Given it’s 2021, you could argue that there is less need than ever to buy a dedicated satellite navigation system. After all, if your car hasn’t got a system of its own, then your smartphone will surely suffice, using a mapping app from Google, Apple or Waze.
But this situation isn’t yet perfect. You still often need to carry a USB cable to use Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, and if you go wireless - or use your phone’s own display on a windscreen mount - it’ll kill the battery before you can say “take the third exit on the roundabout”.
Another reason to opt for a proper sat nav rather than relying on your phone is the sheer breadth of features on offer. Frequent map updates mean the sat nav is always correct, and because the maps are stored on the device itself you’ll never get lost when your phone loses signal, or runs out of data.
Some models also include free safety camera alerts, live traffic information, voice controls, and even a built-in dash cam with safety features like lane departure warning and forward collision warning.
These days, sat navs also feature Wi-Fi or their own SIM card, so updating mapping data doesn’t require plugging into a computer anymore.
When it comes to buying the perfect sat nav for you, your primary concerns should be price, features, battery life, connectivity and - crucially - you should work out which mapping system you prefer. Do you find TomTom’s maps easy to read and spoken instructions simpler to understand, or are you more of a Garmin person? It’s worth finding out the answer to that before parting with any cash.
So buckle up, tap in the postcode, and join T3 on a journey through the best sat navs on sale today.
And, if you're looking to complete your in-car dash upgrade, maybe you could take a look at the best dash cam.
If you've decided that a sat nav isn't for you and Google Maps is good enough, then you could also check out the best car phone holders. Or if you're wanting to know where you're headed on foot, one of the best hiking GPS systems will help you out.
And, finally, if you've got a little one of the way, then we'd recommend you read to best car seats.
The best sat navs available to buy today:
The TomTom Go Discover is a straightforward navigation device without fancy features. It is ultimately about utility, not showbiz moves and fancy tricks, and there's no doubt TomTom delivers excellent usability here.
That starts with clear and legible maps and possibly the best lane guidance in the business. Perhaps best of all, it's very quick and easy to use.
This device is a little on the expensive side, especially if you consider the cost of a Live subscription after your one-year trial. But, if it's pure navigation without the frills you're after, you can't go wrong with this TomTom.
The TomTom GO Premium is the most feature-packed, best connected, and smartest navigation device on the market, packing a number of features which help it compete with your smartphone. The state-of-the-art sat nav is designed to assists you throughout their journey from before you get in the car, through to the last few steps to your destination.
Built-in Wi-Fi will ensure that the software and maps are always up-to-date, while you can use the TomTom MyDrive companion app to pre-plan your route, sending a destination to the device. During the drive, the TomTom GO Premium can share location and arrival time with contacts (if you have an Android phone), and once the destination has been reached, the sat nav hands over to the TomTom MyDrive app to direct you on foot to the true final destination.
The Go Premium is available with either a 5 or 6-inch display.
The biggest tech trend of 2017 was reducing bezels, LG did it, so did Samsung, and Garmin also joined the hype. This is easily the best looking sat nav we've ever seen.
Going head to head against the TomTom GO 6200 is the Garmin DriveLuxe 61 LMT-S. It has a larger display than its arch-rival at 17.7cm (compared to the TomTom’s 15cm screen) but only includes European rather than 'Worldwide' maps, but you still get lifetime map and traffic updates for the money.
Other goodies include smartphone connectivity via the free Smartphone Link app and it also enables you to add or update maps on the device either via a wireless connection to your home router, or via USB.
Unlike the TomTom GO, the Garmin DriveLuxe 61 LMT-S uses a click-in mount, which makes it slightly harder to remove. It also includes Points Of Interest information from TripAdvisor, so you’ll always something interesting to see — whatever your destination.
It's a super slick sat nav for the smartphone generation.
The TomTom GO 6200 deserves its place high up on this list, thanks to its legendary route guidance, ease of use and Lifetime everything — from map updates for dozens of countries, to safety camera and traffic alerts — all delivered using the built-in Lifetime SIM.
Other goodies include built-in Bluetooth so you can pair it with your smartphone, as well as Google Now and Siri integration. And the TomTom GO 6200 includes Wi-Fi connectivity so you can get map updates via your home network without having to hook the device to your PC first.
Anything else? It also comes with an easy-to-fit magnetic dock and intelligent route mapping that learns the way you drive — and then adapts its settings accordingly.
If you want the very best sat nav money can buy, this is it.
The 51 LMT-D from Garmin offers a similar feature set to the 61 LMT-S, but with a smaller screen size. This may be a disadvantage to some, but other drivers may well prefer a smaller and less distracting sat nav perched atop their dashboard or stuck to the windscreen.
Features include Bluetooth and Wi-Fi (for connecting your phone and updating the mapping data, respectively). There are also speed camera alerts, traffic information, and 60 minutes of battery life, saving you from having to plug it in on shorter journeys.
This sat nav also includes point-of-interest information from TripAdvisor and Foursquare, so you’ll never be short of places to visit no matter where in Europe you are.
Some readers may prefer the design of TomTom’s maps, but if you’re a Garmin person - and you’re looking for a fully fledged sat nav without a huge display - this could be the one for you.
If you’d like the features of our first pick, the TomTom GO 6200, but don’t quite have the readies, then the mid-range TomTom Go Via 53 should be to your liking.
It comes with most of its more expensive sibling’s assets, but eschews some, while time-limiting others. How so? Well, for a start, you only get three months’ worth of safety camera updates out of the box, which means you’ll need to pay an annual sub if you still want them after the trial period is up.
The TomTom Go Via 53 also lacks the TomTom GO 6200’s lifetime SIM, so you’ll need to pair it with your smartphone via Bluetooth to receive life traffic updates — and that will obviously have some effect on your mobile data plan. It also uses a non-magnetic mount so attaching / detaching it is a little less easy. You pays yer money…
On the plus side, the TomTom Via 53 includes almost everything else, including the ability to update the lifetime maps by connecting via Wi-Fi to your home network. It’s also Siri and Google Now compatible, and can read out your text messages to you — perfect for hands-free driving.
The TomTom Via 62 is a strong contender for drivers who want a sat nav which offer a large touch screen - in this case six inches - for an affordable price. The Go Via 62 is a lesser version of the Via 6200, and misses out on some integrated features like a built-in SIM card.
Instead, the Via 62 uses the company’s ‘services via smartphone’, which uses your smartphone’s data connection to feed the sat nav with real-time traffic information and speed camera locations. But don’t worry about this nifty work-around hogging your phone data, as TomTom claims the sat nav helps itself to less than 10MB per month.
The Bluetooth connection also enables hands-free calling with your connected smartphone, and the TomTom has ‘Advanced Lane Guidance’, which uses graphics to clearly show which lane or lanes you need to be in at junctions. TomTom also offers constantly-updated mapping data, which can be installed by plugging the Via 62 into your computer and performing a software update.
Battery life, as with most sat navs in this range of the market, is around the one-hour mark.
The Mio MiVue Drive 65 LM is the only sat nav here to include an Extreme HD dash cam on its rear — and it’s not only useful for recording the madcap antics of other road users.
That’s because this sat nav includes two other incredibly useful driver safety features, which uses the 1296p @ 30fps F1.8 camera to help you: a Lane Departure Warning System (LDWS) and a Forward Collision Warning System (FCWS) — both of which should help you avoid getting involved in nasty prangs yourself.
On the sat nav side, the Rio MiVue Drive 65 LM comes with a large 15.8cm display, lifetime map, traffic and safety camera updates (for as long as you own the device).
The Lifetime maps thing does include a caveat — it includes most European countries with the strange exception of France, Switzerland, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, although you can buy or rent maps separately.
Great value for money though.
Motorcycle sat navs
If you’re a 2-wheels-good, 4-wheels-bad kind of guy or girl, then the Garmin Zumo 396 has been designed with you in mind.
Armed with a 4.3-inch touchscreen and lifetime world maps, traffic updates and safety camera alerts, it’s also weatherproof to IPX7, resistant to fuel vapors, UV rays and harsh weather.
The Zumo includes a special feature just for riders like you: Adventure Route finds curvy and hilly roads in between you and your destination, and limits your time on boring motorways.
The display is easy to read even in bright sunlight, and also comes with adjustable screen sensitivity – enabling you to carry on using it whether you’re wearing thin or thick gloves.
What else? Well there built-in Wi-Fi for easy map and software updates without a computer, and super helpful rider alerts for upcoming sharp curves, speed cameras, and hazards.
Finally, if you end up upside down in a hedge somewhere, the Zumo will automatically text an emergency contact with your GPS coordinates. It could well save your life.
The Beeline Moto is an super simple motorbike sat nav. It's not a do-it-all device like the larger motorcycle and in-car sat navs, but that's precisely where its appeal lies, leaving you free to watch the road and not the screen.
The Moto uses Google Maps on your phone for routing, and delivers navigation instructions with a simple arrow interface. We feel it delivers enough information to guide you to your destination without bombarding you with loads of additional info that can become a distraction.
If Bluetooth audio and detailed, colour routing, traffic and camera information are essential to you then this is not the motorbike sat nav for you. But if you want something simple, unobtrusive and affordable to help you get from A to B then the Beeline Moto is an excellent choice.
- Read the full Beeline Moto review
While spending hundreds of pounds on a sat nav for your car could be debated, they still make perfect sense for motorbike riders. At this end of the market, options like the Zumo 346 LMT-S by Garmin are bike friendly by including IPX7 waterproofing, a rugged, shock-resistant body, and a touchscreen which works when wearing gloves.
This particular model has a 10.9 cm (4.3 inch) display and maps for Western Europe, although you can spend more to include the whole of Europe, and to increase the screen to 12.7 cm (5 inches).
Where bike sat navs also excel is in their battery life, as there is less likelihood of onboard power being available. As such, this Garmin will last for a claimed four hours - plenty for a Sunday morning jaunt, but you may want to consider packing the charger for longer two-wheeled adventures.
There is also a bike-specific warning system which reminds you when it is national law to wear a helmet, and alerts you to sharp corners ahead. Meanwhile, the mapping data includes bike-specific points of interest, like motorcycle repair shops, dealers, and more.
An updated version of one our favourite bike sat navs from last year, the TomTom Rider 550 is better than ever.
Goodies include a higher resolution 11cm WQVA touchscreen, which is easy to read even in bright sunlight, while adjustable touch sensitivity means it’ll still work whether you’re wearing light or heavy gloves. The TomTom Rider 550 also includes a new quad-core processor for faster, smoother operation and navigation, and you can now also update the device via Wi-Fi.
Naturally, the TomTom GO Rider 550 is weather and drop-proof to IPX7 and includes a bunch of features that will a delight to riders – from Ride Challenge levels, which enables you to choose routes with winding and hilly roads rather than straights; and Road Trips – carefully curated routes for bikers which send you on some of the world’s most spectacular journeys with rest areas and scenic stops marked along the way.
What else? Class-leading route guidance and Bluetooth connectivity so you can pair it with your smartphone? Yep. You can even have your smartphone messages read out loud to you through your headset, and make and take hands-free calls using Google Now and Siri.
Oh, and you also get Lifetime Map and Lifetime Speed Camera updates, plus Lifetime TomTom Traffic warnings, which include known accident black spots and jam tailbacks. Time to get your leathers on...
Whether you’re living La Dolce Vita in Rome or Romford, the TomTom Vio is what you need. Designed to fit on the tubular mirror sticks on scooters, it delivers turn-by-turn driving instructions from the dedicated TomTom Via app on your smartphone via Bluetooth — enabling you to concentrate on where you’re getting your next frappuccino from.
Available in seven different colours — green, blue, white, pink, red, yellow and black — to match your scooter and your lifestyle, it comes with a weatherproof 6cm colour circular display that displays your route, safety camera alerts and even tells you about incoming calls. And the touchscreen still works even if you’re wearing gloves - the ultimate satnav style statement.
Other sat navs
If you own a camper van or caravan you need this sat nav. Why? Let us count the ways….
For a start it comes with a huge 17.7cm touchscreen display for easy route planning and navigation; and they’re not just any ordinary routes: you can tell the Garmin Camper 770 LMT-D the size of your rig so it can plot your route accordingly; and it includes campsite data so you’ll not only be able to find somewhere to rest up overnight, but you’ll also know what facilities are there before you arrive. Heck, it can even tell you about parking availability and local weather at your destination via Garmin’s Live Services.
The Garmin Camper 770 LMT-D also comes with built-in Wi-Fi for fast updating without the need for cables, and you can hook it up to your smartphone via Bluetooth – you even can use its LiveTrack feature to tell your friends and family exactly where you are.
Even better, Garmin has teamed up with TripAdvisor and FourSquare to offer point of interest, restaurant and attraction reviews. The Camper 770 LMT-D’s Trip Planner tool can even suggest interesting places to stop off at along your route. Let's sit around a campfire and sing a song.
The only thing we don’t like? This sat nav's very short battery life when you’re not plugged into power – it lasts an hour.
Dedicated sat navs also make a lot of sense when strapped to the handlebars of your bicycle - because you certainly wouldn’t want to fall off with a £1,000-plus smartphone in its place. The market is vast, but a good starting point is the Cyclo 210 by Mio.
This is Mio’s entry-level cycling sat nav, but comes with the basics, like mapping for all of Europe, a simple touchscreen interface to poke at while you’re riding, IP5X water resistance so it should survive a splash of water, and a huge battery life of up to 10 hours.
Similar to how the Garmin above helps you find biker-specific amenities, the Mio does the same for cyclists, with its maps full of bike shops, food and drink stops, emergency locations and more. There’s also preinstalled data from OpenstreetMaps to help you navigate cycle paths and avoid the busy main roads.
Finally, a surprise-me feature lets you set a time, distance or duration, then serves up three random cycle routes to pick from.
This is the second-most expensive cycling computer that Garmin makes — and it’ll still cost you a pretty penny. But if you’re nuts about cycling, then this incredibly capable sat nav is worth every penny. Why?
For one thing it includes preloaded cycling maps for the whole of Western Europe, with round-trip routing to help you explore wherever you are. Those maps include both roads and bike paths, plus info essential to cyclists — such as bike-related Points Of Interest (POI) and even a guide to how steep the hills are.
One feature though you hopefully won’t ever get to use — and that’s built-in incident detection. This uses a built-in accelerometer that automatically detects whether you’ve had an accident and then sends your location to anyone you’ve set up as an emergency contact. Sadly essential.
Pair the Garmin Edge Explore 1000 with your smartphone and you’ll also be able to take incoming calls, get weather and route updates; and let your friends and relatives see where you are via Garmin’s LiveTrack feature.
It’s already starting to feel like an essential part of your cycling toolkit, isn’t it?