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Google Maps vs Maps.Me vs Garmin vs Ford SYNC Nav

This is a review of various navigation systems I used on a recent trip to Germany and northern Austria earlier this month. Background - I've owned a Garmin Nuvi with European maps for several years and I updated the maps to the 2019 set before the trip. I've never wanted to waste data using Google Maps in the past so I have Maps.Me loaded on my IOS and Android devices and I downloaded all the regional/local maps for my trip before leaving. I did not anticipate getting a nav system equipped rental but I did - a 2019 Ford Kuga (Escape) with Ford SYNC. I used/spot-checked all for a Munich-Salzburg-Innsbruck-Dinkelsbuhl-Trier-Koblenz-Frankfurt road trip and here is the good and bad.

Google Maps- While really good for in-town lookup of addresses and attractions, it's not so great for longer distance navigation in Europe (IMHO). The AI used to route between Point A and Point B is highly biased and may not match what you want to do - especially if you're vacationing. It was also easy to confuse using German street addresses and performed much better if you knew the map coordinates of your destination. While people have uploaded their own maps of the custom maps Romantic Road, they are for reference only. A great new feature would be to search for and navigate via a country's special (scenic) roads like the German Romantische Strasse.

The Garmin, like Google Maps, was easily confused by German street addresses and was often in error. Searching on map coordinates was a little better but you still had to be on your toes. When using the Garmin, we usually just input the city. Also, the Garmin's mastery of waypoints leaves a lot to be desired so going from point A to point B to Point C to Point D was better done one step at a time. If Garmin is listening - a great new feature would be to search for and navigate via a country's special (scenic) roads like the German Romantische Strasse.

Maps.Me - Great offline navigation tool as long as you download all the maps you'll need before hand. It did just as good of a job as the Garmin and Google Maps and it seemed to have better/more up to date points of interest than the Garmin. I did a lot of navigating with my phone's data connection turned off using Maps.Me and it seemed to perform somewhere between the Ford SYNC's Nav and the Garmin in terms of accuracy and timeliness.

Once I figured out the interface (the Ford's owners' manual was in German) and adapted to the English translation of a German product interface, the SYNC's nav system out performed all the above. Was it enough better justify paying some ridiculous daily fee charged by a rental car firm? No... Had this feature been locked out, I wouldn't have missed it given that I had my Garmin AND relatively cheap cellular data to power Google.

I also had a complimentary HertzConnect WIFI Hot-spot (cellphone based) which had a navigation module but I didn't use the nav at all. I did, however, use the WIFI from this hot-spot throughout the trip - even on the move. It came in really handy to keep my cellular data usage low and when hotel WIFI wasn't up to the task. Would I pay a daily fee for this device? Not at €24 a day as my roaming data from Goggle Fi was only $10 a GB.

Posted by
4690 posts

Did you try Google Maps "offline?"

I use Google Maps (mostly online because data is so cheap) because I am used to it and use it for everything. I can plan out maps on my laptop and save points of interest and access the maps on my phone later - very easy. I used to have a Garmin GPS unit that I've used in Europe to drive a few times, but once I tried out Google Maps on my phone once I got a decent smart phone, I sold the Garmin while it was still worth something. And the Garmin certainly had features I liked that Google Maps doesn't. But the phone with Google Maps has worked well enough for me for all kinds of navigation. It's easiest for me to keep using it in every situation instead of trying another app or device.

Posted by
948 posts

We used Waze to navigate from Naples to Mongrassano & San Marco Argentano Calabria and back. We found it was easy to use, much easier than Google Maps. Google Maps worked sporadically offline when walking around towns. Although I had Maps.me download for offline, I never used it. Nor did I try ViaMichelin, app also loaded.
For two often lost older ladies we only got really lost once, pulled over, reset Waze, figured out where to go, read the autostrade signs and made it back to Naples Airport car return. Hertz took pity on us and didn’t charge us the gas fill up fee to top off our tank.

Posted by
267 posts

Another big thumbs up here for Maps.Me. I download maps before every trip, and it hasn't let me down yet. I have found it especially useful in Venice, where Maps.Me always seems to know where the bridges are and which side of a canal has a sidewalk. GoogleMaps has a penchant for picking impossible routes, and assumes that every canal has sidewalks.

On the other hand, Google Maps is my go-to when I need to find the nearest ATM.

Posted by
396 posts

I have the Here maps app on my phone, but can't work out how to download new maps for the places I'm going to this year. The website seems to be aimed at users of technical data. Can anyone help? Are the maps for download found somewhere else?

Alternatively, I could try Maps.me as recommended above (I don't need driving instructions.) But since I already have Here installed it seems superfluous to add another app.

Edited to add: OK, I've found there is a different website called "Here we go."
I seem to recall that last time I downloaded the maps via my internet-connected laptop onto the mobile phone via a USB connection. But this time I couldn't get that to work (same laptop, same phone). So I'll have to use the wi-fi in the local library as the SIM in that phone won't work until I'm in the UK, and I'd like to do the downloading before I leave home.