Choosing a Sat Nav
There are dozens of sat nav models to choose from. Some of them simply stick to their job of getting you to where you want to go; others are virtual in-car entertainment and communication systems, with a price tag to match.
Portable or fixed?
By and large, the fixed (or 'hard-install') sat nav units that are fully installed by car manufacturers, or by specialist fitters, are considerably more expensive than the portable models. They have the advantage, however, of being more sophisticated, and less vulnerable to theft and loss; the voice instructions are also co-ordinated with, and override, the sound from any in-built radio or CD player. With a portable sat nav, you have the advantage of being able to take the unit with you wherever you go, and use it in any car - even hire cars abroad. You can even take it for a walk.
Beware of heat-reflecting windscreens
Some newer models of cars, particularly those of the French manufacturers, have been fitted with heat-reflecting windscreens. These have sometimes been found to interfere with the ability of sat navs to receive the GPS signal. If in doubt, test a sat nav in your vehicle before you buy it. Otherwise, sat navs can be used in any vehicle.
Need and aerial?
Not usually: most sat navs have a built-in, internal antenna. However, if you opt for live traffic updates, you may need to install an extra aerial.
Sat navs for bikers
Some sat navs are designed specifically for bikers. Waterproof and especially robust, they fit on a mount on the motorcycle handlebars. The touch-screen is responsive to gloved fingertips, and the voice instruction is relayed to speakers inside the helmet. Models using Bluetooth technology also offer hands-free telephony.
Make sure that the map coverage that comes with your unit is sufficient for your requirements. If you are not sure of your future needs, check that you can easily extend the coverage (e.g. to Europe or
Points Of Interest (POIs)
What kind of information do you need when you are on the move? Do you want to know about car parking, or galleries and museums? Would you like a list of recommended restaurants? See what kind of POIs are pre-installed in your package, and see if you can add sets of POIs that are specifically tailored to your needs. But maybe you barely need any of these at all: just how often are you in an unfamiliar place, where you can't easily find this information for yourself?
Safety camera alerts
If you feel you are in constant danger of being caught speeding or going over red lights by the increasing number of safety cameras that line our streets, then perhaps you need a system that warns your about their location - and regular updates of that information. Other drivers may feel that they can simply observe the rules without additional aids.
Live traffic updates
For frequent road-users who are constantly frustrated by congestion, accidents and roadworks, it may well be worth considering paying the extra cost of a sat nav that receives live traffic alerts. Such services are usually available by monthly subscription, but some sat nav manufacturers offer free subscription to live updates with their more upmarket models.
Bells and whistles
Sat navs offer numerous add-ons. The more you pay, the more you get - and the more complicated the unit becomes to operate. You have to decide whether what you need is really just a car navigator, or whether it would really be an advantage to have a sat nav that also doubles as a hands-free mobile phone, SMS message reader, MP3 player, DVD player, digital photo album, calculator and currency converter. Don't you have other gadgets that do these things already?