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Where Are We Now? Our Sat/nav Survey

It wasn’t much more than a decade or so ago the Global Positioning Systems (GPS) were in their infancy.

GPS units call on at least three satellites to identify your position with pinpoint accuracy. They use American satellites for this purpose and are much more accurate and precise than they used to be. Most GPS units will log your speed, so compare this figure with your car speedo. You’ll frequently find a variance of several kmh….it’s the GPS that’s accurate!

Tales about cars being stranded in cow paddocks, or up narrow country lanes were legion. Coverage was limited and devices cost several thousand dollars to be installed, usually only in upper luxury cars.

We’ve come a long way since then. You can purchase a decent sat/nav for under a hundred dollars, and even the most modest cars now have them available as factory options.

So what’s best for you?

Types of Sat/Navs

There are three types of navigation systems, each with their own pros and cons.

  • 1. Integrated GPS systems (supplied in the dashboard with the car)
  • 2. Dedicated portable sat/nav devices.
  • 3. Smartphone apps

For the purpose of this article we’ll look at integrated GPS and portable sat/navs, as smartphones are less suitable for use in cars, although the very latest versions are making big strides in the right direction.

Integrated GPS Systems

These are supplied as a dealer or factory option and fit permanently into dashboards. They are now available as an optional extra on a wide range of cars from the most expensive (usually standard equipment), down to the most humble economy vehicles.


  • Factory quality installation, smart and unobstusive
  • Integrated into the car sound system, providing excellent sound quality, and overrides radio and music player.
  • Big screen, so should be easy to read
  • Australia wide coverage


  • GPS can only be used in one car-not transportable
  • Expensive- as an optional extra can cost into the thousands of dollars
  • Can cost dollars to keep mapping system up to date.
  • Not so easy to update with later features
  • Little benefit on re-sale value of vehicle

Dedicated Portable Sat/Navs.


  • Usable in any car-so if you travel, hire a car, or use a friend’s car the sat/nav goes with you, in Australia or overseas.
  • Much cheaper to buy that an integrated system
  • Easier and cheaper to update info
  • Extra navigation services, including overseas mapping, easy to add to system
  • The premium systems offer ‘real time’ traffic information, helping you to by pass congestion and accident hold ups.


  • Easy target for thieves
  • Smaller screen sizes than most integrated systems
  • Can be fined by police if poorly located on windscreen- yes, truly, click here for info.
  • Should be locked away when not in use to deter theft.
  • Sometimes a little tricky to install (you’ll need access to the internet for installation and updates)

The Best Of Both Worlds

In our research for this article we came across a rather clever solution to the ‘cons’ of both permanent and portable sat/navs.

In Europe Toyota offer their Yaris economy with a built-in TomTom (they call it a ‘semi-embedded’ unit). The dashboard is specially designed for the device, which simply clips in and looks like an integrated GPS. But it can be quickly removed, so still has all the benefits of portability. We can’t find out if it’s slated for introduction to Australian car buyers, but we hope so as we think it is an excellent compromise.

What Can A Sat/nav Do For You?

Apart from the obvious purpose of guiding you to your destination there are also a number of other features available, depending on the model purchased. As a general rule, the more you pay, the more features are included.

Live Traffic Response

Some brands, including TomTom, take anonymous feedback from user devices and use this to benefit all users. The device will detect delays, congestion and other problems that will then determine the best route for you to take. This is done in ‘live’ time so is completely up to date. In fact, it is updated dierectly to the sat/ nav as quickly as every two minutes It can even change your route direction after it’s been logged in to avoid accident delays and traffic build up. Your screen will also predict time for journey and time for delays ahead.

This feature is not available in all brands or models but is well worth having if you are a frequent road user

Bluetooth Capability

This feature is standard with integrated systems but not with portable units. However it is available with most brands in most of their models. Not only is it useful, it’s a real safety feature and can save you from being fined by using your phone inappropriately. It will enable you to link your phone to the device which will then act as a ‘hands – free’ speaker for your phone.

Points of Interest

Most sat/navs, both integrated and portable, offer a ‘points of interest’ feature (POI). This feature will guide you to specific destinations which are usually displayed as icons on the screen. You can programme categories such as restaurants, museums, tourist attractions, as well as hospitals or service stations which can make your trip more interesting and worthwhile.

Weather Information

Some sat/navs come with weather updates, both for now and up to a few days ahead, plotted for your route, so you can plan your journey better

Safety Cameras

Another popular feature for your sat/nav is safety camera warnings. You’ll be alerted when you are approaching red light cameras, fixed speed cameras, and in some instances, mobile speed cameras.
As you can see, the modern GPS unit offers a lot more than rather stultified voice commands (you can opt for humorous instructions if you wish), so do your research first to find the model that suits you best.

…or you can win a TomTom ‘Live” 820 unit from us by entering our Easter Egg Hunt here