A Sat Nav buyer's guide you didn't know you needed

Lesson Type
Last updated: 4 Jun 2020

Buying a Sat Nav might not sound like something you need a guide for, but there are so many out there that knowing which one is the right one for you can be confusing.

Why should you buy a Sat Nav?

Getting lost whilst behind the wheel isn’t fun for anyone, and having someone reading from a map beside you can be even more stressful. Having a Sat Nav can give you peace of mind when you don’t know the way to a specific destination or just need a little help getting from A to B. Plus you'll have plenty of experience following a sat nav during your driving lessons in preparation for the independent driving section of the driving test.

Set your price range

Sat Navs are available for every budget, and how much you spend will very much depend upon what features you need and where you buy it from.

There are different kinds of Sat Navs available. Small portable systems are generally the best option for new drivers, as they’re at the cheaper end of the price scale and can be moved from car to car.

Many modern cars also come with inbuilt navigation systems, but this is only really applicable to cars at the higher end of the price scale.

If you don’t want to buy a portable Sat Nav, there’s also the option of having one built in to your entertainment system. Again, this falls at the pricier end of options, but if you’ll be doing a lot of driving, it might be the best option for you.

How do I choose a Sat Nav?

Not all Sat Navs are the same, so you need to think carefully about what features you need your Sat Nav to have. You’ll need to consider things like screen size, map data and control options when deciding which Sat Nav to choose.

Maps, for example, come in either 2D or 3D. 3D is, of course, more expensive, but will give you a more detailed picture.

You will also have to think about where and how far you’ll be travelling when using your Sat Nav. If, for example, you’re planning on driving abroad using your Sat Nav, you will need to find out whether or not the Sat Nav you buy will work in the country you’re visiting.


If a Sat Nav states it covers UK and ROI, it will work in the UK and the Republic of Ireland. This is generally the most cost effective option for young drivers who aren’t planning on driving abroad any time soon.

Full Europe

A European Sat Nav is the best option for anyone planning on travelling in Europe. A full Europe Sat Nav also covers Eastern Europe.

Canada and North America

A Sat Nav covering Canada and North America would be used by anyone travelling there. This doesn’t generally apply to new or young drivers.

Extra features

Traffic updates

The last thing you want to do when you’re on a long journey is to get stuck in traffic. A Sat Nav with a traffic function will pull in live updates to show you whether there are any spots of congestion on your route. If there is, the Sat Nav will re-route you, taking you around the traffic before you get stuck in a jam.

Voice command

The majority of Sat Navs are controlled by touch screen, but some have voice command control too. Voice command is a really useful feature because it allows you to control the Sat Nav whilst you’re on the road with minimal distraction.

Software updates

Sat Nav maps need to be updated in order to make sure your Sat Nav keeps up to date with any road changes and improvements.

In order to make sure your Sat Nav stays up to date and keeps you on the right track, you’ll need to subscribe for software updates. This might incur a small monthly charge, but it’s worth it if you’ll be using your Sat Nav for the foreseeable future.

Sat Nav safety tips

Although Sat Navs are a must-have for many drivers, and are a great aid if you don’t know exactly where you’re going. There are, however, safety concerns over their use and over whether or not they can be distracting.

You should remember that you’re in charge of the car at all times, even when using a Sat Nav. Your Sat Nav should be used as a guide, but you also need to look out for road signs and markings which might be telling you where you can and cannot go.

Remember Sat Navs can make mistakes, so you should always go on road signs, markings and the traffic conditions, rather than blindly following where it tells you to go.

Young and new drivers, especially, need to make sure they’re not distracted by their Sat Nav. When you’re just getting used to life on the road, you need to ensure you’ve got no distractions. Try not to take any routes you don’t know just after you’ve passed your driving test, as it’s worth getting used to driving before you start using a Sat Nav.