Which GPS system should I buy?

Now that the holiday gift-giving season is approaching (aka Xmas - I’m not afraid of saying the word! :slight_smile: ), I have decided to help my wife join the 20th century, and instead of pre-printing Google Maps directions or resorting to the old-style printed on paper Thomas Brothers maps, the mainstays of Los Angeles directions for many years, I’m thinking of getting her a small portable GPS unit, that will be used in her car most of the time, but will probably be transferred to my car on occasion.
This will be mostly used for So. Cal. freeway driving and city/suburb directions, though it it worked in the rest of the country or for our summer vacation trips (e.g. Canada, Western Europe) that would be even better.
I hear lots of good things about Garmin (sample recent SDMB discussion on GPS systems) but my work colleague who has a TomTom says it’s cheaper, you get map updates for free, and her TomTom gave her good directions when she overshot the mark and had to double back.

Opinions please!

I like the user interface of the Garmin Nuvi series - though I am comparing a older TomTom to a newer Nuvi, I would consider traffic service option and voice recognition (both free, but some have MSN which costs). The wide screen is a nice option.

All and all I think most major ones are going to be OK.

I love my Garmin Nuvi. Don’t spend any extra on the bluetooth hands free phone thing. I was happy with it until I lent my Nuvi to my SO for a road trip and had to be on the other end of it. Sounds like crap.

Some of the Nuvis have European maps. I have no experience with the traffic functions or other fanciness - I just have a basic model with no add-ons.

Like Boscibo, I love my Garmin Nuvi. I’ve got the 660 version.

What pushes it over the top, I think, is that it pronounces the street names.

I have had a Garmin Nuvi for a few years, now, and I’m pretty happy with it. You can buy them with pre-loaded maps for North America, and if you need to use it somewhere else, you can purchase that map package separately (don’t know about the cost).

I agree with Lightnin’ that the text-to-speech feature is very helpful. It tells you the name of the street to turn on, not just the distance. As often as not, it mispronounces the street name, but that’s more amusing than problematic.

I have a Garmin Nuvi 760 and I absolutely love it.

Strongly recommended, better than the TomToms i’ve used.

Just saying you might want to consider an iPhone/MyTouch/Droid. They all do maps and directions; some of them do spoken turn-by-turn directions and the ones that don’t yet will get upgrades to do so soon.
Plus you get all the other groovy apps, like restaurant finders, skymaps, compass, e-mail and the WHOLE FREAKIN’ INTERNET right there in the car (for the passenger, anyway. Not recommended to surf while driving) or wherever you happen to be.

For TMobile it was like $25/month for the data plan (2 year committment) and $150 for the phone. Which isn’t that much more than a regular GPS unit.

I already have a Verizon phone and a 2-year contract with them.
I add your price quote up to get the two-year total, and my result is $25 x 24 + $150 = $750. My colleague says she bought her TomTom on the Home Shopping Network last year for $130. I see the Garmin nuvi 760 at pricegrabber.com for prices between $200 and $245.

They all do basically the same thing. It might be easier to eliminate what you don’t want and then explore them. Do you need blue tooth? Do you need a “real” view of the road? How about spoken words? Large data base of places such as banks, places to eat?

My first one was a Magellan and I liked the option to enter cities by zip code. 5 digits are easier to enter then trying to spell some weird name that you might not actually know how to spell. When I broke it (crushed it) I bought a remanufactured one that was cheaper and had more data. The more expensive ones were bigger but didn’t give me much more in the way of information and (for me) wasn’t worth dealing with the extra size.

Since technology in this area is ever changing I would consider the cheapest one you can find for a couple of reasons. They all get you where you want to go, are usually the smaller size which are easier to carry or stow, and won’t make you cry if you loose it. For $100 you can buy one that will certainly outdo any phone application.

I don’t see what I would use bluetooth for. What do you mean by “real” view of the road? I suppose you don’t mean a Google Street view kind of thing with actual photos, but more a “3-D” type of view. I would be happy with one that makes it easy to type in a street address and then gives me directions to that address, spoken out loud. With of course a map being displayed in real time. Warning about traffic would be a nice extra seeing as how I live in Southern California, the land of clogged freeways.

I’d have to look it up but there is at least one brand that shows a simulated view of highways in **major cities **complete with road signs and lanes. It can be useful when dealing with weird and confusing exits/splits in the road. They all display some variant of “3D” view which just gives you a horizon instead of a top down view. Your last desire to work around traffic will bump your choices out of the cheapest range and is dependent on cities transmitting the information. I would expect LA to fall into that category but you’ll need to check.

What I advise people who use them is to think in terms of situational awareness. If you stare at the screen hoping to be hand held to destination then you are not watching the road. What I do with mine is to call up the directions as I drive to see the turn-offs in advance. Even though the display shows the road I’m on and the next turn off I like to review it in advance so I’m not reacting to the device as much as using it as a countdown for what to expect. What you don’t want to do is get into a city with closely grouped exits and then stare at the device. It’s easy to drive by the correct one doing this. A driver should be looking at traffic and road signs.

I bought my older brother an entry level TomTom but he traded it in for a Garmin since he said the Garmin has more commercial and cultural landmarks listed. I have used a Garmin nuvi 200 model and am happy with it.

I had a Garmin Nuvi 650 and loved it. After about 3 years, I wanted to upgrade the North America maps and add Europe, but that cost $50 + $100. Instead, I bought a Nuvi 275T (and gave the 650 to my son) which includes North America and Europe in the base price for about $200. The 275T is great also - free traffic (NA) and announces speed cameras (at least in Europe). The only disadvantage was the smaller width of the screen, but then I realized after using it, that the screen width doesn’t really matter much since you’re looking towards where you’re going, which is at the top of the screen. The smaller screen makes it easier to slip in your pocket when you’re in pedestrian mode.

I’ve flown into at least 50 different cities, looking for suburban addresses, and never had a problem. I highly recommend the Garmin Nuvi (but you can get the John Cleese voice on some of the TomToms).

Garmin Nuvi 255W will be $ 119at Staples on black Friday.

I came to the same conclusion regarding screen size. The larger screens don’t give you any more real information and just take up space. When I’m out researching historical areas I use my laptop to give me a sense of reference to the area but for navigation I just want to know when to turn. Sometimes I print out a map of my destination as a reference source to cover the gap between laptop and stand-alone GPS. I have to admit that when I upgraded to a GPS with more points of interest I found that useful.

My favorite is TomTom. All their models have a clean, simple and intuitive user interface.

Update: for Xmas Santa Claus brought my wife a TomTom Go 730. Thank you to everyone for their input! (xash, your comments on the simple user interface was one of the deciding factors seeing as how my wife is less technologically inclined than I am.)

When we first hooked it up to our computer (works with the Macintosh, another good feature since that’s what we have) it immediately gave me new maps which we installed. But then it said that I could “subscribe” to their new map service for $x per year (I forget what x was, maybe $50?) Somehow I was under the impression that TomTom gave you free map upgrades. I guess not. I tried to convince my wife that she should get the Homer Simpson voice for $13 but she declined.

There is also an option to participate in “user maps”, what they call “Map Share™”. From what I’ve read this means that if someone adds something to correct a map we would get that correction, and other users would get our corrections. If that’s what it is, what’s to stop some malicious user from giving bogus updates just to be a jerk?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/TomTom#Map_Share

Users can select various ‘levels of trust’, only receiving improvements that have been verified by TomTom or changes that have been submitted by trusted sources, by many , or by some people.