As we come to the close of 2020, and with mobile phones and navigation apps becoming ever more popular thanks to increased driving and delivery services, the question on everyone’s lips is whether it still worth having a stand alone car GPS?
A Garmin car GPS navigation system does so much more than navigate you from point A to point B. With features designed to increase situational awareness and encourage safer driving, you can rely on a Garmin for every drive.
A dedicated car GPS offers so much more than a mobile phone, with large, clear displays, advanced guidance and navigation features that greatly increase your awareness of the road ahead, making your journey safer and more efficient. And of all the GPS car device manufacturers, Garmin is one of the premier companies in this increasingly crowded field.
With that being said, which of Garmin’s many models are the best for you to consider for 2022?
Garmin Drive 52
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Garmin Drivesmart 66
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Garmin Drivesmart 76
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Garmin Drivesmart 86
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Garmin Drive Assist 51
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Read on to find comprehensive reviews of each Garmin GPS model, as well as pros and cons for each.
What is a good Garmin GPS to buy for 2022?
The best GPS devices will go above and beyond standard GPS devices to deliver optimal and useful features in conjunction with superior, state-of-the-art GPS technology. Garmin is one of the best car GPS manufacturers, and it can become quite confusing when trying to decide which of their GPS devices is the best for your needs while on the road.
With this in mind, I have compiled a full list of reviews of the company’s best, current GPS devices.
Garmin Drive Series (Our Top Pick)
With its simple menus and easy-to-read maps, the Garmin Drive 52 with Live Traffic lets you view turn-by-turn directions at a glance on a bright 5-inch touchscreen display. Offering preloaded detailed maps of the U.S. and Canada , with traffic and mapping updates plus helpful driving alerts to encourage safer driving, this GPS navigator complements any road trip or daily commute.
With the Garmin Drive 52, you can outsmart traffic jams or slowdowns by avoiding them altogether with timely alerts that suggest alternate routes to help you steer clear of construction zones or accidents ahead. Garmin Traffic comes ready to use right out of the box, thanks to the included traffic cable, and there is no need to pair your navigator with a smartphone for traffic information.
The Direct Access feature simplifies navigating to complex destinations such as airports or shopping malls. It even navigates through parking lots to find the entrance closest to your destination.
The Garmin Drive 52 also includes a search field that makes it easy to find addresses and millions of points of interest, which means you are provided with search results that sound similar to what you’ve entered.
- 5-inch GPS navigator with traffic alerts
- Easy-to-use and includes detailed mapping updates of the U.S. and Canada
- Simple on-screen menus and bright, easy-to-see maps that are backup camera compatible
- Garmin Traffic is ready to use right out of the box with no need for a smartphone
- Prone to overheating
Garmin Drive Smart Series
The Garmin Drivesmart 66 has some of the most advanced features of the GPS navigation system range with bluetooth hands-free calls, voice-activated navigation, and onscreen smart notifications (calls, texts and other app alerts) to encourage safer driving. It’s available as 5inch, 6inch or a whopping 7inch pinch-to-zoom display.
A great thing about Drive Smart is that it alerts you to approaching traffic jams, dangerous curves, speed zone changes or railroad crossings. Plus, a fatigue warning even suggests a break after hours of driving, identifying potential rest areas ahead.
These features offer so much more than a free navigation app for your smartphone. New driving alerts notify you of upcoming obstacles including sharp curves in the road, changes to speed limits, school crossings and more importantly, red lights and speed cameras.
With the Drivesmart 66, you can see places up ahead and milestones along your route, without leaving the map view with New Up Ahead Milestones.
- Enjoy easy-to-see maps on a bright, crisp 6-inch high-resolution screen display.
- Includes real time traffic updates and a convenient Garmin voice assist for directions and hands-free phoning.
- More of a standard GPS unit instead of a GPS navigation system
The 7-inch Garmin Drive Smart 76 GPS navigator brings new levels of freedom, convenience and peace of mind to your time on the road. The 76 model Garmin Drivesmart model improves upon all the features of the 66 model, but with only slight tweaks.
Garmin voice commands helps you easily find and navigate where you want to go, and the bright, high-resolution edge-to-edge touchscreen, lets you easily see important information and map details at a glance.
If you need directions, you just have to say the word. Garmin Drive Smart responds to your spoken requests and then navigates to wherever you need to go. The Wi-Fi connectivity makes it easy to keep your maps and software up to date without using a computer, and on-screen cues show when new updates are available.
- Know the best places along your route with TripAdvisor and a U.S. national parks directory
- Get a heads-up with driver alerts for sharp curves, speed changes, school zones and more
- Make all the right moves with clear, detailed map updates of North America
- Not many points of interest separate this GPS unit from the Drivesmart 66 GPS navigation system
Simplify your drive with the Garmin Drive Smart 86 GPS navigation system. This model allows you to use Garmin voice assist to easily find and navigate where you want to go. The crisp 8-inch dual-orientation display and map updates of North America show you the way, providing alerts for speed changes and potential hazards ahead.
Make the most of road trips with a directory of U.S. national parks directory and a really cool (my favorite feature) HISTORY database of notable sites.
You can even pair with the Garmin Drive app running on your compatible smartphone for on-screen, smartphone connectivity access to live traffic, fuel prices, parking, weather and traffic cams to help avoid delays and keep you on your way.
With Amazon Alexa-powered built-in wifi, you can ask to play music, listen to audiobooks, hear the news and more, all while you keep your hands on the wheel and eyes on the road.
- Driver alerts for things such as school zones, sharp curves and speed changes to help encourage safer driving and increase situational awareness
- Access live traffic, fuel prices, weather, parking and smart notifications when you pair this navigator with your compatible smartphone running the Garmin Drive app
- Mounting this GPS navigation system as a car GPS can sometimes be challenging depending on your dashboard
The Garmin Catalyst is a race driving optimizer that features groundbreaking performance monitoring data that will make you a better driver on the race track. This driving monitor automatically interprets your driving stats and serves as a “real-time coach” by making audible suggestions based on your strengths and weaknesses.
You can simply mount the Catalyst in the cockpit of your car and let the racing games begin as you receive all the directions needed to race efficiently. The Garmin Catalyst is basically a driving performance track optimizer that uses 10 Hz multi-GNSS positioning, image processing, and built-in accelerometers to generate your racing line on the track.
This user-friendly race monitor includes a suction cup to ensure a stable view when driving, with real-time performance data displayed on its 6.95-inch colored screen panel. Best of all, you can reduce lap times as the Garmin Catalyst serves as your “on-track coach” by sending real-time audio coaching cues and step by step directions via Bluetooth through the car stereo or headphones.
The True Optimal Lap feature combines all your best times for each track segment and interprets this data to give a realistic, achievable lap time for your next session.
The Garmin Catalyst also keeps track of your apex performance, adaptive delta time, number of laps, and total session time. You can even review thrilling driving moments and race highlights using the included remote cam that records clear, crisp HD video of each lap session, with time-synced overlays showing speed, lap data, and more.
- Super wide view IPS, colored touch panel with high resolution display
- Provides real-time audible coaching
- Immediate session analysis on every lap
- True Track Positioning generates your racing line on the track
- True Optimal Lap technology show optimum drivable time
- Suggests major areas of improvement and gain
- Great for racing but not as an overall essential car GPS
For a smaller and more compact version of a Garmin GPS unit, consider the Garmin Drive Assist.
Drive Assist comes with advanced driver awareness features to encourage safer driving, and records your drive with it’s built-in dash camera, automatically saving collision footage on impact. You can also receive “go” alerts when you’re stopped, and the car in front starts to move.
Other features of the Garmin Drive Assist include Forward Collision and Lane Departure Warnings, camera-aided Garage Park Assist, bluetooth hands free phoning, voice-activated navigation, lifetime map updates, free lifetime traffic and much more.
The Garmin Real Vision feature also displays a camera view when approaching select destinations for pinpoint navigation to your final destination. This dedicated GPS device offers easy-to-understand driving directions by allowing you to access and use recognizable landmarks, buildings and traffic lights in addition to spoken street names, to guide you as if your best friend is sitting in the passenger seat.
Simply listen for Garmin Real Directions to tell you, ‘Turn left after the QT,’ or ‘Turn right after the red building.’
This GPS system is smaller, but still packs a punch with a reasonable price.
- Easy-to-use dedicated GPS navigator with bright 5.0-inch dual-orientation display
- Preloaded with lifetime maps of the U.S. or U.S. and Canada
- Driver alerts for dangerous curves, speed changes, speed cameras, railroad crossings, animal crossings and more
- Considerably less advanced and a bit older than the newer and more feature-packed models
Is TomTom better than Garmin?
The differences between TomTom and Garmin are quite noticeable. The first distinction is the availability of lifetime maps and the overall navigation assistance. Both models have lifetime mapping availability, but since the maps are easier to navigate on a Garmin model, Garmin wins this category comparison as well.
Planning routes are typically more easy to navigate and find when compared to Tom Tom, and the mile navigation protocols are also a bit easier to read on Garmin for most users. Garmin models also have a larger screen compared to something like the Tom Tom Go’s screen size.
Phone connectivity, thanks in part to the larger screen, is also slightly better on Garmin models.
Both models are efficient, but Garmin has better useful features in my opinion, such as the ability to sync seamlessly to Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant.
What is the difference between Garmin Drive GPS devices and Drive Smart?
Both of these popular Garmin car GPS models have a dedicated GPS navigation system, but there are some distinct differences to be aware of between Drive and Drive Smart.
Garmin Drive GPS Models
All of the Garmin Drive GPS models have core features for essential and simple navigation. These features offer so much more than a free navigation app for your smartphone. Driver alert voice controls notify you of upcoming obstacles including sharp curves in the road, changes to speed limits, school crossings and more importantly red light and speed cameras.
This allows you to see places up ahead and milestones along your route, without leaving the map view with free lifetime map update protocols. You can use Garmin for points of interest on your journey, and can tap into the Foursquare feature to find the best places to eat, drink, shop, or visit.
The turn-by-turn directions included are intelligent and easy to follow, directing you by recognizable landmarks, buildings and traffic lights up ahead.
If you’re considering buying a new Garmin Drive GPS then look for the models with free lifetime map updates and traffic included.
The Garmin Drivesmart has some of the most advanced features of the range with Bluetooth hands-free calls, voice-activated navigation, and onscreen smart notifications (calls, texts and other app alerts) to encourage safer driving.
Garmin Drivesmart is available as 5inch, 6inch or a whopping 7inch pinch-to-zoom display.
Drivesmart alerts you to approaching traffic jams, dangerous curves, speed zone changes or railroad crossings. Plus, a fatigue warning even suggests a break after hours of driving, identifying potential rest areas ahead.
Hands Free Calling
It all comes down to personal preference essentially, but certain points of interest to keep in mind are Bluetooth connectivity through hands free calling on Garmin devices.
In my opinion, Garmin Drivesmart offers so much more compared to what a standard Garmin Drive model can provide. Every driving style and budget has been accounted for with Garmin Drivesmart, and hands free calling is certainly more safe.
What is the best overall car GPS on the market right now?
The best car GPS currently on the market is a model that we saved for this section, and that is the Garmin Drivesmart 55. It’s just the most seamless, easy-to-use, and vibrant looking model currently available.
The Drivesmart 55’s super-crisp 1200×720-pixel capacitive display is much sharper and easier to read than the 480×272 screen common on most similarly sized models. And its multi-touch control is much easier for zooming in or out on a map than the typical GPS screen’s controls.
Although the 5.5-inch screen is larger than on typical models—which have 5-inch screens—the overall unit is slightly smaller thanks to the models sleek bezel-less design. Like the best GPS models, the Drivesmart 55 can also connect to a smartphone via Bluetooth, which lets you send destinations to the device, get incoming messages on-screen, and receive extra trip and traffic info.
The Drivesmart’s extensive points-of-interest database helps guide you to an area’s best sites and businesses, with integrated TripAdvisor ratings, Foursquare listings, History Network sites, and US National Park directories, which is an advantage over the other models in the series that typically feature only one or two of these features.
This model also provides helpful traffic info in many metro areas, responds to voice commands as well as the best GPS units, and like other top models includes free lifetime mapping updates, which is a contrast to the pricey updates you buy for many cars’ built-in nav systems.
So there you have it, the best Garmin GPS devices currently on the market as we lead into 2022. Each of these devices offers so much more compared to what a smartphone app can deliver. Every driving style and budget has been accounted for, and drivers on a budget have the entry level Garmin Drive Assist which still offers the new driver awareness features.
Each of these models has stellar battery life, and nearly all models feature hands free navigation.