Full-featured GPS navigators are selling for record low prices, but here’s what you need to know if you buy or give one.

Your wait is over for GPS satellite navigators. It has paid off. Full-featured navs are at record low prices.

Competition is driving down prices. Cell phones and laptop computers now come with GPS voice options. This is causing a shakeout in the dedicated-unit industry.

The big plus for us all is the GPS satellites are being updated. Old GPS could be up to 300 feet off. The new ones should cut the error to about 50 feet or less.

The Navs are getting smarter, offering more features beyond driving directions. One item not yet perfect is the “driving conditions” feature. This plugs into highway department road-condition networks and includes traffic jams.

Problem is not many states have traffic sensors and fewer still network them to the public. This is changing fast, as the information is gold to the traveler.

With all the new gizmos and at low prices, don’t be shocked to see nuisance advertising creeping onto your small screen. One wonders the efficiency of reading pop-up ads while driving. Anyway, this is one that only will grow (worse).

Beware: GPS units are thief magnets. That device pasted to your windshield will last only a few minutes in most urban settings.

Most GPS units now offer voice directions. You’ll soon find yourself never looking at the unit. Your voice GPS can rest on a seat or the center console of your vehicle. Note that even the hint of a GPS, such as a dashboard holder, can send thieves into a frenzy.

A lot of units come back to stores not because they are defective. The user is trying to establish a satellite link in a dead zone such as a garage, beside a tall building or under thick trees. The result is brisk sales of “factory refurbished” units at amazingly low prices.

Remember: GPS is line of sight. Your unit needs an unobstructed view of the satellites to lock on.

Your best installation scheme is to find a big parking lot or open field. Place the box on the dashboard and run the connection feature. Once connected, the device will remember the satellite coordinates.

There have been some press reports about inaccurate directions. Most users will not suffer this. Still, these receivers somewhere along the line are dependent on human input. The result is mistakes.

GPS is great for finding big things such as the Grand Canyon or your alma mater. They may not be perfect for the fine details such as a house number on an alley. The machine may get within 100 feet of your target, but you’ll have to supply the rest.

Some GPS mapping programs are outright wrong, directing you to a wrong address. You might even find your own address is inaccurate. If that happens, you can request a correction for free by contacting the two companies that draw the maps:

Navteq at http://mapreporter.navteq.com. Tele Atlas at http.//mapinsight.teleatlas.com.


Be patient. It usually takes these guys a few months to make corrections. You should get an e-mail confirmation from them.

Tom Tom is one of the few makers that allow users to change errant coordinates but only for that one device. The information may be sent to Tom Tom’s network. Users of other makes will not see it.

Contact Jim Hillibish at jim.hillibish@cantonrep.com.