Sat Nav Guide - Worth The Cost?

The humble sat nav. Who’d have thought that a hunk of plastic could reduce the hours spent arguing over whether that last turning should’ve been a left or a right. There’s no doubt that sat navs are very handy things indeed, no more in-car bickering, dodgy map reading or frenzied gesticulating. But there’s one very frequently thought question about them – and that’s whether they’re really worth it now that we’re in the age of the smartphone?

What is a sat nav?

Satellite navigation systems (sat nav) tend to be one function devices. So basically, they can only do one thing – which is tell whoever owns it, where to go. Sat navs are available as portable devices or they come pre-installed in cars already.

Nowadays, sat navs don’t have to be expensive and they can be picked up for well under £100. Some models also come with lifetime map updates, which takes the expense of updating them out of the equation.

Lots of new cars already come with built in navigation systems – and these are great because not only are they fully integrated making them neat; but they utilise the car’s sound system, making the volume easy to control. But on the other hand, there are still plenty of cars that don’t come with sat navs and it can often be a toss-up between spending money on a single function item or making do with a smartphone app.

sat nav guide

Sat nav versus smartphone – which is better?

Smartphones are great – very few people would argue with that. But being a jack of all trades might mean some features aren’t executed as well as they could be. Ultimately, it’s down to user preference, but there are some distinct pros and cons to both.

Most of us with a smartphone will carry it around with us all the time (lest we miss something vital on our social media feeds) which means no-one has to remember to pack it for a journey. It’s also a breeze to download up to date maps and directions as and when needed on a smartphone, so they can save the cost of buying and updating a standalone sat nav.

However, as anyone who knows the frustration of being cut off mid-sentence, mobile connections can be patchy – especially roaming around anywhere rural. And here lies one of the major drawbacks to relying on smartphones for directions. Phones are slaves to the mobile network and it could let you down just when it’s needed most. They’re also slaves to their battery – you never know when that could run out too, especially if you forget your trusty charger.

Another not-so-smart thing about smartphones used as sat navs is that they’re small in comparison (depending on the phone obviously) which can make it difficult to follow when it’s stuck to the dashboard. Not only do sat nav screens tend to be larger, but text and buttons are better formatted and designed to aid navigating whilst driving, rather than simply making you squint.

And if using a smartphone as a sat nav then make sure destinations are pre-programmed and that the phone is securely fitted. The laws on using a mobile phone whilst driving have been tightened and anyone caught using their phone while driving, could end up with six penalty points on their licence and a fine of £200.

Why bother with a sat nav?

Standalone sat navs are portable, so the great advantage is that they can be used by anyone, in any number of vehicles as opposed to a phone which is usually attached to its owner. They are also more specifically programmable and also often use day and night colours which can make it more user friendly. Don’t underestimate the level of detail offered by sat navs either – many offer lane direction so you know exactly which lane to be in and exit from.

Is my sat nav insured?

A portable sat nav would be classed as a ‘personal possession or effect’ and some car insurance policies won’t include that with the more basic levels of cover – such as third party, fire and theft.

Cover for personal possessions is usually only included in comprehensive car insurance policies, but even then, it’s not guaranteed. So, if you’ve got any pricey gadgets that you take along on your car journey (not just your sat nav) then consider whether cover is included and if it is – will it be enough? Our guide to personal effects cover provides some pointers on what to look for.

What’s my sat nav good for?

Simple. It’ll get whoever’s using it from A to B – job done.

But – it’s not just good for telling you where to go, a sat nav can also open up a world of possibilities when it comes to exploring some of Britain’s most breath-taking roads because at least there’s little risk of getting lost. Being able to safely navigate the roads and be confident about getting to your destination makes for stress free road trips – it’s really about being prepared.

So, is a sat nav worth the cost of buying?

For regular travellers venturing out and about, sat navs can be worth their weight in gold; providing invaluable up to date information, without having to worry about patchy reception. But for the occasional trip, a smartphone could adequately and easily do the job.

It might feel like in-car tech is taking over the world with fancy gadgets doing the things that drivers used to be proficient at – like parking and map reading. But most of the time, all that techy stuff is there to remove distraction and keep us safe.

So, whichever you choose is really down to you – but just remember to follow the rules of the road, make sure you’ve got adequate cover and stay safe.

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