GPS for Less

November 13, 2008 12:00:00 AM PST
Here's a bit of cheer amid the economic blues. If you're in the market for a GPS navigator, it's actually a great time to buy one. Karen Lau wants to buy a GPS device to help her get around. She was sold on the convenience they provide after borrowing one from a friend. "I could see the flexibility and the ease of just getting into your car and going anywhere you want to go."

Enter Consumer Reports, whose latest tests covered almost 50 GPS navigators. All of them plot routes to a desired destination, track your location on an onscreen map, and provide visual and spoken turn-by-turn directions.

Jeff Bartlett, Consumer Reports, says "We've found that GPS navigators will usually get you where you want to go, but not always by the most efficient route."

The highest-rated devices make entering directions easier. Real-time traffic information is becoming more widely available. Traffic flow can be displayed as color-coded lines.

"Our new GPS survey showed high interest in traffic services. But among those who already had the service, only half said that they actually used it," says Bartlett.

While traffic information can come in handy, it can cost you. "Typically, you have to buy a subscription for traffic services costing about 60 dollars a year. If the unit doesn't have a built-in receiver, an external one can be about 200 dollars," says Bartlett.

But if traffic isn't a priority, Consumer Reports recommends the Garmin Nuvi 200 for 150-dollars. It's a good basic GPS that's easy to use and easier on your wallet.

Mounting a GPS or anything else on your windshield is illegal in California, but a new law takes effect January 1st 2009 which does allow windshield mounting to a certain extent.

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