It doesn’t feel like very long ago that navigation systems were the new and exciting thing in the automotive world. When navigation systems first started popping up, they were a completely new concept, and a brilliant toy, luxury, or convenience for a vehicle. At first, navigation systems were clunky, but with small screens. Over time, the technology has developed further, and now they’re incredible devices. Modern navigation systems have sleek designs, big, clear screens with high resolution, and a bevy of features for drivers to use.
While many vehicles now come with built-in dashboard navigation systems, aftermarket navigation systems are still very important. Most cars still don’t have navigation systems, or if they do, they’re not as good as what you can get with an aftermarket product. And with the technology that now exists for aftermarket navigation systems, the products are simply phenomenal.
Why are good navigation systems important?
Navigation systems exist to make life inside your vehicle more convenient. Their entire purpose is to make it easier, more efficient, and less stressful to travel from Point A to Point B. Having a navigation system that actually succeeds in that goal is incredibly important.
If your navigation system is unreliable, or isn’t easy to use, then you’ll be less likely to use it. And if you’re not using your navigation system, then what’s the point of even having it? Furthermore, if it isn’t working properly, then it’s not neutralized, but actively detrimental.
The thing about luxury and convenience items is that when they don’t work well, they actively make things less luxurious, and less convenient. That’s certainly true with a navigation systems: a good one makes driving much nicer and easier, but a bad one is a total pain. If you actually want to experience the convenience associated with navigation systems, then you need a good one.
What we look for in a navigation system brand
The most important quality that we look for in a company selling navigation systems is accuracy. A navigation system needs to provide accurate navigation, and it needs to be able to do so virtually all the time, whether you’re on a rural backroad, or a complex urban intersection. Thankfully, most navigation systems these days are very accurate, so it’s usually not something that requires too much thought. Still, different navigation systems have different receiver sensitivity, so it’s at least worth making a priority.
A very important feature in our eyes is the interface. Navigation systems need to be easy to use. They should be intuitive, or at least easy to learn. Remember: navigation systems are about convenience. If trying to work your navigation system feels like trying to find an obscure textbook in the library, then you’re not really getting the full purpose of the navigation system. We look for companies that offer navigation systems with a simple, straightforward interface, that makes using the system a breeze.
Since navigation systems rely on a screen, it goes without saying that the screen is important as well. Not everyone wants a large navigation system screen, but most people do. Screen size and resolution are high priorities for us, though don’t worry: you can always find smaller models if that’s what you’re looking for.
Different navigation systems offer different features, and what’s offered is important to us. Some have audible directions, while others rely only on the screen. Some systems show a 3D map, or provide updates on what traffic is like. Some show you potential points of interest, so you can get anywhere you need to go. Automatic routing is a common and important feature as well. There’s no one specific feature that we look for with navigation systems, but we do want to have some of them. The best navigation systems have some bells and whistles.
Navigation systems take up a fair amount of space in your vehicle, so the aesthetic is important to us as well. A great navigation system can look sleek, modern, professional, and luxurious. These are all good things in our book, so we seek out GPS navigation systems that make us feel better when we get in the car.
And, as always, price is a factor. We’re always fans of paying a little bit more to get a better product, but the product you get still has to be worth the price, otherwise what’s the point? So we prioritize price, because we’re always looking for products that are worth the price we’re paying. And if they happen to be a bargain, even better.
What bad navigation system brands do
One of the biggest things that bad navigation system companies do is try to sell you a fake bargain. It’s not hard to find really affordable navigation systems. Most of the affordable navigation systems will advertise to you that they’re just as good as the big boys, and that you should buy their product to save some money while getting the same production. Don’t be fooled. While there are some good budget navigation system brands out there, most companies that sell you with this point are lying. They’re simply selling you an inferior product, that isn’t worth even the cheap price tag that they slap on it.
Bad GPS navigation system companies also make products that simply don’t work as well. Their receivers have low sensitivity, meaning the directions are less reliable, less accurate, and less likely to come in. The interface is confusing to use, or the buttons don’t work well. The screen is small and grainy, and there aren’t very many features available. The directions are confusing and not audible, and the unit looks clunky and ugly on your dashboard. All of these are negatives for us, and keep a navigation system brand from being a go-to, reliable option in our book.
How we chose our five favorite brands
There are a lot of terrific GPS navigation system companies on the market, and we gave them all careful consideration. Ultimately, the factors we’ve mentioned above are the main way that we’ve chosen our favorite brands. We simply want the best products in our cars, and we want to only recommend you the best products, so that you can have the best setup imaginable in your vehicle.
So we prioritize quality, and all that that entails: receiver sensitivity, reliability, looks, interface, features, screen size, screen resolution, and price. We’ve tried a large number of products from many, many companies, and we’ve relied on our experiences to find the products that are best for our cars, and your cars in the process. But we don’t just trust our experiences. We know that everyone has different experiences, and different priorities, so we also listen to a lot of reviews for specific navigation systems, as well as navigation system companies. And then we talk to stores and salespeople who sell navigation systems, to get their input. This way, we’re able to form a viewpoint that isn’t biased, or overly reliant on what we experienced on any given day. We’re able to pick five navigation system brands that are truly great, no matter who you are, what car you drive, and what you’re looking for.
Our five favorite navigation system brands
Like we said, there are a lot of great navigation system brands out there, and we like a lot more than five. Still, there are five companies that really stand out to us. These are the five brands that we regularly purchase for ourselves, buy as birthday gifts for friends, and recommend to anyone who is in the market for a navigation system for their vehicle.
Sometimes brands are popular simply because they are. But sometimes brands are popular because they’re really good at what they do. The latter is the case with Garmin. Chances are, you’re very familiar with the name Garmin. Ever since navigation systems first started popping up in vehicles, Garmin has been the first name associated with the product. And over the years, Garmin has innovated and evolved their navigation systems, so that they’re still at the top of the totem pole. Simply put, Garmin is a borderline flawless navigation system company. We trusted them when they first started making navigation systems, and we certainly trust them today.
Garmin has a host of different navigation systems, so you can easily find the one that is perfect for you and your vehicle. They have different screen sizes, and different options like voice-activation and live traffic features. In essence, you can build your dream GPS navigation system.
Garmin also has a number of products that have built-in WiFi, as well as ones with Bluetooth, making it easier for you to get accurate navigation, or to sync with your phone. To top it all off, they make a dash cam model, to really give you the total navigation package.
The navigation systems from Garmin are incredibly easy to use. The interface is intuitive, and not overly complicated, so you can easily get set up and on the ideal route. Their navigation systems are also among the best-looking products available, so you can have the interior of your car looking sleek and awesome at all times.
We’ve been using Garmin’s navigation systems for a long time. If they continue to make the high-quality products that they always have, we foresee ourselves using their products for a long time more.
We talked earlier about how bargain navigation systems often aren’t worth the money, even when the price is low. Well, Junsun is one of the few exceptions to that rule. If you’re looking for a very affordable navigation system, you’ll be able to find one with Junsun. And while it won’t be quite as good as a top of the line Garmin product, you’ll still get a very impressive navigation system from Junsun, and one that will keep you happy in your car for quite some time.
Despite the affordable price, Junsun’s products have a large amount of top quality features. They make navigation systems with very large screens, and touch screen interfaces that work very well. Bluetooth compatibility is available, making the navigation screens easy to use alongside your smart phone. Their large screens can also be connected to a backup camera, to give you the most visibility possible through your vehicle. 3D navigation is included in their products as well, and it’s a system that works surprisingly well.
We were a bit taken aback by Junsun. Anytime a GPS navigation system company can offer a large screen for a small price, we’re a tiny bit hesitant. But their products have really impressed us, and everywhere we’ve looked, other people have said the same thing. If you’re in the market for an affordable navigation system, but you still want it to be one of the best products available, then Junsun is absolutely worth taking a look at.
Magellan is another well-known navigation system company, and just like Garmin, they’re well known for good reason. Magellan has been making upper echelon navigation systems for quite some time, and we have a long history of adoring their products. Every time we’ve tried one, we’ve been satisfied with the result, and we don’t anticipate that changing anytime soon.
Magellan is usually the go-to navigation source for people who are interested in adventure, exploring, and off-roading. They make terrific products for daily driving, city driving, and commuting, but they really shine with their GPS navigation systems for off-road vehicles. Magellan makes off-road specific navigation systems, which feature an IP67 casing, that make the unit incredibly durable. Huge bumps in the road, being dropped, funky weather, you name it: these products know exactly how to deal with it. They’re what we use when we off-road, and they’re always what we recommend to friends who want to take their Jeeps on long adventures through rarely-explored territory.
But don’t get us wrong: if you’re a city driver, or a road tripper, Magellan still makes excellent products. Their screens have some of the best resolution available, and a really terrific interface. Magellan offers nearly every feature in the book, and a host of different accessories that can be paired with the navigation systems, including dash cams and backup cameras. To top it all off, the Magellan navigation systems are really terrific looking, and make any dashboard look ready for both adventure, and an efficient route to the required destination. We definitely recommend this company.
Shenen doesn’t make very many products, but the one that they do make are fabulous. This is a relatively new company to us, and just like Junsun, we were a little bit cautious. We hadn’t had any experience before, and their navigation systems are very affordable, so we weren’t quite sure what to expect. Well, what we got was a brand that clearly knows how to make great navigation systems.
Let’s start with the basics. Shenen’s products have large screens, with very solid resolution. Their interface is very easy to figure out, and, just as importantly, they have some of the best touch screens that we’ve ever experienced with navigation systems. Using a Shenen navigation screen is like using a smart phone or an iPad – it’s just a natural experience that’s very easy.
Shenen also fills their navigation screens with a fair number of features, such as Bluetooth, 3D maps, and an FM transmitter. And just in case you need a little fun while you’re traveling, the system comes pre-loaded with a number of games, and can also play music and videos. That’s probably not what you’re looking for when you buy a navigation system, but trust us: it doesn’t hurt! And that’s doubly true if you have kids who you want to keep entertained on long drives.
Best of all, however, are Shenen’s prices. Their navigation systems are much more affordable than most of the units on the market, yet they have almost all of the qualities of the best products available. We’re still relatively new to Shenen, but we’ll be trying out their products for a long time to come.
TomTom is right up there with Garmin in terms of being a navigation system company that everyone knows about. And, just like Garmin, they’ve survived in the GPS navigation system industry for a long time, because they make consistently terrific products, and innovate and evolve with the times, so that they’re always at or near the top of the navigation system food chain.
The screens on TomTom products are crystal clear; we still can’t get over just how great the resolution is. It’s truly top notch. And the screen size is very nice, yet despite this, their navigation screens still look both sleek and discreet. They’re very good-looking systems, and they make cars look much, much better. But not just cars! TomTom is the go-to choice for many motorcyclists. Their products work very well with bikes, and most of our friend who ride swear by TomTom even more than we do.
TomTom’s navigation systems are truly modern. They have built-in WiFi, and can easily connect to your phone, so that they can read you your text messages while you keep your eyes safely on the road. Not only can they read messages, but they can offer full access to the personal assistant on your smart phone, such as Siri.
The traffic information on TomTom products is better than on any other navigation system that we’ve experienced. It really helps you get where you’re going, and know what’s going to be in your way. We’ve tried out a lot of navigation systems, and in general, TomTom feels about as trustworthy as possible when it comes to giving the most accurate information, and choosing the ideal route. Ultimately, that’s the most important thing you can find in a navigation system.
TomTom also has a premier interface. The touch screen is very responsive (but not overly so), and the interface is very easy to use. All things considered, we’ve tried a lot of TomTom products over the years, and we’re still searching for a bad thing to say about the company, because we haven’t experienced much of anything that’s less than ideal.
What to consider when buying a navigation system from one of these companies
We love the five brands that we listed above. But just because they’re all great navigation system companies in our book, doesn’t mean that they’re all the same, or that each is perfect for you and your vehicle. It’s always important to shop around, do some research, and make a thoughtful, educated decision when buying an automotive accessory. And GPS navigation systems are no exception.
There are a lot of different things to focus on with navigation systems. There’s price and aesthetics. There’s size and resolution. There’s features and receiver sensitivity. There’s durability, warranties, and a handful of other factors to consider. It’s always important to think about what you want in a navigation system. What are the features that you would really use? What are the aspects that would really make your life and driving better? How much money do you want to spend?
Always take those factors into consideration. But as long as you do that, we’re very confident that you can find the perfect navigation system for you and your car from either Garmin, Junsun, Magellan, Shenen, or TomTom. They’re all companies that we’ve spent a lot of time with, and learned a lot of great things about. We’d definitely recommend them to our friends and family, just as we’re recommending them to you.
Navigation systems can make life in the car a lot better. They can help you figure out where you are, and help you figure out where you’re going. They can determine the best route to get to your destination, and help you avoid traffic. In many cases they can display your dash cam or your backup camera, or read you your text messages. Sometimes they even let you play games!
But most importantly, navigation systems get you where you’re going. And knowing that you have a navigator takes a lot of the pressure off of driving, especially in unfamiliar territory. Choose a GPS navigation system from any of the five companies on this list, and you’ll hit the road with less stress and more happiness.