How to Buy and Install Your Own GPS System

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How to Buy and Install Your Own GPS System

The convenience that GPS systems provide for drivers has led many manufacturers to produce cars with built-in GPS systems. However, many cars are still sold without them, and there are many older model cars on the road without GPS systems. Fortunately, consumers do not need to bypass new cars that may not include built-in GPS. It is possible to buy such a system and install it in almost any car.

Buying and installing a GPS system can be challenging. First, the consumer must choose the desired GPS system to purchase. In order to do so, shoppers must consider their own driving habits, the types of GPS systems for sale in the marketplace, and the features available in these systems. Second, consumers must know how to install the GPS systems that they buy. This process is relatively easy for portable GPS systems, but it is more complex for aftermarket in-dash and remote-mount systems. After they have educated themselves about the buying options and installation processes for these products, consumers can purchase the GPS systems for their needs from an online source such as eBay.

Buying Your Own GPS System

Choosing the right GPS system can be challenging. There is a range of options available to consumers, so deciding which system to buy depends on a person's driving habits. Once careful consideration has been given to this aspect, the consumer can weigh the pros, cons, and features of the different types of GPS systems available.

Consider Driving Habits

A consumer's driving habits strongly influence the type of GPS system he or she should buy. Among the more important considerations are where the consumer drives, how often the consumer drives, and the type of driving the consumer usually does.

Driving Location

Potential buyers of GPS systems should think about where they drive their cars. Individuals who drive only in the United Kingdom can purchase systems with mapping just for the UK and the Republic of Ireland. Drivers who bring their cars to continental Europe should think about buying GPS systems that map this area as well.

Frequency of Use

Some drivers rely heavily on their GPS systems to arrive at their chosen destinations. Therefore, they may want to spend a little more for a system that has enhanced features. Drivers who want to use the same GPS system in multiple vehicles should purchase portable systems. Those planning to use their GPS systems frequently but are concerned about price may prefer portable systems because map updates generally cost less for this type of GPS.

Type of Driving

The type of driving one plans to do is an important factor in deciding which GPS system to buy. Those who need GPS for work should consider spending extra for a feature-rich system. Some of the more advanced systems include live traffic reporting that helps commuters avoid traffic congestion, road work, and accidents. Drivers who fly to other destinations for work and rent cars may prefer to have portable GPS systems that they can take with them. Not only does this save on renting a navigation system, but it can also help drivers locate petrol stations and entertainment options in areas they are not familiar with.

Choosing a GPS System

Considering one's own driving habits can help a driver choose a GPS system. One can choose between portable systems and fixed satellite navigation systems. Drivers should also weigh the features of GPS systems and determine which ones are more useful to the way they drive.

Types of GPS Systems

Portable GPS systems are relatively small and mount to either a car's dash or to the inside of its windshield. The main appeals of these systems are their portability, relatively low cost, and ease of installation. Drivers can move these systems from car to car and can fix them into place using suction cups. Portable GPS systems can offer some of the advanced features that aftermarket remote-mount and in-dash systems do. The drawbacks are that they can be difficult to read, they must be frequently plugged into one of the car's power outlets, and they must be mounted out of the way of airbags in case the car is involved in an accident.

Fixed satellite navigation systems include aftermarket in-dash and remote-dash systems. The former are similar to those that come installed in new cars but integrate into the dash of cars that do not already have GPS systems. Remote-mount systems connect to a separate screen in the car. Both usually feature larger screens than portable GPS systems do, making them easier to read in many cases. Aftermarket remote-mount and in-dash GPS systems often have advanced features, such as real-time traffic reporting. An in-dash system also looks appealing because it is installed directly into a car's dash, with the screen either viewable at all times or popping up only during use. Furthermore, these systems are often packaged together with other devices, such as DVD players. The disadvantages of aftermarket remote-mount and in-dash GPS systems are that they are more challenging to install and often more expensive than portable systems. It is also not possible to move these systems from car to car.

Features in GPS Systems

The features in GPS systems can range from the basic to the advanced. The table below lists the commonly-found features in GPS systems.

Feature Type


Screen Size

Varies from system to system; generally start at 9 cm measured diagonally; aftermarket in-dash screens usually larger than portable ones

Mapping Type

Some systems have maps for the UK and Ireland only; others provide maps for Western Europe too; and still others include Eastern Europe

Lane Assistance

Informs driver which lane to be in for an upcoming turn; helpful for avoiding being caught in the wrong lane

Traffic Reporting

Provides live traffic updates; helps drivers avoid traffic jams due to general congestion, construction, and accidents

Voice Commands

Enables the driver to provide commands by voice rather than typing them; makes using GPS system safer while driving

3D Mapping

Gives drivers three-dimensional perspective; more accurate view from road, making system easier to use

Routing Options

Provides multiple options for routes to destination; can help drivers avoid toll roads; may also provide detour options


Enables drivers to make and receive telephone calls through GPS system; can be convenient for calling point-of-interest locations while driving

Some drivers may not need all of the features listed in the table. Prioritising the desired features before one begins the search for a GPS system is therefore recommended.

Installing Your Own GPS System

The next step after purchasing a GPS system is installing it. This is a relatively simple affair with portable GPS systems and generally more complex with aftermarket remote-mount and in-dash systems.

Installing Portable GPS Systems

Many portable GPS systems feature a suction cup mounting system. Consumers simply have to clean an area of the car windshield, press the suction cup against it, lock the suction cup in place with the system's locking mechanism, and mount the GPS head to the suction cup. Some systems have a flat plastic cylinder with adhesive on one side for attaching the suction cup to the dash. With this type, one must first stick the cylinder to the dash and then affix the suction cup to the cylinder.

Some portable systems may include weighted, non-slip rubber pads for holding the GPS unit on a dashboard. No matter how portable GPS systems mount, almost all of them draw power from a connection to an outlet for a car cigarette lighter.

Installing Remote-Mount and In-Dash GPS Systems

The installation process for a remote-mount or aftermarket in-dash GPS system is often more difficult than it is for a portable system. The process may involve connecting the system to the car's speed sensor and reverse light and running wire through the car. For remote-mount GPS systems, consumers must find a place for the system's GPS module and then connect it to an in-car monitor. Many consumers may find it difficult to complete the installation on their own. There are professional installation services that can handle the process if consumers are unable to.

Connect to the Speed Sensor and Reverse Light

Many GPS systems use satellites to track cars and provide information to drivers. Some systems do require drivers to connect the module, i.e., the GPS computer, to the car's speed sensor and reverse light in order to inform drivers of their driving speed and to detect when cars are driving in reverse. To connect the GPS system to these car components, first consult the car owner's manual about where the components are located. Once located, connect the GPS system's leads for the speed sensor and the reverse light to these components.

Wiring the Vehicle

Once the leads are in place, run wire from them to the planned location for the GPS system module. This may require removing panels to keep the wiring completely out of view. An easier but generally less-aesthetic appealing option is to run the wires from the leads underneath carpeting in the car. The wire may be exposed in places, but wiring the vehicle in this way does not require removing and reattaching panels. If removing panels, be sure to test the system before reattaching them.

Installing and Connecting the Navigation Module

The navigation module should fit into an inconspicuous place in the car. It is a relatively flat box and usually fits well underneath the driver or passenger seat. The module should come with mounting feet or a bracket to attach it to the floor of the car. The user may have to remove the seat under which the module is to be mounted. It is also important to make sure the module is lined up horizontally with the rest of the car in order for its gyroscope to provide accurate positioning information. Once the module is lined up, drill holes for the mounting feet or bracket into the car floor and attach the feet or bracket. Next, affix the module to the mounting device.

Once the navigation module is in place, it is time to connect it to the screen. This is a relatively simple process if the screen is outside the dash. It involves running the appropriate wires from the module output to the screen's input. Those who want to install a screen into the dash of a car may want to seek professional assistance for this aspect of the installation process.

Buying Your Own GPS System on eBay

It is possible to buy GPS systems from local and online electronics shops. eBay is also a good source for GPS systems. There is a broad selection of navigation systems for sale on the site, and it is easy to find one that suits your driving habits and needs.

Go to an eBay page to perform a search and enter a basic term such as "GPS" into the search bar. When you receive the results, click on the "GPS & In-Car Technology" category, then "GPS & Sat Nav", and then either "GPS Systems" or "Fixed Sat Nav", depending on the type of system you want. This should display the applicable GPS systems for sale on eBay. You can then continue to filter the results by brand or desired features such as an MP3 player. Alternatively, you can start with a more targeted search term, such as "portable GPS", and choose the appropriate categories from there.

You can also filter your search results by bundled items, such as chargers, cables, and cases. Buying a bundle is a great way to save money over buying individual components separately.


Consumers looking for GPS systems are well advised to consider their driving habits, before they begin their search for a system. After taking this into account, they can explore the different options for GPS systems available and the various features that they offer.

Consumers should also factor the level of difficulty of installing a GPS system into the buying decision. Portable GPS systems are relatively easy to install, while aftermarket in-dash and remote-mount versions can be quite challenging. If a consumer prefers the features of a certain GPS system but finds that it is difficult to install, a professional may be hired to set it up in the vehicle.

eBay is a good source from which to purchase any type of GPS system, and consumers can find a good selection of systems with the features they want on the website. By knowing what to look for in a GPS system and understanding how to use the site, consumers can shop successfully on eBay.

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