/ Motoring, Technology

Driven mad by paying for regular sat nav map updates?

Would you rather pay once for a sat nav with lifetime map updates, buy a sat nav and then pay for regular map updates, or buy a new cheap model every couple of years?

Many models in Garmin’s latest sat nav range come with a lifetime of map and traffic updates. This is indicated by the ‘LMT’ at the end of the name, like the Nüvi 2455LMT. Models with ‘LT’ at the end come with a subscription to lifetime traffic updates and not maps, and there are versions without free lifetime updates too.

Garmin is unique in offering lifetime updates. Its nearest rival, TomTom, doesn’t offer them, but it does offer a 90-day ‘latest map guarantee’ so you can download the latest map within three months of purchase.

Still, premium sat navs which include update and service subscriptions don’t come cheap. And though many of us consider our gadgets an investment, many of us replace our sat navs every couple of years and often it’s just because we want the latest maps (and features).

The lifespan of sat navs

My colleague Rob Hull has talked about the expense of updates to sat navs built into cars before, but should standalone sat navs be regarded as a short-term investment only? Should we really accept that they have a limited life span?

I ask because a map update can cost anything from around 25% to a whopping 75% of the price you pay for the sat nav itself.

TomTom’s cheapest new sat nav is around £100 with UK and Ireland mapping, or £120 with European mapping. Its premium model costs around £270, but it comes with TomTom’s Live Services, such as traffic and speed camera warnings.

But once you start adding maps and services you might find your cheaper £100 sat nav is no longer the bargain you thought it was. A yearly subscription to TomTom’s Map Update Service will cost you £74.95. And that’s just the maps – you’ll have to pay £47.50 if you want to add a year’s subscription to its Live Services.

Is it worth paying 75% of the price you paid for a cheap model to update the maps? If you were willing to pay £25 more you could get a new model including the latest maps, features and a new warranty! What’s more, you can sell your previous sat nav to recoup some of the cost.

Do you pay for sat nav updates?

Of course, not everyone updates their maps – indeed, you may find you can get yourself from A to B without a regular update. And while some sat navs include a feature to share and download map corrections, it’s only useful if you know about and use it regularly. Still, out of date sat navs can get you lost. So, if you drive a lot, it’s a good idea to check your route before you go – but should you really have to when you’ve bought into the convenience of a sat nav?

Do you mind having to pay for sat nav map updates? Or should manufacturers stop charging (or at least make them more affordable)?

What do you think about paying for sat nav map updates?

It’s wrong – all sat navs should come with free lifetime map updates (57%, 307 Votes)

I'm not sure - it depends on how expensive the updates are (23%, 121 Votes)

I can get by without sat nav updates anyway (18%, 94 Votes)

It’s fine – I don’t mind paying for map updates (3%, 15 Votes)

Total Voters: 546

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Tim R says:
21 August 2012

I wouldn’t object to paying a reasonable amount, but I do think that the TomTom updates are somewhat overpriced (I can’t comment on other makers). Also, why can’t I just buy a single map update when I want it, rather than having to pay for a years subscription? I live in Cornwall and, to be honest, the roads around here don’t change that often!

I have a TomTom with ‘Live services’, so, as you rightly say, keeping it updated (maps+services) would cost £122.45 per year, which seems, frankly, ridiculous as it didn’t cost much more than that new! If the updates were more reasonably priced and flexible, I would probably get them updated; as it is both map updates and live services have expired, and I don’t intend renewing either.

Given that my current car has built-in sat nav (non-OEM but compatible update DVD cost £25 online) and both mine and my wife’s phones have Google maps/navigation (not perfect but very good and very free!), we are seriously wondering if it’s even worth keeping the TomTom for her occasional use.

I think people in the sat-nav industry need to be very careful that cheap/free alternatives don’t completely undermine their existing business model – don’t be like the music industry, get in front of the new technologies and develop new business models rather than trying to maintain the status quo and complaining that it’s not fair!

Rather than pay silly money for a sat nav in my new car, I have decided to us a cheaper portable unit and updat it in about three years’ time. I am not worried that the maps are a bit out of date and I can think of better ways of spending money. The portable sat nav is also useful for finding my way round town when walking, since I don’t have a smartphone.

I bought a TomTom XXL for £89, complete with western European maps. It was on offer and cheaper than the UK model. With its 5 inch screen it’s good in the car but a bit on the large size for the pocket. I bought this to replace my TomTom XL, which disappeared after being used in a friend’s car. This is smaller (about 4 inch) and more convenient to carry when walking.

One drawback of portable sat navs is having to plug them in after after a couple of hours’ use. I usually charge mine up in the house so that I only have to plug it in if I’m on a long journey.

Kelvin says:
31 August 2015

…or you could ask someone for directions…nice and cheap and you might meet some nice people too.

Phil says:
22 August 2012

This is a con surely? Does a Sat Nav device really need updating every year? It’s not as if the government are engaged in a massive programme of road building and upgrading. I suppose speed limits might change but then there are road signs.

Mantequilla says:
23 August 2012

I haven’t updated my satnav since I bought it a few years ago. If you roughly know where you are going and can follow signs, it’s pointless. My satnav can get me roughly to the right destination, new roads are generally just bypasses and/or new estates so if you have a little bit of spatial awareness, you don’t have to pay for these extortionate updates.

Alcuin says:
24 August 2012

I have recently had a quote for updating the built-in sat-nav in my Toyota Prius: £180. I was so shocked at this price that I wrote to Toyota. Their response was that they had to pay licence fees and that their parts prices were in the mid-range of spare parts prices generally…

I have a top-of-the-range TomTom 950 sat nav, which I bought new around two years ago for nearly three hundred pounds.

After logging onto their site for their “free” updates, I found that the speed camera locations had actually been removed!

I have not been able to restore them since, although TomTom will do so if I pay them another £20. Actually that’s quite cheap by their standards, because some of their other updates cost a lot more.

I wouldn’t mind paying a reasonable amount for updates, but not for “updating” information that was there to start with and they have taken off.

Such rank opportunism is one step up on from cheap colour printers for which the ink replacements cost a fortune.

Steve1 says:
26 August 2012

Like Alcuin, I have a built-in satnav in my Prius. Not that user-friendly, limited info, outrageously expensive, as are the updates. Wouldn’t pay for a built-in one again. It’s cheaper for me to buy a decent separate model than update this one.

Ok, if you have free updates on satnavs, then the business model for the companies changes. i.e. they would have to charge more in the first place.

This is to no ones advantage – as it is, if you aren’t too bothered, don’t drive much or drive where new roads arent built often, then the current system works fine.

If you really can’t work out that you aren’t really in a field when the out of date sat nav says so, then buy new maps. It’s your choice.

Yet another badly thought out Which campaign – “something for nothing” – without thinking about how the companies who make the sat navs actually make their money.

The compelling reason for keeping a sat nav up-to-date is safety. Let us hope that this business model becomes the industry standard.

Hello Buchanan, this isn’t one of our Which? campaigns. In most cases on Which? Conversation our experts write opinion pieces on what they think consumers might care about and then ask for responses from them to see if the general public do feel it is an issue. In this case Elisa has written a neutral Conversation looking at the pros and cons of sat navs that charge for updates – it is then up to you to tell us what you think. Thanks.

It’s difficult to distinguish between arguments that don’t seem that neutral (though this is better argued and more neutral than the TV licence one) and Which campaigns… Back to TV licences, that appeared as a very biased article in the magazine – to me that is a campaign!

It’s not to say that our experts can’t have strong ‘one-sided’ opinions on subjects, especially if they believe it to be true and it is backed by our research – not every Conversation is balanced. Again, the Conversation is just the start of the debate – we want to hear what you think about what we have said.

You can read more about Which? campaigns here: http://www.which.co.uk/campaigns/

Safety? How?!!

Road junctions can change and speed limits change more frequently. These are a couple of examples related to safety.

Funny, I use my eyes to cope with both these areas!

I don’t think sat navs should include speed limits – or rather they shouldn’t be allowed to include speed camera information. I think you should be aware enough of your surroundings to notice yellow boxes on posts

Let’s agree to differ on this, Buchanan. Have a look at the poll and you will see that most people want free updates. Obviously the cost of the sat nav would have to rise.

I referred to speed limits and not speed cameras.

I expect most people want free updates without any increase in the cost of the sat nav.

If the question had been asked to reflect reality, you would have got a different answer.

Something we can agree on. 🙂

As some commentators have alluded to, the cost of portable sat nav updates are one thing, the cost of OEM map updates is another. Given the continued extremely high cost of OEM sat nav installs (although even here some are much better than others) it should be a given that free updates come for life and for map disc updates to be done as a part of routine servicing (now that would give franchised dealers a USP to justify their prices). Whenever I change cars I always make sure I request that if it has an OEM sat nav that the latest disc is included in the deal – dealers shouldn’t be pushing it as a benefit if it isn’t up to date – it’s like selling a car without a full service history. This is a hint that should be included in all second hand car buying guides – much more important than your ‘mats and flaps’ and pressure should be put on dealers to do this without even asking,

The only reason that manufacturers get away with charging so much for including sat navs and for updates is that people are prepared to pay for them. At least sat navs are useful, unlike some of the gadgetry manufacturers and salespeople try to convince us that is necessary. There are many expensive cars that are not even provided with a spare wheel and few have a full-size spare. It’s all due to customers with more money than sense.

If sat navs can receive information from satellites, surely they can be designed to update automatically.

I have a Garmin. Map updates are generally cheaper on Amazon [currently 27% off rrp] than on Garmin’s website. Might be worth shopping around.

R.B.H says:
12 November 2012

I’ve had my sat-nav 2 years just recently whilst on a 1000+ mile holiday i noticed the sat-nav not recognising roads, suggesting taking an exit that did not exist or 3rd exit when it was 4th. how do i know? i did twice round the roundabout to check. i have now paid £23 for a years updates(1500 at the last download)personally if i am now up to date i will be very happy.

Davidc says:
7 December 2012

I purchased a Navman 5″ sat nav several months ago for £99 from a major motor accessories store – it came with lifetime UK map updates which I have used twice – It was a very good deal and I hve been delighted with it – why anyone would buy one without this facility I don’t know ! – Moral shop around

Sludgeguts says:
7 January 2013

Had a tomtom for about 6 years, never had a problem with it until I was offered a year’s map updates for under £20 (very special offer from tomtom). Bought the maps & plugged my unit into the pc, had to download latest ‘home’. Went to back up the info & the unit went funny on me &, basically, died.
Wife bought me a new unit for Xmas – it has free updates for life included as a special offer.
It has live services free for 12 months – then £8 per month after (so I get traffic updates along my route – what a con. I have a smartphone app that does a similar job & that is free.
The satnav has bluetooth to my phone but pointless using it as the speaker & mic are so poor they are useless.
Tomtom has also removed multiple waypoints (VIAs) and only allow 3 on all new models.
The satnav speaks road names – but cannot pronounce many.
Poor instruction manual.
They don’t tell you that the on/off switch is, initially, a sleep switch – so even though it looks like it is shutting down, it isn’t – the screen might be off but the battery drains in a few hours.

And tomtom complain that they are not making as much profit!

Mikey says:
2 February 2013

If you tow a caravan you may know how much trouble a sat nav can get you into, they’re useful up to a point but you can’t beat a good map.

Nigel whale says:
10 October 2013

We have had a Tom Tom one 3rd edition Europe for 5 years,all was well for the first two years re map and speed camera updates’ but since we have had nothing but problems when updating,downloading stopped before it was half completed,Tom Tom advised that we had to remove the firewall and use the Ethernet cable,after approx a year the problems recurred .it would take two or three attempts before a successfully update.we thought that the 3yr laptop was at fault so traded it in for a MacBook air. Now we can’t even get Tom Tom home, enquiries have confirmed this is a widespread problem. Tom Tom provided a long list as to rectify the problem,but I have been informed by others that the problems still exist,enough is enough,we won’t be renewing our subscriptions, it’s a shame as the sat nav has been excellent in taking us to various destinations in Europe including Austria ans Italy

I must confess that I am a Tom Tom Sat Navaholic. I can’t go the bathroom without plugging it in because my sense of direction is zero, just like my IQ when driving my car. I also motor all over the country and I find the device invaluable, otherwise I would not be able to do my job at all. The idea of fiddling around with google maps on my phone or peering at teeny weeny writing and lines on a map at traffic lights, when I wear glasses and can’t read that well without changing glasses horrifies me. Besides, I am also the kind of person that turns the map upside down to work out if I need to go right or left. Also, I would spend a disproportionate amount taking my eyes off the road by looking left and right down major high streets to look for the right street or road number and ploughing over a passing cyclist whilst doing so. So, I’m sad to admit, Serena had become my best friend, possibly because she has yet to point me in the direction of a lake even if she has taken me down some rather odd side streets at times and I end up in reverse gear practising my three point (thirty point) turns far more than I do heading in one direction in fourth on longer trips. Will I get map updates? Possibly, but only when the UK road landscape changes so dramatically that I instruct me garage to fit a rudder or wings on my car during my next annual service. Otherwise, with up to15% of road changes per year, I will continue to let Serena ‘strut her stuff’ with my current map, whilst I robotically obey her every instruction like some mindless Stepford wife dummy. No wonder I get on so well with Serena..
Now, do I turn right to get to the kitchen….or is it left? I just love my brownies.

Mr Grumpy says:
7 August 2014

I bought a Garmin Nuvi 1340 LMT about 2 years ago. My main beef with it is that it frequently
gives false info on motorways (especially on MI and M25) saying there is a temporary 50mph speed
limit (with accompanying loud ping every few seconds) when there is patently no such thing.
Garmin say the “safety camera” is built in and applicable when the unit is manufactured, and can be updated at a cost.Your article indicates that LMT indicates free map AND traffic updates.
To me, this is deceitful at least, malpractice at worst

Larry Goddard says:
20 December 2020

My old TomTom is 4″ and is great on the windscreen beside the rear view mirror. It also has lifetime speed camera alerts. TomTom dont make that size today so I will never upgrade. Also, I would have to spend on a 5″ premium model to get what I already have plus something i don’t want ~ a larger block on my windscreen. I accept my maps are not up-to-date, but I have never got lost yet. Everything I read about this company put’s me off them!