GPS Reviews You Can Trust: Which is the Best GPS for Car Trips? Garmin or TomTom or Magellan?

When you’re in the middle of nowhere and relying solely on your GPS to guide you, the importance of having the best car navigation system you can buy becomes crystal clear. Outdated maps or being taken down sketchy roads just don’t cut it.

Ever since the U.S. Defense Department created the Global Positioning System (GPS) and opened it up for civilian use in the 1990s, car navigation systems have been booming. Being able to map your position and get exact voice directions from point A to point B has been a much-welcomed improvement over paper maps.

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TomTom Vs Garmin Vs Magellan – GPS Comparison

Anyone that used a GPS in the early days of development knows the panic of ending up lost or having the GPS tell you it doesn’t know the address you’re trying to map to find. However, these satellite navigation systems have come a long way over the last two decades, adding enhancements like real-time traffic alerts and smartphone integration.

How do you know which is the best GPS for you? Which one is going to give you reliable maps that know all corners of the country (or world) and last more than a few years before they’re no longer supported?

We’re taking a look at TomTom vs Garmin vs Magellan to do a head-to-head GPS comparison on these three popular brands.  We’ll look at pricing, features, and GPS reviews for each one.

Is Garmin navigation better than TomTom navigation? Does Magellan offer better choices or too many? Which is the best GPS for car trips internationally? We’ll take an in-depth look at Magellan vs Garmin vs TomTom, so you have everything you need to know to make an informed decision on your next GPS purchase.

See Also: Best GPS Navigation? Garmin DriveSmart Review

Comparison Review List

The list below is sorted alphabetically (click any of the names below to go directly to the detailed review section):

  • Garmin
  • Magellan
  • TomTom

High Level Comparison Table

GPS Review FeaturesGarminMagellanTomTom
GPS Price Range$169.99-$349.99$89.99-$229.99$159.99-$249.99
Company Founded198919861991
Lifetime Map UpdatesYesYesYes
Number of Current Models for Cars3195

Table: The above list is sorted alphabetically

AdvisoryHQ News GPS Reviews | What Should You Look for in the Best GPS for Cars?

There’s more that goes into the best GPS for cars than just a map with voice navigation. Perks like being able to use your phone hands-free through a GPS or Wi-Fi enabled map downloads can make all the difference in a TomTom vs Garmin vs Magellan GPS comparison.

Wondering what features you should look for when shopping for the best car navigation systems? We’ve got a list of the things you’ll definitely want to consider before you buy.

Screen Size

Standard screen sizes for GPS navigation systems are:

  • 5-inch
  • 6-inch
  • 7-inch

Too small a screen, and you’re straining to see where you are (while trying to drive), too large, and there might not be a good place on your dashboard for the unit to fit. When comparing Magellan vs TomTom vs Garmin GPS systems, here’s a tip to help you know what screen size you’re dealing with.

Some GPS models will have model numbers that start with a 5, 6, or 7. That number typically indicates the screen size. For example, if you’re trying to decide between one of the TomTom navigation systems, they offer a TomTom Go 520 (5” screen) and TomTom Go 620 (6” display).

But you still will want to read the specs, because occasionally they can throw you a curveball with a slightly larger screen than expected. Such as the Garmin navigation units Garmin DriveSmart 51 (5” screen) and Garmin DriveSmart 61 (6.95” screen).

Real-Time Traffic Data

If you only use your GPS for trips when you don’t know where you’re going, then getting real-time traffic alerts for accidents might not be as important of a feature in a GPS comparison. However, if you use your GPS every day and rely on it to route you around backed up traffic, then getting real-time traffic details is going to be very important in deciding between TomTom vs Garmin vs Magellan.

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GPS Comparison Review

Voice Inputs & Hands-Free Calling

Having to input an address by hand while you’re trying to drive can be dangerous. Units with voice command capability make it much easier to switch addresses on the fly.

When looking at the models between Garmin vs TomTom vs Magellan, you’ll also want to pay close attention to the capability of pairing with your smartphone. Smartphone integration allows you to receive calls, texts, and alerts from your phone on your GPS screen. Very handy!

Updated Maps & Route Reliability

One of the most important features of a device that is giving you driving directions is that it’s accurate and reliable. Here’s where user GPS reviews for each brand come in handy because they give you a feel for whether routes are helpful or confusing and how easy the map update process is.

Whether you’re choosing Garmin or TomTom or Magellan, the maps and route reliability is key, as well as how long they continue allowing your unit to get map updates. If they cut off the “lifetime map updates” they promise, that could greatly reduce the usable lifespan of your GPS.

Other Features

Some of the other features people look for when asking, “Which is the best GPS?” include things that are helpful and things that are just cool. Here are some of the other considerations in a GPS comparison:

  • 3D map view
  • Built-in MP3 player
  • Digital picture viewer
  • Integration with driver cam
  • Lane & driver assist
  • Points of interest details

Now let’s get into the GPS reviews for each of these three popular satellite navigation brands and look at TomTom vs Garmin vs Magellan.

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Garmin Review

Garmin Ltd. is headquartered in Olathe, Kansas, and has 60 offices throughout the world. Their Garmin navigation technology is used in the automotive, aviation, marine, outdoor, and fitness markets.

When comparing the international capabilities of Magellan vs Garmin vs TomTom, Garmin may be based in the U.S. Still, they also have international divisions, with Garmin (Europe) Ltd. in the UK and Garmin (Asia) Corporation in Taiwan.

Garmin Navigation | Car Models & Prices:

  • Garmin Drive™ 51/61 – $99.99 to $199.99
  • Garmin DriveSmart™ 51 LMT-S/61 LMT-S – $149.99 to $199.99
  • Garmin DriveAssist™ 51 LMT-S – $249.99

Garmin GPS Reviews

How does Garmin rate with reviewers as one of the best car navigation systems? We’ve pulled some highlights for you from both positive and negative reviews for the Garmin navigation units.

Positive GPS Reviews for Garmin:

  • The driver alerts about school zones and speed cameras are beneficial
  • The Garmin navigation unit is very easy to use & has a good display
  • Knowing what lane to be in is a great feature, this GPS is a good value

Negative GPS Reviews for Garmin:

  • The smartphone Bluetooth doesn’t automatically connect every time
  • Map updates take a long time to download
  • It doesn’t always choose the best road and isn’t intuitive

Garmin Navigation System Summary

Is Garmin the best GPS for car trips? How is the TomTom vs Garmin vs Magellan price comparison?

When it comes to price, all three brands have models in the same price ranges. TomTom vs Garmin GPS prices are fairly similar, although Garmin’s entry-level Garmin Drive model comes in slightly less than TomTom’s lowest-priced model.

The biggest issue people mention in Garmin GPS reviews is that it doesn’t always pick the best roads or routes. The map updates can also take about an hour, according to one reviewer, and were cumbersome.

Overall, however, if you’re wondering which is the best GPS, Garmin gets high scores from reviews at Best Buy and Walmart, coming in at more than 4 out of 5 stars consistently.

While they have the least number of active models being advertised, with seven options, some people find fewer is easier than looking through tons of GPS models to find the best GPS for car trips.

Magellan Review

If you’re looking for a company with lots more GPS models to choose from, then you won’t be disappointed with Magellan. This San Dimas, California company is also known as MiTAC Digital Corporation.

Comparing longevity between Magellan vs Garmin vs TomTom, Magellan is the oldest company. They also have an international reach, with locations in Taiwan, Belgium, UK, China, and Japan.

Magellan Navigation | Car Models & Prices:

  • Magellan Roadmate 2620-LM – $89.99
  • Magellan Roadmate 5625-LM – $99.99
  • Magellan Roadmate 2520-LM – $119.99
  • Magellan Roadmate 2622-LM – $129.99
  • Magellan Roadmate 2632T-LM – $139.99
  • Magellan Roadmate 5630T-LM – $149.99
  • Magellan Roadmate 5635T-LM – $149.99
  • Magellan Roadmate 5520T-LM – $159.99
  • Magellan Roadmate 5330T-LM – $159.99
  • Magellan Roadmate 9412T-LM – $189.99
  • Magellan Roadmate 9612T-LM – $189.99
  • Magellan Roadmate 6615-LM – $199.99
  • Magellan Roadmate 6620-LM – $199.99
  • Magellan Roadmate 6630T-LM – $229.99

Magellan GPS Reviews

Does Magellan do better in Garmin vs TomTom vs Magellan reviews? Let’s find out what drivers have to say about Magellan’s GPS systems.

Positive GPS Reviews for Magellan:

  • Worked very well when driving from the US to Canada and back
  • Easy to use and the speed warning feature is helpful
  • Great price and excellent value for a GPS

Negative GPS Reviews for Magellan:

  • The route highlight is hard to distinguish from the regular map
  • Used it once and it stopped working and the charger got very hot
  • The maps aren’t always accurate and right and left are sometimes off

Magellan Navigation System Summary

If you like a bargain and are always shopping for the lowest price, then in a matchup between Garmin vs TomTom vs Magellan GPS, you’ll really like Magellan’s lowest-priced unit, which one reviewer mentioned getting on sale for less than $70.

But the old adage, “You get what you pay for,” might possibly come in to play, because several negative GPS reviews for Magellan mentioned the units stopped working suddenly and not lasting very long.

In star ratings, Magellan gets pretty good scores, just slightly less than Garmin, but still in the 3.7 and higher range (out of 5).

If you look over the Magellan site, you can see they have a GPS for just about every vehicle, including commercial fleets, RVs, and more. So, no matter what you’re driving, you’re likely to find a sat-nav system made just for that vehicle.

And if you like multiple options to choose from, they’ve got the most extensive selection by far, so you can do a GPS comparison to your heart’s content to find the one that fits your lifestyle perfectly.

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TomTom Review

Unlike Garmin and Magellan, TomTom is based internationally. Their headquarters are in Amsterdam, Netherlands. They also have a pretty big international footprint with 56 offices in 37 countries.

Mapping technology is a big part of what TomTom does. In addition to TomTom navigation GPS units, they also sell sports & fitness watches, action cameras, and fleet management systems.

TomTom Navigation | Car Models & Prices:

  • TomTom VIA 1425M/1525M/1625M – $129.99 to $149.99
  • TomTom VIA 1525M/1625M – $149.99 t0 $169.99
  • TomTom Go 52 – $179.99
  • TomTom Go 520/620 – $199.99 to $249.99

TomTom GPS Reviews

Should you get a Garmin or TomTom or Magellan? Here are some user reviews about TomTom to help you answer the question, “Which is the best GPS?”.

Positive GPS Reviews for TomTom:

  • The 52 is the best model ever; the traffic information is very reliable
  • Recalculations are fast, so you aren’t left hanging if you’ve taken a wrong turn
  • The TomTom navigation unit is very easy to update, it’s a great value for the money

Negative GPS Reviews for TomTom:

  • The phone pairing and voice to text commands don’t always work
  • Once models aren’t supported anymore, they don’t get the “lifetime” maps as advertised
  • Directions can be spotty; we ended up on a private dirt road

TomTom Navigation System Summary

Looking at TomTom vs Garmin GPS prices, their high-end units are priced similarly, but for the lowest price unit, TomTom’s is the most expensive. This company’s models’ options are similar to Garmin, 8 current models.

The biggest complaint we found was with the lack of lifetime updates for models that are no longer supported. There were fewer complaints about spotty directions than for Magellan vs Garmin reviews.

Their GPS reviewer scores at retailers like Walmart and Best Buy are similar to Garmin, typically 4 stars out of 5 or higher.

When it comes to comparing TomTom vs Garmin vs Magellan map updates, TomTom gets a lot of praise from users for easy map updates, as long as the unit is still new enough to be supported.

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AdvisoryHQ Review Conclusion | TomTom Vs Garmin Vs Magellan

Which is the best GPS for car drivers, Garmin or TomTom or Magellan? All three brands are highly respected and get similar scores from drivers for their GPS systems, though there are some differentiators that can help you decide between them.

If you want the lowest price and like lots of options to choose from, then Magellan is going to be the brand you gravitate to. Their lowest price unit is less than $90 (or lower if you get it on sale). They also have multiple models with varying screen sizes and features to pick from.

The negative is that the unit may unexpectedly stop working, according to multiple reviewers.

If you’re not a fan of Magellan, should you choose Garmin or TomTom? These two are pretty close in price and features, so it’s a pretty even toss-up.

When comparing TomTom vs Garmin GPS, Garmin gets more complaints about bad directions, and TomTom users with older units are unhappy about their models getting cut off from map updates.

When it comes to ease of updates, TomTom wins out, with compliments on the quick and easy map updates, Garmin and Magellan don’t get quite as many kudos in that area.

You’ll be spending quality time with your GPS, whether you use it every day or just on special trips, so you want to make sure you’ve chosen the best GPS for your car and your lifestyle. All three of these brands, Garmin, Magellan, and TomTom can get you where you’re going and offer some great options along the way.

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