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GPS Purchase

Hi All, I am planning to buy a GPS for our upcoming trip to France. Any suggestions as to brand? Also, where to buy - online or at Best BUY?
Thank you!

Posted by
177 posts

I bought a low end TomTom Start and separately downloaded the European maps. I used that GPS in the UK, France, and Germany. Best purchase ever! It was cheaper than to rent cars with a GPS and I now use the unit Stateside. It also allowed me to plan the trip and enter in the GPS all the tourist spots and hotels beforehand.
In addition, the unit has a "lane guidance" that made the UK portion of the trip less stressful (driving on the other side of the road) when the unit tells you what lane to use. I bought it online.

Posted by
10334 posts

I have taken two different Garmin's to Europe and was happy with how each of them worked. I used a European chip for the maps.

Posted by
34 posts

We are leaving for France in 2 weeks. We have GPS on our 3G iphone. An AT&T rep said the GPS would also work in France. This sound true? We will keep the phone off most of the time, as we won't use it for communication back home, just traffic directions. Wha cha all think?

Posted by
2829 posts

@Compay: that is true. When you download a GPS app, all maps are offline (meaning they are downloaded to your smartphone). GPS is a global network of satellites sending signals, for free, to whatever device can read them. So, yes, your smarpthone's GPS function will work without problems anywhere in the World except near the poles.

Posted by
792 posts

I went to Best Buy today too see if they sell any GPS with the international maps loaded and they DID NOT. I went on line and found that the Garmin model that has the Europe maps loaded is the Garmin Nuvi 2475LMT. That includes the Lifetime Maps and Lifetime Traffic info. The device has a 4.3 inch color screen. It does have "lane assist". It goes for about $200. I assume the Europe and USA maps are both "lifetime", but I have to check to be sure.

Posted by
179 posts

Thank you! We don't have a smartphone, but will take all of your advice. What are lifetime maps?
Thanks again

Posted by
12172 posts

Brand - I've taken TomToms and a Garmin to Europe. I was happier with TomTom (but it may just have been a better model). I wouldn't buy a brand other than those two, they are the ones that consistently get good ratings. Where to buy - I'd buy off of Amazon.com, you will find much better choices and prices than any particular store. When the GPS arrives, test it right away. If it doesn't work out of the box, send it back for a refund and buy another. I had a horrible experience with TomTom. After hours on the phone with tech support, I shipped a bad device back to Texas and they shipped me the wrong model, tried again and they again shipped me the wrong model. I finally gave up and ended up with an inferior model plus paid two shipping costs. Better to just get your refund from Amazon and start over.

Posted by
1568 posts

With the Lifetime Maps you are entitled to download updates 4 times a year.

Posted by
1568 posts

I have the USA Lifetime Maps but will have to buy the European Lifetime before our next trip to Europe. Will buy a new chip for European Maps and take out the chip for USA. I am not an expert ... just learned trhrough trial and error. When I update (for some reason) I have to check the circles to download to Device and My Computer. Other travelers on this board are more knowledgeable with GPS'.

Posted by
1175 posts

WE used a Garmin Nuvi bought from Amazon that had the European Maps. We used it here in the US to learn how. We stayed in a rural B&B near Bayeux and were able to easily find it using Google maps and entered the latitude and longitude. We drove right to the driveway of the rural farm. We also saved to favorites the addresses of our hotels, museums, and places to stop and eat across Normandy and Brittany. It was easy but we also had a Michelin road map, since the GPS will sometimes want you to leave a motorway and take rural roads, not the best idea. WE had to pick up the car at a different place than we thought and it was in a back alley near the Caen railroad station.. As we drove out, I touched the auto icon on the screen, saved that to favorites, and were then able to return the car in a driving rain at rush hour with no problem when the GPS directed us right to the back alley driveway. Super!!

Posted by
1825 posts

Compay,
If you download the map to the phone you will be OK BUT if you are depending on data to load the maps you will have a huge bill. The phones do not have the maps loaded in and constantly download them unless you purchase a separate map app. For the money you are better off buying a stand alone GPS. I am partial to the Garmin, newer models have lifetime maps so they are current for a long time (with updates off your computer). Buy one at home and practice using it in a familiar area so you will be more prepared when you arrive in Europe. Also be aware that the GPS does not work well in cities with lots of tall buildings (which I would avoid driving in anyways). The GPS will be nice to have at home so don't think of it as a one time item. It will make driving on your trip so much less stressful that I wouldn't think of driving without one.

Posted by
177 posts

I bought my Tom Tom on Amazon with lifetime US maps. I then installed the Tom Tom software on my PC and downloaded the Western European maps. I moved the US map to my computer and replaced with the European one.
I planned all my destinations using the Tom Tom software. Everything went well except for the lifetime update code you have to enter to activate that function and was for unknown reasons not accepted.

Posted by
1568 posts

Yes Kerry....check to make sure...nice size screen....sound like a good buy if lifetime maps included.

Posted by
333 posts

My 2 cents. We borrowed an old TomTom in Italy in 2010. Unbeknownst to me it had not been updated in a while. It worked well enough and the features I liked best were that it had traffic camera warnings and it also showed the local speed limit on the screen and flashed a warning when I exceeded it. I was just in the Garmin store in Chicago this past weekend looking at their units. They do not have that feature. Also, double check that "lifetime update". The way I read it is if they decide that it is past its serviceable life then the updates may stop.
All GPS units have their quirks. My philosophy is if it take you around the block to get next door and you didn't know how to get there otherwise, you are still better off.

Posted by
179 posts

I notice a large range of GPS prices. Is it worth it to buy the more expensive ones? For example, the Garmin Nuvi 3450LM costs $270 on Amazon. What advantage do you get by spending 2-3 times the oost of other models? I don't travel very much but I am planning a trip to Europe next month for 2 weeks. How does one justify spending the extra money for more sophisticated GPS models?

Posted by
6622 posts

I have a Magellan that cost about $130 at Best Buy a couple of years back, I'm happy enough with it. A Europe map would be another $100 or so. Lane assist is a good feature. If you rent the car through Auto Europe they sometimes throw in a free GPS with Europe map. They send it to your home a couple of days before you leave, then you return it to them when you get home. This worked well for us in England last year. We did without it in France the year before but I'll invest in a Europe map next time if we don't get free GPS with the rental.

Posted by
792 posts

Nancy, I asked some of your questions at Best Buy yesterday. They said the more expensive models may: be faster, have voice activation, and probably other features you don't really need.

Posted by
179 posts

Thanks everyone for the great advice. I plan to buy a Tom-Tom or Garmin with the European maps included. I'll check on Amazon for deals and keep your advice in mind when making my choice.

Posted by
7 posts

Just returned from France and used the Navigon system for the IPad and it was unbelievablely accurate with voiced directions for all the round-abouts and turnsaccurate within 20 yards or so. I highly recommend it though maybe a bit pricey $50-ish. Not sure where my husband bought it- probably the apple app store

Posted by
179 posts

Is it better to buy a GPS with Europe maps installed or to buy the GPS and Europe map separately??

Posted by
10 posts

If you have an iPad with wifi, then it comes with a built-in GPS antenna. You can download offline maps with turn-by-turn navigation and not have to worry about incurring the huge data charges. My wife and I spent a month in France/Belgium this summer and used Garmin Street Pilot for Western Europe ($99). It worked really well for us.

Posted by
26 posts

Hi Nancy - in regards to your question "Is it better to buy a GPS with Europe maps installed or to buy the GPS and Europe map separately??" my personal opinion is that it will be easier and less risky to buy a GPS with the Europe maps already installed (and the cost may be a wash or less after you buy the unit and the maps). If you buy them separate you have to be concerned about whether or not the GPS unit has enough storage for the Europe maps. I bought a Garmin 1370 from Amazon for our trip last year and it worked perfectly. Steve

Posted by
177 posts

Garmin = US company Tomtom = Netherlands Dutch company I prefer Garmin Nuvi, but that's just me. I find it more American friendly.
Buy one with European map already loaded, it will eliminate you from loading maps, run out of room maybe, buy an xd card... loan maps again. most best buys and American electronic stores won't carry a model with European map loaded. so you would most likely have to buy them from Amazon. ( I got mine from Amazon because their customer service just can't be beat, and if anything happen, they do refunds with no questions ask. So make sure it says "fulfilled by Amazon.") No need for high end GPS, something around $200 and below would do the job. you don't need an extra large screen, you don't need high resolutions, a widescreen format would do the job, you don't need life time support of traffic, those comes with advertisements, if you must, disable them. What you really need is lane indications, speech, and routing, meaning you can put in more than 1 destinations. I have a Garmin Nuvi 1370, best investment i ever made for my three times a year European trips. I believe the latest model is a Garmin Nuvi 2475. good luck hunting~

Posted by
975 posts

Just in case anyone is still reading....I like TomTom and we have 1 with the Euro maps preinstalled., 2 USA/Cananda only. The Euro maps TomTom is several years old tho.
When in Eindhoven this summer, I priced TomToms in a local store- about $115 or $130 and of course it would already have the euro maps, instead of paying for the download. IS there any reason NOT to buy my next TomTom in Europe, instead of here? Thanks.

Posted by
33126 posts

Melissa, the only down sides are: you will have to pay extra for the USA maps of you want to use it states-side and you won't be able to set it up and become familiar with it from the comfort of your living room and you may not be able to access its European warranty in the States if you needed that. Other than that it seems decent to buy it where you need it with what you need on it.

Posted by
59 posts

any reason why you don't want to just rent a car with GPS installed. we just rented a car that way and had zero problems. I worry that using a smart phone will result in roaming data charges from overseas carriers so I only use my US based smart phone for some calls and some texts, otherwise I wait till I am in a free wi-fi area.

Posted by
179 posts

Rent vs buy argument. After renting a few times could own one. Bought a Garmin on Amazon; downloaded maps; working fine.
Thanks to everyone for all of you help!

Posted by
277 posts

Make sure and become familiar with your GPS before you get there. My wife and I have GPS built into our cars, so we borrowed my daughter's GPS for our trip to Paris. We noticed on the second day driving to Versailles that France didn't seem to have big highways. Then we discovered we had been using the bicycle setting! Duh. Nice countryside, mind you, but not the quickest route.