The best car sat navs

More than a digital map

The best sat navs

by William Austin-Lobley |
Updated on

Why choose a sat nav in the age of smartphones? The best of android and iPhone all have in-built GPS systems and mapping software. Why bother picking up an extra gadget? Well, because they’re fantastic, and when you take a look at the best sat navs around, you’ll certainly agree.

With large, clear screens with detailed maps unmatched by smartphone apps, and continuous route optimisation and traffic scanning, dedicated in-car sat navs are now more than digital maps – they’re centralised, journey-streamlining hub, guiding you from A-to-B with ease and finesse.

The extra features offered by many sat navs are also worth getting excited about. Bluetooth connectivity ensures that the convenience afforded by smartphones is not lost, with phone calls and messages being displayed on the sat nav itself. Along with the connectivity come voice control, and in some cases smart home integration, allowing thermostats and lights to be automatically activated when the car is within a certain radius. Automated ETA texts to specific contacts are a godsend, especially if you tend to forget to let people know that you’ve arrived somewhere safely. Some sat navs even extended this function, providing friends and family with regular updates on journey progress.

They’ve also progressed from the days of manual updates, which saw users regularly having to plug in their device to a PC to download the latest map change. Many sat nav devices now automatically update the systems map database four times a year, providing you with the most up-to-date road layouts possible. This is now considered a free service by manufacturers, along with traffic and speed camera updates. Long gone are the days of additional subscriptions for many service providers.

On top of all this, a dedicated sat nav won’t churn through a phone's battery life or data.

There’s a lot of choice out there for anyone looking to wisely invest in a sat nav. The market is dominated by TomTom and Garmin, but still, the range of products is vast with often only small variations between models. However, these small changes can make a big difference when it comes down to it, so we’ve headed out and selected only the very best sat nav models available. No matter your need or price range, there’s something for you.

Here are our picks of the best sat navs:


The best sat navs

Garmin Drivesmart 61 LMT-S 6.95-inch Sat Nav1 of 5

Garmin Drivesmart 61 LMT-S 6.95-inch Sat Nav

GPS wizard Garmin's Drivesmart 61 LMT-S sat nav is a great product, offering up comprehensive mapping and driver alerts on a sustainable screen, measuring in at just shy of 7-inches.Traffic alerts are scanned for every 60 seconds, and the situational driver alerts will warn you of upcoming sharp bends and unusual road layouts.The Bluetooth connectivity allows the Drivesmart to host calls, and display text messages and calendar appointments. The Garmin Smartphone Link app also provides you with useful journey information, as well as important details about the destination, including car parking locations and pricing. You can even enable Live Track to keep friends and family updated with your location and ETA.This on-screen real estate allows you to have a clear view of the map and on-screen notifications while driving, showing travelling speed, ETA, current road, upcoming commands, and in-coming call notifications without ever feeling cluttered.In addition to a lifetime of free traffic alerts, Garmin will also update the maps four times a year, allowing you to keep up-to-date with road network changes. Full UK and Europe maps are preinstalled.

TomTom GO Premium 5-inch Sat Nav2 of 5

TomTom GO Premium 5-inch Sat Nav

Most sat nav devices are content with helping you get from A-to-B, so long as both A and B are on public roadways. TomTom's Go Premium isn't like other sat navs. In addition to TomTom's crystal-clear map and alert interface, there's a whole lot more on offer.The device updates its world maps and software via WiFi, and offering traffic and speed camera notifications via the built-in SIM.When using the GO Premium in combination with the TomTom MyDrive smartphone app, you can pre-plan your route, save your car's location, and guides you every step up to the destination (no more quickly switching to Google Maps, it's all been streamlined here). You can also share your location with contacts, providing an accurate ETA.IFTTT smart home integration syncs with virtual assistants and smart home devices. This allows your location to be shared across devices which can then be used to trigger in-house actions, such as turning on or off lights and thermostats. In-built voice control also provides access to your AI assistant, be it Siri or Alexa, allowing weather forecasts, calendar appointments, calls, and web searches to be accessed with ease.World and Europe maps are preinstalled.

TomTom Via 62 Sat Nav3 of 5

TomTom Via 62 Sat Nav

The TomTom Via 62 offers up many compelling features at a more than reasonable price. The large six-inch screen offers a clutter-free touchscreen display, and the speakers deliver instructions both loudly and clearly.TomTom's bold and distraction-free mapping graphic looks great, as usual, and dedicated lane mapping gives you plenty of time to manoeuvre into the correct lanes at junctions and on motorways.One of the reasons the device is so affordable is that it relies on a smartphone connection to gather its traffic and speed camera alerts. Though this initially seems to undo one of the main arguments for picking up a sat nav, the data used is minimal. TomTom claims around 10MB, which is minuscule when compared to running a smartphone GPS. This lack of internal-SIM and WiFi capability does mean that the device will need to be connected to a computer for map updates.Europe maps are preinstalled.

MIO Spirit Pilot 15 5-inch Sat Nav4 of 5

MIO Spirit Pilot 15 5-inch Sat Nav

The MIO Spirit Pilot 15 is a nice little option for those who regularly take short to medium drives to new locations. The modest 5-inch screen does a good job of displaying all the need-to-know information, and the turn-by-turn guidance and real-time optimised routing keeps you on the right track.Lifetime map updates are included, and there's an expandable memory for those looking to add in extra maps. Probably the most impressive aspect of this sat nav is its battery life, which stretches to over four hours.Europe maps are preinstalled.

Garmin Drive 51 LMT-S5 of 5
CREDIT: Amazon

Garmin Drive 51 LMT-S

The Garmin Drive 51 LMT-S is a real step up from the more basic packages available. By combining driver alerts with live services, the device will keep your journey moving in an efficient and timely manner. Garmin Real Directions is a welcome feature that provides clear and relatable driver instructions, using landmarks, street names and other features to guide you on; for example, "Turn right at the pharmacy", rather than "turn right in 300 yards".TripAdvisor and Foursquare have also been brought on board to provide you details on millions of restaurants, entertainment venues, shops, and other points of interest.The Garmin Drive 51 LMT-S is compatible with Gamin's Backup Camera, and includes lifetime map updates and traffic alerts.UK and Ireland maps are preinstalled, Western and Full Europe maps are available separately.

Next to a great sat nav, a reliable dash cam is an essential car accessory in 2020. Be sure to read our rundown of the best and most affordable dash cams around.

William Lobley is a Content Writer and reviewer for WhatsTheBest, specialising in technology, gaming and outdoors. He also writes for Empire Online.

Just so you know, whilst we may receive a commission or other compensation from the links on this website, we never allow this to influence product selections - read why you should trust us