/ Motoring, Technology

Sat nav map updates aren’t worth paying for

Sat nav on map

Do you really need to update your sat nav map as regularly as manufacturers would like you to? They often come with a hefty price tag, but do Britain’s roads change enough to make the spend worthwhile?

TomTom charges £19.80 for a year’s worth of map updates, and Garmin charges £50 for a one-off update or £75 for lifetime European map updates.

So it’s definitely worth asking whether these sat nav updates are actually worth the cost.

How often did you replace your paper atlas?

Think about your old paper atlas. I used to keep mine in the car, and only replaced it when it became tatty and pages began to fall out. I never really worried about small changes to the road network. If I came across an unexpected mini-roundabout or toll road, I figured out a way to get to my destination. In any case, this was a very rare event.

On the other hand, TomTom claims ‘on average 15% of roads change every year.’ This sounded like a lot, so we asked TomTom to explain the figure. They told us that the 15% covers the addition of new roads and, interestingly, changes to existing roads, such as new street signage or points of interest (like a new cinema or petrol station).

Do you notice changes to the roads you drive on? Do you think your sat nav is ‘out of date’? Maybe you live in a modern housing development where new roads and roundabouts have been recently added.

If not, I wouldn’t bother paying for a map update. Especially at the prices manufacturers ask for. And don’t forget the time they take to download and install – it’s probably longer than the time you’ll take figuring out the correct route!

Free sat nav software updates

However, it is worth taking advantage of your sat nav’s ‘latest map guarantee’. Most manufacturers will give you the chance to download the latest map free of charge within a few weeks of turning on your sat nav for the first time.

Since most sat navs will be on sale months after they come out of the factory, it’s worth checking if you have the latest map and downloading if not.

But in my view, paying for map updates every year is probably an unnecessary expense.

Win the Which? homepage! If you want to win four Best Buy products as featured on the Which.co.uk homepage on 25 February, including a Garmin sat nav, visit our competition page.

Xi Liang says:
27 April 2016

Using an Android Smartphone or tablet with even a free Navigation app would be a solution, if that App uses Openstreetmap maps. Openstreetmaps are free and kept up to date by millions of online contributors.
It’s easy for every-one to contribute.
I bought my new car without a costly fixed navigation system. Instead I am using a nice tablet with an easy vent holder. Now I got the freedom of choosing my navigation apps and maps. All is fine.

M BOND says:
11 May 2016

Can’t really comment at the moment have only just found the page and do not know the jist of the subjects.

(Edited by moderators: We have edited your comment as it was all written in capital letters. Please read our commenting guidelines for more information).

Brightspark says:
11 June 2016

With Garmins £75 for lifetime map updates. Why would you pay this when one can buy a new one WITH lifetime updates for only a little more. That’s what I did. Garmin should think again and reduce their prices for updates drastically and match Tom-Tom.

something says:
11 January 2017

Its a digital download! Can justify the price especially since it is sold on mass.

[This has been edited to align with our community guidelines. https://conversation.which.co.uk/commenting-guidelines/ Thanks, mods.]


Ford want £200 to update the maps on my built in Sync2 system. It works quite well but traffic avoidance uses TMC on an FM radio channel which is limited in coverage & not updated quickly. I can get a Garmin or TomTom for under £150 with lifetime map updates & digital traffic on DAB radio channel which updates quickly & better coverage than TMC. They also have extras like lane guidance.
VW group offer 2 years of quarterly map updates for under £20 on new cars. Ford & VW use Here maps who are owned by BMW , Mercedes & VW so data cost for these companies is zero.
Ford comes on a SD card & VW is a download. With Ford how would you know how old the maps are you are buying? There is a tiny cost for the SD card but how can Ford justify the charge?

Ashley Robinson says:
31 August 2017

Hi I bought a truckers Sat-Nav 7″ Pro Drive, with life time updates guaranteed, now a few years down the line ; I feel the need to update the map, as I’m having problems with it now. When I contacted the company I’ve been informed that I have to pay a fee. I feel this is totally out of order.

Derek Armstrong says:
2 November 2017

I bought a second hand Suzuki Vitara registered on December 8th 2016 which could have been sitting on the dealer’s forecourt for a few weeks before it was sold, Thus I reckon the SatNav maps are nearly a year old.
So, I asked Suzuki Customer Services for the cost of an SD card which holds the SatNav maps: they quoted me £271.98! I understand this part is sourced from Bosch, and called Bosch for their price: they told me they do not supply their SD cards to end users.
Now for very nearly £272, I can buy a TomTom, AND a Garmin, both SatNavs coming with lifetime map updates!
I used to work in Parts & Accessories in the motor industry and understand that this a “captive” part but Suzuki (and Bosch) are shooting themselves in the foot by charging such ridiculously high prices for a replacement SD card: both will lose profit since I will simply download map software onto my mobile phone or maybe buy a TomTom or Garmin.