GPS Map Update Costs
Garmin and TomTom both announced map update subscriptions this year, following on the heels of the impressive NAVIGON FreshMaps offer. Magellan has yet to announce any sort of map update subscription. Garmin offers a one time fee for “lifetime” maps, TomTom’s offer is on an annual basis, and with NAVIGON you get
three two (it used to be three) years. Confusing? Yes. But we are here to help you sort it all out and find out who has the cheapest map updates for the North America GPS market.
Pay as You Go
There are two models for getting map updates these days, subscription, and paying for an individual map. If you pay for an individual map you decide how often you want to update the map for your device. This can be the “safe” play if you don’t know how long you will keep your current GPS. These updates run about $70 – $120 depending on the vendor and the type of map purchased. Garmin typically charges about $70 for a single update, Magellan about $80, and TomTom charges about $80 – $90 depending on the map technology. (These prices are for North America maps.)
For more hard-core GPS users however, purchasing a map update subscription might be the way to go. Typically you will pay a price up-front and get a new map update four times per year. These updates come out roughly each quarter. If you intend to keep your GPS device for a long time, or just demand the most up-to-date maps available– this might be your choice.
The way each company has chosen to offer the updates varies quite a bit, so let’s break it down. Garmin offers a “lifetime” subscription package which is the easiest to understand. A new device comes with a 60 day “latest map guarantee” and from there you can pay $120 and get map updates each quarter for a “lifetime”. Lifetime means “until your product’s useful life expires or Garmin no longer receives map Data from NAVTEQ, whichever is shorter.”
NAVIGON’s map subscription package is similar. While cheaper at around $80, it does not offer maps for a lifetime– instead you will get the quarterly releases for three years.
Finally TomTom’s offering allows you to pay for a subscription on an annual basis, and receive quarterly map updates. There is one small catch though in that you need to already have the latest map on your device to purchase the subscription. The cost of getting “up to date” to start the subscription is pro-rated based on how old your current map is.
It is also important to remember that these map update subscriptions are tied to the device they are purchased for and are not transferrable.
Breaking it Down
Given that all of the programs are a little bit different, let’s setup a map subscription scenario and then apply it equally to each manufacturer, then compare the map update costs over the years.
In our scenario, you are purchasing a new GPS device today. You get the device, turn it on, register it, and start using the device. For Garmin, TomTom, and Magellan owners you take advantage of the latest map guarantee offers they have to get you up and running on the most current map. Within three months, you are ready to purchase a map subscription for your device, and you want to receive a new map update every quarter.
For this scenario, you will also pay the MSRP price. This is where things can get a bit fuzzy… While the Navigon FreshMaps subscription is $79, I’ve occasionally seen it as low as $35. The same goes for Garmin’s Lifetime Maps product that retails at $120, but I’ve seen it some places as low as $95. TomTom also sometimes offers sale prices on map updates, but I would not expect to see any price reductions on their map subscription.
(Note that Magellan doesn’t currently offer quarterly updates, only annually. Therefore in the graph below each “circle” represents a time when you will get a new map.)
(click the image for a larger view)
As you can see, the cost to keep your maps current depends on how long you think you will keep the device. It will be a bit of a gamble. If you are only going to keep your GPS for a year, then the TomTom updates will cost the least and the Garmin updates will be quite excessive.
Keep the device for two years and costs become relatively close… TomTom and Navigon have the cheapest plan here, although the GO models from TomTom are a tiny bit more. Garmin is still the most expensive.
Hold on to your GPS for three years and we begin to see a flip. Navigon is the most expensive Garmin with the TomTom GO line in the middle. The TomTom ONE and XL lines are pretty much tied with Garmin as the least expensive in this range.
Finally if you manage to keep your GPS for four years the Garmin NuMaps Lifetime product starts to really pay off and will by far be the least expensive. The Navigon and TomTom products really start to add up and me more expensive my a notable margin.
Which is Right for YOU?
Looking out four years seems like a gamble. You might buy a car with a factory installed GPS. You might very well be tempted by newer GPS technology that will come out in newer devices. Your device might break out of warranty making a repair impractical. (Garmin did tell me that if your device breaks and you return it under RMA and they exchange the device, they will make sure you can keep your subscription on the new device.)
Take a look around at any other consumer electronics devices you have– how old are those on average? I’m not a typical consumer, but most all of my gadgets are two years old or less. That would make the Garmin subscription very expensive compared to other brands… but that’s not to say I must go the subscription route either… I could very well just purchase a single update after one year.
All Packaged Up
And then there are devices like the TeleNav Shotgun which come “included” with map update subscriptions with their service fees. With a two year service subscription you pay about $9.95 per month– however for that price you also get the traffic service, mileage tracking, internet connected search, etc.