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Should I buy a GPS unit to use in Europe or rent one when I pick up a car?

Should I buy a GPS unit to use in Europe or rent one when I pick up a car?

Jul 16th, 2008, 07:04 AM
  #1  
PJK
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Join Date: Feb 2003
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Should I buy a GPS unit to use in Europe or rent one when I pick up a car?

I am going to buy a portable GPS unit and will probably buy one that can be used in Europe. However, I noticed that there are much cheaper units available if I do not have the option for European coverage. We go to Europe about every other year. Is it worth it to go ahead and pay more for a unit with that option, or should I just rent a car that includes one? I assume that renting a car that has a unit would mean less negotiating room for a good rate if I make that stipulation. Any thoughts?

I have read several posts about using GPS in Europe, and most folks seem to think they are invaluable. I am typically the map reader. We have always managed fine, but a GPS might make life a lot easier. Thanks, PJK
PJK is offline  
Jul 16th, 2008, 07:26 AM
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I looked into this last year and wound up buying one that has the Europe maps loaded.

You can also buy maps and just load them into most units.

When I looked into renting a car with one there were a few things I found. With Auto Europe it appears they give you a unit to use. Rental prices for the unit were steep and the "lost" price was something like $1,000. So if it disappered you were out that.

Also, several posters on here posted that thier GPS units in the rental cars were not "graphic" but just text or voice commands. I like to "see" the map when I don't understand the language.

Plus I could get used to playing with it here.

now the downside. My GPS had LIMITED options in Croatia. However, it was able to get me in and out of major cities so it worked for me.

I won't go without mine again if I am driving. For city visits only I leave it at home. (Part of the charm is being lost in Paris for example!)
CarolA is offline  
Jul 16th, 2008, 07:29 AM
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Our 18 day trip in 2006 through Germany, Austria and Italy we had a Hertz rental equipped with an installed GPS and it was fantastic! I believe it was an additional $10 a day. We did have to have the agency set it for English and show us how to use it. This was our first experience with a GPS.

I went to Rome this past April and brought my own Garmin with the Italy navigation map. My intent was to drive from Rome to Pisa and then to Venice. My biggest mistake was to make this trip on April 25 which is a huge holiday in Italy. I think EVERY Italian was on the road. It took 3 hours to go about 30 miles. I decided to skip Pisa and go straight to Venice. The GPS got me off the AutoStrada "parking lot" and on the road to Venice.

I will never go to Europe again without a GPS.
lydialikestotravel is offline  
Jul 16th, 2008, 08:11 AM
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I went through the same exercise for our Scotland trip. One place that we had car reservations at said they weren't available. I found other places that rented them, but for our three week trip, it would cost almost $200 - enough to just buy my own.

My dad had a GPS, but it was an older model that couldn't add maps for Europe.

I bought (on Ebay) a Nuvi GPS, with US maps already in it, and then bought a card with the Europe maps on it - all for about $200. It worked great
GreenDragon is offline  
Jul 16th, 2008, 08:12 AM
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18 days @ $10/day?

Rather than lay out all that dough and not have anything to show for it, why not buy a GPS-equipped pocket computer and an inexpensive mapping program for it?

HP iPAQ 6510 - $100 on eBay
Microsoft AutoRoute - $40 MSRP
Microsoft Pocket Streets - free
Robespierre is offline  
Jul 16th, 2008, 08:19 AM
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It's funny. I have a GPS that is good for both Europe (where I live) and the US (where I used to live). The time it really saved my sanity was in New Jersey!

I still rely on paper Michelin maps while driving in Italy, and you will still want them too. But a GPS (mine is a Garmin Nuvi) is useful for finding specific addresses, and for figuring out exactly how lost you are (usually not much) if you take a wrong turn.
zeppole is offline  
Jul 16th, 2008, 08:22 AM
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"My biggest mistake was to make this trip on April 25 which is a huge holiday in Italy. I think EVERY Italian was on the road. It took 3 hours to go about 30 miles. I decided to skip Pisa and go straight to Venice."

Not just every Italian -- me too! I made the same mistake heading out of Bologna for Cesanatico for lunch. Had to ditch those plans and head straight for Venezia, where we were spending the night. We used to the GPS to find our way there once we'd bolted off the jammed autostrade. We took a back road into Mestre.
zeppole is offline  
Jul 16th, 2008, 08:25 AM
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I would recommend either the TomTom 920/930 or a Garmin that ends in 70 (370, 670). Those are the only two brands I've heard good reviews on post travel.

I have the TomTom 920 and I really like it.

Buying it before hand allows you to learn to use all the features. You can also pre-load your planned sites as points of interest for your trip.

I had driven in Germany/Austria without trouble. My German is decent and signage is logical and prevalent.

Italy was another story. While I survived, I wouldn't go again without a GPS. Signage leaves a lot to be desired.

Even if you can get around, a GPS will save a lot of time on the road. On vacation, that time could be better used seeing sites or relaxing that trying to find your way.

bdjtbenson is offline  
Jul 16th, 2008, 08:27 AM
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<<Author: Robespierre

18 days @ $10/day?

Rather than lay out all that dough and not have anything to show for it, why not buy a GPS-equipped pocket computer and an inexpensive mapping program for it?

HP iPAQ 6510 - $100 on eBay
Microsoft AutoRoute - $40 MSRP
Microsoft Pocket Streets - free>>

Sorry Robesdpierrre I am still a MAC person and always will be. And as I stated in my post I bought a Garmin.

Lydia
lydialikestotravel is offline  
Jul 16th, 2008, 08:35 AM
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"Italy was another story. While I survived, I wouldn't go again without a GPS. Signage leaves a lot to be desired."

But since all roads lead to Rome, it's not a problem.
zeppole is offline  
Jul 16th, 2008, 08:38 AM
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Thank you for asking this question. We were wondering the same thing.

Does anyone have any recommendations for a unit that you can walk around with and use in the car?
Photobear is offline  
Jul 16th, 2008, 08:58 AM
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I have the Nuvi 370. It has a pedestrian mode which I did use to find my apartment once in Croatia!

I also recommend looking into the beanbag mount. I got mine at BestBuy (got the Garmin from Amazon)

The Bean Bag mount is very stable, does not leave the tell tale "ring" on the window and actually works MUCH better on my personal car then the window mount. (I have a convertible and the "angle" on the window just is not good for the mount!

CarolA is offline  
Jul 16th, 2008, 09:09 AM
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We bought a TomTom before we went to Italy earlier this year. It was definitely a marriage saver! I'm not the best navigator, so it was worth every penny. We had to buy the Italy map at home & load it before we left, but it wasn't a big deal.
michelle1018 is offline  
Jul 16th, 2008, 11:15 AM
  #14  
PJK
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Thanks for all the replies. Fodorites always come through for me! Can't wait to start planning my trip for May of '09 so that I will have an excuse to be reading this board all the time.

I'll buy a unit here that can be used in Europe. Your answers were totally convincing for that option. Thanks again. PJK
PJK is offline  
Jul 16th, 2008, 12:27 PM
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Sorry Robesdpierrre I am still a MAC person and always will be. And as I stated in my post I bought a Garmin.

You lost me. If you're a Mac person, why didn't you use it instead of buying a Garmin?

Do all Mac users analyze problems the way you do?
Robespierre is offline  
Jul 16th, 2008, 03:20 PM
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<<You lost me. If you're a Mac person, why didn't you use it instead of buying a Garmin?>>

I don't usually carry a laptop while out sightseeing or use it while driving a car.

<<HP iPAQ 6510 - $100 on eBay
Microsoft AutoRoute - $40 MSRP
Microsoft Pocket Streets - free>>

These are all windows based.
lydialikestotravel is offline  
Jul 16th, 2008, 05:04 PM
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So you'll use something other than a Mac if it isn't Windows-based.

I see.

How about an iPhone?
Robespierre is offline  
Jul 16th, 2008, 05:22 PM
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BTW, there's an iPhone workalike application for the Pocket PC that mimics the look and feel of an Apple. So for all intents and purposes you've got an iPhone - for 1/4 the cost.

The iPhone GPS application is Google Mobile Maps - just like the PPC. It updates at EDGE speed if a WiFi network isn't around, but basically for free.

http://www.dvdtoiphone.com - scan down for iLaunch.
Robespierre is offline  
Jul 16th, 2008, 05:24 PM
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Actually, Robbes, the OP was asking about GPS units not about computer platforms.

Lidia brought up the platform issue, which you seem to want to turn into a fight.

Here's my take: I traveled this summer with a Garmin Nuvi 370. It comes with a suction device for the windshield but it also fits into a pocket (though there is a little antenna wing that juts out).

The Nuvi performed BRILLIANTLY! We used it most extensively on Corsica, in Italy, and in Croatia. The only weakness I saw was that the island of Hvar was not covered. I'm guessing I could have found map sets for Hvar if I had thought to look.

In Zagreb I don't know how I would have driven without the Nuvi since streets signs were hard to interpret.

As for platform: as far as I know, the Garmin Mapsource software only works on Windows. So if you plan on uploading routes or waypoints, you'll need a Windows machine. But wait! All three of my Macs run Windows! How convenient!

Anyway, my suggestion is to get the Nuvi with US and Europe maps preloaded. Practice at home and then enjoy it in Europe.

I think the iPhone works on both Mac and Windows. But Robbes, what's your point?
sshephard is offline  
Jul 16th, 2008, 05:38 PM
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I see my role as strictly educational. The more people who know that there are alternatives to whatever the herd is doing, the more pressure for innovation there will be.

I don't know if you've noticed it, but some Mac users have a rather supercilious attitude towards any non-Apple solutions. Their ignorance vexes me mightily.
Robespierre is offline  

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