How to Choose the Best GPS Navigation System for Your Car

When it comes to quality in-car GPS systems, Garmin, TomTom, and Magellan know what they are doing.  You'll find details on some of their best models below.
Written by | Updated December 19, 2018

We’re willing to bet you spend a lot of time behind the wheel. From work commutes to weekend family visits, we all rely on our cars to take us everywhere we need to go—and that’s usually a lot of places. If you’re looking for a way to make all this travel a little easier, you’ll probably love using a navigation system. A navigation system for your car can help you travel safely, avoid traffic, and optimize your route for better driving.

Our Top Navigation System Choices

Navigation SystemGarmin nüviCam™ LMTHDGarmin nüvi® 3597LMTHDMagellan RoadMate 9612T-LMMagellan SmartGPS 5390TomTom VIA 1535 TM
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Prices effective as of December 16, 2018. Offers and availability subject to change.

1. Garmin nüviCam LMTHD

Complete with a built-in dash cam, the Garmin nüviCam LMTHD offers an incredible overall user experience and comes with several features to help you drive a little safer. While the battery life is not great—it only lasts up to thirty minutes—the device comes with a magnetic windshield mount which automatically charges your navigation system. The built-in dash cam is a great feature, but is positioned too low for some car models.


  • Six-inch screen with high resolution
  • Pinch-to-zoom technology
  • Free maps for the device’s lifetime
  • HD traffic updates every thirty seconds
  • Voice commands for hands-free navigation
  • Bluetooth capability for hands-free calling


  • View-obstructing camera position
  • Poor battery life
  • Hard to access video
  • Lower video quality relative to screen size

2. Garmin nüvi® 3597LMTHD

The Garmin nüvi 3597LMTHD comes with an easy-to-use interface and sleek design, which makes it an appealing choice for those who want a simple navigation system. The device magnetically attaches to your dash cradle, and is easy to remove and replace with one hand. Voice command capabilities make hands-free searching easy, and you can even search for a variety of locations of interest that come preloaded—or add your own to the database.


  • Voice and touch responsiveness
  • Bright and clearly displayed picture
  • Dual orientation
  • Capacity for add-on storage
  • Bluetooth capability
  • Accurate voice command system


  • Smaller screen than the nüviCam LMTHD
  • Reflective glass
  • Unreliable HD traffic updates

3. Magellan RoadMate 9612T-LM

The Magellan RoadMate 9612T-LM is one of the largest GPS systems for cars. With a seven-inch screen, the RoadMate is perfect for those who have a hard time reading smaller text. The device is compatible with several kinds of mounts, and comes with free map updates and traffic alerts for its lifetime. A unique benefit of the RoadMate is that it can show buildings and landmarks in 3D—which may help you better navigate around town.


  • Speed limit warnings
  • Automatic re-routing
  • Parking advice
  • Multi-destination routing
  • Notifications of traffic cams and red lights with PhantomALERT


  • No voice recognition
  • Short, thirty-minute battery life
  • Poor tech support

4. Magellan SmartGPS 5390

The Magellan SmartGPS 5390 syncs with the Cloud to give you accurate and up-to-date route and destination information. While the device can be used alone, you’ll get optimal performance if you use it with Magellan’s SmartGPS Eco software that syncs your smartphone, computer, tablet, and Magellan SmartGPS together. The product design leaves a lot to be desired: it is nearly seven inches long, but the screen takes up only five inches. Unfortunately, this can make the screen look cluttered and unclear.


  • Suction cup mount
  • microSD card compatibility
  • Wi-Fi and Bluetooth capabilities
  • Yelp integration


  • Busy interface
  • Unintuitive menus
  • Small icons
  • Impractical screen size based on device dimensions

5. TomTom VIA 1535 TM

The TomTom VIA 1535 comes with comprehensive traffic data to help you avoid traffic jams. The sleek design isn’t cluttered with unnecessary buttons, and the real-time map will help you navigate current conditions with ease. Another great feature of this device is that it offers split-screen view: you can see a bird’s eye picture and what’s happening right in front of you at the same time.


  • Sturdy dashboard and window mount
  • Bluetooth compatibility
  • microSD card compatibility
  • Real-time map updates
  • Easy-to-activate voice commands
  • Smartphone charger compatibility
  • Loud and clear instructions


  • Occasionally slow interface
  • Complicated navigation in dual map feature

How Navigation Systems Keep You Safe

Even if you’re a careful driver, it never hurts to have a little extra help staying safe. Some driving conditions are outside your control, but GPS systems can help you navigate them with ease.

Prevent You from Getting Lost

Getting lost makes you late and can land you in dangerous neighborhoods or environments. By knowing exactly where you are going and using a navigation system to help you get there, you can stay out of potentially harmful situations.

Help You Avoid High Traffic

Many GPS systems take local traffic into account when planning routes. More traffic provides more opportunities for accidents to happen, so staying out of heavily congested routes means you’re more likely to arrive at your destination safe and sound.

Reduce Distracted Driving

Navigation systems narrate directions to you as you are driving, so you don’t need to look at your phone and take your eyes off the road to figure out where you are going. An added bonus is that many GPS systems for cars respond to voice commands.

Alert You to Dangerous Driving Conditions

Some newer navigation systems come equipped with several safety features. These can range from speedometers that alert you when you exceed the speed limit to proximity alerts when something gets too close to your vehicle.

What to Look For in a Navigation System

GPS systems come in many shapes and sizes, and some are designed for specific situations. Make sure you find one designed for automotive use, as a hand-held system or GPS watch won’t help you while you’re driving.

Here are some other factors you’ll want to consider when looking for a navigation system.

Screen Size and Resolution

When comparing GPS systems, make sure the screen size fits your vehicle. Also consider the image resolution as it’s important you can see your route map with ease.

Live Traffic Information

Many GPS systems will change routes to avoid traffic jams. Depending on where you live, this may be an important feature for you.

Multiple-Satellite Connection

Some navigation systems have the ability to connect to several satellites quickly, while others may react slower. Your navigation system needs to stay up to date on the most current road conditions.

Updated Maps

Roads change with construction, accidents, and obstructions. You need to make sure the road you’re turning on still exists and isn’t blocked by anything.

Points of Interest

An added feature on some navigation systems is that they will help you find restaurants, gas stations, and entertainment near any location.

There are several navigation system options, but make sure to take your unique needs into account. Once you find the best GPS system for your lifestyle and vehicle, you can start enjoying your daily drives to work, school, and activities.

*SafeWise has conducted impartial research to recommend products. This is not a guarantee. Each individual’s unique needs should be considered when deciding on chosen products.

Written by Monique Seitz-Davis

The SafeWise Team is here to help you keep your home and family safe. Whether you’re looking to pick a security system or identify and remove common risks in your home, we’re here to help you find the best products and well-researched answers. At SafeWise we combine our years of experience in home safety and security with user reviews and feedback to help take the guesswork out of living safe. Learn more

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