Should you buy a GPS system or use your smartphone’s navigation apps?

With more and more navigation apps becoming available on your smartphone, you may wonder whether it’s worth it to buy a dedicated GPS device for your vehicle. The fact of the matter is that there are advantages to both, so read ahead to find out which option better suits your needs:


Maybe the biggest advantage of using your smartphone is not having to shell out any additional money for a GPS device. Sure, not all the apps available on your iPhone or Android are free, but they’re also much cheaper than buying your own GPS system.

However, if you’re on a limited data plan, it’s recommended that you upgrade your plan, as you could find yourself in a situation where you’re spending more in data overage charges than you would if you just bought a GPS device.

Traffic data

While GPS devices originally had the advantage in real-time traffic data, many smartphone apps have since caught up in that category over the past several years. Apps such as Waze have made a name for themselves by providing up-to-the-minute traffic information from crowd-sourced data.

Other smartphones applications do a great job of tracking current traffic data and finding a route for you that’s not congested, but just be aware that some may charge extra for live updates.  Remember that GPS devices also typically display other useful information such as speed limit requirements.


Unless your smartphone is brand new, you’re likely constantly worrying about draining your battery. Having to use a smartphone as your navigation device on a long trip likely isn’t a good idea, as the last thing you want on a road trip is for your phone to die.


Smartphones also rely on a cell signal for your map data, so you may struggle to get a signal in remote areas. It’s a good idea to download your maps beforehand if you know you’ll be on the road for an extended period.


Smartphones are intended to be used as phones, not as navigation systems. As a result, they can often be difficult to see when you’re driving, as the screen and font is often much smaller than a GPS device. However, there are a few Android models that are as big as the average GPS device, so they can still be viable options.

GPS devices, on the other hand, are designed to be looked at when you’re driving, making them much easier to see behind the wheel. As a result, there’s less concern of you becoming distracted while driving.

If you do choose to use your smartphone instead, make sure to buy a device that will allow you to mount your phone on your dashboard, as placing it in your cup holder will almost certainly lead to distracted driving.