Apr 1, 2024

GPS Purchase: A Comprehensive Guide to Choosing the Right Device

GPS Purchase: A Comprehensive Guide to Choosing the Right Device

A customer comparing GPS devices at a store, surrounded by shelves displaying various models and brands. A salesperson assists with product information

GPS devices have become an essential tool for navigation, whether you are driving in unfamiliar territory or exploring new hiking trails. With so many options available on the market, choosing the right GPS device can be overwhelming. This comprehensive guide will provide you with the knowledge and confidence to make an informed decision when purchasing a GPS device.

The first thing to consider when purchasing a GPS device is its intended use. Are you looking for a device primarily for driving or for outdoor activities such as hiking, camping, or boating? Different GPS devices are designed with specific features and capabilities to meet the needs of different users. It is important to choose a device that is tailored to your specific needs and preferences.

Another important factor to consider is the level of accuracy and reliability of the GPS device. The accuracy of GPS devices can vary depending on the quality of the device and the number of satellites it can connect with. It is recommended to choose a device with a high level of accuracy and a strong signal strength to ensure reliable navigation. In addition, consider the battery life, screen size, and user interface when making your decision.

Understanding GPS Technology

A hand holds a GPS device, with a map displayed on the screen. A satellite icon indicates the device is receiving a signal. The device is surrounded by various GPS models and a guidebook

History and Evolution of GPS

The Global Positioning System (GPS) is a satellite-based navigation system that was developed by the United States Department of Defense in the late 1970s. Originally designed for military use, GPS has since become a widely used technology for civilian applications, such as navigation, surveying, and tracking.

The first GPS satellite was launched in 1978, and the system became fully operational in 1995. Over the years, the technology has evolved, with the addition of new satellites and improvements in accuracy and reliability.

How GPS Works

GPS works by using a network of satellites that orbit the earth. Each satellite broadcasts a signal that contains information about its location and the time it was sent. GPS receivers on the ground receive these signals and use the information to calculate their own position.

To determine its position, a GPS receiver needs to receive signals from at least four satellites. By measuring the time it takes for the signals to reach the receiver, and knowing the location of the satellites, the receiver can calculate its distance from each satellite and use this information to determine its own position.


GPS is just one of several global navigation satellite systems (GNSS) that are currently in operation. Other systems include Russia's GLONASS, Europe's Galileo, and China's BeiDou.

While GPS is the most widely used GNSS, each system has its own strengths and weaknesses. Some systems may be more accurate in certain regions or under certain conditions, while others may offer better coverage or more reliable signals.

Overall, understanding the technology behind GPS is important for anyone who is considering purchasing a GPS device. With a basic understanding of how GPS works and the history of its development, consumers can make more informed decisions about which device is right for their needs.

Types of GPS Devices

A variety of GPS devices displayed on a shelf with detailed product information and price tags. Different types and brands are showcased, offering a wide selection for potential buyers

When it comes to choosing a GPS device, there are several types available to suit different needs. Here are some of the most common types of GPS devices:

Car GPS Units

Car GPS units are designed to be mounted on the dashboard or windshield of a vehicle and provide turn-by-turn directions. They typically come with preloaded maps and can be updated with new maps as needed. Some car GPS units also include features like traffic updates, voice commands, and Bluetooth connectivity.

Handheld GPS for Hiking and Outdoor Activities

Handheld GPS devices are designed for outdoor enthusiasts, hikers, and backpackers. They are portable and rugged, with features like topographic maps, compasses, and barometric altimeters. Some handheld GPS devices also include features like weather updates and wireless connectivity.

Wearable GPS for Fitness and Sports

Wearable GPS devices are designed for athletes and fitness enthusiasts. They come in the form of watches or other wearable devices and can track activities like running, cycling, and swimming. Some wearable GPS devices also include features like heart rate monitors and GPS navigation.

Marine GPS for Boating

Marine GPS devices are designed for use on boats and watercraft. They are waterproof and can provide navigational information like depth, speed, and distance to shore. Some marine GPS devices also include features like fish finders and radar.

Smartphone GPS Applications

Smartphone GPS applications are available for both iOS and Android devices. They can provide turn-by-turn directions, traffic updates, and other navigational information. Some smartphone GPS applications also include features like augmented reality and voice commands.

Overall, when choosing a GPS device, it's important to consider your specific needs and the features that are most important to you. Whether you're a hiker, boater, or fitness enthusiast, there is a GPS device that can help you navigate your way to your destination.

Key Features to Consider When Buying a GPS

A hand holding a GPS device, with a clear display screen, durable construction, and user-friendly interface. A variety of map and navigation features are visible on the screen

When choosing a GPS device, there are several key features that should be taken into consideration. These features include accuracy and reliability, mapping and navigation capabilities, battery life and power options, display and user interface, connectivity and communication, durability and weather resistance, and additional features and accessories.

Accuracy and Reliability

One of the most important features to consider when purchasing a GPS device is its accuracy and reliability. A GPS device with high accuracy will be able to provide accurate location information, while a reliable device will be able to maintain a strong signal even in challenging conditions.

Mapping and Navigation Capabilities

Another important feature to consider is the device's mapping and navigation capabilities. A GPS device with detailed maps and turn-by-turn directions can be a valuable tool for navigating unfamiliar territory.

Battery Life and Power Options

Battery life and power options are also important considerations when choosing a GPS device. A device with a long battery life can be a valuable asset for extended trips, while a device with multiple power options, such as a car charger or USB port, can be convenient for charging on the go.

Display and User Interface

The display and user interface of a GPS device can also play a significant role in its usability. A device with a large, easy-to-read screen and a user-friendly interface can make it easier to navigate and use the device in the field.

Connectivity and Communication

Connectivity and communication features can also be important considerations when choosing a GPS device. A device with Bluetooth connectivity can allow for easy data transfer and communication with other devices, while a device with rugged construction can withstand harsh conditions and environments.

Durability and Weather Resistance

Durability and weather resistance are also important factors to consider when choosing a GPS device. A device with a rugged, weather-resistant construction can withstand harsh conditions and environments, making it a valuable tool for outdoor activities.

Additional Features and Accessories

Finally, additional features and accessories can also be important considerations when choosing a GPS device. A device with additional features, such as a mount or touchscreen, can provide added functionality and convenience, while accessories such as USB cables or car chargers can provide additional power options and connectivity.

Popular GPS Device Brands and Models

Various GPS devices displayed on shelves with brand names and models clearly labeled. A guidebook titled "GPS Purchase: A Comprehensive Guide to Choosing the Right Device" placed nearby

When it comes to purchasing a GPS device, there are several brands and models to choose from. Here are some of the most popular ones:

Garmin GPS Devices

Garmin is a well-known brand in the GPS industry, offering a range of devices for different purposes. Their handheld GPS devices are popular among hikers, campers, and outdoor enthusiasts. The Garmin Approach S60 is a popular GPS watch for golfers, providing accurate distances to hazards and greens.

TomTom and Magellan GPS

TomTom and Magellan are also popular brands in the GPS industry. TomTom offers a range of GPS devices for cars, including the TomTom Go series. Magellan offers GPS devices for outdoor activities, such as hiking and camping.

Smartphone Brand GPS Features

Many smartphones now come with built-in GPS features, making them a popular choice for navigation. Both Android and iOS devices offer GPS navigation, with some models offering more advanced features such as turn-by-turn directions and real-time traffic updates.

Specialized GPS Units for Sports

For those who are serious about their sports, there are specialized GPS units available. The Garmin Forerunner series is popular among runners, providing accurate tracking of distance, pace, and heart rate. The SkyCaddie SX500 is a popular GPS device for golfers, providing detailed information on golf courses and hazards.

Overall, there are many brands and models of GPS devices to choose from, each with their own unique features and benefits. It is important to consider your specific needs and preferences when choosing a GPS device.

Integrating GPS with Other Technologies

A GPS device is connected to a smartphone, smartwatch, and car dashboard, displaying real-time location and navigation information

When it comes to using GPS devices, integrating them with other technologies can provide a more seamless and enhanced experience. There are several ways to integrate GPS with other technologies, including Bluetooth, USB connectivity, voice commands, and audio features.

GPS and Bluetooth Devices

One of the most popular ways to integrate GPS with other technologies is through Bluetooth connectivity. Bluetooth-enabled GPS devices can connect to smartphones, tablets, and other devices to provide real-time navigation and location information. This allows users to receive turn-by-turn directions, traffic updates, and other useful information directly on their mobile devices.

GPS and USB Connectivity

Another way to integrate GPS with other technologies is through USB connectivity. GPS devices with USB connectivity can be connected to computers, laptops, and other devices to transfer data, update maps, and perform other functions. This allows users to easily manage their GPS devices and keep them up-to-date with the latest information.

GPS with Voice Commands and Audio Features

GPS devices with voice commands and audio features can provide an even more convenient and hands-free experience. Users can simply speak their destination or command and the GPS device will provide directions and other information through audio prompts. This is especially useful for drivers who need to keep their eyes on the road.

Overall, integrating GPS with other technologies can provide a more comprehensive and convenient experience for users. Whether it's through Bluetooth connectivity, USB connectivity, or voice commands and audio features, there are several ways to enhance the functionality of GPS devices and make them even more useful and user-friendly.

GPS for Different Applications

A hand holding a GPS device with various applications displayed on the screen, surrounded by different types of GPS devices and a guidebook on choosing the right device

GPS devices come in different shapes and sizes, and are designed for various applications. Choosing the right GPS device depends on the intended use. Here are some common applications of GPS devices:

GPS for Driving and Navigation

GPS devices are widely used for navigation and driving. These devices provide turn-by-turn directions, real-time traffic updates, and location information. Some GPS devices also have voice commands, making it easier for drivers to focus on the road. When choosing a GPS device for driving, look for one with a large screen, clear display, and accurate maps.

GPS for Fitness and Health Tracking

GPS devices are also used for fitness and health tracking. These devices can track distance, speed, and heart rate during workouts. Some GPS devices also have built-in sensors to track steps, calories burned, and sleep patterns. When choosing a GPS device for fitness and health tracking, look for one with a heart rate monitor, long battery life, and compatibility with fitness apps.

GPS for Outdoor and Adventure Use

GPS devices are essential for outdoor and adventure use. These devices can track location, elevation, and provide navigation in remote areas. They are also useful for hiking, exploring, and camping. When choosing a GPS device for outdoor and adventure use, look for one with a rugged design, long battery life, and topographic maps.

GPS for Professional and Commercial Tracking

GPS devices are also used for professional and commercial tracking. These devices can track vehicles, assets, and personnel in real-time. They are useful for fleet management, logistics, and security. When choosing a GPS device for professional and commercial tracking, look for one with a reliable network, accurate location information, and customizable alerts.

Overall, choosing the right GPS device depends on the intended use. Consider the features, design, and compatibility when selecting a GPS device for your specific application.

Maps and Software

A person selects a GPS device from a variety of options displayed on a computer screen, surrounded by maps and software packages

When choosing a GPS device, it is important to consider the maps and software that come with it. This can greatly impact your navigation experience and the accuracy of your routes.

Preloaded Maps vs. Downloadable Map Updates

Most GPS devices come with preloaded maps of a certain region or country. These maps are usually up-to-date at the time of purchase, but it is important to check if they are regularly updated. Some devices offer downloadable map updates, which can be useful if you frequently travel to new areas or if you want to ensure the accuracy of your routes.

Real-Time Traffic and Weather Updates

Real-time traffic and weather updates can be extremely useful when navigating through busy cities or during inclement weather. Some GPS devices offer this feature, which can help you avoid traffic congestion or dangerous weather conditions.

Customizing Routes and Points of Interest

Customizing your routes and adding points of interest can greatly enhance your navigation experience. Look for GPS devices that offer the ability to customize your routes based on your preferences or to add points of interest such as restaurants, gas stations, or landmarks.

Overall, it is important to choose a GPS device with accurate and up-to-date maps, real-time traffic and weather updates, and the ability to customize your routes and points of interest. By considering these factors, you can ensure a smooth and efficient navigation experience.

Pricing and Budget Considerations

A hand reaches for a GPS device on a store shelf, surrounded by price tags and budgeting charts

When it comes to purchasing a GPS device, pricing and budget considerations are important factors to keep in mind. There are a variety of GPS devices available on the market, ranging from entry-level to high-end models. Additionally, there are subscription services and lifetime updates to consider, as well as finding the best deal for your budget.

Entry-Level vs. High-End GPS Devices

Entry-level GPS devices are typically more affordable than high-end models and are suitable for basic navigation needs. They usually have smaller screens and fewer features, but still provide accurate directions. High-end GPS devices, on the other hand, offer more advanced features such as voice-activated navigation, larger screens, and real-time traffic updates. These devices are ideal for frequent travelers or those who need more advanced navigation capabilities.

Subscription Services and Lifetime Updates

Some GPS devices require subscription services for access to features such as real-time traffic updates, weather reports, and map updates. These services can add to the overall cost of the device over time. Alternatively, some GPS devices offer lifetime updates, which can be a more cost-effective option in the long run.

Cost vs. Value: Finding the Best Deal

When considering the cost of a GPS device, it's important to also consider the value it provides. A higher-priced GPS device may offer more advanced features and better accuracy, but it may not be necessary for everyone's needs. It's important to find the right balance between cost and value to ensure that you're getting the best deal for your budget.

Overall, when considering pricing and budget for a GPS device, it's important to assess your needs and find a device that provides the necessary features at a price point that works for you.