Is buying a standalone car GPS navigator worth your money? Especially in today’s smartphone era?
Garmin is a brand that specializes in GPS-enabled devices. Keeping up with the changing technological landscape, its car GPS navigators do more than just suggest efficient travel routes.
You can get features like live traffic updates, voice assistance, hands-free calling, and live fuel prices on big and bright displays.
Garmin has over 30 years of experience in the navigation industry. Its product range goes far beyond car GPS devices to include wearables, aviation, marine, and outdoor recreation and sports.
Let’s take a look at some of the best Garmin car GPS navigators you can get your hands on.
Our Top Recommendation for Garmin Car GPS Navigators
- smartphone for hands-free calling, smart notifications and live traffic via the Garmin Drive App
- Simple on-screen menus and bright, clear maps show 3-D buildings and terrain
- Garmin Traffic is ready to use right out of the box — without use of a smartphone
- Voice-activated and ability to pair with a compatible and GPS-enabled
5 Best Garmin Car GPS Navigators in 2023
If you search for GPS navigators on Garmin’s website, it returns over 100 results. These products cater to varying audiences and requirements like solo traveling, daily commutes, and long road trips.
It can be quite a task to sort through the results and explore product features. So to save you time and effort, we bring you the five best car GPS navigators by Garmin:
- Best Overall: Garmin DriveSmart 65 & Traffic
- Best in Display: Garmin DriveSmart 86
- Best in Basic: Garmin Drive 61 LM
- Best in Affordable: Garmin Drive 52
- Best in Features: Garmin DriveSmart 55 & Traffic
1. Best Overall: Garmin DriveSmart 65 & Traffic
The DriveSmart 65 is a conveniently sized and feature-rich product. This GPS navigator can be ideal for daily commutes as well as road trips with your family or solo traveling experiences.
It is one of the newest devices that supports Bluetooth and Wi-Fi connectivity. Once you pair and sync your compatible smartphone using Bluetooth, you get to enjoy benefits like hands-free calling and smart notifications on the navigator screen.
Wi-Fi connectivity lets you update maps and software without a computer.
The DriveSmart 65 model is compatible with the Garmin Drive app. The app lets you get live traffic updates and parking information and view detailed weather forecasts. You can also review and share dashcam videos.
Other features include TripAdvisor traveler ratings, Garmin Real Directions, a preloaded Foursquare database, and a national parks directory.
This product is also available with an Amazon Alexa built-in version. However, Alexa’s capabilities are limited, but you can ask Alexa to play music on Amazon apps, create task lists, listen to the news, and control other Alexa-enabled devices in your home.
|Model||Garmin DriveSmart 65 & Traffic|
|Dimension ( W x H x D)||6.8 x 3.9 x 0.7 inches|
|Display Dimension (W x H)||6.0 x 3.5 inches, diag - 6.95 inches|
|Display Type||Multi-touch, WSVGA color TFT with white backlight|
|Display Resolution||1024 x 600 pixels|
|Internal Storage||16 GB|
- The display screen is 6.95 inches diagonally with good resolution and multi-touch capabilities.
- It supports voice assistance.
- It supports Bluetooth and Wi-Fi connectivity.
- You can get live traffic updates with the Garmin Drive app.
- The battery life can be short.
- Amazon Alexa’s built-in capabilities are limiting.
2. Best in Display: Garmin DriveSmart 86
If a good display is a priority, the DriveSmart 86 navigator is the right product for you. The device has a big display, measuring 8 inches diagonally. It has the best resolution in the DriveSmart series, with a resolution of 1280 x 800 pixels.
The navigator further works in landscape and portrait modes. So you can position the device as per your preference.
Like the other DriveSmart models, this navigator offers features like live traffic updates, voice assistance, hands-free calling, wireless updates, and smart notifications.
A distinguishing feature of the navigator is that you can get live fuel prices with the Garmin Drive app. You can check for fuel prices along your route and fill up your tank beforehand to avoid paying for overpriced gas.
The USB charger that you receive with the navigator includes an extra charging port. The port can charge your phone, tablet, or other electronic devices.
This is a good add-on as you will have to plug the vehicle power cable into the navigator for trips that take more than 30 to 40 minutes.
|Model||Garmin DriveSmart 86|
|Dimension ( W x H x D)||7.6 x 4.7 x 0.77 inches|
|Display Dimension (W x H)||6.8 x 4.2 inches, diag - 8.0 inches|
|Display Type||Multi-touch, glass, WXGA color TFT with backlight|
|Display Resolution||1280 x 800 pixels|
|Internal Storage||16 GB|
- The navigator has a big display, measuring 8 inches diagonally.
- The display supports landscape and portrait orientations.
- You can get live traffic updates and live fuel prices.
- The USB charger includes an additional port.
- It is one of the more expensive Garmin car GPS navigators.
- The voice-assist features need improvement.
3. Best in Basic: Garmin Drive 61 LM
If you are looking for a basic, entry-level GPS navigator, consider buying the Garmin Drive 61 LM model. If your priority is getting from point A to point B efficiently, it gets the job done.
It includes features like preloaded maps for the US and Canada, driver alerts, and TripAdvisor ratings. However, if you need maps for other regions like Europe, South America, or Africa, you will have to buy them separately.
If you need live traffic updates, then opt for the Garmin Drive 61 LMT-S model.
The device is equipped with Garmin Real Directions. It provides easy-to-understand, spoken, turn-by-turn directions. It uses recognizable landmarks and store names instead of complicated street names when providing directions.
The navigator is easier to use compared to other models in the list. It is an entry-level model, but it does include basic features to make your driving experience seamless.
|Model||Garmin Drive 61 LM|
|Dimension ( W x H x D)||6.7 x 3.7 x 0.8 inches|
|Display Dimension (W x H)||5.36 x 2.83 inches, diag - 6.10 inches|
|Display Type||WVGA color TFT with white backlight|
|Display Resolution||800 x 480 pixels|
|Internal Storage||8 GB|
- The navigator supports a dual-orientation display.
- It is preloaded with lifetime maps for the US or the US and Canada.
- Easy navigation with Garmin Real Directions.
- You get driver alerts for events like sharp curves and speed changes.
- It includes TripAdvisor ratings or points of interest along your route.
- The screen resolution can be comparatively lacking.
- The battery could be better.
- It is one of the older products offered by Garmin.
4. Best in Affordable: Garmin Drive 52
If you want a simple and affordable GPS navigator, opt for the Garmin Drive 52. The device is originally priced at $149.99.
At the time of writing, Garmin was offering a discount, and the device was available for $99.99. Amazon and Walmart also offer similar discounts.
The navigator’s display measures 5 inches diagonally. The display resolution, though, is pretty low. Nevertheless, the map view is decent.
The navigator is preloaded with Foursquare data. This will make finding shops, businesses, and places easier by name. Using the check-up ahead feature, you can look for places like rest stops, hotels, and gas stations on your route.
If you are new to driving, driver alerts can help you develop safer driving habits. For example, you can get alerts for school zones, exceeding the speed limit, one-way streets, sharp curves, construction zones, and more.
It includes other features like a history database, Garmin Real Directions, and a national parks directory.
If you want live traffic updates, then you can explore the Garmin Drive 52 & Traffic model. You will receive a traffic cable in the box. The Traffic model is priced at $169.99.
|Model||Garmin Drive 52|
|Dimension ( W x H x D)||5.5 x 3.3 x 0.8 inches|
|Display Dimension (W x H)||4.4 x 2.5 inches, diag - 5.0 inches|
|Display Type||WQVGA color TFT with white backlight|
|Display Resolution||480 x 272 pixels|
|Internal Storage||8 GB|
- The GPS navigator is easy to use.
- It is an affordable car GPS navigator in the Garmin range.
- It includes Garmin Real Directions for easy navigation.
- It includes driver alerts for a safer driving experience.
- The preloaded Foursquare data makes finding places easier.
- The display resolution is low compared to today’s standard smartphones.
- It is a basic model with limited features.
5. Best in Features: Garmin DriveSmart 55 & Traffic
If you are looking to get the cheapest navigator from the DriveSmart series, then the Garmin DriveSmart 55 & Traffic model would be a good choice.
The navigator is originally priced at $229.99. However, with Garmin’s discount, you can buy the device for $199.99.
The navigator has a conveniently-sized 5.5-inch display. It has one of the best display resolutions in the series. The display type is HD color TFT with white backlight, making it easier to see maps.
The navigator supports Bluetooth and Wi-Fi connectivity. Thus, you can enjoy benefits like hands-free calling and wireless updates. Other notable features include live traffic, live parking, photo live traffic cameras wherever available, smart notifications, and driver alerts.
The national parks directory can be useful if you are a nature enthusiast. You can navigate to national parks near your current location. You can also navigate to park amenities like parking, visitor centers, and camping grounds inside the park using the DriveSmart navigator.
|Model||Garmin DriveSmart 55 & Traffic|
|Dimension ( W x H x D)||5.40 x 3.0 x 0.70 inches|
|Display Dimension (W x H)||4.8 x 2.7 inches, diag - 5.5 inches|
|Display Type||Multi-touch, glass, HD color TFT with white backlight|
|Display Resolution||1280 x 720 pixels|
|Internal Storage||16 GB|
- The navigator has a 5.5-inch display with good resolution.
- It offers live traffic and parking details.
- The navigator supports Bluetooth and Wi-Fi connectivity.
- It includes a history database and a directory of national parks.
- The battery rarely lasts up to an hour.
- The voice assistance feature needs improvement.
How We Picked And Tested The Car GPS Navigators?
We compiled the list of the best Garmin car GPS by first starting with online research. We went through product features, customer reviews, and ratings.
We opted for the basic, no-frill versions of the navigators. We tested the devices separately as the battery is an issue with these Garmin devices. The battery may last 15 to 40 minutes, depending on usage.
During the testing phase, we focused on factors like ease of assembly and use, features, performance, and price, among others.
Key Decision-Making Factors
We consider several metrics when putting together a recommended product list. Here are a few of them.
Here, we consider the device dimension, display dimension, type, and resolution, along with the hardware design and mounting features.
Some of these navigators are easy to use. Due to their feature-rich capabilities, others have a learning curve. But overall, the Garmin interface is user-friendly.
This is where we test if the device holds true to the claims made by the brand. The Garmin GPS navigators are powered by Here Maps. It is not as popular as its counterparts, Google and Apple Maps. But it does provide similar features and accuracy.
A standalone GPS navigator that only recommends routes may not be the best investment. We included products that went beyond navigation and provided value-added features.
The DriveSmart series is the newest car GPS navigator by Garmin. The three products in the series are the Garmin DriveSmart 66/76/86. The first digit indicates the display size of the navigator.
No, you can use a compatible third-party power adapter. The difference is that the navigator may take longer to charge compared to a Garmin-approved AC-DC adapter.
No, the Garmin car GPS navigators include a vehicle suction cup mount. You will have to buy the friction mount separately. Please note that the mount is compatible with DriveSmart 86, the dēzl, and the RV series.
The Garmin Drive 51 model, with its 5-inch display, size, US map coverage, and lifetime maps, is the cheapest Garmin car GPS navigator. It costs about $129.99
Garmin’s car GPS navigator range includes something for everyone. For example, if you travel for work daily, a navigator with live traffic would be ideal.
If you like traveling and exploring nature parks, a navigator with TripAdvisor ratings and a national parks directory will work best.
When buying a car GPS navigator, consider factors like device size and dimensions, ease of assembly and use, features, and price.
We hope our list of the best Garmin car GPS navigators helps you find the right device for yourself.
Meet Klark Kurz, a GPS enthusiast and author with a B.B.A. in Finance from Texas A&M University. With a passion for technology and innovation, Klark provides accessible and user-friendly content to help individuals and businesses make informed decisions. As a regular contributor to TraxFamily.com, Klark’s insights and practical advice make GPS tracking more accessible, affordable, and user-friendly.