Is a GPS really necessary?
Do you really need a GPS unit?
We have survived full time RVing for over six years without a GPS (Geo
Positioning System) unit, and we have survived quite well. But, we
finally purchased one. Actually it is our second one. The first one we
bought for geocaching but it wasn’t made to give driving directions.
The process of selecting a GPS unit is daunting. We looked a various
manufacturer’s web sites, looked up reviews on various units, compared
features, compared prices, and finally settled on a Garmin Nuvi 250. It
has good features for us but is not overkill. Also, it was very
important to us to be able to move it easily from the motor home to our
little truck and back.
The manual is rather sparse but it’s a simple unit to use and it works
great. We ordered it on the web and received it in early October when
we were in Phoenix Arizona. Immediately it became very useful. During
our stay in Phoenix, we had to find various places. It was easy to look
up the address of most of those places on the Nuvi and have the Nuvi
direct us to those locations. It we needed to go somewhere that was not
in its database, it was easy to enter the address and be guided to that
address. It will always get us to that address but, given traffic
conditions, accidents, and construction, the directions may not be
perfect. Since we are often in an unfamiliar place, that’s fine with us.
It really helps when driving unfamiliar freeways and having to
negotiate complex interchanges. Shela, as we have named the Nuvi 250,
will say things like: “Take ramp right, then keep left.” That small
statement really helps with some of the complex interchanges. Shela
will also say something like, “In 2 miles, keep right.” That helps when
the left lane or left two lanes take off onto a different freeway.
The screen shows a detail map of where you are located with your route
of travel marked. This is also useful. Shela also estimates your time
of arrival and shows you how far it is to the next turn. A touch of the
screen will give you the distance you’ve traveled as well as how far it
is from where you are currently to your destination.
This is not to say it’s perfect. When we drove the motorhome from Ukiah
California to Manchester California, Shela insisted that we take
Mountain View Road. Fortunately we knew that Mountain View Road was a
very hilly (16% grades) narrow road with hairpin turns. It took a while
for Shela to realize that we refused to take that road. For about 10
miles (on a much better road), Shela would want us to make a U-turn.
That’s not something we wanted to do driving a 39-foot motorhome on a
two-lane road. Shela finally relented and came up with the route we
were going to follow anyway.
Shela does have one problem which I’m sure is typical of all automotive
GPS units. That is roads are changed, new roads are built, businesses
move or go out of business, new subdivisions are built. Unless you
update the software and database, any automotive GPS will become
outdated. Even with an update, the GPS is only as current as the latest
update, which probably won’t have the road changes that are less than a
year or two old.
It short, Shela has been very useful. Shela does not replace a little
research and a good map but she was definitely a good investment.