These days, nearly any latest generation GPS system will get the job done. Each type of system has its pros and cons. Factory installed systems can’t be stolen and are well integrated. With a dash mounted GPS, you don’t have to take in your car if the system breaks. Smartphones are convenient, but the display may be too small.

Let’s look at the strengths and weaknesses of each GPS system. We will compare factory, stand-alone, and smartphone systems and determine which one is best in terms of integration, screen size, risk of theft, repair, updates, navigation, and signal.

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Anything mounted on the dash, no matter how nice, may potentially interfere with your view and also will require a mount. Meanwhile, factory versions tend to be more user friendly as the design is integrated into the car by the auto manufacturer’s team of engineers.

Winner: Factory GPS

Screen Size

Some larger cell phones may compete here, but overall their screen is too small. Even if the smartphone street view size is the same, other data such as distance to turns, speed limits, and travel time may not fit on the screen.

Winner (tie): Stand-Alone and Factory GPS

Theft Risk

Any GPS system can be stolen. But the factory installed model requires stealing the entire car. To keep a mounted version safe, you’d need lug them around with you. Or trust they’ll be safe locked in the glove box. A smartphone is probably always with the owner, but may still be easily stolen.

Winner: Factory GPS


All three forms of GPS systems typically come with a warranty. You can buy additional coverage for all three systems as well. In fact, many opt for an extended vehicle protection plan to cover repairs to various car technologies. The on-board models, however, require you to leave your car at the shop if the system needs repair.

Winner: Depends on warranty or vehicle protection plan


On-board system often require something like a memory card purchase, but some car manufacturers such as BMW offer connected systems that update automatically. Most stand-alone systems come with lifetime updates included in the package. Smartphone GPS updates are done in real time.

Winner (tie): Smartphone GPS or (depending on car make and model) Factory GPS

Traffic Navigation

All GPS systems show you how to get there. But smartphone and stand-alone models can also give you traffic updates. On-board systems are less likely to offer this feature.

Winner (tie): Smartphone and Stand-Alone GPS

Signal Issues

On-board and stand-alone systems use the traditional GPS to monitor and track location. Smartphones, while using GPS technology, often rely on a phone signal to work.

If you lose your cell signal, your smartphone GPS may not function properly since it won’t have any maps to display. You can buy an app that includes maps for your smartphone GPS, but they generally don’t perform as well as the other systems.

Winner: Stand-Alone and Factory GPS

Who’s The Overall Winner?

Of course, it’s a matter of taste. If you don’t like to hassle with mounts and adaptors, then the on-board model is your choice. If you want something relatively bulletproof, then stand-alone models are probably best.

The industry is also delivering a hybrid system on a few select models. These systems use Bluetooth tech and allow you to see your cell phone GPS on your car screen. In any case, there’s a solution for each type of buyer.

If your factory warranty or extended warranty has expired, an extended vehicle protection plan can cover expensive car technology repairs. Get a free quote from CARCHEX today.

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