Many of us now consider our vehicles to be inseparable from our sat-navs; we often wonder how we ever managed to get around without them. However, in the last few years the market for good quality motorhome satellite navigation has become quite crammed and there are lots of models all around the same price range competing for your cash; but what do you need, how do you know what is right for your motorhome and how much do you really need to spend to get it right?
Motorhome Specific vs Car Sat-navs
Manufacturers often claim to sell ‘motorhome specific’ or sometimes ‘caravan specific’ sat-navs and usually you’ll notice a bit of a price jump because of it. The main difference is that these navigation systems have facility to enter the height and weight and width of your motorhome.
Any road that then has a restriction on it can be blocked out by your sat-nav, ensuring it doesn’t take you down any path you’re likely to get stuck on. There are other (mostly cosmetic) differences, but the most important feature is that you have this restriction in place. If you’re only driving a small, light, campervan, there may be no need at all for a motorhome specific sat-nav.
Features you Need
The purpose of a sat-nav is that it provides adequate navigation, so make sure you don’t underestimate a package that comes with free updates. The roads in the UK and Europe change extremely regularly and a properly updated sat-nav is essential if you want to avoid being stuck in traffic.
Often sat-nav packages emphasise traffic management and things like speed camera detection. Traffic information can be an extremely useful thing to have and will certainly save you some time on longer journeys, but don’t be overly concerned about speed camera warnings. Much more common these days are mobile cameras.
Your sat-nav isn’t just useful in your motorhome; if it’s small enough it can be incredibly helpful navigating the countryside if you’re cycling or hiking. Buying a smaller, lighter sat-nav is extremely advantageous if you think you might be looking to take it out and about with you.
Sat-navs are also very frequently targeted by thieves and with a thriving second hand market for navigation systems it’s easy to see why. Security should be a concern when buying a sat-nav, so make sure your model comes with a zip up case and consider locking it up with a separate padlock. You should also ensure your motorhome insurance covers expensive contents like sat-navs.
What Should I Pay?
Prices for sat-navs range from around £200 up to £500 and there is a lot of variation between those marks. At the cheaper end of the market you’ll find the navigations systems themselves are less precise and you may have to wait some time for your system to start up. You might also find battery life, screen size and route planning options a little more restrictive.
When you get to the higher end, you start finding all these factors improving and you begin to get additional features. Many systems now integrate FM radios, digital television and MP3 tracking. A good starting point is to look to spend just over £300 and then if there are any features you really want like a Bluetooth connection, work up from there.
Before you go splurging on an expensive sat-nav it’s worth considering if you have any other options available. Most smartphones now function as good GPS systems and with the right app you might be able to find a way to use your smartphone as a sat-nav.
Bear in mind it may not have the same functionality as a specialised navigation system and that GPS will drain you phone’s battery extraordinarily fast. You should also remember it is illegal to use a mobile phone at the wheel of any vehicle in the UK – calibrate it before you set off and use a hands-free holder to make sure you’re within the law.
As a final point, the sat-nav market moves extremely quickly and what is being retailed for £300 today was selling at £500 not too long ago. If you don’t need an upgrade immediately and you’re after some specific features, remember they will all become cheaper in the long run.
Buying a sat-nav is an investment that will save you time and hassle in the future, so buy something to last, but don’t be too concerned with surplus additional features: they might not be worth the extra cash.