Please sign in to post.

Best GPS system or Europe

Will be driving in Germany and Italy this fall. Instead of renting a GPS for 9 days, thought I might buy here in the states and take it with me. Any systems out there that are better with directions, updates, and accents ?

Posted by
6898 posts

We did this last year for our 2-week trip in France. We bought a Garmin Nuvi with European maps and took it with us. It worked great. You really do need a GPS over there. I'm sure that you will also see great comments about the Tom Tom as well.

Posted by
345 posts

I will add a second to the Garmin Nuvi. Used it on two trips to Germany and Austria. Would not leave home without it!

Posted by
12193 posts

I've used both a Garmin Nuvi 275 and a TomTom 920 Go. I'd give the TomTom an overall B rating. I always felt it would get me to an address, even if it leaned toward major highways and didn't choose the way a local driver would. I also like that each time it plans a route, it asks if you want to avoid tolls - you can run it both ways and see how much time you lose by skipping the toll, then decide. I'd give the Garmin Nuvi a C- rating, at best. I had numerous times where the Nuvi would either take me to a "do not enter" road and refuse to find an alternative (maps were downloaded a month before our trip) or take me one place, then another, while navigating to the same address. I wasn't impressed with it's ability to navigate in town, where I needed it most - we developed alternative ways to get where we were going, including asking for future city maps from TI's before we arrived in a town. The Garmin's toll option is in the settings rather than a trip by trip decision. I'm really not thrilled with either company. I bought the Garmin because I bought a new TomTom last year that was dead when I received it. I shipped it back, twice, and they sent me the wrong device both times. Finally, I gave up and bought the Garmin. If you go with a TomTom and it doesn't work out of the box, get a refund and buy another. Whatever you do, don't ship it to Texas for a replacement.

Posted by
9110 posts

I've had Tom Tom, Garmin, Tom Tom in that order. Both are equally good or equally miserable. I've shut both off in frustration. If I take one it's usually used without directions and just sits there as a moving map display and compass. I've gotten to the point that they're just something else to keep track of - - the old fashioned map and signs work just as well - - I don't even lug one along any more unless it's going to be a solo trip with a lot of night driving.

Posted by
17 posts

So would you rent from Eurocar, Avis, Hertz, etc , or would you buy one here in the states and carry it with you throughout the trip. The answers for a particular brand appear to be mixed.

Posted by
1064 posts

Buy one in the States and get used to using it. Play around with the settings; there are more options than you would think, and they can make a lot of difference in how well the system performs. You may need to change settings to get the maximum benefit in different situations, and the only way to know when and how to do so is practice with the unit on trips at home. When I have had problems, it has been either because of recent changes in streets or roads that have not made it to the maps yet, in which case I ride around until the GPS finds an alternate route; or I forgot to change the settings for the current use, like the time I left the unit on pedestrian setting and the unit went crazy in the middle of nowhere. If I had not practiced beforehand, I might not have recognized my error and fixed the problem. I have found that my Nuvi unit is a lot easier to work with than the GPS that came with my wife's car. I would not want to jump in a strange car and try to figure out how to use the GPS on my first day in Germany or Italy.

Posted by
806 posts

We have used the Garmin with a European map card on two trips and not had any serious complaints. Buy it here and get familiar with it so you are not learning on the fly. If you rent through the rental car company, there are two issues that come to mind. The first is what language will the manual be written in? The second is that if it ends up being a GPS that is built into the car the manual will definitely be in a foreign language plus you will not be able to take it with you and use it in the pedestrian mode top navigate your way around larger towns. I frequently declare the car to be 'home' and then wander around town secure in the knowledge that Ms. Garmin will get us back to the car.

Posted by
2829 posts

A common mistake is that people do not their map bases! Even a new (on the box) GPS unit will have outdated maps. All major brands have easy-to-do d with a simple USB connection via manufacturers websites or so. I particularly like TomTom. The basic tips of using GPS units all apply, such as putting it where it has only clear glass as an obstacle to the sky. I've seen many people trying to use GPS that are "shielded" by dark areas of the windshield or even under the roof, that will reduce their accuracy.

Posted by
32272 posts

Michael, I've used a Garmin Nüvi for a number of years, and it's been quite helpful on a number of occasions. I've used it both when driving and also in "pedestrian mode" for walking around cities. I've learned that it's not a good idea to trust them implicitly, as they do make mistakes, so it's always prudent to pack along a good Michelin (or other) Map for "backup". I frequently double-check the GPS directions against local signs and landmarks, and in some cases I disregard GPS instructions as they don't seem valid. Even with a new GPS unit, it's a good idea to check on whether a newer version of the mapping data is available. It's possible that the GPS unit you buy has been sitting on the shelf for many months, so the data will be out-of-date. Good luck and happy travels!

Posted by
12193 posts

I think it's much better to learn to use your unit before you travel with it. I ended up buying the Garmin only a couple months before our trip, so some of my issues may have been my fault (I've had a number of TomToms over the years). I used the Garmin three times in pedestrian mode. Two times it worked fine - showing me walking at about 4.7 km per hour while the display moved with me - the third time it didn't do anything. It did act wierd once when I didn't take it out of pedestrian mode, but I figured that one out in about a minute. Another time the Garmin started going in completely the wrong direction (north instead of south) and I didn't figure that out for at least 15 minutes (it was cloudy so no help from the sun). I'm guessing I somehow let it think I wanted to go somewhere else, but how much can you mess up putting in a street address and pressing the GO button?

Posted by
32272 posts

Brad, I've had similar experiences with my GPS unit. For some reason, it goes into "brain lock" and starts leading me in the wrong direction. That's why I'm constantly checking it against local signs and landmarks. In most cases, re-entering the desired address seems to correct the problem. I've also found that it's a good idea to be VERY careful when entering the destination information, as the units only recognize specific names (often only local names will work in Europe). There could be two locations with very similar names, so it's vital to enter the correct one.

Posted by
3623 posts

Here's my experience. We are currently in Italy, using our Garmin, which was a Xmas gift. The positive: it has taken us through some small towns, where we would have assuredly gotten lost. The negative: it chooses some incomprehensively difficult routes sometimes. E.g., we are staying near Castefiorentino, and planned a visit to Pistoia one day. The gps took us on a series of very narrow, winding roads, up and down hills; and after 1/2 hour of driving, we saw a sign Castelfiorentino 3 km. Needless to say, on the return we ignored the gps and followed the road signs. It also works much better for a 2 person team than, I imagine, for a solo traveler. At maximum volume, it is still hard to hear. It helps to have a navigator watching the highlighted route, and the place name pronunciation of the voice can be bizarre. As others have said, you still need a good map as backup.

Posted by
33337 posts

Rosalyn You can change settings for the types of routes selekted and types of roads. You can change the voice gender and accent, as well as language spoken in the sttings. You will find it louder if it is plugged into the lighter than if its not.

Posted by
2829 posts

Most GPSs now have some routing options along these lines: - shortest (not recommended, it will likely take you through very back roads or even unpaved ones) - quickest (works fine for longer drives on highways, but might plug a succession of turns and changes of direction on city or inhabited countryside) - smartest/easiest (will reduce the amount of turns or change of roads if the total travel time is kept roughly the same). Other tips: 1) don't put just a city as your final destination, that might lead to some place that is not the one you want to go (like a city hall in a separate district) 2) unless you're in specific situation, block the GPS from considering unpaved or restricted roads 3) if you have easy internet access, try to locate the place where you will park beforehand

Posted by
518 posts

We used a Garmin Nuvi with the built in Europe maps. It worked perfectly in Ireland and the UK. what works best for us is to also have a paper map and enter intermediate towns along the route we want to take. We have also used the one from a rental company. Having your own is definitely better.

Posted by
3696 posts

Have driven all over Europe without GPS numerous times and after being lost a lot of times always found my way. Last few trips took Garmin Nuvi...still got lost a number of times, but knew that with enough 'recalculating' she would eventually lead us to our destination. Its easier with GPS, but still not perfect.

Posted by
10364 posts

We've had a small Tom Tom one for several years and found it very helpful. Although leased cars come with a gps, we still carry our own Tom Tom. We also use the large Michelin Atlas to double check routes, and don't leave on trips without the atlas and maps in addition to the gps. One feature I really like is being able to ask for the closest parking lot or garage to the address we've programed. Wonderful.

Posted by
33 posts

I'll join the chorus. Used Garmin 360? for 2 week in Germany in 2006 and the same unit for 2 weeks in Ireland in '07. Got us thru some unbelievable locations and made "bonehead" decisions a couple of times. One of the most beautiful spots we saw was while totally lost
Leaving for Switzerland and Austria for 2 weeks soon with a new Garmin Nuvi 275. Our old unit was 7-8 years old and just felt it was time to upgrade- it still works great every trip in US.

Posted by
931 posts

Michael. Go to the AutoEurope auto rental web site and play with pick-up locations. You will find that it is much cheaper if you pick your cars up "off airport". And you will see that trying to take a car across country borders is cost prohibitive. AE is an awesome rental car broker based in Maine. Buy your GPS here, and learn how to use it here. Take a small Michelin fold-out map of each Country. I have even bought them in service stations in the country that I am visiting. We have been using a TOM TOM GPS for the EU and US since 2007, and do not travel without it. It may not be infallable, but it has made our trips much more enjoyable.

Posted by
17 posts

Using an auto rental called Gemut.com which seems to have a good price. Also have bought the Michelin Motoring Atlas so definitely will take along. Also saw on Amazon the Tom Tom XXL 540 TM which has the European maps that can be updated. So shoukld be in good shape to drive in the 3 countries. Do most decline the insurance and use the credit card for collision ?

Posted by
1446 posts

Love the Tom Tom! Have used the same one for several years - we do update maps and change to the accent of the country we're traveling in. Much prefer it to just following maps, though we do have those along as a back-up but have never had to use.

Posted by
440 posts

I'm was planning on renting a GPS with our car when we travel to Ireland. Since we're going to Europe for 4 weeks, and only need it for our last week (car rental for maybe 5 days), I don't want to deal with this extra baggage for the rest of the trip. Also would cost me $75 to download the maps here. I think a GPS rental is only $10/day. Am I missing something?

Posted by
2 posts

GPS.... can't live with them or without them. We've used Garmin's for years. Yes they do lock up. Yes, they do put you on crazy tiny roads in Europe and yes... they think 1/10 of a mile off the highway route in NYC is better for you but.... without, we would never get out of NYC or Paris easily. Sometimes the route is exciting, sometimes the route is scary. My advice is to bring a local map. Consult it. Override the GPS and make your own choices when it makes sense for you. Don't just follow the GPS. Satelites are not always updated for the GPS, even new ones. Just like maps. Relax, be smart about a GPS and ALWAYS tote a local map.

Posted by
17 posts

Finally decided on the Garmin Nuvi 50 because of cost and size and updates. Bought the map for Germany, Italy, and Switzerland and it worked great. A little dicey in northern Italy but we found our locations. So definitely will continue to use in the future.

Posted by
33337 posts

Ruth, I'm sorry you had trouble using your Garmin. I use a variety of Garmins so I tried on one of mine. I also find that if I use the US spelling I get no results. The database of French town has only French spellings. So it doesn't know about abbreviations such St Remy or St. Remy. If I spell it correctly, Saint Remy I get 8 screens of different towns in different Departments. If it was Saint Remy en Provence, that is there. I'm sorry you had problems, perhaps these hints will help others.

Posted by
118 posts

We're just back from a month in France and Spain. I downloaded new maps for our Garmin nuvi just before we left, but when I tried to enter the address of our rental house in St. Remy, not only did it not find the street, for some reason the whole town didn't show up! In desperation I purchased the TomTom European app on my iPhone for 54 bucks. It doesn't require data, and though it chews up the battery charge pretty fast (take your car charger) it never failed to get us where we wanted to go. Guess the dedicated GPS is going the way of the dodo.