Is GPS Service Free?

Yes! Once you purchase a GPS navigation system, there are never any monthly fees to pay. If you buy a GPS that has additional features, such as real-time traffic monitoring services, there may be a subscription fee.

How does a GPS work?

We explain this a much more in our GPS Buyers Guide.

How does real-time traffic monitoring work? Will a traffic-ready GPS reroute you around traffic jams?

GPS Navigation Systems equipped with real-time traffic monitor live traffic conditions and will allow you to avoid traffic jams by rerouting around them. These units use an optional antenna to receive live traffic updates. Garmin’s units receive traffic updates via FM radio (Streetpilot C340, StreetPilot 2720 and nüvi 350)or via XM Satellite Radio (Streetpilot 2730, StreetPilot 7200 and StreetPilot 7500). TomTom’s traffic-equipped units (such as the Go 700) use TomTom’s “Plus” service and require a compatible bluetooth-enabled GPRS-equipped cell phone to work in conjunction with the GPS. A monthly subscription fee is required for traffic services. Note that the navigation features of these units work just fine without subscribing to live traffic/weather..

Will the GPS get you back on track if you make a wrong turn or miss a turn? Will it automatically recalculate your route?

All of the vehicle GPS units we’ve reviewed will automatically recalculate your route if you miss a turn or make a wrong turn — and trust us, you will. Fortunately, the recalculation is fast and automatic. Once the unit detects that you’ve departed from the original route, it recalculates the route and provides you with new instructions within seconds.

I’m interested in a particular GPS unit but can’t find it on your site. Why?

There are a few possibilities. First, make sure you’ve used our search tools. On the left of each page you’ll find a navigation bar that allows you to browse GPS units by type (vehicle, handheld, etc.) or by manufacturer (Garmin, Magellan, etc.). You can also type in a search term near the top of each page. If you still can’t find it, it’s possible that we did not include it because it earned less than a 4-star rating. The Rated4Stars site only lists those units with a rating of 4 stars or better. If it’s a relatively new model, we may still be in the process of reviewing it. Since we incorporate and consolidate editorial and owner reviews from many sources, it usually takes us a bit longer than other sites to post our product reviews. Finally, perhaps it’s a model we don’t know about. If you think that might be the case, please feel free to let us know about it.

What is WAAS?

Under normal conditions, a GPS is can calculate your position accurately within about 15 meters. Newer GPS receivers can take advantage of WAAS (Wide Area Augmentation System), a system of satellites and ground-based stations that provide GPS signal corrections, improving GPS accuracy up to five times. A WAAS-enabled receiver can provide accuracy to within 3 to 5 meters. There is no subscription fee to use WAAS.

Which GPS system would be the best if you need to visit 10 to 15 locations in a day and you’d like the unit map out the best way to visit all of them in one trip?

The feature you’re looking for is called “multi-destination routing.” This feature is especially popular with realtors, sales or delivery professionals with many destinations to cover through the day. At the beginning of the day, enter the addresses of all the stops you need to make, and the GPS will automatically calculate the optimal route to get you to all your locations most efficiently and provide you with turn-by-turn directions to all of them, a real time saving feature. Some of the units that include multi-destination routing are: Garmin StreetPilot 2720, Garmin nüvi 350, Magellan RoadMate 760.

Will my GPS work overseas?

Since GPS units use satellite signals to navigate, your GPS will work virtually anywhere in the world as long as there is a clear view of the sky. The real question here is whether your GPS can be loaded with (or already includes) base maps for the region you’re heading to. The major GPS brands (Garmin, Magellan, Thales/Magellan) typically sell their units with base maps for the areas where they’re sold. For example, if you buy a Garmin vehicle GPS in North America, it will usually come pre-loaded with maps for North America (or include a separate DVD with those maps that you can load with your computer). If you’re traveling to Europe, chances are you can purchase the maps you need from the manufacturer, load them onto your GPS, and get the same turn-by-turn directions you count on domestically. Check with your manufacturer (see contact information below) to see what maps are available for your unit. Note that additional services, such as traffic and weather, may not function overseas with your domestic subscription. Again, check with your manufacturer.

I need technical support with my GPS — can you help?

Unfortunately no. Rated4Stars.com only provides reviews, ratings information and purchasing advice. If you have a technical question or if your unit needs repair, please contact your unit’s manufacturer. We’ve provided a list of manufacturers and contact information below.

How do I return my GPS?

If you purchased a GPS using the links on our site, then you purchased your GPS through Amazon.com, our affiliate merchant. Simply visit Amazon’s site and follow their instructions. To contact Amazon directly, you can email them using this link (you’ll have to sign into Amazon first): http://www.amazon.com/gp/help/contact-us/general-questions.html/104-5109607-1207101

Why don’t you display the prices of the GPS units on your site?

To purchase or check the price of an item on our web site, click on the “Buy from Amazon” button. This will automatically add the item to your cart and display the price. (You can always remove the item if you decide you don’t want to purchase it.) We are an associate of Amazon.com and as such we have no control over the prices that Amazon charges, price changes, sales, inventory, etc. On certain products, prices can vary from day to day (and/or from seller to seller if the item is sold by third-party sellers). For these reasons, we do not display prices of most items on our site, nor do we have a “price list” available.

In most cases, you’ll get the best price from Amazon. However, we believe that you need to look at both the price of the product and the reputation of the merchant. In addition to doing your shopping homework for you on the products we feature, we also choose from hundreds of merchants to match each product with the merchant that provides both a highly competitive price and a track record for reliable and responsive customer service. We strongly believe our customers need both of these qualities from a merchant. Our affiliate merchants include Amazon and other reputable companies with exemplary customer service records. You can buy through our site with confidence, knowing you’ll get a great price and quality customer service should you have any problems or need to return or exchange your merchandise. Amazon received the highest marks for price, selection and service for electronics according to a consumer advocacy group survey, outranking all “brick and mortar” stores, including Best Buy and Circuit City.

I am looking for a vehicle navigation system that can also be used outside the car, any ideas?

You actually have many choices. It really depends on what you’ll be using it for most. You can start by looking at our Multi-Purpose GPS Units page where you’ll find GPS units that provide turn-by-turn directions in the car and can also double as a handheld.If you think you’ll be primarily sticking to roads and sidewalks (and perhaps traveling internationally), the Garmin nüvi is a top-end choice and is receiving sterling reviews. The TomTom Navigator 5 Bluetooth GPS is another good choice for “roads and sidewalks” if you want to use your own PDA (Palm, Pocket PC) as a GPS. If you’ll principally be in the car but hitting the trail from time to time, the Garmin Quest and Quest II are small and versatile. You could also pick a unit like the Garmin iQue M5 Integrated Pocket PC and GPS to combine an in-car and handheld GPS with a Pocket PC PDA. If you think you’ll be spending lots of time in the backcountry or on a boat, the Garmin GPSMap 60CS is a top choice.

Will it work with a Mac?

Setup and mapping software for GPS units manufactured by Garmin (including MapSource software), Thales/Magellan (including Mapsend software), and Lowrance (including MapCreate and GDM-16 software) is not compatible with Apple Macintosh computers. Garmin indicates that third-party applications, such as Virtual PC (that allows a Macintosh to emulate a Windows PC) can be used to run some of its software. Newer Intel-based Macintosh computers provide even more options for running Windows applications.TomTom’s setup software for the TomTom GO and TomTom Navigator 5 is compatible with the Apple Macintosh.If you have additional questions, we recommend that you contact the manufacturer directly.

I am looking for system that will route my 12 ft. high motor home and provide warning of low overpasses or tunnels or other obstructions.

There is no way for any of the GPS systems we’ve reviewed (or heard of) to guarantee that you will avoid low overpasses, tunnels or other obstructions. There are several ways that in-vehicle systems, especially by Garmin, can help you stay on roads meant for trucks and large vehicles and decrease the chances of encountering an obstruction, but you’ll need to remain vigilant and pay attention to warning signs to make sure you steer clear of such hazards. According to Garmin regarding routes calculated for trucks, “the highways database does not have any information on bridge heights. As such, it will not route using that type of information.

Garmin’s line of in-vehicle GPS Navigation Systems, including the StreetPilot 2720 and the Streetpilot 7200 (which is built especially for RVs and trucks) provide three ways to keep you off roads that might present a problem:

    • Some roads have vehicle-based restrictions. For example, a street or gate may be

      accessible by emergency vehicles only, or a residential street may not allow commercial trucking traffic. By specifying which vehicle type you are driving, you can avoid being routed through an area that is prohibited for your type of vehicle. Likewise, the StreetPilot III may give you access to roads or turns that wouldn’t be available to normal traffic. The following options are available:

      • Car/Motorcycle

      • Truck (large semi-tractor/trailer)

      • Bus

      • Emergency (ambulance, fire department, police, etc.)

      • Taxi

      • Delivery (delivery vehicles)

      • Bicycle (avoids routing through interstates and major highways)

      • Pedestrian

      Lets you avoid certain things that may be undesirable on your route.

      • U-Turns: if checked, the StreetPilot III will not direct you to make a U-turn unless absolutely


      • Toll Roads: if checked, the StreetPilot III will avoid entering toll roads, but will still do so if the other alternatives take you too far out of your way.

      • Highways: if checked, the StreetPilot III will avoid routing you through interstates and major highways, but will still do so if the other alternatives take you too far out of your way

  • 1. Set “Vehicle Type”

    By telling the GPS the kind of vehicle you are driving, it will choose your route differently. Vehicle choices vary among GPS models. The most complete description of how this works is listed below, taken from the StreetPilot III user manual (page 46):

    2. Select “Avoidances”

    This feature allows you to tell the GPS to avoid certain places or actions when calculating your route. Again, from the StreetPilot III manual:

    3. POI Loader

    The newer Garmin systems include the ability to load custom Points of Interest (POIs). Such points can be anything, including traffic cameras, tunnel entrances, overpasses, etc. If you had information on the location of obstructions you wanted to avoid, you could load them into your GPS and configure an alarm to sound if you are within a certain distance.

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