The best GPS for your car

GPS units aren't dead! Our favorite models still do things your phone can't

best gps for your car tomtom go 520 header image

In a world where app-enabled smartphones have seemingly limitless capabilities, one must ask whether the once-innovative GPS device has lost its relevance. Turn-by-turn navigation, real-time traffic reporting, satellite-tracked speed, voice guidance, and crowd-sourced alerts are all part of popular apps like Google Maps and Waze, so dishing out $300 for redundant features can seem foolish. Fortunately, the best in-car GPS devices can do far more than tell you how to get from A to B.

GPS manufacturers with years of experience and millions of real-world test miles now offer advanced driver assistance features, Bluetooth connectivity, geo-based recommendations, voice commands, and much more on large HD displays. For many smartphone users, day-to-day life includes watching their monthly data allotment dwindle, but modern GPS units can operate independently of Wi-Fi and your data plan.

Whether you’re upgrading your older car with new technology or simply looking for a high-quality navigation partner, our list of the best in-car GPS devices is sure to have something to meet your needs.

At a glance

Product Category Rating
Garmin Drive 51 LMT-S The best GPS overall Not yet rated
Garmin Speak The best voice-enabled GPS 3.5 out of 5
Garmin DriveLuxe 50 LMTHD The most versatile GPS 4.5 out of 5
TomTom Go 520  The best GPS for globe-trotters Not yet rated

Garmin Drive 51 LMT-S

The best

Garmin Drive 51

Why should you buy this: Garmin’s Drive can guide you to your destination safely, every time.

Garmin Drive 51 LMT-S

TripAdvisor ratings are now part of a high-quality route guidance system.

Who’s it for: Those who want to seriously upgrade their ride without breaking the bank.

How much will it cost: $150

Why we picked the Garmin Drive 51 LMT-S:

The Garmin Drive is packed with features to navigate the road ahead, and it can even help you find the best food in town. The intuitive user interface makes getting to your destination a breeze, and clear turn-by-turn instructions take the guesswork out of guidance.

The bright, 5.0-inch TFT navigation screen shows free lifetime traffic information, points of interest (such as gas stations and restaurants), and the names of each exit on your route via an “Up Ahead” feature. It also displays TripAdvisor ratings for restaurants, hotels, and other attractions. Finally, it helps keep you and yours safe by warning the driver of upcoming railroad crossings, animal crossings, dangerous curves, and even speed cameras.

Even as smartphones continue to invade GPS device turf, Garmin knows the right features to add to make its product worth the price tag. If you are looking for a great all-in-one device to help navigate, keep you alert on the road, and help you feel at home in a new city, the Garmin Drive 51 LMT-S is an easy choice.

Garmin Speak

The best voice-enabled GPS

garmin speak 1

Why should you buy this: You’d rather talk to your GPS than poke a screen.

Garmin Speak

Our Score
The Garmin Speak gives directions while supporting many Alexa features.

The Garmin Speak gives directions while supporting many Alexa features.

Who’s it for: Those who want to get rid of the bulky screen.

How much will it cost: $150

Why we picked the Garmin Speak:

The Garmin Speak combines GPS navigation with Amazon’s digital assistant, Alexa, resulting in a compact unit with an OLED screen and plenty of voice-enabled features. It gives turn-by-turn directions like a standard GPS, while providing access to music streams, audiobooks, news, weather information, and a host of compatible smart home devices. It’s a clever all-in-one device that takes up far less space on your windshield than a conventional, screen-based GPS, though, you’ll need to tuck the power cables out of the way.

The Speak connects to your car and smartphone via Bluetooth, and responds to requests using your car’s speaker system. Garmin notes that older cars without integrated Bluetooth can connect to Speak using an auxiliary connection, though, that’s one more wire to tuck out of the way. We tested the Speak and concluded that the built-in microphone does a decent job at picking up commands, even on a noisy road, but the lack of a dedicated display can make navigating more difficult.

Read our full Garmin Speak review

Garmin DriveLuxe 50 LMTHD

The most versatile GPS

Best in-car GPS Garmin DriveLux GPS
Nolan Browning/Digital Trends
Nolan Browning/Digital Trends

Why should you buy this: Garmin’s DriveLuxe can complement your smartphone or replace it.

Garmin DriveLuxe 50 LMTHD

Don’t pay extra for data when Garmin’s DriveLuxe includes unlimited maps and traffic for free.

Who’s it for: Those who don’t want to drain their monthly data on navigation.

How much will it cost: $230

Why we picked the Garmin DriveLuxe 50 LMTHD:

While many GPS manufacturers seem terrified that smartphones will make their devices obsolete, Garmin has designed the perfect companion for your smartphone.

The Garmin DriveLuxe 50 LMTHD has a 5.1-inch TFT display with 800 x 480 pixel resolution. The device feels extremely solid at just over 8.0 ounces, and attaches easily to the magnetic front of the suction mount. Via Bluetooth, you can connect your phone with the free Smartlink application for Android and iOS. This enables the DriveLuxe to take Bluetooth calls through the device, get local weather information, and even read your phone notifications aloud. This feature instantly upgrades old cars that lack Bluetooth calling and goes a step further to read Facebook or Instagram notifications aloud. This should go a long way to cut down on driver distractions.

When it comes to navigation, there are few better systems on the market. DriveLuxe has all the latest map updates and can get lifetime locations updates using the Garmin Express program. Voice or text entry will let you quickly and easily search for specific destinations or points of interest. The touch interface is smooth and zooming in on the screen is easy with “pinch-to-zoom” features in addition to the “+” and “-” icons.

If you just want basic guidance with the most up-to-date mapping and traffic info, the DriveLuxe won’t waste a single megabit of data, but if you want advanced features, Garmin’s system is ready to pair with your smartphone at a moment’s notice.

Read our full Garmin DriveLuxe 50 LMTHD review

TomTom Go 520

The best GPS for globe-trotters

TomTom Go 520

Why should you buy this: The TomTom Go 520 is a superb navigator at an affordable price.

TomTom Go 520

Among a swath of complicated GPS units, the TomTom Go 520 specializes in the basics -- clear navigation.

Who’s it for: Those who want intuitive navigation from a simple, easy-to-use device.

How much will it cost: $200

Why we picked the TomTom Go 520:

It’s easy to get caught up in robust feature sets, but sometimes the essentials are all you need — especially when on the road. For that, we recommend TomTom’s Go 520. It doesn’t feature the dash cams and driver-assistance tech that some of our other entrants have, but with its smart mapping technology and reasonable price tag, it’s difficult to ignore.

Among the TomTom’s highlights are an available 6-inch touchscreen, 16 GB of internal storage, and free lifetime map updates regardless of where your next adventure takes you. The device can guide you through the entire world — not just North America — and despite its competitive price point, it displays landmarks as 3D renderings that are easy to recognize. It will also run for about an hour on battery power before it needs to be plugged in.

There is one catch, however. Unlike the higher-priced competition, the Go 520 doesn’t include an integrated traffic receiver, meaning it leverages your smartphone to update traffic conditions. TomTom says the data drain is moderate, but if you live on the edge of your data plan and are concerned about overcharging, you may want to consider another product.

How we test

The Digital Trends automotive team evaluates GPS systems in real-world conditions, such as in-town driving, freeway cruising, backroad excursions, trips to unfamiliar areas, and more. The units are scored based on ease of installation, interface usability, available additional features, demonstrable accuracy, and compatibility with smartphones, but appearance, durability, and pricing are all considerable factors as well.

Would you like a dash cam with that?

If you’re pondering a dedicated GPS system, you may also be considering a dash camera. Some of our best in-car GPS picks include a dash cam, but only a high-end recording unit can offer 360-degrees of visual protection. Using a dash cam means irrefutable proof of fault in the event of an accident, and, while we don’t have quite as many insurance fraud cases in the United States as there are abroad, video can shut those cons down, too.

Still not convinced you need a dash cam? Consider all the video gold you’re missing out on. Chances are, you see a moronic maneuver on your way to work every single day. With a little editing, you could turn all those “WTF” moments into one beautiful YouTube compilation. Believe us, your internet friends will thank you for it.

At this stage, there are numerous options (and price points) for those who are ready to rig up a dash cam. It’s not easy to pick a clear winner, but our tests have elevated a few cams above the rest. Head on over to our list of the best dash cams you can buy for help picking your new video companion.

Product Review

The 2019 Porsche Macan S is a luxurious and quick SUV, but it's no road tripper

The roster of models challenging the Porsche Macan grows annually. The German firm updated its smallest, most affordable SUV with a new engine, more tech features, and subtle design tweaks to keep it looking fresh.
Photography

These are the best action cameras money can buy

Action cameras are great tools for capturing videos of your everyday activities, whether it's a birthday party or the steepest slope you've ever descended on your snowboard. These are the best money can buy.
Home Theater

These top-line smart speakers conduct the most sophisticated symphony: Your life

Stuck talking to yourself? Get an A.I. assistant to keep you company! Whether you put your stock in Alexa, Google Assistant, or Siri, we've picked out the best smart speaker for any smart home ecosystem.
Cars

These winter-warrior cars will never leave you out in the cold

Snow can be an absolute pain if your vehicle isn't optimized to handle that sort of terrain. If brutal snowstorms are an annual part of your life, we recommend you pick up one of these winter-ready vehicles.
Smart Home

Brew it fast, hot, and flavorful with our favorite coffee makers

Whether you're looking for a simple coffee maker to get you through the morning or a high-end brewer that will impress your taste buds and your friends, you'll find some of the best coffee makers around on this list.
Cars

2019 Ford Ranger saves fuel without sacrificing towing capacity

The 2019 Ford Ranger marks Ford's long-awaited return to the midsize truck segment, which has seen a resurgence lately. But will being late to the party make Ford's job more difficult?
Cars

Pininfarina Battista is a 1,900-horsepower, 250-mph electric supercar

The Pininfarina Battista will be the first production car from famed Italian design firm Pininfarina. Named after company founder Battista Pininfarina, it has a claimed 1,900 horsepower and a $2.5 million price tag.
Cars

Tesla could show the electric pickup Elon Musk is dying to build in 2019

Tesla has started designing its long-promised pickup truck. The yet-unnamed model will come with dual-motor all-wheel drive and lots of torque, plus it will be able to park itself.
Cars

Allegro.ai is helping Hyundai mine the artificial intelligence gold rush

In November 2018, Hyundai invested in a startup named Allegro.ai. We talked to the company's founder to learn more about what that means for consumers in the not-too-distant futures.
Emerging Tech

With this robotic garage, retrieving your car is like using a vending machine

Remembering where we parked our cars can be a real pain. But what if our cars came to find us, rather than the other way around? A new automated robot parking valet system aims to help.
Cars

Thinking of opting for a car with a diesel engine? Here's what you need to know

Modern diesel-powered models prove that it is possible to build a clean, efficient diesel engine without sacrificing performance. Here's what you need to know about diesel cars, and how they differ from gasoline-powered models.
Cars

Best Products of 2018

Our reception desk has so many brown boxes stacked up, it looks like a loading dock. We’re on a first-name basis with the UPS guy. We get new dishwashers more frequently than most people get new shoes. What we’re trying to say is: We…
Cars

2020 Toyota Supra caught hiding in a trailer without a shred of camouflage

Toyota's plan to once again lure enthusiasts into showrooms involves bringing back the Supra, one of its most emblematic nameplates. Here's what we know so far about the upcoming coupe, which Toyota is developing jointly with BMW.
Cars

NYC mandates minimum wage for Uber, Lyft, other app-based rideshare drivers

New York City's Taxi and Limousine Commission approved a rule that drivers for companies such as Uber and Lyft must be paid at least minimum wage, even though they are independent contractors. The new pay rate includes operating costs.