How to Love Your Car's GPS Unit

Turn left onto . . . a traffic jam. We promise your GPS isn't conspiring against you.

man driving car, illustration by Ron Chan, image

Think of your car's GPS unit as more of a co-pilot than a captain.

Take enough road trips with a GPS unit, and you'll likely log at least one story of guidance gone awry: the closed road, the endless shortcut, the avoidable traffic jam—or worse. Try these tips to bypass mishaps.

  • Carry paper maps, too Drivers mindlessly following GPS instructions have plunged into reservoirs or shared tracks with oncoming trains. When in doubt, double-check your location.
  • Stay up-to-date New GPS models have more current maps, better coverage, and features such as Lifetime Traffic (from Garmin, a leading GPS maker) and HD Traffic (from TomTom, another popular brand) that track congestion in the real world and suggest alternate routes to avoid delays.
  • Go for software upgrades Download free tools such as the WebUpdater for Garmin or TomTom Home.
  • Pay a bit extra A $90 one-time fee for Garmin, or $40 a year for TomTom, gets you four map updates a year. Some updates are free.

Illustration by Ron Chan

This article was first published in September 2013. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.

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