Garmin vs TomTom – which is better?

  • By: Dylan
  • Date: May 18, 2022
  • Time to read: 10 min.

Are you considering purchasing a new GPS device for your vehicle? If so, then you’ve probably realized that the market is dominated by only a few manufacturers. And if this is the case, then you’ve probably been considering the following question: Garmin vs TomTom, which is better?

We have used lots of devices from both of these manufacturers over the years, both as a consumer and as a reviewer, and it’s still a rather difficult question to answer. Between them, Garmin and TomTom produce the best sat navs available on the market today. They both produce a number of different devices that provide the core function of getting you to where you want to go. Each of these devices , however, have different features, sizes and price points.

Our task of deciding which is better Garmin r TomTom isn’t easy!

Confusing? You betcha!

How then can we decide which manufacturer is better? Garmin or TomTom?

Background

As consumers, we all take different factors into consideration when comparing products. We place different levels of importance on various items when making our purchasing decisions. Some factors will be far more important to some people than others. As an illustration, not everyone will require Bluetooth integration with their auto GPS, whilst others will find the lack of Bluetooth an absolute dealbreaker. Okay, perhaps this isn’t the best example as most GPS devices today have a Bluetooth function, however, hopefully you get my point!

How, then, can we fairly compare the two manufacturers given that they both produce a number of different GPS products? Also, adding to our difficulties is that they both produce a number of different models within the same range. Garmin has the DriveSmart have produced the As no two devices are the same, perhaps the sensible approach is to concentrate on what your actual requirements are for a sat nav. Here are a few key questions that may be helpful to consider when making your decision.

However, all is not lost

better at some things than TomTom, but, the reverse is also true – TomTom is better than Garmin at other things. In all honesty, whichever brand you end up choosing you probably won’t go too far wrong. Both TomTom and Garmin produce quality devices that are fairly similar in their offering.

The best sat nav should be easy to use and provide the driver with clear and easy to follow navigational instructions. This is far more important than having a top of the range GPS device.

Garmin vs TomTom

Budget

How much do you want to spend on your sat nav? Both Garmin and TomTom offer a range of devices that will suit most budgets. Let’s be honest, there’s not much point in looking at those top of the range devices that cost around $400 when you only have a $100 to spend.

A more sensible approach would be to decide on your budget. Then as a next step go and find a device that provides value for money and gives you the features you want. ”

Decide on your budget and stick to it!

If all you want to do is type in the address and get going, then a device like TomTom GO 50 5-inch Sat Nav

should be sufficient. If, on the other hand, you are looking for a top of the range offering (with an in-built dash cam) then the Garmin nuviCam 6-inch Sat Nav With Built-in Dash Cam could be just up your street.

Result

DRAW – both Garmin & TomTom have a range of devices that should suit all budgets

Ease of Use

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How easy is the sat nav to use? There are differences between the user interface of the Garmin and the TomTom. In both cases, you begin entering an address and the device will prompt you with potential matches. Once you have chosen your destination, the device will calculate the best route for you to take. It is possible to specify avoidance of toll roads and or motorways etc. if so required. To be honest, despite having different methods, both of their interfaces do the basics well. The searching, finding, and the calculation of your route is fairly straightforward.  

In my experience, the Garmin interface is a little more intuitive and easier to use. The graphics and onscreen icons are clear and easy to understand – exactly what is required when your driving those busy roads. The TomTom on the other hand, is not so clean a display, but it does provide more information to the driver when traveling. The route bar on the side of the screen provides information in a cyclical manner – current time, estimated time of arrival, etc

Some devices come with a huge range of options. This could make the interface a little more difficult to navigate and understand – making them perhaps not the best Christmas gift for granny!

It’s also worth considering how quickly the sat nav obtains a satellite lock onto your position. It can be very annoying sitting in the car waiting for your GPS to find your location, particularly if you’ve just loaded the kids into the car! Any parent will sympathize with having to listen to “when are we going to get there” on a seemingly eternal loop!

The speed the GPS calculates your route is also something to bear in mind. As a rule of thumb, the older the device becomes, the longer it tends to take to calculate your route. The level of detail in modern mapping software means that more modern newer GPS units will have better processing power and better storage.

In my experience, TomTom appears to be quicker in finding my location, locking onto the satellites and calculating routes. This was particularly obvious if I had taken a wrong turn and my route required recalculating to get back on track.

On the other hand, however, I prefer the interface of the Garmin. It provides a clearer picture of what is up ahead and feels as if there’s less clutter in general.

Result

GARMIN – easier to use and a more intuitive interface

Maps

Alongside the cost of the unit this is perhaps the most important consideration. Do you need maps for North America, the UK and Ireland or for mainland Europe? Thankfully today it’s becoming more common to get World Maps as part of the package. There may be an additional cost for these ‘extra’ maps however, it will future-proof your device and enable you to drive anywhere in the world.

It is also becoming more common to receive lifetime updates to the maps on your device (typically limited to 4 times per year). This means that the maps on your device will show those new roads that are being constructed or where perhaps the roads are being closed. As more and more devices begin to offer both of these options, Worldwide Maps and Lifetime Updates become less of a distinguishing feature.

Many users have reported on various online forums that TomTom possesses better maps for European countries, whilst Garmin has more accurate maps for the US. It’s difficult to ascertain the validity of this statement fully as I haven’t driven across the two continents using a TomTom and a Garmin. I can, however, confirm that the Maps on both continents will do the job, but it is important to ensure that your device is updated with the latest versions.

Result

DRAW – it depends on where you are located

Traffic Information & Updates 

Both manufacturers provide their own versions of traffic updates – TomTom Traffic and Garmin Digital Traffic. These are designed to provide real-time information about the traffic situation on your route. This enables the driver to reroute if required in order to avoid a traffic jam. TomTom traffic

In my experience, the TomTom Traffic provides a better experience for the driver and is more accurate in providing information. This finding appears to be backed up by a study conducted by the University of Michigan in January 2014, where they analyzed real-time traffic capabilities of different navigational devices. They found that TomTom achieved the highest score when looking at the accuracy of traffic jam reporting – 67% for TomTom as opposed to 22% for Garmin. That’s quite the variance. I am certain that the university was completely impartial in their findings, however, it would be remiss of me not to mention that the TomTom Group funded the study. Perhaps they knew for sure that their devices were going to come out on top with this feature!

Result

TomTom – has superior traffic information and provides better rerouting options

Places of Interest

All sat nav devices will allow you to search for places of interest. This may be as simple as searching for a supermarket, a restaurant, or even a tourist attraction in your vicinity. In my view, this is one of the features that sets some models apart from others. It’s hugely beneficial being able to search for “interesting” places without having to carry out a search on the internet.

There are differences between the capabilities of Garmin and TomTom when searching for POIs. In my experience, this feature with TomTom devices can be very generic. A search for a shop will bring a list of the larger stores in the search vicinity – for example when on holiday in France I’ll receive a list of the major supermarkets or main shopping centers. Likewise, when searching for a restaurant, I am likely to get a list of the major fast-food joints.

Garmin, on the other hand, provides you with the ability to drill down into a POI for some additional information. A search for a shop will provide far more options and search categories. They have also taken it a step further and have introduced Foursquare inbuilt onto a number of their devices. This crowdsourced platform provides the ability to search a database based on Foursquare user recommendations – find that restaurant that everyone is talking about!

Result

Garmin provides better and more in depth information that enhances the user experience

Additional Features

Many of the devices on sale today come with some additional features. Some of these will be bundled as standard within the range whilst some will only be available with the premium devices. Here are some of the options that appear regularly:

  • Voice Recognition – this option is great if you need to use the device without taking your hands off the wheel. The sat nav is activated once you speak your”wake up” phrase – it could be ‘Superman’ or even ‘teapot’. You can then speak to the sat nav and it will run through a series of menus and confirmations until it gives you your intended destination.
  • Bluetooth Integration – with this option you can pair the sat nav with your mobile phone via Bluetooth. Using the microphone and speaker of the sat nav you may then make and receive calls. This option wouldn’t be necessary if you already have some form of phone kit or integration in your car.
  • Speed Camera Alerts – this feature may be offered free for a few months initially before reverting to a subscription-based service if required. Premium devices may even offer this feature as standard. This service will tell you the location of all speed cameras along your journey. Probably only a requirement if you have a number of points on your driving license or you are on the road often.

Before making a purchase, ask yourself the question: do I really need this feature? And, if so, can I see myself using it? By asking this simple question, you may save yourself plenty of money. Buy only what you will use.

Result

DRAW – both manufacturers offer these additional features on their devices. In fact, they are features that you would expect to come as standard today. As a result, it’s fairer to look at each device on its merits individually.

Summary

Comparing these two manufacturers is a difficult task. They both offer a number of varied prices and different sized GPS devices. There are a number of features that today, we would expect to see as standard. Once you know that the GPS will calculate your route correctly, additional features like Bluetooth, hands-free calling and smartphone notifications have now become the bare minimum.

It is, therefore, a rather difficult task to directly compare Garmin with TomTom. However, by opting not to pit one device against another and by looking at the whole range it’s my hope that you get a clearer idea of the strengths and weaknesses of the two manufacturers.
                           

okay, okay, I hear you asking, but which one should I go with? TomTom or Garmin?

                                 Find out more about Sat Nav Devices here

So, really, which is better – Garmin or TomTom?

It appears that the answer depends upon your specific requirements. Again, I emphasize that you should decide upon how much you are willing to spend on a sat nav. And then you should absolutely stick to your budget.

My hope is that this website helps you pick a device with all the features you require at the right price. Both manufacturers have some cracking devices, but you do need to take your time and compare them. With the cost of these devices dropping every year, now is probably the best time to make your purchase. Here is a summary of the findings above that should help you in making your decision.

GARMIN

PROS:

  • Clear & Bright Screen
  • Easy to Follow & Understand Icons
  • Superior Places of Interest (POIs)
  • Better US Mapping

CONS:

  • European Maps
  • Battery Life
  • Voice Recognition

TOMTOM

PROS:

  • Accurate Traffic Updates
  • Clever Route Bar
  • Snappy Processor

CONS:

  • US Maps
  • Battery Life
  • Map Updates Can Be Problematic

Do you agree with my findings above or have you had a different experience with either Garmin vs TomTom? Either way, please feel free to drop us a line and let me know!

  1. Using devices like the ones you mention are definitely better than apps on a smart phone.

    There have been times when I typed in a destination and was taken out in the middle of nowhere.

    I also like how the devices provide traffic updates.

    Thanks for the TomTom/ Garmin comparison.

    1. Hi James,

      Smartphones and their various apps are an useful addition to solving our navigation problems. However, it’s difficult to beat a sat nav device when driving – it’s less fussy, it’s cheaper and as you note many also provide up to date traffic information.

      I hope you don’t end up in the middle of nowhere again 😉

      Cheers,

      Dylan

  2. I have been thinking of buying a navigation system for my mother. After reading your findings, I think a Garmin might be best for her. Also, I have a Garmin myself so I am familiar, but mine is an older model so I have been looking at the different kinds of newer devices. I find the graphics for maps are important because sometimes the suggested route is really not the best. The preferred route settings can be changed, but a quick look at the map helps me when I do not want to have to change settings and am familiar with the area I am travelling. My independent mom likes to take back roads and so she gets lost sometimes. A Garmin sounds like a good gift for her and for my peace of mind! Thanks for the review. ~Gina

    1. Hi Gina,

      If you buying a sat nav for your mother you won’t go too far wrong with a Garmin. I like the fact that their screens and icons are easy to read. Your right that a quick glance at your device should be enough – you don’t have time to study the screen too hard when driving!

      If you think that your mother will only want a basic sat nav with no major extras then it might be worth having a look at the TomTom Go 50 Review. It’s smashing value and it’s a great little device too!

      Cheers,

      Dylan

  3. I think I was on here talking about I wanted one for my car. But funny story I just found out my car has navigation built into it a couple days ago. I had my car for almost 3 months now. Smh. But I don’t know how the update works guess I have to tweak the settings. But anyways I always felt TomTom was the Nike of GPS. They were one of the first ones to be around and they still are they are very creditable and they are always improving.

    1. Lol! At least you now have Sat Nav!

      The easiest solution if your having difficulty updating the maps is to contact the manufacturer directly. But make sure you ask how much the updates will be – they can be very expensive. Believe it or not it may turn out cheaper to buy a standalone sat nav than it is to update the integrated car system!

  4. Did not know people still buying these things. Great niche site for sure. I think you might hit the top google rankings soon enough. I use my phone a lot because Im on a tight budget so cannot really afford this stuff. But you sure write compelling to the eye and engaging to the audience. Great work and keep it up!

  5. Hello,

    I enjoy your practical & simple approach to sat nav systems – Effectively reaching your destination is most important aspect of them all.
    Thank you for your effort, a lot of helpful information here!

    Excellent comparison tables between Garmin & TomTom. Really good job! I’m not too big sat nav fan myself, so it’s absolutely great to know which one is easier to use as beginner.
    I believe it’s also definitely a good benchmark for more experienced users to move up to more advanced model for additional options.

    All in all, great stuff in both cases & thank you for sharing your experience with us to make sure that I won’t end up in middle of nowhere. I’ll be back for more..

    Regards,

    1. Hi Peter,
      It really depends upon where in the world your located. TomTom uses TMC & HDT to provide their live traffic information whilst as you point out Garmin utilises the Navteq system. Different users have reported different results (particularly with the live Traffic services) between the Garmins and the TomToms.
      Cheers
      Dylan

  6. Hi,

    Thank you for this usefull information. I already have a TomTom, but I’m thinking of getting a Garmin as my next device. It’s like you said, Garmin has more accurate maps for the US, and I’m planning to make a big trip to the US (I’m from Europe). I don’t think I trust my old TomTom that much, unless you tell me otherwise. Do you think I can just update my world maps on my old device or do you suggest me to buy the new Garmin?

    Vince

    1. Hi Vince,

      Lucky you going on a big trip to the States!

      To fully answer your question it really depends on the device that you have. It also depends upon whether or not you have World Maps installed already – if not it may make more financial sense to bite the bullet and get a new device. Before you do that I would certainly recommend trying to update the maps on your current device first.

      Let me know how you get on and give me a shout if you need any assistance updating.

      Cheers

      Dylan

  7. Really glad somebody is still reviewing these products – I actually went to the store to pick up a TomTom recently, and the clerk told me they don’t carry sat nav devices anymore! He mentioned something about the rise of GPS in cell phones, and that kind of set me off.

    Don’t get me wrong, it’s great that cell phones have that capability, but I’ll always prefer a good Sat Nav device – Bigger screen, better accuracy, and actually easier to use hands-free (No calls popping up, no texts, etc.).

    I’d heard of Garmin quite recently, actually, I didn’t even know they existed before. I’ve always been a TomTom guy. I’m based in the US, so Garmin might actually be better, but I also really do need good voice recognition as well (Hands-free driving is critical for me). Can you recommend a specific model? My budget is around $250.

    1. Hi Cohen,

      Crikey it was rather unfortunate for that store assistant as he/she didn’t really didn’t know his/her stuff!

      Whilst it is undoubtedly true that smartphones have enjoyed a meteoric rise in both capabilities and availability – there is most definitely a strong market for good standalone GPS devices.

      You just can’t beat a proper dedicated sat nav for giving you clear and concise directions. It’s easier to use because the screen is larger and you don’t have the issue of the battery dying or a phone call interrupting the navigation. Best of all for me however, is that you can use the maps and get up to date traffic information abroad for free – no roaming charges whatsoever!

      For a budget of $250 I would recommend the Garmin 2797 LMT (click the link to read my earlier review). It’ll lock onto your location quickly and it provides all the features your looking for in a GPS. And if you purchase this on Amazon today you’ll get a discount of around $30, meaning you’ll get some change too!

      Feel free to give me a shout if you need any further advice,

      Cheers

      Dylan

  8. I came across your site as my friends and I were arguing over which GPS is best. I have a TomTom whilst he has a Garmin……..I guess we’ll just keep arguing about it! Thanks for the info.

    1. Hi William,
      Hopefully you found plenty of info here to win your argument eventually! I guess for most people the choice is between the different interfaces, what features they absolutely must have and ultimately how much they are willing to spend.
      All the best,
      Dylan

  9. I have been considering getting a satnav device for a while now. I have seen that these two brands, Garmin and Tomtom are the biggest ones, so I was undecided which one to get.

    The features that you covered gives me some food for thought. I had thought that it would be easy reading this review to decide one over the other. I think though that I would go with Garmin as by you it is the easiest to use. To me this is the most important factor to consider.

    So thank you for making my decision easier.

  10. I am looking to get a new SatNav to replace my Garmin 2390. This has the built in mobile chip so has (had) features like sending data to it over the air, petrol prices, traffic and useful to me a tracker where I send an email from the device and recipient can see where I am for a period of time.
    Garmin have now decided to turn off/down the nuLink services (still sent me a renewal notice) which removes many features. But their new models want to pair to a smart phone which I neither have nor want (I don’t have my own mobile at all), so now looking at the upcoming TomTom x200 series. I have used Garmin for some years now and the prices of the TomToms are high enough to want to get it right.
    There are fans and detractors of both and it’s hard getting neutral opinions. Thanks

    1. Hi Richard,
      My favorite part of Garmin’s nuLink was the airport flight status feature – it was great when I was heading to pick up the mother in law – I was always on time and I didn’t waste time hanging around waiting for a delayed flight!
      I understand why you wouldn’t want to have a smartphone. Unfortunately, it appears that technological manufacturers are trying to push everyone towards having one. Most new products push this idea of seamless integration as the way forward – is it a good thing? I’m not too sure either however, we aren’t going to solve it here today!
      The new TomTom range that you mention should hit the stores the middle of this month (October 2016) and they have WiFi capability. This means that you should be able to access your wifi point at home or at work (r even sit in a McDonalds restaurant and use their free wifi to update your device!). No computer is required as the device should just connect once it has been paired and it detects the wifi signal.
      I will be reviewing this device in the next couple of weeks and hopefully I can provide you with a better overview of the new TomTom. Until then I hope that I’ve helped you with making your decision…..
      Cheers,
      Dylan

  11. I need a sat nav so my wife can get around in the city & suburbs as she’s not good with directions. She needs to have a good clear voice directing her as she’s not good at following map directions & is weary of taking her eyes off the road.
    What would you recommend for her needs?

    1. Hi Jeff,

      I really like the Garmin nuvi 2797as it provides good clear instructions. The other great thing for her is that it has a large screen too, meaning that she can keep her eyes on the road.

      Hope this helps with your decision.
      Cheers,
      Dylan

    2. Nov.26 2019. I usually and still do use a tomtom, but recently I am using Google maps and I am finding it much better for traffic for sure and it’s even giving quicker routes for some strange reason. My gps is always updated as I am a trucker but lately alot of addresses I search for don’t exist which is why I started using Google maps aswell. Poi’s suck on tomtom in my experience. I also have a Garmin that I want to test against tomtom and Google maps. Third tomtom and it just seems to me that it gets worse the newer I go, go figure lol. But good comparison.

  12. Hello Dylan

    Great site! I live in Canada and I’m an uber driver that depends on mobile gps app which fails quite a bit. Which device has the best up to date maps for Canada? with bluetooth capability.

    Thank you.

    1. Hi Yancee,
      Thanks a million for your kind comments they are much appreciated 🙂
      TomTom have a new range of GO devices coming out this month that will provide the standard features of lifetime maps, traffic updates and handsfree calling. These devices will also come with Wifi compatibility and will be able to sync with Siri or Google Now. These features could be great for an Uber driver?
      If you’d rather a device sooner then perhaps check out the TomTom Via as it’s a great budget option.
      All the best,
      Dylan

  13. I bought a garmin dezl and it does not give speed limits on most secondary roads in Las Vegas. Is this typical for garmin?

    1. Are these newly built roads? If so then perhaps it’s just a matter of having the maps updated.

  14. Great review but I am tossing up between a Garmin DriveLuxe 51 LMT-S and a Tom Tom GO6200 would love to hear your thoughts on them and which way to go?

  15. Hi Dylan
    Have you reviewed the new TomToms yet? I live in Australia & we are looking at a GPS to travel Australia with lifetime up to date maps, traffic updates, clear screen & good clear instructions. Bluetooth is not required as our vehicle has that.
    Thanks for your help.

  16. I am commercial driver using GPS-s over 14 years. Driving truck & trailer, sometimes I have them three on my windshield. Garmin is better mechanically. Also, Garmin is better as a hands free device. And that’s it. Presently I have one of the most expensive Garmin on the market. It is telling me: “turn right after the Petro Canada gas station” – but the gas station was removed from this place 5 years ago. Two kilometers on, it worns me about speed limit but the lower speed limit sign was removed 12 years ago. About 10 years ago, the Fifteen Mile Road in Middlesex County between Adelaide and Richond street was paved, and it is very nice asphalt road, but for Garmin it is still not paved road. There are a lot of such “updates” on Garmin maps. Garmin cannot repeat yesterday route, Garmin cannot reverse – go back home the same way. To eliminate street or road from my route is a nightmare. To set way points is the same difficulty as to pass Harvard. Everything like this is possible and easy in any TomTom. I was using 8 Garmins and 5 different TomToms in Canada, in USA and in Europe. The author of this article use it probably a few minutes on his street.

    1. Hi Andy,

      You are absolutely correct that there are areas that aren’t perfect. I guess map updates will always be a live issue and an evolving one for the various companies.

      However, there’s no excuse for a road that was asphalted 10 years ago not to be updated by now!

      All the best
      Dylan

  17. Thanks for the review. We are driving to Alaska this spring and wanted to get the best gps for Yukon Territory where cell service is unavailable. Loved the description of the Garminds clear picture and ease of use but do you think it’s Sat connect will be good enough. Thank you

    1. Hi Lorraine,

      The Garmin should do you just fine on the trip.

      Have a great break and drive safe!

      All the best
      Dylan

  18. Hi

    I want to get my brother one for xmas. He wants it for travelling to Europe in his camper van next summer exploring places he’s never been, off the beaten track kind of camping etc (and also round the UK). He’s not bothered about being able to use it to answer calls but wants one easy to read/set up that doesn’t need to be synched to a smartphone to work. Just point to a place on the map or type it in and it shows you route kind of thing. He has a dashcam thing already in his van so doesn’t want really need an expensive model that does everything.

    Can you recommend one? I could go up to £200 but prefer £100-£150 if poss?

    Thanks

    Kate

    1. Hi Alice,
      There’s no need to get somebody to install any of these into your vehicle. They are more or less ready to use straight out of the box – just clip into the holder that normally attaches to the windscreen and your ready to go. Depending on the device you may need to update the unit via WiFi or by attaching a cable to your computer – either way nothing to worry about! Feel free to drop me a line if you need any assistance.
      All the best
      Dylan

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