Portable GPS systems are the most affordable of the three options, but they don't tend to offer some of the cool features a factory system does, like Automatic Crash Response or Vehicle Diagnostics. Most don't look as nice, either. Since they're portable, they aren't a built-in part of the car's dash. Portable GPS units usually stick to the windshield or dash using a suction cup, or some other similar method. The systems are powered from the car's lighter or power outlet, so the cord normally runs down the dash as well. Portable systems are also at high risk for theft, and they also tend to have smaller displays than factory options. However, these systems cost significantly less than a factory- or dealer-installed system. Some sell for as little as $100 and since they're portable, there are no installation costs either. An added plus to owning a portable system is that, well, it's portable. You can easily move it from car to car.
If affordability is all you care about, then a portable GPS system is the best choice for you. These types of GPS systems are carried at all major electronic stores and are easy to shop for online. However, if you are in the market for a new car and want a clean dash, a large display and lots of high-tech extras, you may be better off with a factory-installed system. Because new car sales have been soft recently, many dealers are offering these systems as no-cost options to buyers, and many drivers like the ability to use the existing controls in the car to run the system, as well as the decreased risk of theft.
When deciding between a portable-, factory- or dealer-installed system, keep in mind that although the factory and dealer systems work and look great, they do little to enhance the resale value of the car. That's because by the time you sell the car, the system will likely be outdated. Negotiate hard for a steep discount if you're leasing the car or planning to keep your new vehicle for only a few years. That way, you won't have to deal with an out-of-date system. If you are planning to keep the car long term, a portable GPS is probably your best bet.
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- Cunningham, Wayne. "Best 5 tech cars." CNET Reviews. Dec. 17, 2008. (Jan. 27, 2009) http://reviews.cnet.com/best-tech-cars/?tag=rightColumnArea1.0
- Delany, John R. "GPS Buying Guide." CNET Reviews. (Jan. 27, 2009) http://reviews.cnet.com/gps-buying-guide/?tag=leftColumnArea1.0
- Newman, Rick. "Eight New-Car Features You Don't Need." U.S. News and World Report. April 18, 2007. (Jan. 27, 2009) http://www.usnews.com/usnews/biztech/articles/070418/18carfeatures.htm
- U.S. News Rankings and Reviews. "Ford Develops OnStar Competitor." Sept. 3, 2008. (Jan. 27, 2009)http://usnews.rankingsandreviews.com/cars-trucks/daily-news/080903-Ford-Develops-OnStar-Competitor/