The Beast from the East may be behind us, but for the unluckiest among us the memories of spending a night hunkered down in a stranded car or crawling for hours in white-out conditions are only just beginning to fade.
And, despite there being no more weather-related horrors on the horizon that might cause as much motoring misery, the Easter holidays are nearly upon us, which, as any parent may be able to attest, can mean suffering the pain of endless tailbacks all over again.
Thankfully, the best portable sat nav devices and apps now take into account varying traffic levels along your route, and give accurate estimated times of arrival that don’t continually slip as you’re sat in a jam. They’re also quick to re-calculate routes, so you’re not spending frustrating minutes waiting for the map to refresh should you take a wrong turn.
The following models should fit the bill, having impressed us with their routing speed and accuracy. All also receive more detailed traffic information via a data connection, in addition to the standard TMC traffic information received by even basic devices. Click on the links to our full reviews to find out how they scored overall in our tests and whether they are Best Buys.
Sat nav reviews – read our expert verdicts of all the models that have been through our test lab.
Free sat nav apps
TomTom GPS Navigation Traffic (Android)
TomTom’s smartphone-based app, which is available for both Android and iOS (reviewed separately), is not only free to use (albeit within monthly mileage limits) and easy to follow, it’s not particularly phased by you deviating off route – for instance, around a traffic jam – and will quickly and efficiently resume guidance.
The app also utilises the phone’s data connection to receive live traffic information, which minimises the risk of being delayed. However, like most ‘live’ smartphone apps, TomTom GPS Navigation Traffic is less suited to those without large data bundles included in their smartphone tariff.
To find out more, read our full TomTom GPS Navigation Traffic (Android) review.
Waze GPS Navigation, Maps & Traffic (iOS)
Another cross-platform navigation app you should consider is the entirely free to use Waze (data allowances withstanding). Aside from effective route recalculation and an eerily accurate destination ETA, it crowdsources traffic information from other app users in your vicinity, and monitors movement to detect growing jams. The result is an app that will nearly always keep you moving and within the original estimated time of arrival.
To find out if it’s good enough to be a Best Buy, visit our Waze GPS Navigation, Maps & Traffic (iOS) review.
£100-£200 sat navs
TomTom Go 610, £169
Move away from smartphone apps and not only can you have live traffic data (in this case via a built-in Sim card), but also benefit from the larger screen and easier-to-program menus of a dedicated navigation device. And when it comes to large screens, you could do a lot worse than the TomTom Go 610. Not only does it feature the typically tight and accurate TomTom route planning, but it’s also very simple to follow. It’s certainly a model to consider if you value ease of use.
To discover how this model scored in our tests, go to our full TomTom Go 610 review.
Garmin DriveSmart 60LM, £210
The perennial thorn in TomTom’s side, Garmin also offers top-drawer dedicated navigation devices, which offer the winning combination of functionality, accuracy and ease of use. At this price point it’s worth considering the 6-inch DriveSmart 60LM, which not only offers lifetime map updates, but also live traffic information through a paired-up smartphone.
How did this sat nav perform in our rigorous lab tests? Find out in our Garmin DriveSmart 60LM review.
Sat navs above £200
TomTom Go 5200, £258
TomTom’s flagship device does command a hefty price premium, but offers the features and user experience to justify it. Live traffic information is provided by a built-in Sim card and it excels in (nearly) all of our tests, being particularly easy to use. It’s a premium-feeling device too, which feels built to last.
Discover whether this model achieved Best Buy status in our in-depth TomTom Go 5200 review.