The Best Purchase Ever

April 16, 2011

Three years ago, the day before embarking on what turned out to be a 14-hour road trip to southern Germany via Switzerland, I made an impulse purchase: I bought a GPS.  This would seem a logical purchase, except I don’t own a car! Who needs a GPS if they don’t own a car, you ask?  Well, the answer is, you all should, if you rent a car even for a few weekends per year.

I’m not getting paid by the GPS company (see, I haven’t even told you what model I own), but I will not hesitate to tout a product that has literally changed the way I travel.  I used to be hesitant to drive into a city without a good map and human navigator and in daylight hours.  With the GPS, I won’t hesitate to drive straight for the center of town.  I’ll stop in places I never would have visited, because of limited time to spare.  I am also much more inclined to travel alone when I don’t have to read the map and watch the road at the same time.  (I am also much more inclined to speed on straight-aways, as the GPS shows you the upcoming curves in the road, but I wouldn’t encourage you to do the same….)

Some people like the idea of getting lost and seeing the unexpected… never fear, in Europe the GPS calculates the shortest routes based on the speed limit of the roads.  But sometimes you just can’t go 90 km/hour even if you could!  I find that I’m exploring narrow country roads much more with the GPS than before.  And thanks to human error, there’s still always an opportunity to get lost!

But why not just rent a GPS with the rental car?

Most rental car companies now offer this service, for about $12/day in the U.S. or €12/day in Europe.  But it’s a simple math problem: you can get a decent GPS nowadays for $/€100, or a high-end one for $/€200.  Even with a high-end GPS, that means if you use the GPS for 17 days—that’s one week-long trip and a few long weekends, you’ve made up the cost (not to mention the hassle of learning how to use a new GPS each time).

The best thing about the GPS?

No matter how many wrong turns you make, she never gets angry! She never swears at you, she just says calmly “recalculating…”  What patience… And so intelligent—did you know she speaks over 30 languages?

So go forth and shop!

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