/ Motoring, Technology

Built-in sat nav updates: destination expensive

A single map update for a sat nav that’s built into a car can cost nine times as much as an update for a portable sat nav, our latest investigation has found. So is everyone better off buying off-the-shelf sat navs?

The crux of our research implies they are.

Not only were we quoted extremely high prices for single map updates from dealers, we were also given conflicting information about what the updates included and how you perform the update itself.

Wild variation in update prices

One BMW dealer, for example, quoted us £175 for an update to a BMW 5 Series satellite navigation system, telling us we could perform the update ourselves using a special code.

However, for exactly the same car, a different UK dealership quoted us £375, claiming the software update had to be carried out at the garage by a technician, which was included in the overall cost.

One Nissan dealer initially told us a sat nav update for a Note MPV would cost £8, only to inform us it would actually be £156 when we phoned back to double check the price.

And one Volkswagen dealer quoted us £220 for a one-off update to a Golf sat nav, and then advised we’d be better off upgrading to a new Kenwood system, at the price of £998!

Are built-in sat navs really worth it?

With portable sat nav manufacturers like Tom Tom, Garmin, Navigon and Mio offering navigation updates for anything between £40 and £80, it makes me question if it’s really worth the additional cost of having a built-in sat nav and keeping it up to date.

However, there are good examples from our findings. And these come from the most modern of systems we inquired about. Like the 2011 Toyota Yaris, which most dealers informed us could be updated at no additional cost.

And with portable sat nav manufacturers now joining up with carmakers to offer their systems as built-in options, like the Fiat 500’s TomTom navigation, you shouldn’t have to pay any more than you would to update one of their portable offerings.

There are some benefits to having a sat nav that’s built into your car as well. They’re much more secure and difficult to steal, offer better sound quality through the car speakers, and can make some high-end cars easier to sell on later.

But is this enough to warrant the high price of having them in the first place, and the cost and hassle of keeping them up to date, when portable versions are much more cost effective?

NukeThemAll says:
23 January 2012

I’ve used a variety of built-in car satnavs (mainly on rental cars) and without any exceptions, compared to my TomTom, they’re abysmal. Difficult to enter the destination, questionable routing, slow to re-route if you divert, limited flexibility……Whereas with my TomTom using a beanbag mount on the dash top, it’s easy to put out of sight in the boot. With my TT I can add my own points of interest using software such as TYRE which makes it easy, and I subscribe to a web site which enables me to download **accurate** (never had a failure yet!) speed camera locations. This site also offers custom POIs such as hotel/supermarket/tourism etc etc, which I find immensely useful. TT also offer a reasonably-priced upgrade subscription and I think that Garmin do lifetime updates for a one-off up-front fee.

The only way I’d contemplate buying a car with built-in satnav is when (if) the car maker offers a rational business model for the update charge. Are they listening? Probably not…..

Mekkie says:
20 August 2014

I have a rangy with inbuilt, the latest update is 2 years out of date it cost direct from HERE 165
From the dealer 240″ HERE is originally Navteq,so do pretty much every satnav, still have my Tomtom go which I use as back up and when I leave the car, select last location finds the car,simples innit

Brian Gervin says:
15 September 2015

satnavdvd.co.uk, faulty disc supplied, no answer to mails, warranty worthless. Avoid!

I really don’t know why most car manufacturers have to be so greedy and let’s praise those consider those who have spent a lot of money on buying a car.

An enterprising sat-nav manufacturer (or a separate company) could do well be producing a surround that allows a stand-alone model to be fitted neatly into the space vacated by the out-dated built-in sat-nav. It should not be a big job to install a new unit and within the capability of anyone who can build (i.e. assemble) their own computer.

I have always had a Tom Tom which has always been brilliant and I don’t have to keep stopping to look at a map although I do look up the journey before I leave but my husband purchased a BMW awhile ago with a built in sat nav which doesn’t have the features of a Tom Tom like warnings of speed cameras, or if you go over the speed limit and also you can put in the whole post code. You can’t put in the whole post code on the BMW so several times it has taken us to a town but then we become lost because the last part of the post code is missing. Ridiculous. It has also taken us in the wrong direction and then got confused even though the address put in was accurate.

My built-in BMW satnav is great when I’m in long tunnels with underground junctions in places like Paris, Brussels and Monaco, because it continues working based on the direction of the wheels while there’s no GPS signal. However, the price charged for an update is extortionate and I will never pay it. With the £2000 or so charged for the satnav optional extra, all updates should be included at no extra charge for the life of the car. Also, despite this hefty price, BMW satnavs are inexplicably unable to set their own time from the GPS signal. Any GPS-enabled device should require only the time zone to be set manually, not the time itself, but BMW satnavs require their time set manually which does not subsequently remain sufficiently accurate.

Buy an expensive car and the manufacturer will assume you have plenty of money. That’s life, unfortunately. A watch that cost £5 can keep good time, so there is no reason why your sat-nav should not. If you ask for it to be fixed you might get a new unit with the latest updates.

“My built-in BMW satnav is great when I’m in long tunnels with underground junctions in places like Paris, Brussels and Monaco, because it continues working based on the direction of the wheels while there’s no GPS signal.”

My basic TomTom does this judging from a recent trip through the new Hindhead Tunnel.
Position marker kept moving along road and we “emerged” almost together.

However I would accept that an integrated system might compensate for speed changes and thus be more accurate !

Gavin says:
25 January 2012

Why even bother buying a satnav these days when you can have free systems that you install on your smart phone/tablet. Most Android phones come with navigation software. If you don’t like that there is one application that you can install on iPhone, Android etc. called Waze that is a dynamic social satnav that is free of charge. I have a TomTom Go 740 but never use it any more because of this saftware.

Phones have tiny screens compared with sat-navs. That’s a good enough reason for a start.

As a passenger I have played with a couple of apps on an iPad, but they were not as good as my sat-nav and I don’t see much scope for using an iPad safely as a driver.

Gavin says:
25 January 2012

Wavechange, SOME phones “have tiny screens”. Many smartphones have comparable screens and in some cases larger. Well done for finding something that fits your requirements. I have tried four different brand of satnav and still prefer my phone with free updates, live traffic, speed cameras and voice commands.

Very dangerous when you’re driving. You can’t see the screen. Only useful when a passenger is with you.

Mekkie says:
20 August 2014

How do you use your I pad on the move,

mike [hull] says:
27 January 2012

We already had a Garmin 3760 sat nav when i changed my car to a 2010 toyota avensis T4 sat nav fitted, in june last year we drove to the Narbonne area of France then onto Spain based in Tossa de Tmar. because this was my first long journey in the toyota we used both sat navs. Over 2 weeks & 2500miles although the toyota sat never let us down it was slower than the garmin.The garmin also had speed camera locations & the road limits showing live. For a so called premium sat nav the toyota has none of these. If buying a new car i would buy after market sat nav every time

Just for the record, if the French police do a control check on your car and see that you have not disabled the speed check facility you will receive an on the spot fine of 1000 Eu plus. It happened recently to a friend of mine. I have a BMW with a GPS significantly better than my Garmin but I still refuse to pay 300 Eu for an update!

Peter King says:
27 January 2012

I have a Mercedes S class bought new in October 2010 and was informed that I receive a free update on every annual service. This was indeed carried out free of charge on my service last October. On the other hand my wife has the Golf Match and a built in sat nav extra costs just short of 10% of the basic cost of the whole car!!

No more Golfs but I shall certainly stick to Mercedes in the future and my wife anything but VW cars.

I’ve had a Garmin Nuvi for 5 years now.
Maps for UK Europe & USA.
Map updates are now free (I got a lifetime world package for far less than most built in single updates)
It also provides hands-free phone and I can store all my music on its SD card and it plays through the car radio – whatever car I’m in.
The ability to carry all my favourite places in whichever country I’m in and whatever hire car I have is one of the biggest bonuses!

The built-in systems that I’m sometimes given in rentals are just never used – they are sometimes left with a small sticky patch where I have had the Garmin mounted …

I have a 2011 SEAT Alhambra with built in SatNav. It is brilliant it is accurate, shows speed limits, does traffic for free and calculates routes anywhere in UK before you can blink. I have a Garmin I never use. Previously I had a TomTom an dit beats the Garmin hands down even though it was about six years older. I wouldn’t go back out of choice

GEE! says:
30 January 2012

The biggest disincentive? When the radio part of the combined built in SatNav Radio CD player in my Toyota Rav4 stopped working at under 30,000 miles I was quoted £2891 by Toyota to make good. After shouting and screaming about low usage, mileage and rip offs this was reduced to £1400, which I still regarded as extortionate when it was only the radio and when one could pick up a replacement unit in the United States for $500 to $700 !! And a TomTom for a fraction of that.
I would NEVER again have a built in combined unit; nor in all probability a RAV4; or come to that a Toyota.

Alan Glazier says:
15 February 2012

Just asked for a Merc sat nav update disc……… £220!! What an unbelieveable rip off, how can they justify charging that for a .50p CD? A new system costs £3500 if you buy them as an extra when you order your car.

Peter King says:
10 October 2013

I don’t know what year or model you have but my three year old 350 S class has a sat nav installed as standard and free annual updates.

I’ll GIVE you a blank CD for free. You are welcome to find the data to put on it.

I don’t think I will buy a Sat Nav again. My tomtom broke after 3 years of light, careful use. Unless they sell them for 50 Bucks I am not interested. I am not willing to pay 400 Dollars unless they offer at least 7-10 years unlimited warranty on it. And no, I don’t wanna spend loads on map updates too. Good old road maps are cheaper and less hassle.

I have a Hyundai i40, which has a built-in Sat Nav. I had no choice, as I wanted an i40 with automatic transmission and these only come with built in Sat Navs. Though the i40 is a new model (it first came on the market last September), I find the Sat Nav more or less useless, for the simple reason that it will not accept Post Codes. How a modern Sat Nav can be made without accepting Post Codes beggars belief. It will only accept Street Names and Numbers. Particularly in rural ares many houses do not have numbers, my own only has a name, and some house do not even have street names.In addition many public buildings, village halls etc are not numbered, so unless a particular building is important enough to be in the list of Points of Interest (POI) it may be impossible to find. In the three months I have had the i40 my tally is 39 places which I cannot find using the built in Sat Nav. The particular model of Sat Nav in the i40 is very user unfriendly and I am still having difficulty in using it. It is supposed to have TMC (Traffic Master) installed according not only to the manual but also to the Sat Nav menu, but is doesn’t. Apparently this works in parts of Europe but not in the UK. There is no Safety Camera Alert nor actual speed travelling according to the satellite signals. Upgrades are very expensive. I have now taken to using my portable Garmin Nuvi in the i40. My particular Garmin Nuvi model which cost less than each upgrade for the Hyundai Sat Nav, has map upgrades and Traffic Master for life at no additional costs, it came with Traffic Camera alerts(these can be upgraded at a cost), and shows travelling speed, and of course it takes full Post Codes.
A built in Sat Nav gets the complete ‘thumbs down’ from me. Of course, even with the best Sat Navs it is wise to have an Atlas as well, and also have an idea when setting out on a journey, where one is going.

Neil Dalton says:
18 June 2012

I too have an i40 and the fact that it takes only 5 figure post codes is annoying. The lack of Traffic Master info however is being dealt with by Hyundai UK and I have been promised a software upgrade soon (next couple of months I think when the problem has been sorted) and the subscription will be paid for life by Hyundai. They were very helpful at customer care.

Tom says:
22 May 2012

Try Ebay. £55 for a satnav with lifetime updates, bluetooth for phone, fm transmit with video and mp3 capability, either 5″ or 7″ screen and several mounting options. Its a no brainer!
Don’t know why you would touch one of the built in options!

Rob Sharkey says:
12 July 2012

I bought a 2012 Suzuki SX4 X-EC with Bosch Compact Multimedia built in sat nav, it’s a very poor attempt at being a sat nav, I think a trainee software designer has been let loose.
Maps were out of date the day I bought the car,roads missing, incorrect junctions, no speed camera alerts, POI’S have to be installed onto a USB stick and loaded onto the sat nav myself, so for every town that’s visited this would have to be done manually.You can not sit in the car and look at map to show all of the roads within the vacinity to where you are.It will only show the road that you are on.Crossing a junction it will only show either the left or right road not both!! It will not redirect or recalculate a route,you have to get into nav setup and scroll to cancel the route and start again, all of this while trying to drive(sounds like an accident waiting to happen.It has failed 3 times to get me home by either fastest-economy-or direct route.Still in conversation with Suzuki about updates, the Dealership will charge £130 for updates, I can not down load them myself as they are supplied to Suzuki from Navteq direct, what a scam.The only good points are,Bluetooth for handsfree telephone connection and has USB port.

A VERY disgruntled owner of this system

N.T.whale says:
22 August 2013

Ime far from impressed with the bosch system again in a suzuki sx4 ex-ec , the radio keeps Turing out, once out of the broadcast area for a particular station ie radio Solent , the radio looses the transmission and is affectingly mute , with no RDS transmission from other stations in counties that we are travelling through. The traffic information on the satnav has never worked, to date still waiting for assistance from the suzuki dealer. The reason for purchasing the car was the the so called claims with regard to the bosch multimedia system and we journey down to Austria every other year, so be warned of such a system. NTWHALE

N.T.whale says:
22 August 2013

Line two of my previous comment should read THE RADIO KEEPS CUTTING OUT. N T Whale

DG says:
14 July 2012

I was very interested in the 2 comments about the Hyundai i40 built in sat nav. I am thinking of purchasing a Hyundai i30 later this year and trying to find out about all the features of the built in sat nav. I contacted Hyundai customer support they emailed me the answers to my questions
1. Does it have both Post Code and address function?
At the moment, it has partial post code entry (4 digit) and full address entry. 7 digit post code entry will be available with the Navteq map update (Autumn) which the you would have to purchase from the dealer.
2. Can you zoom in on the map and then select to navigate to that point, using touchscreen on map
You can zoom in on the map but cannot select to navigate to a point via the touchscreen
3. Does it show the road speed Limits, on his it shows max speed limit of the road
4. Does it have speed camara warnings
5. Does it have TMC, and what are the main functions.
Yes – it will warn you of traffic jams on route and re-direct you (if you agree to be re-directed)
6. How does the software get updated
Annual Navteq map updates are available to purchase through the local dealer
Does anyone have any other information regarding the built in sat nav on the latest i30

thank you

Rob Sharkey says:
15 July 2012

The only comment I can make about Navteq is that my Bosch system (in my Suzuki SX4) has Navteq maps and I have to go through Suzuki for map updates@ £ 130 a time, I think it is a cartel with Teleatlas and Navteq as they are the map digitisers and the sell to the car manufacturers.
Navteq do not sell the maps directly to the public if it is an inbuilt system(I could be wrong)
Good luck with your Hyundai ,it is taking me since the end of may to try and get the latest maps and is still ongoing

According to Hyundai customer service TMC in the i40 will work in continental Europe, where apparently it is free, but not in the UK where the authorities charge for it. (Garmin and other portable manufacturers don’t seem to worry about the costs). Similarly full post codes would also cost Hyundai a fees.

John Bremner says:
17 September 2012

Built-in sat navs are only useful if manufacturers don’t rip you off for updates. I have a Nissan NOTE and now use a TOM TOM since the updates from Nissan are daylight robbery! It would be useful if Which? would compile a list of the charges made by the car companies and shame them into behaving reasonably (i.e. charging the same price at updating stand alone sat navs). It would also let people know that they should discount the salesman’s pitch that the built in sat nav is a valuable feature!


Alternatively you could tell the salesman that you are not interested in any car that includes a built-in sat nav, explaining the reason if they look puzzled. I would also recommend asking for a spare wheel.

My Tom Tom sits nicely in the ashtray of my Golf 6, so no need to play with suckers or mounting clamps. It runs for about three hours on the battery and can be charged before I set off, so no need to mess about with car chargers.

Does the BMW built in sat nav store journey details?
I know it will save destinations entered, but does it save the journey details i.e average speed etc from each saved journey?

Thanks for any responses in advance.

J. Howatson says:
10 October 2013

Purchased new Nissan Juke on 30th Sept. only to find that sat nav. SD Card does not have two motorways completed in mid-2011 on it. Date on card is 2012 so you have to ask how up to date is it. Thank goodness I carry an old fashioned map.

Soulyda1 says:
27 February 2014

I took delivery of a brand new nissan top of the range qashqai in Dec 2012. Within a few months it was clear that the sat nav didn’t register a main road that had been around since 2003! When I spoke to the dealer I was told to up grade my sat nav at a cost of £150. I contacted Nissan customer svc only to be told that as Navteq provided the chip and even if I did up date the chip there was no assurance that the newer version would pick up on some of roads currently missing. What’s the point of having a sat nav built into a car when it is clearly already out of date when the customer takes delivery. Surely this is not legal, especially not ethical? Come on which? do your magic and put these guys right!

Thanks for the comment about this soulyda1. We’ve just published a new debate on the cost of sat nav map updates: https://conversation.which.co.uk/transport-travel/sat-nav-maps-updates-cost-expensive/