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From A to B for Cheap!

By Sarah

Updated 15 Jul 2014

Using a sat-nav to get from A-to-B is now the rule rather than the exception, and they make great presents for the directionless!

We've researched some of the cheapest and best-value sat-navs on the market to help point you in the right direction. There's also a section on handy apps for smartphones, which could mean you don't need to buy a sat-nav at all.

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Full DOs and DONT's

Cheapest sat-navs


Garmin Nuvi 42, £60

Cheapest Garmin

As a big player in the sat-nav market, Garmin models usually come with a hefty price tag, but Halfords* is selling the Nuvi 42 for £59.99, with free click & collect.

It's preloaded with UK and Ireland maps, and the lane assistance feature, combined with spoken street names, means you can listen for when you have to turn, without taking your eyes off the road.

Key features

  • 4.3" touchscreen
  • UK & Ireland maps
  • Spoken street names
  • Junction view
  • Speed limit indicator
  • Lane guidance

TomTom Start 20, £69

Cheapest TomTom

Currently cheapest at Tesco*, the TomTom Start 20 includes UK and Ireland mapping for £69. Delivery's £3, or free if you click and collect.

It has all you'd expect from a TomTom, including lane guidance, spoken street names and fixed speed camera notifications. TomTom's IQ Routes feature also uses speed data from other users to calculate your travel time.

If you don't mind a refurbished TomTom it's also worth browsing the TomTom outlet store, which can offer some decent discounts off standard prices.

Key features

  • 4.3" touchscreen
  • UK & ROI maps
  • Speed camera alerts
  • Lane guidance
  • Travel time calculator
  • Parking assistance
  • Free lifetime maps

Free sat-nav apps for smartphones

If you've got a smartphone (with a decent screen), it's possible to use this as a sat-nav, so you can avoid buying a separate product.

Apps can vary in price, from free to about £50, but if you're going to pay this much for an app it's probably wiser to buy a separate sat-nav. The downside to using apps over maps is that the large files could take up a lot of your phone's memory, and if your screen's not big enough you may not be able to see where you're going anyway. It also uses a lot of battery as it sends a constant GBS signal back and forth and some require internet connection.

If you're going down this route, below are some of the top free apps for iPhones and Android phones


Navmii GPS UK & ROI

Available for iPhone, Android and Blackberry

What is Navmii? Navmii (previously called Navfree) is a completely free route planner app with no ongoing charges. It's based on crowd sourced map data from the Open Street Map service.

How does it work? Search by exact address or postcode, do a simple "Point Of Interest" (POI) search, or connect to Google/Bing to find information about the local area (you'll need a data connection). Then plan your route.

Pros: All maps are downloaded and stored on your phone when you first install it, so can be used whenever needed without a wi-fi or 3G connection (perfect if you're driving around). As you can browse, plan and access routes anywhere without having to pay for data, the app's handy when abroad (there are a number of free versions of this app for different countries/areas).

Cons: Because all on-board maps are stored on your phone, it can take a while to download. It’s a pretty hefty 557MB, so you should install via wi-fi, rather than your 3G connection. This is a one-time thing though, so once you’ve got it you’re good to go.

The app may not be that handy if you're completely lost and there are no recognisable landmarks around - if you're in a place that's that remote, you may not be able to get a 3G signal to help you find your way home!

Available for iPhone, Android and Blackberry.


Google Maps for mobile

Available for iPhone and Android

What is Google Maps? Most smartphones come with Google Maps pre-installed, but the service itself works best with devices that support Google's operating system, Android.

How does it work? The app offers free turn-by-turn directions (with voice prompts if you choose to turn them on) whether you're travelling by car, by bike or walking.

The mapping itself is like normal Google Maps, but less detailed. However, it moves fast and follows where you're going, so you can see if you're going the wrong way.

Pros: It has a simple POI search and can be integrated with other Android and Google Apps, for example, "check in" wherever you are to let your friends know you're there with Google Latitude.

Cons: This app requires a constant data connection, so isn't that handy if you're lost in the middle of nowhere and can't get a 3G signal. Also, the "navigation" aspect is still being tested, so may not always be accurate.

Available for iPhone and Android.


Waze GPS & social traffic app

Available for iPhone, Android and Blackberry

What is Waze? Waze is a free GPS and social traffic app, available on iPhones, Androids and Blackberrys.

How does it work? Powered completely by its users, you can build and use live maps, real-time traffic updates and turn-by-turn navigation to improve your daily commute.

Pros: Once your route's planned, should other "Wazers" report any traffic jams, road works etc, you'll automatically be re-routed based on live road conditions.

Cons: While it's free to download, unlike Navfree it needs a constant data connection to work. Reviews also suggest that the Blackberry version has flaws. When we tested it on a Blackberry, we couldn't get it to connect properly.

Available for iPhone, Android and Blackberry.

Jargon Busters

To choose the sat-nav that's right for you, make sure you understand the technical terms.

Jargon Explanation
3D views 3D maps show you an angled view of your route. 2D maps show you an overhead view, like a traditional paper map. Some people find that 3D views are easier to follow, but it's worth trying out a few sat-navs in store to find out what works best for you.
Free lifetime maps Your sat-nav's manufacturer will offer free updates for the lifetime of the device. It's worth checking however, what it considers a lifetime to be. TomTom says this is 'the period of time that TomTom continues to support your device with software updates, services, content or accessories', so the length of time could vary for different brands.
Lane guidance If you're driving on a busy motorway, lane guidance will help you get into the right lane for your route.
Parking assistance Your sat nav will show you the nearest car parks to your destination.
Points of interest Your sat nav will display locations that may be of interest to you eg, petrol stations, railway stations, hospitals and restaurants.
Speed camera alerts

Your sat-nav will alert you when fixed speed cameras are coming up. Some models are able to detect mobile cameras too.

Speed limit indicator Your sat-nav will display the speed limit on the screen, and alert you if your speed goes over the limit. Be wary of this feature though - speed limits can change and it's important to watch out for road signs rather than just rely on your sat-nav.
Spoken street names Rather than just telling you to 'turn left in 100 yards', the sat-nav will give you the exact street name. This means you don't need to look at the screen to know which road to turn onto.

How to complain

If you're not happy about your product or the service you receive, you should first contact the retailer in person, by phone, or in writing. However, if you're still not satisfied, then...

Free tool if you’re having a problem

This tool helps you draft your complaint and manage it too. It’s totally free, and offered by a firm called Resolver which we like so much we work with it to help people get complaints justice.

If the complaint isn't resolved, Resolver will automatically escalate it for free to the relevant ombudsman or trade body.

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