Sat Nav Buying Guide

Using a Sat Nav may seem like quite a daunting prospect, but they are extremely user-friendly and can be used straight from the box. Calculated arrival times, road condition warnings and lane guidance are just a few of the features which make Sat Navs so much more practical, convenient and accommodating than a traditional map. Gone are the days of frantically trawling through road maps trying to locate where you are whilst your other half screams at you telling you that you've gone the wrong way. In a nutshell, Sat Navs are there to reduce your average journey times and make your driving experience less stressful.

Types of Sat Nav

An integrated Sat Nav is built into your car. They can be incredibly expensive and they don't actually offer much more than the more common, dedicated system which is mentioned below. They also depreciate fairly rapidly and you'll struggle to make your money back on them when you come to selling your car.

Dedicated Sat Nav systems, unlike the integrated systems, are completely portable. They can be moved from vehicle to vehicle with complete ease meaning you don't have to pay out for a whole new Sat Nav system should you purchase a new car. They are the most popular type of Sat Nav system as they strike the best balance between quality and price. Nowadays, there is a huge range of dedicated systems on the market, all varying in price, size and depth of features meaning there's something out there to suit everybody's individual needs.

Sat Nav apps can be downloaded straight onto a variety of portable media devices such as SmartPhones, iPads and other Tablets meaning your Sat Nav is always with you wherever you go and whichever vehicle you may find yourself in. They are an extremely affordable alternative to the integrated and dedicated systems and can often be downloaded completely free of charge. Be sure to carry out some research and read some reviews before purchasing and you'll be guaranteed to find yourself some really useful and trust-worthy apps.


Points of Interest - A great little feature for holidays or driving in unfamiliar territory. Your Sat-Nav will inform you about nearby chain stores, hospitals, hotels, galleries, restaurants etc. meaning you can get on with enjoying your holiday or day out without having to put too much effort into searching for a place to eat, sleep or visit. You can also personalise your Points of Interest system to match your own specific requirements, ensuring that you'll only be alerted to things relevant to your needs.

Traffic Management – A live traffic management system will keep you up to date regarding congestion, accidents and other events which may affect your journey. This gives you adequate notice to change your route accordingly and reduces the risk of you getting caught in nose-to-tail traffic jams.

Foreign Map Compatibility - If you're planning on driving in a foreign country for either leisure or business, then it might be worth while checking if your Sat Nav has foreign map compatibility. This will create a less stressful driving experience when you enter a foreign country and prevent you from being stranded in the middle of nowhere.

Speed Camera Locator – A brilliant feature if you want to avoid picking up speeding fines and points on your license. This feature will let you know in advance about any upcoming speed cameras, enabling you to keep at the correct speed.

Petrol Station Locator – Switching this feature on when your petrol gauge is looking low will allow you to easily locate the nearest petrol station, reducing the risk of you breaking down at the side of the road.

Auto-Dimming – This feature adjusts the illumination of your screen according to light conditions. In bright sunlight, your display will adjust accordingly to prevent it appearing too dull and therefore difficult to view. In dark conditions the display will adjust to prevent excess glare, which can be hazardous when driving.

Character Voices – If you get fed up of hearing the same, monotonous voice droning through your speakers then you can change it with the character voices feature. You have the option to change the generic, in-built Sat Nav voice to the voice of one of your favourite film stars, TV stars, politicians or regional accents. This can take some of the stress out of driving by adding a touch of humour to your journey.

Lane Guidance – Informs you about which lane to be in when entering junctions and roundabouts, taking an element of fear away from driving in unfamiliar territories.

Route Planning

Planning your journey via a Sat Nav is incredibly straight-forward. Simply key in the post-code or part of the address of your desired destination through the touch-screen interface and displayed on the screen will be a route linking you from the spot you are in to your desired location. A lot of modern Sat Navs also inform you about possible delays and hazards that you might encounter on your route, allowing you to make an informed decision about whether to make a diversion or not.

Phone Synchronisation

It can often be beneficial to have access to a Sat Nav device when on foot, as well as in the car, especially when doing a spot of sight-seeing in a big city. If you don't know your way around a certain area, then you can count on your phone's Sat Nav system to guide you every step of the way. You also have the added benefit of being able to synchronise your Smartphone's address book to the Sat-Nav, which gives you the option to set routes to the homes of your friends and family.

Updating Your Sat Nav

As the roads change and the number of speed cameras and points of interest fluctuate, it will become necessary to update your Sat Nav. There are many different types of update available, most of which involve making some kind of adjustment to the mapping data. You can also download additional maps for other countries if you're planning on driving abroad, meaning you can navigate foreign roads without having to worry yourself about taking a wrong turn and ending up miles away from where you're supposed to be.

The downloading process is a fairly stress-free one. Simply connect your Sat Nav device to your computer and visit the website of your Sat Nav's manufacturer. From here, you'll be able to select an appropriate download and have it installed straight onto your device.

We recommend updating your Sat Nav on an annual basis. Updating more often than this could be unnecessary and waste of time and money and not updating your device enough could lead to you missing out on vital road updates, which can be dangerous.

Which Sat Nav Is Right For You?

There are a number of key factors to take into consideration when deciding which Sat Nav to buy.

Screen Size - If you are planning on using your Sat Nav on a regular basis then a larger screen is definitely worth considering. It will provide you with a clearer display and make the touch screen interface easier to use.

Mapping - For domestic use, UK mapping data will be more than adequate to suit your needs. However, if you regularly go out of the country for business trips of holidays then a Sat Nav with a European or USA/Canada mapping pack will be more suitable and cost-effective.

Display - Generally, there are 2 different types of display available on Sat Navs: Monochrome and LCD. Which one you choose depends on the quality of display you desire. If you want a full colour display with better resolution then an LCD screen would be the most suitable option.

Battery Life - An integrated system's power comes directly from the car meaning that you don't have to charge up the Sat Nav in order to be able to use it. A dedicated system will usually last you between 2-4 hours when fully charged. However, you can plug them into your car's cigarette lighter to keep them working continuously, which is great for long journeys.


21 Euro – A common map package covering 21 European countries

Altitude – The height of an object in relation to sea or ground level

Anti-Theft Protection – A security system which requires a password to be typed into the Sat Nav each time it is installed, rendering it useless to anybody who doesn't know the password

Basemap – Any map which has been pre-loaded onto a Sat Nav

Bluetooth Calling – The option to connect your GPS system to a Bluetooth enabled mobile phone device. This then allows you to make and receive calls free of charge through the Sat Nav speaker

GPS – Global Positioning System. This refers to the satellites orbiting the Earth which your Sat Nav will use to determine your location on the Earth's surface.

IPX6 – This is the standard used to inform you about whether the device you're using is water-proof and can be used outdoors or not.

Latitude – The distance in degrees North or South of the equator

Longitude – The distance in degrees East or West of the Meridian line

NAVSTAR – The name given to the GPS satellites used by Sat Navs. It stands for Navigation Satellite Trimming and Ranging

Points of Interest (POI) – The term used to refer to useful interesting places alerted to you by your Sat Nav. E.g. Historical sites, museums, cash points, hotels, petrol stations

Removable Memory Card – A memory device in the shape of a small card which can be removed from your Sat Nav device in order to transfer data or update maps

Speech Recognition – A feature which allows you to programme a route simply be speaking into the device

Sat Nav – The abbreviated term used to refer to a Satellite Navigation system

TMC – Traffic Management Channel. Sends real-time updates relating to traffic straight to your Sat Nav device.