These days, many people are happy to use their phone as their sat nav and rely on Google Maps or an app like Waze, but this comes with some drawbacks. It can be frustrating to have to fiddle around with your phone and try to read a map on a tiny screen when all you want to do is get started on your journey, especially for older drivers or those in large vehicles like trucks or motorhomes.
In-car sat navs, meanwhile, are completely dedicated to navigation, so you can keep your phone playing music or available for hands-free calls. Plus, unlike phones, they already have the maps installed on them, so you won't be stuck if you're in a 4G dead-zone. In this article, we help you sort through features like dash cams and storage and compare products from classic brands such as TomTom and Garmin.
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We're guessing that one of the reasons you're considering switching from mobile phone navigation is screen size, so first off, you should make sure you don't end up buying a tiny sat nav! These devices usually come with screens measuring around 4-7 inches, with some smaller and larger options available if you want them.
When considering the size of your sat nav, you should think about both how visible you want it to be and how it'll fit with your verhicle. If you have a very small car, you'll probably want to stick with a smaller screen that won't take up too much space. But if you have the room, it's worth buying a bigger model for clarity, especially if your eyesight isn't perfect.
An unfortunate thing about having maps stored directly onto devices is that they do take up a lot of space. If you regularly travel in different areas or even outside of the UK, your sat nav can fill up quickly. That's why it's important to choose an option with the right amount of storage.
If you travel mainly in the UK, you'll find that a device with between 6-8 GB of storage will be more than enough. However, if you're more of a globetrotter, you might want to choose an option with more in the region of 16 GB storage, as this will keep you going for much longer.
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While phones download maps as you go using a data connection, sat navs work a little differently and need to be regularly updated. Traditionally, this could only be achieved by plugging your device into your computer and downloading an update, but these days, some sat navs offer this through WiFi integration.
Opting for a WiFi-enabled sat nav will allow you to simply bring the device into your house and connect it up to your network, and from there, the system will automatically update and give you the latest map info. This is important because roads change frequently and it's much safer to be up to date.
As important as it is for your safety and sanity when navigating your route, worrying about updating your sat nav can be an annoyance whether you're bringing it inside to connect to WiFi or using a cable. One easy way to cut this out is to consider a sat nav that comes with a built-in SIM card.
While this does tend to be included on the more premium devices and, therefore, the more costly ones, this will keep you connected to 5G at all times, meaning updates will happen automatically with no need to faff around.
One other handy feature that a constant 5G connection offers is live traffic updates. There's nothing worse than finding the optimal route and then getting stuck in traffic, but with a SIM-enabled sat nav, you'll be able to see what's going on up to the minute and work out which areas to avoid.
The most important thing to keep in mind while on the road is safety, and just like you wouldn't text and drive, you don't want to spend too long messing with your sat nav. This is where voice control steps in. With the ability to tell your sat nav what to do with your voice, you'll be able to keep your eyes on the road at all times.
Voice control isn't just about setting destinations, though, seeing as you'll usually have this covered before you set off. You can also ask questions such as 'how long until I reach my destination?' or even just 'what time is it?'. This is a brilliant feature to look out for that adds a lot of value to the product.
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If you're still pondering whether a sat nav is right for you, smart integration might just be the feature that pushes you over the edge. Some ultra-modern devices have built-in access to smart assistants like Siri, Alexa or Google Assistant, so while you're on the road you can ask questions about shop opening times or whatever else you need to know.
If you have a smart home, then this feature will add even more value. With assistant integration, you can ask your garage door to open or to put the kettle on before you arrive home. These can be huge timesavers and make your journey run much more smoothly. Assistant-enabled sat navs really do make a great addition to your smart home ecosystem.
If you've ever been in a car accident, you know how complicated it can be to claim insurance. With a dash cam, you have the added benefit of a camera that's constantly recording onto an SD card. This can be used as evidence that you were in the right and that it wasn't your driving that caused the accident.
Dash cams are clever because they won't just fill up your SD card. Instead, they will automatically delete old footage to ensure you never run out of space. Don't forget to download the footage you need, though, or it'll be gone forever! If you don't already have a separate dash cam, this could be a good way of trying one out.
If you're keen to keep your commute on camera, check out our Best Dash Cams!
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Amazon Alexa Support for Live Updates on Weather, Parking and More
SIM-Enabled to Keep You Up to Date With Traffic
Voice Controlled TomTom for Hands-Free Navigation
An Affordable Option for Road Navigation
A Compact Sat Nav for Travel Within the UK, ROI and Europe
A Reliable Choice With Window Mount and 7 Inch Screen
Crisp Graphics for Easy City Navigation
9 Inch Screen for Larger Vehicles
GPS Navigation System
Economical Option With 16 GB of Storage and Lifetime Updates
For a sleek, seamless experience without quite as high a price tag, look no further than this stylish, minimalist and feature-packed product. When passengers get in your car they'll immediately notice the eye-catching design, but they'll be more impressed by its innovation.
With Alexa support, you can play music, access to-do lists and get live updates on weather, traffic and parking, all with one device. It also works with your at-home smart set-up, so you can make sure that the lights or heating is on before you arrive. This product is unique and truly trendsetting, which is why we've chosen it as our number one sat nav!
Powerful, ultra-fast and easy to use, this premium 32 GB sat nav from TomTom is really something to behold. Most other models use wires or WiFi to update their maps every few months, but this one scraps all that and offers something completely different from its competitors.
The 'Go Discover' promises users access to TomTom's impressive live service features, including live traffic updates, fuel prices and even world maps. If you're a serious driver who wants up-to-date information at your fingertips, then you will find this to be well worth the investment.
It can be tempting to change destination while driving, whether that's while you're stopped at the traffic lights or in motion. This can be dangerous when using a touchscreen and is not recommended by manufacturers. TomTom offers a safe solution to this with its unique voice control.
With the brand's flagship 'Via' model, you don't need to worry about tapping on the screen anymore. Now you can simply state the postcode or the full address and TomTom will take you there. This is a brilliant feature that will surely come as standard in the future.
While Motorola might be famous for its phones, its sat navs don't mess around. With this product, they stick to their design philosophy of streamlined products that make your life easier rather than getting in the way. We think the E005 is ideal for infrequent drivers looking for a great deal.
This sat nav comes with everything you could want if you're a casual driver, including pre-installed points of interest and lane guidance. Customers rave about its responsive touchscreen and clear audio too, which make navigation a breeze.
Just like some people call vacuum cleaners 'hoovers', many people refer to sat navs as 'TomToms'. TomTom is a titan in the UK industry and offers premium, innovative products for serious drivers. But, importantly, it also offers a few choices for people not willing to break the bank.
This product is from TomTom's 'Start' range which aims to supply smaller, compact products at a lower price. It has all the great software the brand is famous for and is available with UK, ROI or European maps. This is an excellent choice if you're a casual driver who doesn't want to sacrifice quality.
Binatone is a big name in the sat nav world for a reason – they make simple yet well-made products that don't break the bank. Binatone's customers will tell you that the U700 is perfect for someone who wants good mapping and navigation, and not much else.
The U700 is a substantial bit of kit with its 7-inch screen and bulky case, but it feels premium and high-quality in your hand. It's durable and will survive being thrown into your glove compartment to keep it safe at night too. This is a great pick if you value quality and simplicity.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, this is the perfect pick for anyone who wants to cut down the dashboard clutter with something as compact as possible. This tiny product comes with a screen that measures only 4.3 inches, which is more than 2 inches smaller than some others on our list.
If you're worried about readability on such a small screen, Garmin thinks it's found the solution. This device boasts crisp, easy-to-understand graphics that will keep you on-route no matter where you are. With lane assist and junction view too, we rate Garmin's Drive 40LM for city slickers who like to keep things simple.
MekedeTech offers a decent quality product at an appealing price point, but the real selling point of this sat nav is its screen. Most of the picks on this list offer smaller dimensions of around 7 inches, but this one is a whopping 9 inches.
The large screen is great if you drive a bigger vehicle and want to clearly be able to see everything you need to while driving, or simply if your eyesight isn't what it used to be. The only downside is that this product is quite 'feature light', so don't expect a state-of-the-art gadget.
If you're not swayed by any of the fancy features offered by other options on this list, then this is a great pick. Jimwey offers a sat nav that nails the basics at an attractive price point.
Keep in mind that although this is a solid product with good storage, it is still missing some of the more simple quality-of-life features. Unfortunately, this sat nav has to be updated using a wire attached to your computer, which is a very dated system.
Written and researched by Caelen Matthewson-Davies
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