Direct Line magazine

Is a fitted or aftermarket sat nav best?

Updated on: 9 March 2020

a car with a fitted sat nav

The majority of drivers now use satellite navigation.

A survey by the Department for Transport National Travel Survey revealed that 2014 was the first year more drivers used sat navs than maps, with 52% of drivers now using electronic navigation.

Of that number, the report claimed that 39% used a portable sat nav or an app on their smartphone. Just 13 per cent had a system that was integrated in their vehicle.

But if you’re looking at joining the crowd, which is best? Satellite navigation that is in-built with the car, or an aftermarket, portable navigation unit?

Why is the question of using a built-in sat nav relevant?

The reason only a quarter of the sat navs used currently are built in to the car is that until relatively recently they have only been available on more expensive executive cars. As a result, many drivers have made do with some of the excellent aftermarket units that stick to the dashboard or windscreen.

What’s the cost difference?

If you want to specify a sat nav system on a new Nissan Qashqai it will cost £750. It’s exactly the same price with a Volkswagen Golf. That’s very expensive when compared with an aftermarket device.

You can buy a basic sat nav for around £60 while one with a bigger screen and European mapping will cost around £250. And of course, when you sell the car, you can take the portable unit with you.

In-built satnav on a car dashboard

Is it worth having one built in?

Forget the cost for a moment. The main reason for having a built-in sat nav is that you won’t have charging wires possibly trailing around your cabin. And you won’t have to worry about someone stealing it if you leave it in the car. But if you decide to choose a built-in sat nav, you’re unlikely to get much of your money back when you sell on the car, says Philip Nothard from CAP Automotive, a vehicle valuation expert.

When should you choose a built-in sat nav?

“The smaller the car, the less a used buyer will expect it to have sat nav,” said Nothard. “Conversely, the bigger the car, the more a used buyer will expect it to have sat nav.” So if you’re buying a Fiat 500, anyone who buys the car from you won’t be looking for sat nav; but buyers may ignore models such as the Audi A6 if they don’t have in-built navigation. However, as time passes and more cars are offered with integrated sat navs, more used-car buyers will expect them.

There are various free or affordable smartphone navigation apps that offer an excellent service

What about using your smartphone?

There are various free or affordable smartphone navigation apps that offer an excellent service. And with some you can download the maps you need when you’re online so that you don’t need internet access to use them. CoPilot, Waze and Here are some of the better ones. Google Maps gets better with every update, too.

But be warned: drivers can’t just rest the phone on their lap. They should have a proper cradle for a smartphone so that they can operate and view it safely while driving. And if a police officer thinks it’s distracting you, they can still stop you.

So what’s the answer?

If you’re buying a new car and planning on keeping it for a long time, it probably makes sense to specify a built-in navigation system. If you like to change your cars every couple of years, whether you go built-in or not depends on the size of car. The bigger the car, the more compelling the argument for specifying it because it will make the car more attractive when you sell it on. For small city cars, you’re probably still best saving some money and buying an aftermarket system.

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