My thoughts on car navigation

posted in: Experience | 0
When you rent a car, it usually comes with bare essentials and you need to buy additional stuff. (Ex: Car navigator, baby seats, Insurance etc.) This post is mainly interned to look at whether renting the navigational equipment is worth or not. My experience from renting car comes only from foreign locations as I have not yet rented any vehicles in India.
Whenever I rented cars, I preferred to have navigational equipment from the rental company itself. There were few reasons for doing so.
  • They work in offline conditions. There are times when network is not available. Alternate sources like Google maps worked only on online mode earlier. And other maps were paid or I need to get a hacked version which I was not sure of its reliability.
  • Considered more reliable.  This is just based on my experience. The chances of the inbuilt GPS guiding towards dead end or into the fields were much less.
  • As a backup, if mobile conks off.

But my recent experiences have made me to re-think about it. 
  • When renting the car in New Zealand, I was provided with GPS equipment. When I started it in the car, it was having troubles to catch satellites. I had to go back to the rental agency and get a new one. Luckily I tested it at the airport. Else, it would have been more painful to get it changed later. 
  • In Mauritius, the GPS was completely non usable. The user interface was very user unfriendly and I could not search the destination I wanted to drive. Since the rental agency had already warned about its use, I had no option to return it back. It remained useless throughout the journey and I relied on Google Maps.
  • During my recent trip to Boston, I rented through Hertz. Until now, they were providing an inbuilt navigation equipment in car which functioned well. But this time, they provided a phone tuned for navigation with charger. When I gave the address that was about 30 miles from Airport, it asked me to drive to a state that was 600 miles away!! I rechecked the address and it was correct. Since I had an important Office meeting to attend, I did not bother about it and switched to Google Maps. While returning back to airport, I used it again as I felt that “Return to Hertz” would be more reliable than Google Maps (which could take me to Hertz but not the return area). It seemed that it worked as it correctly guided me towards the return area but it did not!! It could not differentiate between the first and the ground floor and ended up taking me to different place!! Google Maps again saved me that day.

These experiences and with the advancement of mobile technology, it does not make sense to buy GPS equipment along with rental cars.
  • Google Maps work in offline mode. Before traveling, I just select the area that I need to go and save it locally on phone. It works without issue in offline mode. Of course, you cannot get traffic information in offline mode.
  • Data connection is not a problem these days. Prepaid SIM with decent data and free calls is available at most airports for a very nominal rates. It works out much cheaper than renting GPS.
  • Google Maps comes with traffic input that is very useful. 
  • Usability options in Google Maps is much better than inbuilt GPS. While most inbuilt GPS requires proper address to be entered, no such hassles in Google Maps.
  • Near real time updates about road closures and blockades in Google Maps.

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I have not used other map providers so I do not have data to compare against them. I have had many experiences where Google Maps led me to a dead end, fields and wrong address; those experiences itself warrants for a separate post, I consider them as part of travel experience!!
Let me know your views.

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