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February 23, 2009

How To Check If Your Garmin nuvi GPS Has The Most Current Maps Installed

How To Make Sure Your Garmin nuvi GPS Has The Most Current Maps Installed

What could be more critical than the quality of maps installed on your GPS? Updated maps ensure that your GPS knows where it's going, and help it make the best possible decisions when figuring out which routes to take. Yet many GPS owners skip this very important step of updating the maps. Some updates are free, and some must be bough, but they're all important.

Here's a step-by-step guide to finding out if map updates are available for a Garmin nuvi GPS.

Garmin's Map Updates Wizard
Figure 1: Garmin's Map Updates Wizard

Sure, you could browse Garmin's web store and try to figure out if the maps they're selling are newer than the ones installed on your GPS, but there's a much easier way: launch a web browser and go to Garmin's map update page.

Click on Find Map Updates, and then install the browser plug-in if you haven't already done so during a previous update.

Accept the license agreement, shown above, by clicking Agree.

Security Pop-Up
Figure 2: Security Pop-Up Window

Internet Explorer users will see a security pop-up asking if you want to install the plug-in. Click Install.

Find Map Updates
Figure 3: Find Map Updates

With the browser plug-in installed, connect your nuvi GPS to your computer via USB, and click Find Map Updates.

Map Update are Available
Figure 4: Map Updates Are Available

After scanning the maps installed on my approximately 3-month old nuvi 765T, Garmin's website reports that a map update is indeed available for purchase (I didn't qualify for a free update, since the GPS was first activated more than 60 days ago). Map updates can be shipped on DVD, or electronically downloaded.

Individual map updates can be purchased for $70 each, or, a much better bargain is Garmin's new "nuMaps Lifetime Subscription" plan for $119. A nuMaps subscription entitles you to download up to 4 map updates per year for the life of the nuvi. If purchased separately, 4 updates per year would cost $279.

The subscription is tied to the device, so you can't spread the updates around multiple GPS's, or transfer the subscription if you get a new GPS. Still, for less than the cost of 2 individual map updates, you get quarterly map updates for as long as you own the GPS.

For that reason, I recommend choosing the nuMaps option over the individual updates; compared to the $70 price for a single update, $120 will keep your GPS current for years to come.

Don't forget to check out GPSmagazine's in-depth walk-through that shows you how to buy and install Garmin's nuMaps Subscription.

It's also important to periodically check for firmware updates for your Garmin nuvi. Be sure to run Garmin's WebUpdater program every now and then to check for important, free firmware updates for your device.