Selecting a Handheld GPS System

One of the nicest gadgets to have while traveling is a great GPS System. GPS stands for global positioning system. As you probably know, it can detect your position, nearly anywhere in the world, and help you get where you want to go.

But with all of the hundreds of models and systems out there, how do you choose which is best for you and your vehicle? Keep in mind, everyone is different, so there is no definitive system the works perfectly for everyone. With that said, here are some things to look for that may help you decide on just the right GPS system for you.

Types of GPS Systems

There are generally three types of GPS systems you can use in your vehicle: smartphone apps, built-in systems, and handheld devices.  Smartphone apps are just like they sound. They are apps you can download and use through your smartphone.  Let’s save this type for a later article.

Built-in devices typically come with your car and are installed in the car dash. These include Apple’s CarPlay® and other similar systems. We won’t cover these in this article because you don’t have much choice. If you buy the car, it usually comes pre-installed and may be hard, if not impossible, to change.

Features of handheld devices are what we will review in this article since there are so many options.


The first thing to consider is cost. You need to determine your budget before going out and looking for handheld GPS devices.  This will also help you narrow the choices.

Dynamic Entry

Some devices will actually help you enter your destination by trying to predict where you want to go. These devices dynamically update as you type. This can be a really handy, time-saving feature.


All GPS devices talk to you to provide directions. However, some actually tell you the name of the street to turn on to. This is great and helps to reduce ambiguous directions like, “Turn left.” There are many devices on the market with this capability.

Also, choose a device with a voice that you can live with. You may find one with different voices, which is a nice bonus. Make sure you can clearly understand the voice(s).


If you make a wrong turn, most GPS systems will recalculate the route automatically.  This is, of course, a great feature. But the better GPS systems have a single button that allows you to select an alternate route. This is great for traffic jams or if you just feel like taking a different way.


Some GPS units have the ability to sync with your phone using Bluetooth.  This is a really great feature. By linking to your phone, you may be able to play music through your GPS system or make hands free calls.

Video and MP3

GPS units that also include the ability to play video files or .mp3 (music) files are handy and fun. Usually, if a video is playing, it will override the GPS functionality.  Be sure these units have a slot for an SD card or a large enough capacity to hold your desired movies and music.

Final Thoughts

These are just a few of the features to consider when looking for a handheld GPS system. You may want to consider other factors, but this should be a good start.

Written by Gary Pradel