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Video: On the Road with Portable Navigation

Heads up!

Welcome to this article from the Crutchfield archives. Have fun reading it, but be aware that the information may be outdated and links may be broken.

Join us as we tour Washington D.C. while exploring some of the extra features of today's portable GPS navigators. You'll see that there's more to navigation than going from point A to point B.

Read video transcript

Dominic: Today we're going to look at some of the cooler features of portable GPS navigation for your car on a trip I took around Washington, DC.

Just about any entry-level GPS unit will offer accurate guidance. However, there are additional options on some GPS units that make them worth looking into. For example, some units offer real-time traffic, movie, weather, and gas price info in major metropolitan areas. And that can be really helpful, whether you're in your home city or traveling.

On my trip, I used a higher-end model from Garmin to show you how some of these features work.

To show what this GPS can do, we're going to use a hypothetical situation. I'm a business traveler on a trip to Washington, DC. While I'm in town, I'm going to have to find my hotel, grab a bite to eat, and maybe find something to do while I'm here. When the trip is over, I've got to find my way back to the airport and put some gas in the car before I can return it to the rental place.

Before we get started, I want to point something out. Using a GPS device in a car is just like doing anything else when you're driving — it's better to be safe than sorry. So if you want to explore the unit, think about pulling over or having a passenger do it for you if you can.

[Use GPS to locate hotel]

There are a lot of hotel options in Washington, DC, but luckily, this GPS unit can help me out. We're going to go to the Four Seasons hotel on Pennsylvania Avenue. Let's call and make a reservation. We have a compatible Bluetooth phone, and using our GPS device, we can call ahead.

Off-screen hotel operator: Good afternoon. Four Seasons Hotel.

Dominic: Hi, I'd like to make a reservation, please.

[Use GPS to find a restaurant]

So I'm on the way to the hotel, and all the sudden I'm really hungry. I heard about this place in DC that's supposed to be really great. [Types restaurant name on screen] There it is.

[Use GPS to go to a movie]

Let's say I want to catch a movie while I'm here in town. The same info service that gives me live traffic and weather reports also lets me look up movie times and locations. Then I can call the theater to confirm the time or order tickets. The GPS unit can then direct me to the theater and help me find parking nearby.

Now, to get live traffic reports and some of the other info that we'll need, these GPS units need to work with some sort of broadcast info service in the area. For example, compatible Garmin higher-end units use MSN Direct, an FM-based system that sends info to your GPS device in over 100 metropolitan areas.

[Use GPS to check weather]

Continuing on my hypothetical business trip, let's say I have to catch a flight to Philadelphia. With Garmin's MSN Direct service, I can check the weather in other cities — not just the area I'm in. So let's see if the weather in Philadelphia is any different than it is in DC today. You can see it's raining in Philadelphia right now.

[Use GPS to gas up rental car]

I've come to the end of my hypothetical business trip. I have to return my rental car and catch a flight. Before I head back to the airport, I've got to put some gas in the car, and I'm on a budget. The Garmin's MSN Direct service can give me up-to-date prices from area gas stations, so if there's one along my route, I can plan on stopping there and saving a few bucks. Pretty neat, huh?

[Use GPS to avoid traffic jam]

Alright, we're on our way to the airport, and we seem to have run into some traffic. So we're going to use this GPS unit to see if we can get around it. You're going to look for a detour.

Off-screen GPS voice: Drive 1.6 miles. Then take Exit 69 on right to Sycamore Street.

Dominic: The GPS unit has told us a different route to take, so we're going to try that.

So, I didn't get a chance to try out every enhanced feature that today's GPS units offer. But I did get to see how these devices do more than just get you from point A to point B. For more information, you can check out Or you can call one of our experts at 1-888-955-6000 for more help.