With prices starting at £39.99 for rising all the way up to £399.99 for a top of the range Sat Nav it can be a really hard decision to choose the best sat nav from all the available unit across the market. In this review, we're looking at the best satnav's in 2018 and trying to make a decision which you should be buying and which you should leave in the shop.
Over the last five years that we have been running this website, we have tested literally hundreds of different models and designs. Of all the units that we have tested, it's still the brand named sat nav devices that offer the best best value for money. If you choose correctly they should last you a good few years before you need to update with a newer model.
Yes you can get a cheap sat nav off the internet, however often these units either break quickly, have maps that are out of date within a few months or have a selection of fantastic features that honestly you will use once and then get bored. Brand Named Satellite Navigators typically cost more, however they have been tried and tested over the years. When you buy a brand named sat nav unit, you can be sure that you're buying a quality product that will continue to work for the foreseeable future no-matter whether the roads are changed or not.
What SatNav Should You Buy
We said this exact same thing earlier it in the year, however the market has moved on again and is offering some major flexibility to the best sat navs on the market. Gone are the days when you only had a choice of one or two different designs, in this market you can now choose up to four different designs within the same model.
We have still have our two favourite manufactures who have both brought out new models, however the changes between those models and the previous models are pretty slim. Rather than being new models, I would suggest they more more updated models of the previous design.
The Best Sat Nav 2018
If you don't want to read the whole review and simply want to know what we thought was the best sat nav in 2018 in the UK, the check out the Garmin DriveSmart 61LMT-D. It's a fantastic satnav that comes with everything you need to drive from point A to point B quickly and easily without getting stuck in traffic. There might be better navigators on the market, but there are none that offer the value-for-money of the DriveSmart. We specifically like the 6.95-Inch screen whilst having the same total dimensions of a standard 6-Inch device thanks to the edge-to-edge design. The maps and directions have not improved much from previous models, but what has improved is the overall performance which is now hard to beat. As with all Garmin's your getting free lifetime map updates, free traffic alerts and if you connect it to your smartphone, hands-free calling and live drivers information. One point that is new this year is the TripAdvisor feature allowing you to view places of interest along your route whilst reading reviews from TripAdvisor from people who have been before. Overall a cracking device that is well worth the price.
2018 Sat Nav Updates
Over the last year the sat nav market has moved on considerably with the introduction of many new and improved sat nav units from new and old manufactures. Whilst we have tested a selection, the biggest problem we had, we still keep coming back to are top two brand names being TomTom and Garmin.
At the beginning of 2017, TomTom updated their range of satnav units with both improvements and new models. The TomTom GO 6100 which you can read the review here, became the TomTom GO 6200 and the GO 610 became the 620. The difference between new and old, not much. The GO 6200 still has a crazy price tag and includes traffic alerts, whilst the GO620 has a decent price tag, but again no traffic alerts which you can get for free on the Garmin. The good news for TomTom lover's, there is now a great new TomTom VIA53 which you can read the full review here which finally does compete with the best Garmin's across the market. The VIA53 comes with a 5-inch screen, map and traffic updates for the life of the unit, however you still need to pay extra for things like speed camera alerts.
The big news from Garmin, gone is the 6-inch screen size on the new 51/61LMT as this range that we do like now only comes with a 5-inch screen and a 6.95-Inch screen. The other big change within the range of satnav's, you now have the choice of whether you want your satnav to be powered via Satellites or Digitally. The LMT-S range is powered via satellites whilst the LMT-D range is powered digitally. The is a substantial difference in price with the Digital versions being much more expensive, however in certain situations they are far better.
During our test's of the new range, when driving in the city there is very little difference between the two models, however the key difference comes when you start driving in the countryside. The key problem with a satnav that is powered by satelittes is that the unit needs to be in contact with satelites and often in the countryside, mountains ranges or dense forages block the signals and you loose connection. The digital version does not have this problem and therefore if you're going to spend the majority of your time in the countryside, I would highly recommend that you spend the extra and buy the digital version.
The 2018 Sat Nav Range
Sat Nav Unit
Free Map Updates
Free Traffic Alerts
Garmin DriveLuxe 51LMT-S
Garmin DriveSmart 61LMT-D
Great Value For Money SatNav
Garmin DriveAssist 51LMT-D
You're never going to use that camera
Garmin Drive 51/61
Basic Design, Cheap Price
Value For Money, No 6-Inch screen
TomTom Start 42/52/62
4, 5, 6-Inch
Basic Design, Cheap Price
TomTom GO 520/620
No Traffic Alerts
TomTom GO 5200/6200
Love it, but its getting old now
Love it, but its getting old now
TomTom Vs Garmin
The TomTom Vs Garmin sat nav conversation still remains the same. There are many people across the market who feel that TomTom sat nav's the easily the best sat nav's on the market in the UK, whereas other feel the Garmin's are the better. Over the last few years, we've seen TomTom really close up to Garmin in their performance. The difference in performance is really not measurable, however there is still a difference in price with the TomTom's being more expensive to buy and some of the TomTom units require you to be connected to your smartphone to use the traffic alerts.
We do really like the new TomTom VIA 53 sat nav, however I still feel the 5-inch screen is too small to really see directions. When you're using a 5-inch screen there are so many times when you wish there was a little more information on the screen to see whats coming ahead and when the satnav switches to a dual screen mode, you simply cannot see enough road information.
Garmin have updated there range of satnavs. There is still the DriveLuxe which is a fantastic satnav, but uses a 5-inch screen and with a price tag over £300, does not offer value for money. The DriveAssist is another great satnav and comes with comes with an in-built dash cam that records wants in front of you and offers a range of features that help keep your driving safe from Forward collision to lane departure and fatigue warnings. The DriveAssist is a great sat nav unit and if you can reduce your car insurance by using this sat unit then we can see the added benefit, however again very often we don't always use our sat nav.
The Garmin Drive is the basic model and quite frankly should be the best car satnav 2018 as it comes with everything you need, however the one thing that drives me crazy, you need to update the unit whilst being attached to a computer. I have a computer and therefore could update it, however I know lots of people that don't have a computer and therefore will struggle to keep their satnav up-to-date with the latest maps. This leave the Garmin DriveSmart as the best car satnav in 2018.
Why The Garmin 61LMT-D The Best Sat Nav
So what's our Top Sat Nav Unit for your car in the UK for 2018? If I am honest, I still really like our 2016 top sat nav model the Garmin 2797LMT and given the fact that this model is now a couple of years old, the price has come down considerably. Garmin has free lifetime updates on maps and traffic and whilst the market has moved on, even if you bought this model today, you would still get a good few years life before the updates became too much for the unit to handle.
That all said, the all new 2017 Garmin 61LMT-D is firmly the best sat nav across the market today. We love the new design with the edge-to-edge screen meaning that whilst you're getting 6.95-inch screen, actually the 61LMT is no bigger as a unit than the out going 60LMT. Personally I would also be buying the digital "D" version of the sat nav as whilst it's more expensive, the performance is better when you start getting out into the countryside or driving internationally. The "S" version is still a fantastic sat nav and if you're only driving in the city centers will be perfect for you.
Whilst there some great driving features such as driver alerts and bluetooth, there are also a few new gimmicks such as the ability to connect your satnav to your Garmin watch so you know where you've parked, however what we really like about this model is the ability to update the unit over WiFi and the all new TripAdvisor concept allowing you to view ratings for travel points of interest along your route from the world largest travel site directly to your car.
Sat Nav Reviews
Garmin DriveSmart 61LMT-D
The Garmin DriveSmart 61LMT--D is Garmin's all new sat nav device and comes with a range of new features and upgrades that help to giver users a better experience. Whilst our favourite model is the DriveSmart 61LMT-D which comes with a 6.95-Inch edge-to-edge screen, the range a 51LMT with a five inch screen, and the choice of your unit being powered via Satelittes "S" or digitally "D". We have tested the DriveSmart extensively over the last few months and whilst the screen, menu interface, maps and directions have only been slightly improved, what has really improved is the overall experience.
In the past the pinch and zoom screen sometimes did not work as expected meaning that you either zoomed in too far, or no enough, however this has been drastically improved to the point where it works better than the best smartphones. The screen has also been improved to make it more crystal clear and whereas with some older models, you needed to use a sun shade when you were driving in direct sunlight, the DriveSmart does not need this.
The DriveSmart comes with full integrated maps that include both traffic alerts and for the first time, speed camera alerts to help you know where the fixed speed cameras are located. In the past traffic alerts worked well, but we often found there was limited choice with alternative routes and unless it was a major traffic jam, the traffic alerts did not really work. This new model with it's updated traffic alerts works fantastically well and we have seen massive improvements in this area. The speed cameras work well, but remember, the unit only knows about fixed speed camera points and cannot detect movable speed cameras.
Alerts have also been improved with the sat nav alerting you to road speed changes, forthcoming sharp curves, school zones and one way roads. Overall, we love the DriveSmart 61LMT, we love the upgrades and new features and most importantly, we love the price tag that makes the 61LMT our best sat nav of 2017. If you're looking for sat nav to take on holiday this summer, the DriveSmart will look after you and allow you not to get lost, or more importantly not to get stuck in traffic.
TomTom VIA 53
The TomTom VIA 53 is the all new 2017 TomTom navigator that has been designed to enable TomTom to compete with Garmin's dominance across this market place. In the past TomTom have always had the problem that if you wanted traffic updates, you either had to pay a premium for your sat nav and connect it to your smartphone or go with out. The VIA 53 solves this problem given it comes with both free lifetime map updates and free traffic alters. Overall its a fantastic sat nav, however it still has a few problems that we don't much like with the key problem that it only comes with a 5-inch screen that we feel is too small for everyday use. That said, for TomTom lovers, it's the go-to sat nav.
The VIA 53 comes with a standard 5-inch Pinch, zoom or swipe interactive screen which is both crystal clear and performs very well in direct sunlight or low light conditions. Unlike previous TomTom's the pinch and zoom features work very well and are easily as good as those on your smartphone. Switching the VIA53 on, TomTom's interface quickly loads up and thanks to the all new faster processor built into the VIA53, destination searches and route calculations are all much faster than ever before. What's particulary impressive is the speed the unit re-calculates a new route if you make a mistake. Typically with all satnav's there is a delay, however with the all new processor, this delay is minimal with the TomTom.
Other than the free lifetime map updates and traffic alerts, what we really like is the ability to connect your smartphone to the Sat Nav via bluetooth for hands free calling and to activate and talk to Siri or Google Now directly through the satnav. This is something we have not seen in the past and are pleased to say it works well. Updating the unit is easy given it connects to WiFi and if you have connected your device to your smartphone, you can also access live data to help you get to your destination quickly and easily.
Performance is great and its a massive step up from older TomTom satnav units, however there are still a few problems. With this model you have access to speed camera locations but only for three months, after which you need to pay extra for it. You also have access to TomTom's MyDrive which allows you to plan your route ahead of time, however its pretty difficult to use although the biggest problem we found with the VIA, you still only have access to a points of interest database, there is no trip adviser content as you get with the Garmin.
Garmin Drive 51/61 LMT-S
The Garmin Drive has been designed as the value for money option when is comes to buying a great satnav for your car. If you only want UK maps, new this model can be bought for less than £100 which is a great deal when compared with other models that cost more than triple. The downside of the Drive, it’s a bare bones satnav and therefore really only comes with direction and access to Garmin's point of interest database. There’s no Bluetooth, voice control or even built-in WiFi to update your unit, however it does come with free map updates, free traffic alerts and most importantly great step-by-step directions.
The Garmin Drive has been designed in either a 5-inch screen in the 51LMT or a 6-inch screen in the 61LMT. Personally I prefer the 61LMT with its six inch screen as it allows more detail to be seen. So often with a 5-inch screen you simply cannot see enough information up ahead for complicated junctions or where int he future you’re going to be going.
Given the Drive has been designed whilst taking into account value for money, there is no “D” / Digital option meaning that you’re stuck with satellite only, however this does not matter. During our test we could not see any notable downsides with any of the satellite versions across the range. Really i think that unless your driving through the mountains of Northern Scotland in thick dense fog, you’re unlikely to have any problems.
Whilst the drive is low on extra features, it does have access to Garmin’s all new Trip Adviser feature that allows you to read reviews on million of points of interest along your route.
Overall the Garmin Drive maybe a cheap satnav, however it’s still a great sat nav that should be taken seriously. Personally I prefer the Garmin DriveSmart as this gives the right balance between features and price, however if price is a concern, get the Drive and stop getting lost.
Garmin DriveLuxe 51LMT
The Garmin DriveLux 51 LMT is Garmin's top of the range navigator and comes with both a giant price tag and a massive list of features to help you get to your destination on time. Personally, I would not recommend that you buy the DriveLuxe as whilst it's a great sat nav with a long list of driving features, it expensive and does not offer value for money. As we discussed above, if you want the best sat nav for your car, you need to think about features that you will actually use rather than just having a long list of random driver aids that might sound great on paper, but you’re never going to use them and therefore they're a total waste of money.
The Luxe comes as standard with 5-Inch, Pinch&Zoom, high resolution touch screen that is crystal clear in both direct sunlight or low light conditions. It’s also very easy to use and navigate yourself around the map. I would go as far as saying, the pinch&zoom control on the Luxe is better, than on any other unit that i have tested in the past. The DriveLuxe 51 also comes with a choice of signal inputs with a choice of either Satellite “S” or Digital “D” inputs. The the idea is that digital signals perform better as they don’t get block in bad weather or mountain ranges, but they are substantially more expensive.
Switching on the satnav, it powers up very quickly to the menu interface where you enter your destination, check out places of interest on trip adviser whilst reading the associated reviews and even accessing live-track that connects your smartphone to your satnav for live on-street parking and prices. The is really impressive on the DriveLux and it translates into even better step-by-step directions for you to follow and maps that are packed full of information to help you get to your destination. As with all Garmin’s, the DriveLux comes with UK and European Maps (45 Countries), free lifetime of the unit map updates and free traffic alerts and updates.
If money is no object, but the DriveLuxe and you will firmly have a great satnav, however if money is a concern then I would highly recommend that you check out other models.
TomTom GO 5200 /6200
The TomTom GO 5200/6200 are the all new 2017 premium, feature packed sat nav’s from TomTom that have been designed to compete with Garmin’s Drive Luxe and offer the best TomTom navigator on the market today. It’s a great satnav, that comes packed with useful extras, but it also comes with an extra large price tag that does take a resemblance of value for money out of the equation. The 5200 / 6200 replace the out-going 5100/6100 as the premium satnav for TomTom. The range of two models comes with a 5-inch screen in the 5200 and a 6-inch screen in the 6200.
The range also contains TomTom’s all new and improved processors meaning route calculations and more importantly, re-calcualtions are very fast, however quite frankly the maps and directions have not changed that much over the last few years. They were very good and have remained very good over the years.
What has changed over the years is the techology that is included in the navigator. The TomTom GO series now comes with a built-in SIM for TomTom Traffic and other real-time services and what we really like, it’s not limited to the UK, but works internationally as well free of charge. If you connect your sat nav to your smartphone, not only do you have hands free calling, but you also have access to talk to Siri or Google Now.
On of the new features that we have not seen much of over the years and is very usefull is the ability to view speed cameras directly on your on your TomTom GO. When you come across a fixed, mobile or average speed camera the unit will alert you to the camera and remind you of your speed limit and your speed.
The downsides of the TomTom GO5200/6200? There arent many, however I dont like TomTom Drive, its difficult to use and I dont like the magnetic mount which does not support the navigator especially when you’re going on bumps. You need the take the mount off your windscreen each day otherwise you’re simply telling your local burgular each day that there is a sat nav in your car which they can steel. Overall, its a decent sat nav, but it my book not worth the money.
Garmin DriveAssist 51 LMT-D
The latest trend in driving is to use a dash-camera to record everything in-front of your car at any time. If you have a crash, its very easy to work out who was a fault and therefore who should be paying. Insurance companies love this approach and are reducing car premiums to those that use a dash-camera. Garmin have taken this approach with the DriveAssist and tacked onto your standard Garmin DriveSmart a camera that records everything infront of you. The unit can also be combined with a rear camera for full 360 degree coverage.
In principle this is a great idea and an even better sat nav. The reality is that i would highly recommend that you don’t buy the DriveAssist unless you’re driving a taxi. The problem is that I don’t always drive around with my satnav attached to my screen and switched on and therefore it will not be recording. That all said if you want both a dash-cam and a sat nav the DriveAssist is a great device.
It comes with a solid design, a 5-inch pinch&zoom, high resolution screen that provides great step-by-step directions to help you get to your destination and a selection of driving features to help you drive safely. As with all the recent Garmin’s, your device comes with free traffic updates, lifetime of the device map updates and access to trip adviser where you can look at and review places of interest along your route and read reviews about them.
As mentioned above, what separates the DriveAssist from other navigators is the ability to record using the buit-in dash cam and save that recording onto an internal memory. If you have an accident the device contains a G-Sensor that is set so any footage of impact is saved allowing to you easily play it back later.
Having a camera built into your device also allows other driving feature such as the “Go” warnings when traffic has started moving again whilst you’re in a traffic jam or the forward collision warning alerts you when you’re driving to close to the car in front.
The Garmin 2797LMT is a slightly older model back from 2015, however has a fantastic 7-Inch, bright, super clear dual-orientation screen. The screen is very good allowing you to see your directions even in direct sun-light. This unit has been designed as a dual-orientation screen meaning that you can have more than one display at any one time. This is a very useful feature of the latest sat nav models as it allows you to see your direction on one side of the screen whilst at the same time view your current speed and the road speed limit or in a difficult junction you could view an over-head image showing you the junction whilst at the same time view an animated image showing the lane that you’re meant to be in to take the correct exit
The Garmin interface and menu system is the best on the market and super easy to use straight out of the box. To enter your destination, you simple bring up the on-screen keyboard which allows you to easily enter the address of where you want to go to. Given this is a 2015 model, the sat nav comes with super fast processors that will quickly and easily calculate the quickest route for you. If you make a mistake along your route by taking a wrong turn, the device will quickly calculate a new route for you.
The Nuvi 2797LMT comes with Garmin’s latest Maps of the UK that are both super clear and detailed. Most importantly the navigator comes with free lifetime updates meaning that you will never have old maps and therefore will always know of any road changes that could have been made. On top the maps the Nuvi 2797 uses Garmin’s latest real directions with real voice guide to give you spoken turn-by-turn directions which uses recognisable building and landmarks to direct you rather than distances. With these latest devices, you’re more likely to hear your sat nav tell you to turn right after the traffic lights than the old method of turn right after 300 meters.For those really difficult interchanges, the Nuvi 2797LMT has this covered by offering you “PhotoReal” and “Birds Eye Junction” which gives the user detailed images of junctions along your route to stop there being any problem when exiting those complex junction.
As an added benefit, the Garmin unit comes with Garmin’s fantastic traffic alerts which are fully integrated in to the sat nav system meaning that not only will the unit take into account any traffic problems when deciding the best route to send you on, but traffic alerts will appear to the side of your map. The traffic alerts will warn you and can give you details about the traffic problem such as how long the delay will be and whether there are any ways around the traffic jam. Best of all, traffic alerts are free with no subscription or additional fees.
The Garmin Nuvi comes with a selection of fantastic features such as Garmin’s “Up Ahead” feature that shows you nearby services such as petrol stations, banks and restaurants, voice-navigation meaning that you can speak to your sat nav and change your destination or find the nearest petrol station without taking your hands off the wheel or your eyes off the road and Bluetooth meaning that you can make and receive calls using the sat nav in-built speaker system.Smartphone Link is a free app that will connect your Sat Nav to your iPhone or Android smartphone where you can look at destinations before uploading them onto your sat nav or access Garmin’s Live Services which use real-time information to access weather or driving conditions.The major downside of this model is that the mount is terrible. It just does not stick to the wind-shield and if you go around a corner to sharply the sat nav will fall off the windshield. This is not a huge problem as Garmin make such fantastic other Accessories.
The Garmin 2797LMT is a fantastic car sat nav model that we highly recommend you look at if you're in the market for a new sat nav, but if you need cheaper unit that still comes with the same performance then you need to take a look at the highly recommend Garmin 2597LMT which is basically exactly the same as the 2797 with the key difference being that it it's a slightly older model, features that have been upgraded and thus work better and half the price. The Garmin Nuvi 2597LMT has the same 5-inch touch screen display as is in its newer brother, however whilst the screen clarity is good, its not perfect and is not as clear especially in direct sunlight.
The interface and menu system is very similar and is very easy to use meaning that you can quickly enter a destination using the keyboard and the touch screen and allow the device to calculate a route for you. Again, you have free life time map updates, meaning that you will always have up to date maps, and free traffic updates meaning that your route will be calculated by taking into account any on-going traffic jams.
Directions are in the form of spoken turn-by-turn directions and images and whilst the unit does come with a dual orientation screen, given the screen clarity is not perfect, its much easier to use it as one big screen rather than two small ones. The animated photos work really well, especially in complex junctions where the brightly coloured arrows indicate which lane you’re meant to be in to take the right exit.
With this model, Garmin decided to go crazy with the features and not only does it come with some of the usual features such as a massive points of interest database with millions of cash machines, petrol stations and restaurants, but it also come with a few odd features such as petrol price alerts and speed camera alerts. Whilst there is voice control, it does not work all that well (at least for me it does not work) and there is no Bluetooth so you cannot connect your smartphone to your sat nav.
Why Buy A Sat Nav
Again, its easy to assume that you could use your smartphone as it will come with the Google Maps app which is very good, however the problem with using your smartphone is they often either run out of battery and the wrong time or your data plan runs out of credit meaning that you’re back to square one, lost. If you want to take your car to Europe you cannot use your smartphone's internet as roaming charges are very expensive. We often find that even with the iPhone 6, the screen is just not large enough to get all the information on that I want to take the right direction. Sat Nav’s run on satellites and therefore are completely free meaning once you have bought your GPS unit, its completely free from then on-wards.
The best sat nav device is the one that get you from point A to point B in the quickest time, using the best route that has the least amount of traffic on and comes with a price tag that you can easily afford. If you have money to blow, get yourself a TomTom Go 6000 as it’s the best sat nav we have ever tested and comes with a massive screen, fantastic maps and navigation and a selection of useful features that you will use, however the big problem is that because you're paying for the best sat nav, it comes with a "Best Sat Nav" price tag of over £300 which makes it’s a substantial commitment that actually a lot of people will not be able to afford, or quite frankly want to spend on a satellite navigation system.