Checkout Lane: Your guide to the best navigation systems

Shaunna Gately

Many people are now opting for the safety of having a GPS navigation device installed in their vehicle, said Dave McCreary, owner of AutoToys in Randolph, Mass. McCreary said in-dash navigation units have become a common solution to the problem of smash-and-grabs, where cars are broken into specifically to steal the GPS.

In-dash units allow navigation systems to be seamlessly integrated with a car's stereo, CD player, Bluetooth headset satellite radio and iPod.

Having an in-dash navigation device installed in your car could cost between $600 and $1,500, depending if there is a custom installation kit available for your particular vehicle.

Portable units can be purchased online for under $100, and many shops have scaled back on selling them because it's tough to compete with the low prices.

Portable units can obstruct the windshield, which can be hazardous while driving, said Andrew Johnson, an installer at Precision Sound in Randolph. In addition, you must go through the trouble of detaching the GPS from the windshield and reattaching it every time you drive to prevent thefts.

Johnson said he prefers the Garmin and Magellan brands. He said those devices are connected to a greater number of satellites than their competitors, giving them a stronger refresh rate to help you get back on course if you miss a turn.

Johnson said that some of the in-dash units that came out this year allow for automatic satellite updates that don't cost extra.

The top of the line in-dash systems now include 3-D mapping, which will generate a picture of the building you are seeking - a helpful feature if you are navigating the city.

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Safe-driving tips

Having a new GPS can be a distraction when driving. Beginners tend to look at the screen more frequently than necessary.

- Don't divert your attention from the road. Learn to rely on the voice commands given by the unit instead of looking at the screen. 

- Don't program the GPS while driving. Enter your destination before you depart. If you need to cancel or change a destination, pull over in a safe area and stop, or wait until you are stopped at a traffic light, and re-program.

- Mount the GPS away from important sight lines. It's usually easy to position your GPS low and near the dashboard and out of key driving sight lines.

- Pay attention to which lane your GPS suggests you drive in. When driving in an unfamiliar area, it can be difficult to know where to turn. A good-quality text-to-voice GPS will tell you the correct lane well in advance.