Best Aftermarket GPS Navigation Units: Precise, Intuitive and Packed With Additional Features

With the prevalence of smartphones, it’s never been easier to get around. Almost any smartphone can be turned into a GPS navigation system with the right apps. However, these apps are somewhat limited in functionality. Dedicated aftermarket navigation units offer functions and features that smartphone apps simply can’t match. If you’re looking to add a dedicated navigation unit to your car, you should consider one of the five GPS units that have received consistently praising reviews from tough online reviewers.

Garmin Nüvi 2589LMT

The Garmin Nüvi 2589LMT is one of the best navigation units currently available, pairing time-tested designs with robust map options and top-notch support. It’s ready right out of the box with preloaded maps of the United States, Canada, Mexico and Puerto Rico, and you’ll receive free map updates for life. Additional country maps can be purchased separately. The Nüvi 2589LMT offers built-in support for traffic updates, and it automatically considers traffic conditions when choosing the optimal route. Garmin partnered with Foursquare to include more than 10 million points of interest with its maps.

Voice controls are standard with the Nüvi 2589LMT, allowing drivers to operate the unit without taking their hands off the steering wheel. The Nüvi 2589LMT offers you multiple routes to your destination, with estimated travel times for each route. It can also tell you the local speed limit, helping drivers on unfamiliar roads to avoid traffic tickets. If you need to make multiple stops, the Nüvi can help you arrange your route as efficiently as possible. Maps can be presented in 3-D, reducing the confusion that often accompanies city driving.

The Nüvi 2589LMT is intuitive and easy to use, and Garmin’s phone representatives are helpful and knowledgeable if you need assistance. It’s housed in a slim one-inch black plastic chassis with a five-inch color capacitive touchscreen display. Overall, the Garmin Nüvi 2589LMT is a full-featured device that offers something useful for even the most seasoned road warriors. The Garmin Nüvi 2589LMT sells for $143.09.

TomTom Go 500

With a well-designed interface and solid navigation options, the TomTom Go 500 is an excellent GPS unit. It comes preloaded with maps of the United States, Canada, and Mexico; additional country maps can be purchased through TomTom’s website. All users receive lifetime map updates, which can be accessed by connecting the unit to a regular PC with Internet access. Once you’ve locked in your destination, the Go 500 computes the fastest route along with an estimated time of arrival. Drivers can also access real-time traffic data by connecting the device to a smartphone.

The Go 500 can be activated and controlled by voice, giving drivers access to the unit’s 7 million points of interest merely by speaking. Once the unit has received your destination, it will offer several alternative routes, including the fastest route, the shortest route, the best route that avoids freeways and more. Like most premium GPS navigation systems, the Go 500 supports routes with multiple stops. 3-D maps, named Guidance View, are also included to help drivers navigate through packed city streets.

If you need help with your unit, you can browse through TomTom’s exhaustive message boards for advice from other users. You can also call TomTom’s customer service department for assistance. The unit is relatively easy to use, but the voice-activated controls do have a learning curve; there are a number of unique commands for new users to learn. Its five-inch touchscreen is housed in a slim black plastic case. The TomTom Go 500 sells for $158.90.

Magellan SmartGPS 5390

The Magellan SmartGPS 5390 is a capable GPS navigation unit with some interesting features, but a few puzzling omissions prevent it from achieving its true potential. It comes preloaded with maps of the United States and Canada, with additional maps available for purchase. Users will receive free map updates throughout the lifespan of the device. When navigating, it will display your current ETA at the top of the map, and your route will automatically recalculate if you miss a turn. Traffic updates are available via your smartphone or any nearby wireless hotspots. In addition to giving directions to more than 7 million points of interest, the SmartGPS 5390 also provides you with Yelp and Foursquare reviews for any nearby points of interest. The Smart GPS 5390 supports 3-D maps and multi-destination routes.

Unlike similar GPS units, the SmartGPS 5390 doesn’t offer voice controls. The different features of the unit can be accessed via the touchscreen; a wheel at the top of the unit will rotate different tiles across the main display. The unit doesn’t offer non-driving route choices. It does, however, speak the names of streets as you approach them, and the included PhantomAlert system lets you know when you’re approaching an intersection with a red light camera.

The SmartGPS 5390 is a slim, only 0.5 inches thick, and is housing its five-inch touchscreen in a black plastic case. The capacitive touchscreen boasts an 800 x 480 resolution, noticeably higher than many similar GPS units. Once you’re used to the menu navigation of the SmartGPS 5390, it’s fairly easy to use, but it does take some time to pick up the nuances of the device. The Magellan SmartGPS 5390 sells for $156.89.

Magellan 5465T-LMB

The Magellan 5465T-LMB is an affordable entry-level GPS navigation unit. Out of the box, it comes preloaded with maps of the United States, loaded with 7 million points of interest. Users will receive automatic map updates for the life of the unit. Unlike other units, the 5465T-LMB has a built-in traffic receiver, allowing the unit to automatically adjust your route to compensate for real-world traffic conditions.

The 5465T-LMB doesn’t include voice-activated controls or 3-D maps. However, it does feature landmark navigation, allowing users to navigate via landmarks rather than street names.

The included Phantom Alert system helps to avoid red light cameras.

The unit can turn into a speaker for your phone via Bluetooth. With the rise of laws mandating the use of hands-free calling options, this last feature can help you avoid tickets.

The 5465T-LMB features a five-inch capacitive touch screen, and the casing of the unit is less than an inch thick. Using the unit itself can be tricky; many of its features aren’t intuitive. The Magellan 5465T-LMB sells for $138.38

Garmin Nüvi 68LMT

The Garmin Nüvi 68LMT is a strong GPS unit that could be better with the inclusion of a few missing features. The unit comes preloaded with maps of the United States and Canada, with free map updates for the life of the unit. Additional country maps can be purchased through Garmin’s website. Once your route has been calculated, the unit will display your estimated time of arrival. It automatically adjusts your travel time and your route based on real-world traffic conditions; the traffic receiver is built into the unit, and traffic updates are free for life. Users can also activate 3-D maps for city driving.

The Nüvi 68LMT includes more than 10 million points of interest, and it includes information from Foursquare to give drivers a better understanding of each point. Points of interest in large complexes, such as malls or airports, are mapped to their real-world locations, and the unit will direct drivers towards the most convenient entrances to these types of locations. The unit offers landmark-based directions for those who don’t enjoy navigating by street names, and it will also tell you when speed limits change or when you are approaching a school zone.

The unit itself is just under an inch thick, and it offers a six-inch high-resolution resistive touchscreen that can be viewed in either landscape or portrait mode. It doesn’t include voice-activated controls, and the resistive touchscreen can be a little frustrating to operate. The touchscreen controls are intuitive and well-designed, but Garmin does offer excellent phone support if you have any problems with the device. The Garmin Nüvi 68LMT sells for $187.88.

Final Thoughts

Dedicated GPS units offer much more than simple navigation. Voice activation, traffic information, and automatic map updates are some of the most essential features. Preloaded maps allow these units to be used right away without connecting to the Internet, and traffic updates ensure that you’ll always be taking the most efficient route possible. When selecting an aftermarket GPS unit, choose the unit whose features best match your needs.

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