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Buying sat nav maps

Up-to-date sat nav maps are vital for making sure you get to your destination smoothly. In this guide, we explain your map update options.
Jack Turner
Buying Sat Nav maps

An out-of-date sat nav could lead you astray. Roads change all the time, some are closed, some become one way and new ones are built. So if your sat nav still thinks it's 2013, it could make it harder to get around rather than easier.

In this guide we'll explain how to update your sat nav with the latest mapping, including where to find new maps and how to install them.

Just looking for the best sat nav or sat nav app for you? Head over to our sat nav reviews for the top-scorers in our tests.

Updating your maps for free

Most modern standalone sat navs come with free map updates as standard. Look for wording on the packaging such as 'Free Lifetime Maps'. This means that for the lifetime of the device you will always be able to download the latest version without paying anything extra. If your sat nav is a few years old, however, you may have to pay for such updates - and with Best Buy sat navs starting at around £80, it may be worth treating yourself to a new model rather than paying to update your old one.

We recommend updating your sat nav maps every six to twelve months. Updating is usually straightforward, but it can be time consuming. Try to do an update the day before you need to use your sat nav, rather than just before a long journey. You'll often need to connect it to a laptop or desktop computer, too.

To get started, we recommend first checking your device's manual - it should tell you exactly how to update the maps. It will usually tell you to visit a 'map updates' or 'support' area of your sat nav manufacturer's website. There, look for the option to update your maps. 

You'll most likely be asked to plug in your sat nav via a USB cable (use the one that came with the sat nav if you can, as not all USB cables may be compatible), and then prompted to download a small software file. Once this has finished downloading, simply open it and follow the instructions, making sure that your sat nav is still plugged in to your computer. 

Depending on the size of the map update and the speed of your internet connection, the updating process could take anything from a few minutes to as much as an hour.

Buying maps for an older sat nav

If your sat nav is a few years old, you may well have to pay to update it. Again, check the manual and visit the manufacturer's website to see what your update options are, and what the process is. Depending on the brand of your sat nav, you may be offered the opportunity to purchase a newer version of the map as a 'one-off', or upgrade to 'lifetime' map updates.

However, with updates often costing well over £50, sometimes closer to £100, it may be better value just to buy a new sat nav that comes with free lifetime maps.

Buying maps for different countries

Some sat navs will come with worldwide maps. If yours doesn't, and you're planning to travel to an area it doesn't cover, don't despair. You can visit your manufacturer's website and usually find an option to pay to download maps for other territories.

If you're using an app that doesn't offer worldwide mapping for free, you can often download more maps by purchasing them directly from within the app, or via the Google Play or Apple app stores.