When I last traveled to California to visit family, we trekked in a rented large SUV or minivan type of vehicle from Orange County to Lake Tahoe. To help us along the way, my mother purchased a TomTom, a portable GPS navigation device.
Years ago, TripTiks from AAA would have been sufficient for my family. We used them religiously in planning long trips. With Google Maps and a combination of free online services, the TripTik became obsolete. Navigation devices won’t replace planning ahead of time, but they still provide a convenience that has been unavailable.
Money Magazine has something to say about navigation devices in their recent shopping feature. They say the factory-installed devices are too expensive and a better deal can be had with aftermarket devices.
Check out Garmin’s StreetPilot c550. It’s reliable and easy to use, and it has a built-in traffic receiver that can route you out of trouble. With its wireless speakerphone and MP3 player, it’s a good buy at $800.
A less expensive model without a traffic router (which is helpful when you’re stuck in congestion and looking for alternate routes) can be had for $600. That’s a savings of more than $1,400 off the typical dealer price.
What I like about the TomTom mentioned above is that you can purchase voices to personalize your driving experience. My favorite is, without a doubt, John Cleese. The New York cabbie doesn’t sound like any taxi driver I’ve ever encountered in the city.
Updated February 6, 2012 and originally published August 18, 2006. If you enjoyed this article, subscribe to the RSS feed or receive daily emails. Follow @ConsumerismComm on Twitter and visit our Facebook page for more updates.