How to Buy Used GPS Systems

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How to Buy Used GPS Systems

GPS units have become popular, almost necessary navigation aids. The acronym stands for Global Positioning System, and the units work by triangulating their position precisely from multiple orbiting satellites. Car GPS systems are specifically designed to help drivers navigate. The GPS systems feature large, easy to read screens, detailed maps, often in colour, and both voice and written step-by-step directions.

Using a GPS device has several advantages. Since the device can communicate instructions via voice, the driver does not have to look away from the road in order to glance at a map. The GPS also knows where it is, so the driver cannot get lost through misunderstanding his or her own position. However, not all GPS models are equally useful for all drivers. Buying a GPS means thinking carefully about what features to get, considering the driver's needs and budget. Buying a used GPS unit is a good way to get a good deal on a well-equipped machine.

Choosing a Car GPS System

There are a few considerations that apply to any car GPS, whether new or used. In essence, buyers should look carefully at what they do and do not need from a GPS device considering their cars and driving habits. From there, it is simple to decide which features are most important within a given budget.

How and where a person drives dictates the features and overall quality the GPS system needs to have. A basic, low-cost system works well for occasional trips. Someone who travels unfamiliar roads often and on a tight schedule, on the other hand, could really use the highest quality system available. Tunnels and even tall buildings can cause a GPS to lose contact with its satellites, so a driver who spends a lot of time in cities should look for a system with dead reckoning, the ability to navigate without satellite contact. Some drivers may not need to bother keeping the map data precisely up to date, but other drivers may need a system that includes regular updates at little to no cost.

Some GPS devices have expanded features, such as a pedestrian or bicycle setting so that the device can be used outside of a car, or the ability to function as a hands-free cell phone. Not all GPS mounts work in all cars. For example, dashboard mounts do not stick to all types of dashboard. Before buying a GPS, consumers should make sure that it has a mounting system that works in the user's car. In general, to choose a GPS adapted to one's needs, the buyer has to first think about his or her lifestyle and what GPS features are most useful.

Choosing GPS System Features

There is a lot of variety in what car GPS devices can do, from very basic models to complex machines that include satellite radios and Internet connections. Screen size, display quality, and whether the device uses touchscreen controls or some other method, all vary. Part of choosing a GPS device is prioritising features and finding a balance between number of features and price.

The following table lists some of the features available on car GPS units, together with a brief description of each. It does not list features that virtually all car GPS devices have, nor does it list features that are extremely rare. The list is not exhaustive but is designed to give an indication of the available variety.



Reflective screen coating

The screen brightens, instead of being washed out, in sunlight

Audio-visual storage and playback

A removable card stores music or even photos

Internet connectivity


Text to speech

The GPS can read road names from its map for use in spoken directions

POI (Points-of-Interest)

A database of places such as gas stations and restaurants

Real-time traffic reports

Receives current traffic reports by radio; some automatically change the route to avoid traffic

Lane assistance

Advises the driver which lane to be in for upcoming turns

A good way to think about which model to get is to make two lists of features to look for. One list includes must-have features and the other includes features that would be nice to have. Buyers should then set a budget and look for a model that has all the must-have features, plus as many nice-to-have features as fit in the budget.

Checking Out the Quality of a GPS System

There is no good way to try out a GPS system before buying it. Unlike other electronics, it cannot effectively be tested inside a store. Borrowing a device from a friend may be an option, but many users do not fully understand all the features of their own system and may not be good at answering questions. Instead, buyers can rely on product reviews. It is easier for a buyer to evaluate a particular model if he or she has a thorough understanding of the model's features.

Safety Considerations when Using GPS Systems

Using a GPS system is not without risk. There is always the potential that the machine could distract the driver from driving or give inaccurate advice. GPS systems are entirely accurate about where they are, provided they have a clear view of at least three satellites, but they can give bad advice if they have bad information. Even recently updated maps can be slightly but critically out of date, or occasionally just wrong.

Users sometimes accidentally set their systems to find the most scenic route instead of the most direct route without realising that they have done so. Even simply entering in an address wrong can cause the GPS to calculate a route many kilometres out of the way. GPS users cannot rely on GPS directions alone but must also have a general idea of what the route is supposed to be. If the GPS is wrong, the driver has to be able to notice.

Even more important, the driver cannot allow the GPS to become a distraction. Users should never enter a new destination into a GPS while driving and avoid adjusting the device at all unless safely stopped. They should also make sure the display is clear and simple enough so that only a brief glance is necessary. Some GPS systems can hook into cell phones and allow hands-free calling, but users should remember that the problem with talking on the phone while driving is not that it occupies the hands but that it occupies the mind. Any phone, even one attached to a GPS system, is dangerous to use while driving.

Choosing a Used Car GPS System

While buying used GPS devices is a lot like buying a new GPS, there are some additional considerations. Most obviously, the buyer has to decide whether buying used is really the right choice. Other issues include the condition of the device and the cost of updating the map data.

Deciding Whether to Buy Used

Buying used has both advantages and disadvantages. A used GPS system is likely to be at least slightly out of date, considering how fast the electronics industry changes, and there is the possibility that the unit has been damaged. On the other hand, the cost savings can be substantial, and it is often easier to find detailed product reviews for slightly older models. Unless a buyer really needs something very up-to-date, a good deal on an older GPS system may be the way to go.

Special Considerations for Used GPS Systems

A used GPS already has maps loaded onto it, but the maps may be out of date. Buyers should find out when the maps were last updated and how updates work for a particular model. If an immediate update is necessary and a free update service does not come with the machine, then the cost of new map data must be considered along with the purchase price. Buyers should make sure that the device can receive data through technology that is still available.

Another issue is the possibility of damage. Even if the GPS system appears to be working properly, some damage may have occurred. Buyers should find out how many times the machine has been dropped and whether it has ever been involved in an accident. If possible, they should choose a machine that has been treated well.


A GPS device in the car can mean the difference between getting to an appointment on time and showing up late because of getting lost. Buying a used GPS system starts with getting a clear idea of the driver's needs in view of his or her driving style and vehicle. In some cases, local law may also influence issues such as how the unit can be mounted onto the car. From there, the buyer can prioritise desired features and look for a used GPS system that offers as much as possible within a given budget.

Buying a used GPS system means paying attention to possible changes in how the machine loads new map data and how much updating map data will cost. Yet getting a used GPS can be a good move, a good way to get a great price on quality machines. No matter what kind of GPS someone gets, however, it is important to not allow the machine to become a distraction and to make sure to stay oriented. A GPS is an excellent aid to navigation, but does not replace the driver.

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