Are you one of the lucky 6.7 million Americans who got a GPS personal navigation device at the end of last year? A whopping 47% of those units were made by Garmin, the U.S. market leader (TomTom is in second place with 21%). If you have a Garmin StreetPilot or Nüvi, we’re going to show you how to pump up that already-indispensable technology, making it even more useful with software enhancements, new maps, and also a crucial accessory that every Garmin owner should have. Best of all, most of these enhancements can be found for free.
Here’s the crucial accessory: Forget suction cups and get a Garmin Portable Friction Dashboard Mount (pictured above, around $25), which miraculously holds your Garmin in place on the dash, no matter what you do. Believe me, I tested its mettle by driving rambunctiously to the point of recklessness, trying to shake the friction-mounted unit off the dash. It just wouldn’t budge. It’s as secure as if it were nailed down (well, unless you roll your car), and puts the unit’s screen just below your line of sight out the windshield, not obstructing anything and plainly visible. This baby is a must-have.
After a quick entry of my Garmin’s serial number, I discovered I could get a free update to my StreetPilot C550’s maps after entering a secret number from the product box’s documentation. Unfortunately, the software will be delivered to me on DVD via old-fashioned snail mail, but that’s the only way to get it. See if you’re eligible, but if you’ve already tapped out your free map updates, the latest version, the 2008 City Navigator for North America NT, is $50. Helpful hint: Garmin’s newest North America 2009 Map Update will be available in April (2008), so it might pay to wait a month for this.
I’m a fan of Culver’s restaurants, so I found a POI database that shows where every one of those luscious custard stands is located. Yum yum. Many of these files are offered for a fee, but don’t pay for them. Try my favorite site, POI Factory, (registration required, but the files are free) where nearly any interest you have is represented by easily-downloaded POI files. The data works on Garmin, Magellan and TomTom systems, too.
On a final note, if you don’t have a GPS unit yet, there are some selling for a little as $80, but if you must have a Garmin, we saw this widescreen Nüvi 200W on sale for just under $200. Great deal.