In this review we’re looking for two things, the best “cheap gps” for your car, and the best “car GPS under $100”. In the past you could combine the two into one review, but with a decent “cheap” car navigation device costing over $100, it’s not possible.
Cheap GPS Navigation Units
Finding the best gps navigator in 2022 is not a difficult process. Its something we have done again, and again across this website. In 2021, we thought the best gps navigation device was the Garmin DriveSmart 55, however finding the best cheap navigator is a whole new ball-game and one that needs some thought.
We love finding cheap car gps units under $100 and over the years we have tested hundreds of different models. Across the internet their hundreds of models that are being released each month that it’s hard to keep up with all the gps models that are on the market and the new models that are being released each week.
The problem with buying a cheap gps unit up until this year you really only had two choice, buy an older brand named model that comes with features that don’t work, or buy a non-brand named gps unit that more than likely will not work.
We have tested hundreds of imports, but the problem with the majority is that they do not work, or only work for a short while until you need either help or map updates, which then causes the whole gps to fall apart.
Best Cheap Car GPS 2022
Garmin and TomTom are our two top brands and we would recommend that you stick to these brands knowing that you’re buying a gps unit that has been made to last. What’s even better news is that over the last few years, TomTom and Garmin have both made cheap gps units that have been design specifically as gps unit that you can buy today.
TomTom has the GO VIA 1525 and the GO VIA 1625, with the key difference being that the 1525 has a 5-inch screen while the 1625 has a six inch screen. Garmin have the Garmin Drive which started off life as a Garmin 40 a few years ago, however has been developed into its current model, the Garmin Drive 52 and 52 with Traffic.
Sadly, these are new GPS units and while you can get some great discounts across the internet, they’re likely to cost you upwards of $130.
Best Car GPS Under $100
To buy a Car GPS unit for under $100 is not impossible, but it is more difficult. You basically have two options, buy a import that has probably been made in China or buy a slightly older TomTom or Garmin GPS unit.
Personally I would be buying a slightly older TomTom or Garmin as they just work better. I’m yet to find another brand that offers the usability that TomTom or Garmin do, for the same price. Other manufactures just don’t have the experience or the knowledge. Over the year I’ve bought a few, but I could not recommend one on this website. There is nothing that I would put my name to.
Best Cheap GPS Unit
What would I do? If you can stretch your budget to around $140, I would be buying the latest Garmin Drive 52 which is part of Garmin’s 2020 range. Sadly TomTom has not updated its range of GPS units for 2020 and therefore the VIA 1525 and 1625 is the current model which is okay, but the Garmin is better.
If you cannot stretch your budget and need to keep it fixed to less than $100, I would be buying the TomTom VIA 1525M or if possible you might be able to find the VIA 1525TM online. The difference between the two models, the “M” comes with free map updates, while the “TM” comes with traffic updates and free maps updates. The VIA is a decent model, however it’s a 2017 model and therefore don’t expect anything other than directions.
I would also be looking at some of the older Garmin Drive models. In the past we’ve looked at the Garmin Drive 51 which was a 2018 model and comes with a range of options that you will only see of the latest range. If you’re unhappy with a 5-inch GPS unit, you could also look at some of the older Garmin 2697’s that might have been discontinued, but they are still selling online or the TomTom GO’s from a few years ago that again are selling online.
Garmin Drive 52
The Garmin 52 comes in two versions, both that have a 5-Inch screen. One of the models has traffic alters, the other doesn’t.
Both models come with a 480 x 272 pixels, WQVGA color TFT with white backlight and resistive touch that while not an edge-to-edge design as in the Garmin Drivesmart, is a decent screen that allow you to see your directions.
Directions are also great and very similar to the latest 2020 models. The devices use Garmin’s latest “Real Directions” using landmark guidance and lane assist to help you navigated complicated junctions. If you need to stop along your route, the unit comes as standard with foursquare to provide millions of points of interested and trip-advisor for reviews and ratings should you want to review places to go before you arrive.
Driver alerts are numerous, however what we have really found useful over the last few years is the speed limit indicator that shows speed limits for most major roads in the US and Europe. Prices for the 52 offer fantastic value for money a while you’re going to find it difficult to buy a 52 with or without traffic alerts for less than $100, it’s a great model.
Garmin Drive 51 LM/LMT
The Garmin 51 LM/LMT is Garmin second attempt at building a GPS for your car comes with a basic price tag and actually works.
The range started with a Drive 40 that came with a 4.3 Inch screen and now has the latest version above, the drive 52, however with the 51LM/LMT being a 2018/2019 model, you can now find both versions, for less than $100 online.
The 51 comes in two version, as 5-Inch screen with Traffic alters Via a smartphone app “LMT” and a “LM” version that has free lifetime map updates, but no traffic alters. Obviously the LM version is well below the $100 target, however you can get the traffic version for around the $100 mark.
Other than traffic alters, both models provide your standard Garmin directions, active lane guidance and four-square assisted points of interest. For less than $100, this is a great Car GPS unit.
Garmin Drive 50/40
The first version of Garmin “basic” model was released to the market in two steps, the Drive 40 came out in 2016 and the the Drive 50 with a slightly larger screen, came out in 2017.
Both a decent models, but both has there problems. Both came with duel-orientation screens, however you could not see enough information on the small screens to make it worthwhile.
Also the screens did perform well in low light conditions and therefore were practically useless at night. The Garmin Drive 40 did not offer anything else other than basic directions. That said if you want a basic GPS, then consider the 50 and 40.
TomTom GO Basic
TomTom is at time of writing (February 2020), updating its range of GPS units. Shortly, it’s going to release at TomTom Basic that will come with Free Map updates, Free Traffic Alerts, access to TomTom’s my drive and most importantly, be able to update through Wi-Fi.
Until this model is released in the US, you’re stuck with the TomTom VIA 1525M/1625M which is okay, but not a great model. If you can buy either for less than $100 then it would be worth looking at, but neither are very good, and I would prefer the Gamins above.