May 1, 2013 at 5:52 PM ET
When you’re driving unfamiliar streets or seeking a nearby spot to fill up your tank and your belly, it helps to have that patient, all-knowing GPS voice directing you to “exit to the right,” or, if you’ve ventured off-course, “make a legal U-turn when possible.”
Increasingly that voice comes from a smartphone, rather than a stand-alone device. With the right app, a windshield or dashboard mount, and a car charger (so you don’t drain the battery), you’ve got yourself an inexpensive navigation system. If you don’t own a smartphone, you can find a reliable, easy-to-use GPS starting at less than $100.
Below are the top budget picks from Cheapism.com.
The maps on these devices cover the continental U.S., Hawaii, and Puerto Rico. The TomTom model also includes Alaska, Canada, and developing coverage of Mexico, whereas Garmin charges extra for full coverage of the U.S. and Canada. Users can download additional points of interest to supplement the millions of hotels, gas stations, and other so-called POIs that are already installed on the three units. All Things Nav is affiliated with Garmin’s maps provider but explains how to customize any GPS with POIs ranging from historic sites to red-light-camera locations.
These devices are portable, but their rechargeable lithium-ion batteries last only a couple of hours. For consumers who venture far from their vehicles, Cheapism highlights a different take on a GPS: the handheld Bushnell BackTrack D-Tour (starting at $80). This model homes in on your location and keeps track of where you’ve been, so you can find your way back to a trailhead or campsite -- or, if you’re less outdoorsy, to your car in a megamall parking lot. Users who bring it on runs, hikes, and road trips get a kick out of seeing their routes rendered on a mapping app when they return.
Related content from Cheapism: