Should I get the GPS Option in My New Car?

I have an Acura MDX with the Technology Package.  This included (among other options) a GPS system built into the console of my SUV.  After owning this vehicle for several years, I can tell you that I wished I saved the few thousand dollars I paid for the Technology Package and simply used a Garmin GPS or my favorite application in the world which is Waze.  For many years, Acura has offered the Technology Package to bundle several popular options of which the GPS typically is by far the most desirable and expensive of the components.

The reasons go beyond cost, although the few thousand dollar premium I paid for the package that included the GPS is a pretty good reason in itself.  Let’s look at a few of the comparisons of a built-in car GPS versus Waze or a Garmin Nuvi.  Although my personal experience is with an Acura, the comments that follow are pretty consistent across all vehicles with a built-in GPS.

Cost:  Waze is a free application that is available for download to an Andoid or IOS based smartphone.  This application is owned by Google and is supported by an occasional ad that would appear when you are stopped at a red light.  A new Garmin Nuvi GPS will cost at least $100.  Advantage:  Waze

Driving Directions – If purchasing the latest Garmin, you will receive lane assist which is real helpful when driving on large highways.  The Garmin Nuvi will show a blown up map of the road and tell you which lanes to get into.  Waze does not include this feature and neither will your car.  All three will guide you around traffic if you have that feature and will reroute quickly if you are off course.  Advantage:  Garmin

Maps:  Acura has been nice enough to send me annual offers of updating my GPS with a new DVD for about $200 each year.  I ordered one of these a few years after I purchased my car.  The update wasn’t terribly intuitive.  If you purchase a Garmin Nuvi with the lifetime map feature (it will have the letters LM as part of the model), updates are free but need to be downloaded manually.  Waze updates are free and are available in real-time without any effort by the user.  Advantage:  Waze

Traffic: Waze has full-time live traffic reports which are supported by traffic networks, real-time measurements and social interactions of the user base.  Some Garmin Nuvi models have traffic available but at an extra cost (warning don’t lose the Garmin traffic power cable or it will cost you another $60 for a replacement).  The Garmin traffic feature uses the FM radio frequency and is only available in large metropolitan areas.  Your car might utilize integrated traffic from Sirius/XM Radio for an added monthly fee which only works in certain targeted areas.  For example, out here in northwest New Jersey, traffic is rarely available but begins to receive reports as I head towards New York City.  Advantage: Waze

You probably already know what my advice will be.  Skip the expensive car option of a GPS.  It will cost a lot of money and you can get better for free or in the case of a Garmin GPS, $100.  Your investment in an integrated car GPS will depreciate over time and you will never recoup that cost.

We have written some good articles on Waze in the past and you can view a few of them here and here.  We also compared a Garmin Nuvi to Waze.

If you would like to read a good article on smartphone car mounts which are useful with GPS applications such as Waze, you may view it here.