The best sat navs get you from A to B without a fuss, meaning you can drive stress-free when faced with even the most perplexing one-way system. In our expert buying guide, we uncover a selection of Best Buy recommendations, plus offer advice on which sat nav features matter the most.
Without consulting our expert reviews, you risk buying a dedicated sat nav (or sat nav app) that struggles to cope with route calculations – and that means you may drive an unnecessarily long route to your destination.
Below, we take a closer look at how to find the perfect sat nav for you. Browse through some of the best sat navs for 2022 and discover the top sat nav brands you can rely on.
As our expert tests prove time and time again, price is no guarantee of quality when shopping for a good sat nav. Our extensive research has uncovered a handful of great - and affordable - sat navs that feature excellent maps, clear instructions and extra features.
See our table below for an overview of some of the best cheap sat navs.
Just want to know which sat navs and sat nav apps we recommend? Head to our expert sat nav reviews.
Video: avoid an expensive mistake when buying a sat nav
Watch our sat nav video below to find out if it's worth spending your money on a standalone device, or if you can get away with a sat nav app.
Should I buy a sat nav or use my phone?
We put every sat nav and sat nav app through the same series of tough tests using a GPS simulator. By doing so, we’ve found some great sat nav apps, including apps that are good enough to be a Best Buy.
A sat nav app is installed on your smartphone. They tend to be cheaper than dedicated devices but might not offer quite the same quality of user experience. On the plus side, it’s easy to download an app, try it and then delete it if you're not satisfied.
We've tested sat nav apps that offer good-quality navigation to rival a dedicated device, but have found others that have such poor guidance we simply wouldn’t recommend them.
Sat nav apps
Sat nav apps are a mixed bag – some will help you navigate a tricky route with ease, while others are plagued by annoying ad banners.
Free sat nav apps – useful for occasional users. Most smartphones come with a built-in sat nav app – iPhone models have Apple Maps, while many Android mobiles feature Google Maps. However, the quality of free apps can vary and some have irritating pop-ups.
Paid-for sat nav apps –cheaper than a standalone device and easy to update. They're extremely convenient, as you're likely to always have your phone on you. Performance can vary depending on the smartphone you have, though, and some require a constant data connection that could prove costly depending on your data plan.
Keeping your sat nav app up to date should be fairly straightforward, whether you're using an iPhone or an Android smartphone. You'll need to navigate to the App Store if you're on iOS, or the Google Play Store on Android.
To update your sat nav app on iPhone:
Tap the App Store icon
Select your profile picture in the top right corner of the screen
Scroll down to Upcoming automatic updates
Choose Update all, or scroll down the list to your sat nav app and tap More to see what's new.
To update your sat nav app on Android:
Tap the Play Store icon
Select your profile in the top right corner of the screen and choose Manage apps and device
If you have pending updates on your phone, you'll see a header that says Updates available – tap it
Look for the name of your sat nav app and tap Update, or press the down arrow to see what's new.
Dedicated sat navs
Dedicated sat navs are the traditional sat nav – standalone devices that work out of the box.
The sat nav market has reduced considerably in recent years, with Garmin and TomTom being among the big-name brands that still release new models fairly regularly. But depending on your needs, a dedicated sat nav may be better for you than an app.
Built with navigation in mind, dedicated devices usually have good speakers and matte, non-reflective screens. Most come with free map updates and some also offer live traffic updates. If you have a caravan or motorhome, you can get a sat nav which includes features such as specific routes for larger vehicles.
However, buying a dedicated sat nav means you have an extra device to carry around if you don't want to leave it in the car. Plus, traffic updates often cost extra.
How to update a sat nav
If you own a dedicated sat nav you'll need to ensure it's kept up to date with the latest maps – that way, you won't hit any dead ends when you're on a road trip.
To find out how to update your specific sat nav model, head to the manufacturer's website. There you'll find instructions that'll most likely involve downloading software to your PC.
To update a TomTom sat nav, head to the TomTom website and install MyDrive Connect. Once installed, connect your sat nav to your computer via USB and follow the on-screen instructions. MyDrive Connect is used to install map updates and also lets you browse user manuals.
To update a Garmin sat nav, head to the Garmin website and install Garmin Connect. Once installed, you can use the software to update maps. The tool will automatically notify you when new updates are available.
Best sat nav features to look out for
To make sure you get the most out of your sat nav, consider the following when you're looking to buy:
Pre-installed maps – check whether the sat nav comes with UK maps, European maps or worldwide maps.
Free updates – slightly older sat navs may not come with this. They may appear cheap initially but can represent a false economy as you'll need to pay to update the mapping at a later date.
Live traffic data – this is really useful as it warns you of traffic building up so you can minimise delays.
Size – sat nav screens range from four to seven inches, diagonally. Some people like a larger screen, while others find it obstructive. But note that if you have a bigger screen, you might find it easier to read information on the map at a glance.
Where to buy a sat nav
Standalone sat navs can range from anywhere between £100 to more than £300. Some sat nav apps are free, while others could cost around £20.
A variety of popular online retailers that stock dedicated sat navs:
Argos sells a range of sat navs from Garmin, TomTom and Binatone, some of which are suitable for HGVs and motorbikes. You can expect to spend somewhere between £60 and £400.
Halfords splits its selection into several categories: car sat navs, European sat navs, camper sat navs, motorcycle sat navs and HGV sat navs.
Amazon has a vast selection of sat navs, but make sure you're buying from a known brand and a trusted seller. Plenty of models from Garmin and TomTom are available through Amazon.
Currys stocks sat navs from Garmin, TomTom, Mio and Snooper. One of the cheapest models is the TomTom Start 42, which costs around £90 at the time of writing.