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Garmin Nuvi 500


While we certainly didn’t need to add to the already huge lineup in the Garmin Nuvi line, Garmin has introduced a new member– the Nuvi 500. Still, the Garmin Nuvi 500 does fill a huge void in the GPS market providing both auto navigation as well as off-road capabilities yet retaining functionality such as a touch screen. Yes, the ultimate “I just want one GPS, what should I get?” answer might very well be here within a couple of months.


Garmin Nuvi 500When you get right down to it, you can think of the Nuvi 500 as a waterproof version of the Nuvi 205, but it waterproof and comes with topo maps. It comes with auto maps of the 48 contiguous US States plus Hawaii and Puerto Rico. (The Nuvi 550 includes the USA & Canada, but no topo maps.) Want traffic services too? The Nuvi 500 can be connected to either a TMC traffic cable or the MSN Direct traffic service. As a bonus you also get the Historic Route 66 map guide by by MAD MAPS. The only thing that appears missing from these otherwise fully loaded devices is Text To Speech. Multi Destination Routing with route optimization also appears to be supported.


Waterproof to IPX-7 standards and an 8 hour battery life make the Nuvi 500 series very capable for off-road tasks. Topographic maps are included with the Nuvi 500 so you can tap a switch and move from auto maps to topo maps. All of the basic off-road navigation functions are included– compass, tracklog, removable battery, and connectivity with geocaching.com.

The Garmin 500 Nuvi can also be used for bicycling, walking in pedestrian mode, or loaded with optional marine charts for boating.

“This multi-mode nuvi is the ultimate device for those seeking portable navigation in the car and in the great outdoors,” said Dan Bartel, Garmin’s vice president of worldwide sales. “This product allows us to combine features from several of our most popular automotive and outdoor navigators into one compact unit. From weekend trips to the lake, to a hike around the trail, nuvi 500 is ideal for people seeking automotive and recreational navigation in one dynamic device.”

We are extremely excited to see this product hit the streets and can’t wait to take one for a spin…

Garmin says you should be able to get your hands on one in Q3, pricing of the Nuvi 500 and 550 is currently displayed as $499.99 for either model.

55 Responses

  1. Actually all the Nuvis with recent software can load TOPO maps as well as the standard Navigator maps. So all Nuvi’s are able to “Crossover”. I have a new Nuvi 200 and use the 2008 TOPO in it without any problems.

    Richard - July 22nd, 2008
  2. But the BIG issue with that is that they are not waterproof— get a drop of water or dust inside that huge SD card slot and your Nuvi 200 is toast. Your Nuvi also has a shorter battery life and doesn’t have a replaceable battery.

    If you’re going to use the topo maps enough to warrant spending the cash for the maps– you probably won’t want those limitations.

    Tim - July 22nd, 2008
  3. Absolutely correct. I only use mine for geocaching etc.. so rain usually is not a factor. Hmm maybe I should carry a baggy… 🙂

    Richard - July 22nd, 2008
  4. Yeah, that is probably not a bad idea. 🙂

    Tim - July 22nd, 2008
  5. Looks like just the PND a lot of posters are asking for. Expect it will be a pretty good seller. I’ll assume Inland Lakes and Offshore maps will also be quite usable with it?

    Gatorguy - July 22nd, 2008
  6. I think there are a group of people that are looking for something exactly like this. And they want it bad. But I’m not sure this will be a record seller.

    $130 – Garmin Nuvi 200
    $ 90 – Garmin Topo USA 2008
    $125 – Garmin eTrex Venture HC

    For a total of $345, versus $500 for the Nuvi 500. (And of course those are current street prices versus the MSRP.) Sure, there are advantages and disadvantages to both approaches, but there is still a premium price there for convenience. (That many will be willing to pay.)

    Tim - July 22nd, 2008
  7. Trying to figure out which marine maps are compatible with the 550 unit. So far only the BlueChart g2 Vision is listed, which is rather expensive and with some limitations for this unit. Apparently Garmin’s marine maps have not been developed for this unit and standardization is not a consideration.

    Mohamed - September 7th, 2008
  8. Isn’t another advantage the larger screen than the eTrex?

    Greg McGuire - September 21st, 2008
  9. I received a NUVI500 as a B-day gift. Great gesture on the part of the giver but WHAT A MAJOR DISSAPPOINTMENT – considering the price. Not all that user friendly – I go out on the lake it says I do not exist but it was sold to use on a boat.
    Oh you want to use it on the boat? Go buy a cable hunt down the maps- pay for them and then download them. Wait a minute. This piece of junk cost $500 and now I NEED to do all this to make it do what it was supposed to do and pay extra.
    Save your $$$ and aggravation. Buy the lesser expensive units. The aggravation offsets any convience you might get.

    Larry Z - September 24th, 2008
  10. TIm – you seem to be the gps guru on this site – is this the best buy if it’s going to be used for fishing & geocaching/hunting? Or should I buy multiple items like you’ve recommended? I’d like to keep the total under $300.


    sally - November 24th, 2008
  11. If you are just using it for fishing, geocaching, and hunting then I’d get a handheld GPS like the Oregon and skip the Nuvi.

    Tim - November 24th, 2008
  12. Tim-I would like to get a gps unit for domestic and international (europe) use. My wife is a rockhound and would like to have unit that can be used off road, trails etc. domestically. Some nuvi 700 models have domestic and europe already loaded..but $$$ any suggestions on a suitable unit but reasonably priced?

    Bret - November 25th, 2008
  13. I was about to buy the Lowrance XOG ,except they say Topo maps are downloadable and only the city/state maps are included with the unit. Well, I got a BIG shock at the Lowrance download page.I highlited the area I wanted for topos, Indiana,Illinois, sw Wisconsin. Cost of the downloads was quoted at $450 !!!! Wait a minute, the GPS is $150, how can the topos be 3 x that and only for 2 states?
    I have a Garmin 60CS but the screen is too small for my 52 year old eyes, hard to focus, so what to do plus am tired of carryin around atlases and maps for driving but can’t afford to spend big money for a car unit? The Magellan and Garnin crossover units don’t look so good either. I really wanted that Text to speech for the car and Garmins reliability?


    Tom - December 5th, 2008
    • Tom you can purchase a entire topo map for the United States for 150$.

      Jerry - August 18th, 2009
  14. I would like to buy my husband a GPS for Christmas. He would like to use it in the car but his main concern is boating. We boat on Kentucky Lake in Tennesse/Kentucky. What unit should I buy? I was going to buy the Garmin 500 but now I am confused!

    Hilary - December 18th, 2008

    Ron - December 27th, 2008
    • What method did you use to load them on the GPS?

      Tim - December 28th, 2008
      • I am having the same problem, having also downloaded the info according to the manual and the garmin site. It lets me go to most caches but some it keeps switching off no matter what I do (I can navigate to them without clicking on them, but then cannot register as found or read any info about the cache, which not helpful really!) What have you suggested for this fellow as a solution, as I am interested. Thanks much

        Shelley-Anne - May 16th, 2009
        • Yeah, my BF and I have had the same issue with the unit shutting down, something to do with LONG CACHE NAMES.
          We have had to take 2 units back because they froze and simply would not boot up again.
          We love the units, and called Garmin to see what they have found, and they played really stupid and said they have NEVER heard of that happening with the units…yeah right.

          roxanne - July 7th, 2009
  16. I downloaded the geocache data file from the garmin website link then copied into the gps on my desktop. I’m pretty sure I did it the way the website said to… maybe not?? What is the best method?

    ron - December 28th, 2008
  17. Am looking for a handheld gps to read trail maps for skidooing,horsebackriding,motorcycling,easy to navigate and read.Which unit wouold you recomend.Price range around 200 to 300.

    Gail - January 1st, 2009
    • If you want it to “read trail maps”, what format/source are those maps in?

      Tim - January 2nd, 2009
  18. I just bought the nuvi 500 and can’t wait for it to arrive. I thought about buying a GPS for my car for years and didn’t but now that we are going to start geocaching with the kids, the time is right. We also plan to use it for the topo maps, so this crossover model seems like the right fit. My only question is whether it can geotag photos (rather than simply navigate to pre-geotagged photos that have been downloaded from their Website). I downloaded and read the user manual, but couldn’t find this in it, so I assume it doesn’t do that, right??

    Shelly - January 5th, 2009
    • Shelly, correct.

      Tim - January 5th, 2009
  19. What a great site this is!

    I’m looking for a GPS for Driving and Geocaching. Is it worth it for me to get a Nuvi 500 or should I go with a Nuvi 260w or 265t (I like the traffic feature but don’t know if it is worth it either) and keep using my old Magellan explorist 210 for the Geocaching? (Obviously I’m not one of the mega-serious cachers!) Or, are there other better options I’m missing altogether?

    Oh, I’m so confussed! Help!

    Ann - January 11th, 2009
  20. I’m completely new to the GPS world and I’m looking to get a handheld GPSfor my car, but also for backpacking, mtn biking, etc. trips. I was going to get the Nuvi 500, but before I spend that $$$, does anyone have any suggestions? Any advice is greatly appreciated. Thanks!!


    Andrea - January 12th, 2009
    • The Nuvi 500 is one way to go… the other way would be to get something like the Garmin Nuvi 200 and then a separate handheld GPS. You would then have two devices, but each would perform the individual task better than just getting the 500. (And you might not spend much more.)

      Tim - January 12th, 2009
  21. Bought mine for $269 online. Seems like the perfect unit. The things I dislike are the lack of electronic compass, you have to be moving for the compass to work, no lanyard mount, expensive batteries. The things I like…screen size is much larger than a normal hand held, on the road this thing is 10x better than a hand held. I hope they expand this \crossover\ application.

    Kacy - March 29th, 2009
  22. I have owned the nuvi 500 for about a month now. I love the versatility. Bought it for $223.00 at [redacted], now it’s down to $157.00. My only complaint is the battery life is nowhere near 8 hrs. I have it set at 10% brightness, full GPS signal and the best I get is 3 hours. Garmin sent me another battery as they thought the original one was defective. The best I got with the new battery at the same settings is 3 1/2 hours. Garmin says to set display at zero% to get full battery life. That’s great if you don’t want to see the map.

    Chet - April 1st, 2009
  23. I agree with Chet I am very disappointed with the battery life of Nuvi 500. The issue is you can never use it for off road for some extended hiking. If I wold had known the issue I would had bought a different unit which provides me with better battery life.

    Bhupesh Desai - June 22nd, 2009
    • Apart from battery life this is a great unit to own and use it for some off road hiking. This is kind of cross over for people who likes both limited off road hiking and street driving.

      Bhupesh Desai - June 22nd, 2009
  24. I am looking for a GPS to use on a motorcycle and car. I have read about the Garmin zumo’s. I have a co-worked who has a Garmin Nuvi 500 and loves it, in a car and hiking. Would a Nuvi 500 work on the motorcycle? or should I stick with the zumo, which is designed for motorcycles?

    Tim - July 23rd, 2009
    • The Nuvi 500 will work on a motorcycle. I bought a Ram mount for mine and it works just fine, so lang as you don’t mind not hearing the voice prompts. The zumo has bluetooth capabilities that let you hear voice prompts through a head set, but is that worth another $500.00. IMHO it doesn’t. For the car the unit is fine also and it is very versatile.

      Chet - July 23rd, 2009
    • Can-am has the Nuvi 500 already mounted on some of their ATVs standard. I think it would work great on a motorcycle. You can turn off the voice if you want to. Also the Garmin ATV mount is very solid. I mounted one on a friends and was very impressed.

      Kacy - August 19th, 2009
  25. Sure wish I could figure out where Chuck bought his 550, since they deleted that link. Upgrading from a GPS76 Comparing the Garmin 550, 500, and the 276C.
    HARD to DECIDE!!!
    I currently have the Garmin GPSMAP76. I’m looking for a unit that can work for me on the home lake for sailing events here in SC.
    GPSMAP76 is hard to read in the sun during a Sailboat Race, much less add waypoints on the fly. Want to load my MAPSOURCE LAKES V5 on my new device and use it the rest of the time for the car, Any suggestions?

    Cary - September 18th, 2009
  26. Does the 500 have the same topo maps that the Oregon 400t has. I am looking for a GPS that I can use for both car and for hiking and hunting.

    Kirk - October 3rd, 2009
  27. The nuvi 500 is the most disappointing product I’ve purchased from garmin. I’ve had a GPSIII+, Streepilot 550, and streetpilot i5. I bought the nuvi 500 as a replacement for the gpsIII+ that I’ve been using on my boat. The nuvi is waterproof and small, which made it look like a good choice. It also can do street routing with live traffic update, which I hoped would make it useful during towing in the crowded San Francisco Bay area.

    The nuvi 500 is an ok street GPS when it works. I have a GTM25 traffic receiver for it. When the traffic receiver is plugged in, I can count on the nuvi 500 locking up at least once per trip. Garmin support is terrible, they deny all knowledge of any such issue, even though I’ve logged the issue with them before. I had it lock up on me during a trip to a campground I’d never been to, and I overshot the freeway exit by almost 15 minutes before I realized the stupid nuvi 500 had frozen again and was showing me my location from an hour ago. That is unforgivable in a gps.

    With a recent software update, the nuvi 500 will speak street names, but unlike the stock voice, the TTS voices seem to have a problem with the volume. They are almost inaudible even with the volume at 100%, making them mostly useless unless the windows are up and the radio is off.

    The boat mode is by far the most disappointing thing. The nuvi 500 WILL NOT SUPPORT BOAT NAVIGATION without adding bluechart g2 maps!!! I’ve been navigating for years on a gpsIII+ on the stock garmin base maps. I don’t need depth, I dont need buoys, I boat in the sacramento river delta. I just need to see where the water is, to have a compass heading to the next waypoint, and to not have the gps jumping my position onto levy roads every time I get close to one. The nuvi 500 WONT DO IT without the addition of maps that cost more than the unit itself.

    The screen is dim and hard to read while wearing polarized glasses, and forget about taking it out without a power source. The battery wont last more than three hours even with the backlight off.

    In summary- this product from garmin is mediocre at best. Neither of the two features I bought it for- live traffic-based routing and occasional use on a sport boat- work in any usable way.

    I’ve been a proud owner of garmin equipment for ten years, but this is likely to be the last garmin product that I will buy. The product quality on the nuvi 500 is terrible, garmin support is non-existent, and the cost of the maps borders on robbery. Save your money, look elsewhere for your crossover gps.

    Malakai - October 11th, 2009
  28. I purchased the 500 for on/off-road motorcycling and geocaching.

    I think I’m going back to my Map 76csx!

    I didn’t like the topo colorization on the 500, as it made it impossible to zoom out to see possible routes. I zoom out with the 76, and can see roads that may take me cross country to my destination. On the 500 was so cluttered I couldn’t make heads-nor-tails of the roads. (topo lines did the cluttering-not sure if there’s a way to turn the topo off). I think the nuvi 550 omits the topo.
    For geocaching, I think I’ll pass also. The 76csx was 100% better for getting within a few feet or so of the cache. The 500 would have me walking in a lake if I followed the gps.

    rdb - November 17th, 2009
  29. I want to buy a Nuvi 500 to use on my boat around Tampa bay and intercoast Florida. And also for my wife to use in her car. I want to know if this is the right one…

    Beto Amador - November 27th, 2009
  30. Wow, such mixed comments. Looking for a multitasking gps to navigate in the car and to geocache. I thought the Nuvi 500 might be the one. This will be my first gps and want to make sure I make the right choice. Any suggestions? Looking for functionality and support.

    Thanks, Phyllis

    Priscilla Carter (aka Phyllis) - June 3rd, 2010
  31. I have a new Garmin nuvi 500/550. I am looking for free software to upload to it so I can go geocaching. Does anyone know a good website to get it? Tips?

    Steve - June 5th, 2010
  32. For both Phyllis and Steve – Have had my nuvi 500 for quite a while and find it very useful, having solved issues of it switching off with long geocache names with a downloaded update (free) from garmin site. Have had no other issues with it and also have a nuvi 60cx and find them equally accurate for geocaching, and the nuvi very user friendly for car navigation.
    If you go to geocaching.com you can download caches directly onto the gpsr and when you plug it in to your computer, it should prompt you to put in the info needed to activate the gps. Some computers even go and search the info themselves on the net using the autostart feature, which mine did, so it self-installed all the software needed from the garmin site. Hope I understood your question correctly and that was the info you were looking for. If you join geocaching.com (groundspeak) as a premium member, you can do searches for caches in your area or along a specific route, and then simply tick all the boxes to download/send the ones you choose to your gps. The only disadvantage I have found with the Nuvi 500 versus the 60 is that the nuvi takes fewer waypoints, but I put them in files on my computer and clear the nuvi gpx file between cache hunts and reload any files I need from the particular file on my computer so it is not overloaded and full when I want to search for caches in a particular area ..works for me 🙂 Both units are very easy to upload all details to, but the nuvi is great in that it retains all the hints and other info from the cache page, as well as all the recent logs which can be very helpful. You can also log on the unit when you find the cache, so it is virtually paperless geocaching – great to read hints and further info when your on the hunt. I would recommend both units, but prefer the user friendly nuvi personally. Happy caching!

    Shelley-Anne - June 6th, 2010
  33. Is this the site I should use to download an application to my Garmin 500? Which app do I use? http://www.geocaching.com/waypoints/default.aspx

    Steve - June 6th, 2010
  34. Geocaching.com is the website you go to for downloading waypoints to caches into your Gpsr.
    You are better off becoming a premium member and then you can DL pocket querys of upto 1000 caches!

    Roxie - June 7th, 2010
  35. Hi everyone! Looks like I’m going to try a Nuvi 500
    for myself and hard wire it on a motorcycle.

    I see they don’t come with the PC USB cable
    but it looks to be the same cable as one of my digital cameras.
    Anyone know for sure if tha camera cable will
    work on these garmins or should I save time and order the PC cable along with the power cable up front?
    Thanks for any advise!

    Russ - June 11th, 2010
    • I have two cables for cameras. One works and the other doesn’t. The one that worked has the ridges on the side.

      Steve - June 13th, 2010
      • Great! Thanks Steve very much.
        I see what your referring to. A few of mine
        have ridges and some don’t. I’ll try them out.

        Thanks for this site!

        Russ - June 13th, 2010
  36. I think some people here are being fooled by the number of bars they’re seeing in the battery indicator. Like many brands of mobile phones, full bars do not mean fully charged, it only means each battery cell has some charge. In other words, if you’re out of power, recharge it for the required amount of time without it being on (4 hrs min.) I do this and get battery life as advertized. Good luck.

    Robert - June 21st, 2010
  37. Hi Everyhone, I have a Nuvi 500 and bought it to use on my motorcycle. Anyone know how to put it in motorcycle mode so it will take me on all of the back roads to get to my destination. I want to stay off of the highways and traffic and enjoy the scenery. I appreciate any help you could provide.

    Charlie - July 1st, 2010
    • We wanted to do the exact opposite when we got ours. It kept routing us down gravel roads as part of the shortest route.

      I know there’s an option to allow or disallow the use of unpaved roads. Not sure if you can specifically avoid highways, etc.

      You can also map out a route on Google maps and upload to your Nuvi I believe.

      allan - July 28th, 2010
  38. Wife bought me/us a Nuvi 550 (Canadian version), summer of 2009. We used it all the way from Winnipeg, Manitoba down to Carlsbad, California and back and LOVED it! Need to find the nearest restaurant? No problem. Motels? Easy! Tourist attractions? Lots of them.

    Lent it to my brother for his recent trip down south. He just took it as polite gesture, not really seeing the value in it. When he came back it was all he could talk about.

    We’ve downloaded Points Of Interest from websites — thousands of US campgrounds for example. It was easy to do and useful. Only problem was ending up in the middle of a suburban development once (the campground had been sold and developed since the POI was entered).

    We also used it in walking mode to navigate in unfamiliar cities. Great!

    I bought/downloaded 3rd party map making software and mapped a 5-km trail on a 60-acre wooded lot using the Nuvi. Downloaded the data to the software and used it to draw a map. Uploaded the custom map to the Nuvi and I can now see where I am on the trail.

    When in the car, we keep it plugged in so we always have a full charge — get great battery time when unplugged.

    Didn’t come with a USB cable, but the one from our camera works fine — most USB cables are compatible. This also lets us charge the Nuvi from any USB port if we’re not in the vehicle.

    INCREDIBLY happy with it.

    Only thing that disappoints me is the lack of a wrist strap. Would be really handy when using it as a handheld.

    allan - July 28th, 2010
  39. I am wondering what is new regarding this topic. I use a gps unit in conjunction with snowmobiling activities. I like to keep track of areas _we’ve visited_ with parties as some of the areas are poorly marked. This is ESPECIALLY important when in an area neighboring wilderness areas.

    Obviously it’s a great tool to ensure we don’t travel into an area we’re not supposed to, but I’ve actually used my trails and waypoints to show a ranger I had been a “good boy” and had avoided an area he suspected we had gone.

    I used to have a xog which was good enough to get by in a pinch for auto use (which I use only sporadically,) and also allowed me to download BLM maps etc etc, for the topo, but am looking for something new, (and which has more than a 1/2 hr battery) (:+)

    I know it’s been said ad nauseum that a person should just get one for each specialty, but I’d just like the question of which “crossover is the most adaptable” answered.



    Ed - December 31st, 2010
    • Ed,

      Just to give you an update on my experience. I’m still very satisfied with my Nuvi 550, both on the trail and on the road.

      As far as crossovers go, I’m convinced it’s one of the best. Whether or not you WANT a crossover will have to be your decision.

      As an on-road gps, I don’t think it’s missing any of the features you’d want.

      For off-road, I suggest you look at some units that are strictly for trails, see what features you absolutely want, and then see if the 500/550 has them.

      Also, since my last posting, I’ve added some bluechart maps and tried them out in Lake of the Woods. Worked perfectly.

      allan - January 3rd, 2011
  40. I like the Nuvi 500 a lot.

    1. It’s fine as a car gps, just like every other car gps you’ll ever use.

    2. I added the Garmin LakeMaster Pro maps for around $100, and now I always know where I am on big lakes, and have marked hazards to avoid.

    3. When I drive on lakes to ice fish, I switch to boating mode find holes and humps.

    All in all, I’m somewhat surprised the crossover idea never caught on.

    Brian - July 16th, 2011

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