Satellite Navigation Systems Explained

Satellite navigation systems or sat navs, as they are more generally known, have become a really popular device for motorists, but what exactly are they and how do they work?

What is a sat nav?

A sat nav is a navigation system which uses satellites to tell you where something is, where you are or how to get to a place.

How do sat navs work?

Fundamentally, they use satellites to plan the best route to get to a chosen destination. They save you having to look at a cumbersome paper map and they can provide you with more confidence on an unfamiliar route. You simply put in the address or postcode of where you’re going, and the sat nav will plan a route to direct you there. Some units will let you put in a section of the address (such as the city centre or a street) and some will let you speak through a voice control system to enter a destination. Most sat navs will then let you choose between the shortest route (in miles), the fastest way (journey time), and the most fuel-efficient path to take. The directions are then spoken to you through the portable sat nav’s speaker, while on-screen guidance is shown on the screen.

Why are sat navs helpful?

If you typically drive lots of miles or you haven’t got the best sense of direction, then having a sat nav can be very useful indeed.

Sat navs and Motability Scheme cars

Motability Scheme customers are free to mount a portable sat nav in their cars, however the software and subscription costs are not covered in the lease for both factory- fitted and portable sat nav systems. Your dealer may also be able to help advise you on purchasing and mounting a sat nav or leasing a car with a sat nav already built in.

Sat navs are becoming more popular as a factory-fitted piece of kit in the car, or as an option offered by car manufacturers.

Types of portable sat navs

If a vehicle doesn’t come with a sat nav already installed by the manufacturer, there are lots of great portable ones that can be bought. There’s a large range of sat navs available at varied prices. State-of-the-art sat navs are the ones with live traffic data, which will go the extra mile to get you where you want to be. These don’t just find the most direct route, they also identify congestion and roadworks to help reduce time spent in traffic jams.

Portable sat navs are now more accurate and clearer – and easier to use – than ever. Their only downside in the past was that map updates needed a computer connection, but that isn’t always the case anymore. You can now buy WiFi supported devices that will connect to the internet wirelessly and install updates without you having to do a thing.

You can also get simple sat navs that just do what they say on the tin. In other words, they get you to your destination without any extra frills. Prices range considerably between each make of portable sat nav, depending on the features so it’s good to check what you’re getting for the price you pay.

Fitting a portable sat nav

Portable sat navs can simply be stuck to the windscreen or dashboard with a sucker cup that comes all boxed up with the sat nav.

You can also get apps on your smartphone that work just like a sat nav. However, the main reason for using a dedicated portable sat nav is battery life. Smartphones battle to last a whole day on a single charge and when you turn on the GPS for navigation, the battery drains even more.

Make sure you erase your sat nav history when you change cars

If you used the inbuilt satellite navigation system in your Motability Scheme car, ensure you enter the sat-nav’s settings and erase your location history, or do a factory reset before you hand back your car at the end of your lease. Alternatively, you can ask your dealer to do this for you when you return the car.

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