Your GPS Device is Only as Good as Its Maps

By: Christine Peppler

Portable GPS devices have become very popular in recent years. These handy devices assist drivers in not only being able to view maps and directions on screen but to listen to instructions allowing them to keep their eyes on the road. They are great assistants which can help in avoiding traffic tie ups and quickly finding alternate routes when needed. Locating businesses and other services when in unfamiliar surroundings is simple with these geographical geniuses. However, like any good human navigator, a GPS device must have the right maps to perform the job expected.

Garmin GPS devices come with current maps preloaded. Buyers simply need to be aware of how they wish to use the device in order to select the device with the maps that will be most useful. Some maps are designed for automobiles and thus focus on road maps, others have trail maps geared toward hikers, snowmobilers, and other outdoor enthusiasts, while others are designed for marine use.

The Garmin GPS devices that are used most commonly make use of road maps. Obviously, for consumers in the US, road maps of the 50 states are the focus, but for those who travel it is simple enough to purchase maps to assist them during their trip. Maps for Asia, Europe, Australia, the Middle East, Brazil, Mexico, and many other countries are available and, in fact, there is the option of a World Map although it offers less detail.

For US consumers using their GPS device for outdoor activities, the US TOPO 24K is a handy tool which offers detailed topographical information, points of interest such as public facilities and fuel locations among many others, as well as detailed coverage of trail information within parks and designated forests.

The level of detail offered by the different maps varies and should be matched to the tasks it will be asked to perform. For instance, Garmin Roads and Recreation Maps provide maps detailing highways, local, county and residential roads for all 50 states as well as exit information that lets users know what businesses and services are present at a given interstate exit. The City Navigator maps however have a greater focus on highway and primary road maps as well as detail for urban and residential areas.

With new construction, changes in points of interest, services, and businesses, even GPS maps must be updated to remain accurate. Updated maps are published periodically and can be purchased through the Garmin website or selected retailers. Installing updates is simple as long as you have an hour or two of time and a good computer. Finding the maps that suit your needs and keeping them updated is key to having a GPS device that meets your expectations.

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