Sat Nav buyer's guide

Satellite navigation - sat nav for short - provides a solution to most of the problems in getting from A to B.

As the name suggests, sat nav uses satellites orbiting the Earth to work out your position, give or take a few metres. Using the same technology, a sat nav is then able to predict the best route to your destination. Just enter the address or postcode for where you need to get to, and sat nav will work out the route. Some units can even work out the route if you type in a nearby landmark, and many will alert you to major traffic problems, and about the presence of speed cameras.

Size matters

Not only do sat navs come in different brands (TomTom, Sony, Garmin, etc) but also different sizes, from 3.5 inches upwards. The size you buy will depend on what you use it for. Smaller units are more portable and larger units are best if you plan to use sat nav a lot, as more can be displayed on the screen.

Mapping

Sat navs come with a number of different maps, andwhich one you get depends on your needs:

  • UK and Ireland: ideal for business or pleasure, or any other domestic travel.
  • Europe: ideal if you regularly travel to the continent. Separate versions for the whole of Europe or Western Europe only are available. Mapping is often down to street level, making this type particularly useful.
  • North America: ideal if business or pleasure frequently takes you to the US or Canada.

Key features to look for

Voice options

Sat nav provides instructions on where to go in a number of realistic sounding voices. Having instructions given in this way is also useful as it means you can keep your eyes on the road, and will get distracted less easily.

Traffic updates

Many sat navs can now receive regular updates on major traffic jams, and can even re-route your journey in time to avoid them.

Safety camera alerts

A handy device that alerts you to the presence of speed cameras and could help you avoid picking up a speeding fine. Note that some sat navs require you to pay for this service.

Points of interest

Lets you know about everything from cash machines and petrol stations to cinemas and restaurants on your route, so it's easy to plan breaks.

Bluetooth

Enables you to connect your phone wirelessly to your sat nav, to allow hands-free calling.

Advanced Lane Guidance

Provides clear communication about what lane to be in when approaching junctions and roundabouts.

Dynamic routing

Will re-route you around traffic jams, and also choose the fastest route based on what time of day you are travelling.

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