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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.)

Subscription Updates

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.

MSRP Pricing

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.)

Final Fix

(click the image for a larger view)

GPS Map Update Costs

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.

34 Responses

  1. One final thought to keep in mind. While Navigon guarantees thed update price for three years and Garmin does the same for the life of the device, TomTom only sells a yearly subscription, with no assurance that the offer will continue next year for the same price.

    gatorguy - March 18th, 2009
  2. I’m not sure what Garmin means by \useful life\. I’m afraid to buy a subscription for my Nuvi 200. At what point does Garmin consider the Nuvi 200 no longer \useful\?

    Plus, Garmin is vague about the quarterly updates. It sounds like there may be quarterly updates or there may not be. It feels like a dirty contract to me.

    Kevin R. - March 18th, 2009
    • By “useful life” I understand they mean “for as long the device works”. Since the subscription can’t be transferred to a different device, I think they say it meaning that once your device no longer works, your subscription can’t continue (obvious).

      I don’t think they say “useful life” meaning they could one day decide your Nuvi is no longer “useful” and stop your subscription.

      This is only my understanding. I might be wrong.

      David - March 19th, 2009
      • That is my understanding as well, with the additional caveats Garmin mentioned such as the possibility that your device might not have enough memory in the future for the same map coverage.

        Tim - March 19th, 2009
      • Well, what if “usefull life” means the life for which Garmin supports it ? What if a discontinued product appears as “non-usefull” product ? I hope that should not be the case but what if this be the case ?

        Syed Muhammad Fahad - March 19th, 2009
      • As an owner of an “orphan” GPS (no more updates, so far as I know), I take the lifetime question seriously.

        PND technology is now mature. Sure, newer ones have more bells and whistles, but 3 years or more is not an unreasonable lifetime. (My current GPS with 3 year old technology gets me where I want to go just fine.) Moreover, prices have fallen about as far as they are likely to go when considering the costs of the components, necessary sales expenses, and so on.

        It is common in the software industry for vendors to simply declare that a version has “reached the end of it’s useful life.” Is that the policy of any GPS vendor?

        As to costs, consider that right now you can buy a Garmin Nuvi 255 very cheaply, as it is being superseded by newer models, even though these new models really don’t have many new features (they are slimmer, I guess). If maps will be available for the older 255 for, say, three years, the low price makes for a great deal. But if the 255 “lifetime” is, say, one year, it would be a terrible investment.

        No manufacturer can or will support a device for eternity. But how about following typical software policies, in which vendors announce an end-of-life schedule (e.g, the Microsoft XP schedule, which explains how long support will be available).

        Bill - August 4th, 2009
  3. Just thought I’d let you in on the European situation:

    Last time I heard from Garmin officials here in Sweden (during a retailer information evening in October) they were releasing one update per year. Pricing seems to be around €80-100 for one update or €120 for “lifetime”.

    Navigon FreshMaps, four updates per year during two years, costs €90-99. With the 2110 max, 2150 max & 7210 max models you currently get a 80% discount here in Sweden, and with the 8110 one FreshMaps subscription is included.

    TomTom releases four updates per year, subscription prices vary, but a year with European maps is about €100-110. However you can also subscribe to updates for smaller regions, Nordic countries for example costs about €35-40.

    In any case, from my point of view, it’s simply hard to recommend Garmin currently, due to the lack of map updates.

    Alexander - March 19th, 2009
    • Alexander, your conversation with the Distributor happened well before Garmin announced their quarterly update plans and the map subscription. Not claiming (yet) that Garmin has committed to quarterlies in Europe, but only that at the time of your meetings, Garmin did not offer either of the programs.

      gatorguy - March 19th, 2009
      • Indeed, however they did receive quite a lot of flak from us during the evening, especially when they claimed there were no plans to up the frequency of updates, due to their economic situation.
        Of course, they might have reconsidered since, however in that case they don’t seem to have improved on the other point we criticised; lack of info updates to us retailers.

        Furthermore, I just got word today from our TomTom supplier that the GO730/930 models here will include 2 years of updates (8 updates), and additionally the GO730T will include one year of speed camera updates. Quite nice tbh.

        Alexander - March 20th, 2009
        • Garmin is probably the most secretive of all the GPS manufacturers. I’ve had them verbally tell me of “no plans” or “perhaps in a month”, then see a formal announcement of exactly what I enquired about the very next day. Features other companies might brag about go almost unmentioned in Garmin marketing materials. I sympathize with you. I’m sure it makes your sales planning very difficult. But in any case, I do expect quarterly updates for EU. Waiting on an written email confirmation before I state it for a fact, tho I did get a verbal yesterday.

          gatorguy - March 20th, 2009
        • Received written confirmation that EU maps (as well as NA) will be released quarterly.

          gatorguy - March 21st, 2009
          • If only they could have given us a hint about this change.. We could have sold a lot more of their products, because in the end, updated maps is probably one of the (if not THE) most important features.

            Alexander - March 23rd, 2009
  4. As far as your nuvi at some point in the future having insufficient storage for a full map or details equal to your current map, that applies already to the TomTom’s TA maps. In some cases they already have reduced detail or data compared to the maps which may have been supplied with the original purchase. I think the same would apply to any device from any manufacturer purchased today. No assurance that future full map releases will fit in today’s storage.

    gatorguy - March 19th, 2009
  5. The 7×0’s, 2×0’s and 3×0’s are already discontinued. . . but still supported. They also are eligible for the Lifetime Maps program. I think everyone is trying to read too much into the offer IMHO, and expecting the worst. Neither Garmin nor TomTom is committed to quarterly updates on a set timeframe. In actuality TomTom has (almost) never yet released a map update 90 days after the previous one. Some have been nearly a month after the 90 day schedule. Garmin guarantees you’ll receive every update they release, whether 3 a year or 5, free for the lifetime of your device. Not when they discontinue it and not some arbitrary decision that it’s too old. TomTom guarantees their price for 4 updates only. No guarantee that their offer next year will be as affordable, nor even that they will offer it at all. Navigon has changed their FreshMaps to 2 years rather than 3. The only manufacturer to offer any assurance at all of future update costs is Garmin. The other two are only a guess and a hope IMO.

    gatorguy - March 19th, 2009
    • I think it is just as much of a stretch to suggest that TomTom will jack up the price in the future as it is to suggest that Garmin would take advantage of the “useful life” clause and not provide new maps. To call it a “guess and a hope” is a bit of a stretch. If I took that argument seriously then I’d turn it around and say that Garmin’s offer has a prerequisite that they are still getting maps from NAVTEQ. Not even a year ago they made a bid to purchase another mapping company. Things change fast.

      I think you are reading too much into the offer that TomTom isn’t requiring you to plunk down several years of map update cash now. If I recall correctly, you said you haven’t purchased the lifetime subscription offer from your Garmin? Why not? Not sure you will keep the device for long enough to get value out of it? I think the fact that you haven’t yet purchased the lifetime map product suggests the lower cost/shorter term subscriptions have appeal and value.

      I love you man. :)

      Tim - March 19th, 2009
    • All PND companies above are bound to the release cycle of the map makers Navteq and TeleAtlas, which is quarterly for the time being (I don’t see that changed until they initiate incremental updating though).
      It’s up to Garmin, Tomtom et al to follow that schedule or to release less, but don’t expect them to release more than 4 updates a year.

      steve - March 20th, 2009
  6. Good guess as to why I haven’t taken advantage of the Lifetime maps. LOL

    My response was more aimed at the worst case scenarios I read concerning Garmin’s subscription. Posts ranging from the suggestion that EU maps will only be once a year to Garmin not offering the guarantee once they discontinue the model. The chances of those things really happening is as likely as TT changing their offer next year to $120 instead of $70. I guess the point to be made that there are limits and asterisks attached to any of these offers and none are iron-clad, “no-way-out-of-it” deals that will never go up in price or change the terms.

    Gatorguy - March 19th, 2009
  7. You’re completely right. Tomtom’s offer seems to be more flexible and prices can (and probably will) go down when map data market value becomes cheaper.

    steve - March 20th, 2009
  8. It is really unfortunate that manufacturers of technical products have not come to realize that if they used a common platform more people would be inticed to purchase a product in that family of products.
    But no, each time something comes out every manufacturer goes proprietory hence based forcing those that purchase to commit to them, which might be a good marketing approach.

    But it also discourages many others ( like me) from buying into that product market in fear that they might purchase the wrong “version” “remember the Beta vs. VHS”

    T Parkinson - March 21st, 2009
  9. For my part, the reason I didn’t get any update for my garmin 350, it’s because it’s way overpriced IMO.

    Single update: 70$ which is 60% of the price of the full product but with a data difference of less than 10%… Also, if the gps last a decent amount of time, I’ll have to buy two (or more) wich is more expensive than a lifetime update.

    Lifetime update: 130$. In a few years, the equivalent of my unit will cost slightly more than that. So I might just stick with the actual mapping and change the unit in a few years. I might not get a better product nor I’ll save money but I’ll still have a warantee. Because mine is out of the short one year warantee. And what if I I lose it, it breaks or anything else? Risky bet. Also, the price is interesting compared to the single update but because it is way too expensive, the lifetime update is not a great deal after all. I can bypass an annual update and buy the full mapping for around the same price.

    Guillaume - March 23rd, 2009
    • In the end, Garmin, Navigon and TomTom are all offering very good deals compared to what was previously available (nothing except annual updates). The TomTom offer is particularly atractive for those who anticipate keeping their PND for only a year or two. Navigon’s subscription has changed since the original offer, but is still very good at only around $20 year (2 years) when purchased at street sale prices. Garmin’s Lifetime should really appeal to those planning the use of their newly purchased device for at least two years or more, with street prices around $13/update if only used for two years, or less than $9/update if the subscription is used for 3 years. It’s very welcome news that map update prices are now a minor concern when considering a purchase from any of these three manufacturers. Any of these subscriptions deserve consideration for the respective owners.

      gatorguy - March 25th, 2009
      • I still consider Garmin updates too expensive (whatever are the others manufacturers offer). I could have said it another way. Why is a map update that is about 5% of change from one release to the next year release cost about 60% of the price of the full release? Anyway all my points are still valids.

        When I was selling Garmin GPS, we were telling the clients to bypass one or two yearly update except if they are professionals on the road (small minority). The difference in the database is so small it’s not worth that amount of money. And in 2-3 years, the client might consider it’s not worth to invest that money in an “old” unit. I mean a 150$ unit in 3 years is a middle of the range unit this year. So the lifetime is really worth it if you have a high end unit. And like I said, what happen if it breaks when warranty is over, it’s lost or a theft take it?

        Guillaume - March 25th, 2009
  10. For me NAVIGON remains to have the best and most crystal clear Map Program. The first to fully commite themselves to 4 times a year, full map releases, for the next 2 years for 99Euro. And for most devices even offer it for 19,95Euro if bought within 30 days. (In the US I believe it started at 3 Years and now went to 2 years?).

    Anyway, how many people will ever use there PND longer than 3 years?

    It was only because of this bold step of NAVIGON that TomTom and Garmin had to follow! :)

    And the pricing of TomTom is completely unclear and forces you to first buy a new map.
    And Garmin, tja, it has some strange timelimites and how the h%ll can you promise me a service for “Lifetime”!? Just for fun I should be a Garmin, put it in the closet for about ten years and then call Garmin in 2019.

    Anyway, more important for me is how the PND itself is and I love my NAVIGON. My TT-One I de-activated.

    Fred Zijderhand - March 27th, 2009
  11. I purchased a Navigon 2100max and just found out, from Navigon customer service, that Freshmaps are no longer available.

    My Email:
    I just purchased a 2100max with v6.5 and would like to update it; however, I am dismayed that everywhere I search retailers are out of stock on freshmap cards. I bought this unit after searching and finding freshmap cards for $15 to $39 dollars earlier this year. What is the status of this? If I cannot find one in the next few days I’ll be forced to return the GPS.

    Their Response:
    Dear NAVIGON Customer

    Thank you for your inquiry.

    Unfortunately not we are sorry about that, the freshmaps are not longer available, sorry.

    pp Michelle Collier

    Mark Roe - June 1st, 2009
    • Navigon has announced they are pulling out of the North America market for PND devices.

      Tim - June 1st, 2009
  12. If I buy the TomTom one 130s here in Canada it come with Canada and US maps. Will it also hold maps of UK and how much would it cost for these additional maps.

    colin - July 2nd, 2009
  13. Great deal going on at Amazon. Just $80 for Garmin’s nuMaps Lifetime subscription. That makes it the least expensive map subscription program currently available in the US, assuming you keep your gps more than one year. No mention of an expiration, but I wouldn’t wait around on it.

    gatorguy - December 16th, 2009
  14. In a comment by Gator Guy in March of 2009 of the potential for insufficient storage for additional updates.

    I purchased my Garmin nuvi 260 several years ago and purchased the “Lifetime update last spring before a trip to California. I again decided to update my maps a couple of days ago but during the process received a message that my unit did not have sufficient internal storage. The reason give3n was that new info/updates have expanded exponentially. I was offered the option of a partial update and was able to download a regional update to my unit. I contacted Garmin reference a question as to whether I could use the SD Card/Slot to enhance the unit’s memory or if it was just for new applications. I also asked if I could use a SDHC card in place of the SD Card to increase memory capacity.

    I received a very nice response from one of their product support specialist and I am including it below for your info.

    Dear Ron

    Thank you for contacting Garmin International.I recommend a 2 GB
    standard SD card for the additional memory………If you have updated
    the preloaded maps on your device and you would like to install
    additional map regions you can send the maps to a blank microSD/SD card
    using MapInstall.

    To install additional map regions to a blank microSD/SD card after the
    map update:

    Windows XP and Vista

    Insert the SD card into your nuvi
    Connect the nuvi to your PC

    Click Start

    Go to All Programs

    Go to Garmin

    Click MapInstall

    Click Next

    Click Find Device

    Click on the Drop Down Arrow

    Select the Removable Disk

    Click Next

    Highlight the maps you do not yet have on the nuvi

    Click Next

    Click Finish

    Follow the onscreen instructions.

    The maps will now be sent to the microSD/SD card.

    Mac OSX

    Insert the SD card into your nuvi
    Connect the nuvi to your Mac
    Open Finder
    Click Applications
    Double-click Garmin MapInstall
    Click Continue
    Click Find Device
    Click on the Drop Down Arrow
    Select the blank microSD/SD card
    Click Continue
    Highlight the maps you do not yet have on the nuvi
    Click Send Maps
    Follow the onscreen instructions.
    The maps will now be sent to the microSD/SD card.

    With Best Regards,

    Brian K
    Product Support Specialist
    Automotive Team
    Garmin International

    I have to say I appreciate “Brian’s” attitude, and recognition that some of us are not as sophisticated electronically as others. Also the response time for my inquiry was very quick.

    My only question now is how long it will take to fill up the 2GB SD Card?

    Thanks for all the support this site provides.

    Ron Gray - February 17th, 2010
  15. Here’s a different approach. When I need a map update, I just buy a refurbished GPS for less than the price of a map update…

    Scott - March 18th, 2010
  16. So these updates for the Garmin, and Tomtom they are not required are they? Because I just bought the Garmin GPS for about 179.99 + tax and I am not spending anymore money. If I don’t update I will just have old maps am i right? It really doesn’t make that much of a difference unless big changes occur right?

    Matthew - June 3rd, 2010
  17. I purchased the Europe Maps for my Garmin 260 recently. Because the smallest card I had at the time was an SD 4GB, I inserted it into the unit to download directly from the laptop. Now, that I am back from Ireland, I bought a 2 GB card to transfer the maps from the 4 GB card so I can use it again in my camera. Garmin walked me through this process. After the transfer took one hour, I got a message saying that the 2 GB card did not have enough space; apparently it only has 1.97 GB. So, it seems to me no 2 GB card can ever be used for maps. Has anyone else had this problem? Also, I have had the unit for two years and have never gotten an update for North America. So far, so good. It was terrific in Ireland!

    Valerie - June 3rd, 2010
  18. I made the sad mistake of Purchasing a navigation system from Clarion back in 2008 in particular the NAX 980HD and so far since then there has been only one update and that was for the 970HD so that one really doesn’t even count for me. Anyways the company which they use for their maps is NAVTEQ which seems to be an industry leader in GPS Maps for a lot of other companies. My question is why hasn’t Clarion done anything in so long and why can’t we forego the middleman and obtain a map update from NAVTEQ itself. I spent well over a grand in the initial cost and it would have been more on the actual navigation unit itself if it weren’t for a company which sold it on the cheap. $800 for the Head Unit and $200 for the navigation 980HD (normally around $600 to $800!!) which plugs into the back. Not to mention the time and effort to install all of this crap. I feel as though Clarion is only interested in the initial sale and could care less about customer support after the sale. The head Unit is a great stereo but sadly my navigation is almost getting to the point of useless!!

    Stephen - September 26th, 2010
  19. Here’s a basic question. What happens if I don’t get any more map updates for my TomTom ONE XL? I have gone through 2 subscriptions. Nobody’s going to move the interstates, are they?

    Also, downloading new maps to my TomTom is a colossal nuisance: takes over 1.5 hours & then & only then I am sometimes informed that I don’t have enough space for the download so a call to TomTom support & an hour later it’s all fixed but, good grief, Charley Brown, this should be simple. Also when downloading, I lose my “Recent Destinations”; the instructions TomTom gave me to save them are beyond confusing.

    Any help would be appreciated. If questions aren’t permitted on this thread, sorry. Sign me Fed Up in Kentucky.

    Jack - December 12th, 2010
    • Interstate highways do in fact sometimes get moved… this came up recently in the Providence area and impacted many GPS devices. Plus exits can get renumbered, new streets appear, some streets get changed from two-way to one way, new turn restrictions get put in place, etc.

      But generally speaking these days it is more cost effective to replace your GPS than to purchase a map update or update subscription.

      Tim - December 14th, 2010

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