Car GPS System

With regard to a car GPS system, you'll probably want something with a large color screen (easier to glance at while keeping your attention on the road), and the ability to plug the unit into your vehicle's cigarette lighter. If the unit is well-positioned on the dashboard, you probably won't need an external antenna. The unit's built-in antenna should do just fine.

About Maps

Now, about maps that come with car GPS systems: The base maps that come with some units depict only the major highways. While this is better than nothing, you'll probably want detailed road maps of the area in which you're traveling. If you need to find 123 Elm Street in Anytown, USA, for example, a detailed highway map will lead you right to it. Elm Street won't even show up on a base map.

Your car GPS system may come with detailed highway maps, or you may have to purchase them separately. Plus, every couple of years or so, you may want to buy map updates. Highways change, businesses along those highways come and go, so the latest map updates are good to have.

Cool Map Features

One map feature that I like is the ability to find certain businesses in your vicinity.

Say you're in a strange town, and you want to find a Starbucks. Ask your GPS if there's one nearby. If it's loaded with the proper highway maps, not only will it tell you all the Starbucks around, it'll also tell you how far away they are, and lead you to whichever one you choose.

Or say, you're traveling down the interstate and you want to know the restaurants at the upcoming exits. Many GPS units will do just that.

Or what if you want to go out to eat, and you don't know where the restaurants are? Ask the GPS. It'll tell you most restaurants in your area, give you their phone numbers, and lead you right to them.

For example, you ask for restaurants in your vicinity. Up pops a list including, we'll say, Panera Bread, Burger King, Subway, Red Lobster, Dairy Queen, Roadhouse Grill, Olive Garden, Cracker Barrel, Golden Corral, and so on. When you select any one, you'll get the location, distance from you, and the telephone number of that restaurant. I usually call them to make sure they're still there, and open. If so, and we choose to go there, I just ask the GPS to take me to it. It maps out a route, and away we go.

Your GPS will also find businesses other than restaurants, and this can be handy. My car once broke down in West Palm Beach, and I was able to locate a suitable repair shop only 4 miles away. I called AAA. They towed me there. The knowledgeable mechanic diagnosed my problem, fixed my car, and the next day I was on the road. Thanks to GPS.

Using Your GPS

Many times, when you're traveling long distances, you may not like the route choices your GPS chooses for you. Just ignore its

instructions, allowing it to recalculate your route each time you take a turn it doesn't "like."

Once you get to the city where your destination is, however, you may need specific instructions to find it in a maze of unfamiliar urban streets. That's when a GPS is especially great to have. It guides you turn by turn to your destination.

Another good feature you'll like is the Estimated Time of Arrival (ETA) at your destination. Say you have a business meeting at 11:00 A.M., it's 10:15, and you're still 25 miles from your destination. An ETA of, say, 10:50 gives you confidence that you're likely to be on time.

My GPS is a relatively inexpensive Garmin Nuvi. It does everything I want it to do, without being too costly. If it get lost, stolen, or broken, it's not that big of a deal to replace it. Fancier models will do more, but for now, my Garmin Nuvi serves me well.

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