hope you’ve started to settle on a GPS for your car. You also have hopefully noticed the features that set apart Garmin GPS units from the crowd – free Lifetime Map updates, navigation based on important points of interest, and easy hands-free calling.
If none of the highlighted products above were quite what you’re looking for, you may be more interested in the top-of-the-line Garmin Nuvi 2699LMTHD GPS System.
Remember to think about or write down the feature that’s most important to you. This will help you save some time by skipping the products that don’t have what you’re looking for.
That’s all for now. Enjoy your GPS and happy travels!