Deciding Between In-Car Navigation vs. Aftermarket Navigation


Automotive Editor

Armaan Almeida was an Automotive Editor who produced buying guides and sneak previews, in addition to publishing daily news stories and tracking monthly deals, incentives and pricing trends from Toyota, Nissan and Lexus.

, Automotive Editor - September 12, 2013

We outline the pros and cons of each, and what to consider before making the decision.

If you’re planning on purchasing a new car, one of the first features you might look for is navigation—or navi, for short. It's one of the most frequently used systems in a vehicle, helping you to get from point A to an unknown point B without asking for directions or using your gut. Moreover, it brings a sense of calm to you while driving, which not only enhances safety by making you a more confident driver.

Your Choices

When purchasing a new car, a new choice arises: should you opt for the auto manufacturer’s integrated navigation or should you decide to go with one of the many aftermarket navigation systems? The choice becomes more difficult when you take into account today’s Android and IOS-powered smartphones and their navigation capabilities.

[Research: In-Car Technology Systems]

It all depends on what you want. Here are the pros and cons of each.

In-Car Navigation


  • Seamless Integration: Factory Navigation systems offer even the finickiest of shoppers a clean, integrated installation that’s engineered from the ground up to work effortlessly.
  • Resale Value: Cars equipped with factory navi improve a car’s resale value.
  • Theft-Resistance: There’s not much demand for stolen in-car navi systems because they are not universal, making it extremely difficult to pawn on the grey market.


  • Price: Factory Navigation systems are expensive and can cost anywhere from $1,200 - 5,000. Most of the time, a buyer cannot purchase just the navi alone because it’s usually bundled into a "package" or upscale trim.
  • Updated Maps: Updates are expensive, as well. DVDs are not "burned", but pressed, making them nearly impossible to duplicate. Cost? A wallet-busting $200 – 400 per update.
  • Limitations: If you’d like to update your route while driving—forget about it. All factory navigation systems currently on the market do not allow the driver or passenger to update your destination while the vehicle is moving—even at 3 mph.

Aftermarket Navigation


  • Price: Aftermarket Navigation systems are extremely affordable and cost anywhere from $50 – 400, with most costing $100 – 200.
  • Features: These units also feature more advanced technology since it takes only weeks to bring them to market vs. factory systems, which take months.
  • Updates: Maps can easily be updated and best of all—they are free.
  • Mounting Options: Don’t like your navi in the middle of the dash? No problem. You can mount it almost anywhere.


  • Theft: Portable Navigation systems have to be put away most of the time, especially when parking in a public place (movies, malls, restaurants). If you leave them out, they’ll be an easy target for theft because they are universal.
  • Clunky Integration: They don’t look as clean or integrated as factory navigation systems—some systems look almost “tacked on”, as they don’t match the interior décor.

Smartphone Navigation


  • Price: That’s right—you’re already paying between $40 – 100 per month on your smartphone service. Might as well use it! Apps are widely available for both Android and IOS-powered devices, namely, Google Maps or Apple’s Maps.
  • Portability: Smartphone-powered navigation is even more portable than aftermarket navi in that your phone is always in your pocket. If you own multiple vehicles, it might make more sense to utilize your smartphone, but then a big issue will present itself…


  • Battery Drain: Don’t say we didn’t warn you. Battery drain while using a navigation app will increase substantially. Don’t be surprised if you’re at 50% after a 30 minute commute.
  • Loss of Signal: Sometimes you’ll end up in an area with poor-signal quality. Your navigation will stop, and so will your trip.
  • Distraction: Using your smartphone as navi might initially sound like a great idea, but what if you need to take a call? Or a text? This can not only be dangerous*, but downright tedious and stress-inducing.

Our Choice?

Well, it depends on two things: price and feature set. If the car you want to buy has a factory navigation option, do your homework and check the pricing on that option alone.

As we mentioned earlier, prices jump quickly because features are often bundled into “Technology Packages” or “Special Edition” trim levels. If you can’t score a factory navigation for $1,000 – 2,000, our advice is to skip it and opt for an Aftermarket Navigation System.

Not only will it offer the same basic functionality, but it will give you the peace of mind of knowing that you’re covered for the life of the system when it comes to map updates, as well as traffic updates (most systems).

Read our Top 5 Aftermarket GPS Systems article here to get started.

*We do not condone texting while driving, but we’re realists—sometimes it’s impossible not to read a text, especially when you’re at a complete stop.

, Automotive Editor

Armaan Almeida was an Automotive Editor who produced buying guides and sneak previews, in addition to publishing daily news stories and tracking monthly deals, incentives and pricing trends from Toyota, Nissan and Lexus.

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