My GPS Nightmare/Dream

So allow me to outline the situation. I’m going to be toodling around Europe in a (very small, hopefully not *too* small) rental car. I will be driving places I’ve never driven before, following traffic laws that I only vaguely understand, on roads that might well be treacherous and filled with drivers who prefer to drive somewhat closer to the speed of light than I do.

I will need a GPS.

I’ve thought about this a fair bit. People got along just fine without GPS devices for centuries. Could I get by without one for three weeks? Well, people got by without modern medicine, too. That doesn’t mean you decide to skip out on surgery when the need arises. A GPS is a must.

I have a GPS. It works great. Takes me all over America just fine. However, it doesn’t have the maps for Europe. I could buy the maps for Europe.

It would cost $99. Just for the maps. I looked at how much a brand new GPS would cost with the maps for Europe already loaded. $172. I looked at how much it would cost to just rent a GPS with the car for 3 weeks. $120.

This, my friends, is a racket. A GPS racket. And it’s especially irksome when you think that GPS devices are really becoming a thing of the past. In a perfect world–my dream world–I would have a smartphone with a GPS app on it. My phone would work anywhere I had signal, anywhere in the world. I looked into trying this for this trip–if I’m spending $100+ on a GPS, why not get an iPhone or something. Something I’ll use later on.

I could do it. All I’d need to do is get the iPhone, make sure it’s unlocked, go to Germany, get a SIM card with data on it–and roaming–and hope it works right. But those SIM cards ain’t cheap, and I don’t want to be troubleshooting technology when all I’m really trying to do is drive from Frankfurt to Stuttgart. I could have also switched phone plans to add international data and roaming, but I’d be then paying through the nose for that.

So I bought a new GPS. Sheesh. For those of you wondering, I got a Garmin 2475. It’s the transatlantic model–has North America and Europe maps preloaded, plus some nice bells and whistles. But all I really got it for were the maps. It’s an upgrade from my last GPS, at least. So not a complete waste. And now I’ll have current American maps loaded on it, too. That’s something.

But still. I dream that one day, all these little devices–all these little niche markets companies have dug out for themselves–are done away with. Data is cheap and easily obtained across country boundaries. But for that to happen, laws need to change. In many many countries. And I think I’m only dreaming. And it’s frustrating, because the technology is there. There’s no technical reason that can’t be happening today. Now. It’s just all this legal red tape and fees and money.


In other news, does anyone want a well-cared for GPS? I’m selling one, if anyone does. Four years old, but it still gets you from Point A to Point B. 🙂

4 thoughts on “My GPS Nightmare/Dream”

  1. There are all kinds of free map data in the world and routing programs and some GPS units let you upload them from a computer or SD card. Usually those are the GPS units that don’t have nice voices or graphics, but they work great if you have someone in the car with you. Do you have any friends in the geography department who could help out?


  2. What kind of care & feeding does a GPS need? That’s always the difficult thing, do you put it in a kennel when you go away, is it the kind of animal where you open a can of food and it will ration itself. Lots of important things to look at before adding something new to the family.

  3. Becky–that’s a fantastic idea. I have a good friend who’s a geography prof. I’ll ask him.

    Joshua–a GPS needs a constant diet of shredded paper money. Preferably twenties. Unfortunately, they get lost easily and need to be constantly reminded about where they are. Also, they have a very short life expectancy. I don’t recommend one as a pet. Especially since they’re so partial to car rides, and you don’t have a car. Might I recommend a Degu, instead?

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