A Quick Rundown on Various Marine GPS Units

By: Phoenix Delray

For nearly all avid boaters, having marine GPS units on board is almost essential to having a good day out on the water. This is because marine GPS units are packed with vital information that can help navigate the boat away from different hazards like a thick fog, wreckage, rocks and shallow water. Although many recreational boaters who do not stray far from the coast may not think that they need marine GPS units to stay safe, the reality is that the majority of all boating hazards are close to shore.

There are three basic choices that consumers have when it comes to marine GPS units and these are as follows: handheld marine GPS units, chart plotting marine GPS units or a computer attached to a GPS. The handhelds are the most affordable, with most of them costing less than $100. Most of these can also be used outside of the boat, which can be used as a navigator for your car or while hiking. These are the smallest of all marine GPS units, but sometimes the small size is a disadvantage when the boat is rocking back and forth and the buttons are tiny and hard to focus on. If you plan on reading it in direct sunlight, make sure you get a version of handheld marine GPS units that are easily readable in such conditions.

Chart plotting marine GPS units are larger than handhelds, so their screens are bigger, wider, and much easier to read. Because of the increased size, these marine GPS units also have bigger buttons that are spaced out more, so people with clumsy hands or large fingers can still use the device without problems. Chart plotting marine GPS units are usually more expensive than the handheld marine GPS units, costing around $400. However, most do come with full color screens, which can help you read important features much better than you would otherwise be able to.

In most circumstances, a computer connected to a GPS is not ideal for boating. Although the screens are larger than both chart plotting and handheld marine GPS units, their screens are not meant to be viewed in direct light, so they usually have to be stored below deck. Plus, they actually cost as much as a regular computer (usually over $1,000). Out of all of the options available in marine GPS units, the best is probably the chart plotting type.

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