1. Do I really need a GPS device for my boat?

The plain answer is yes. Even if you don't plan on using exact coordinates on your next boating adventure it's still a safe idea to have a Boat GPS in the event of a crisis. In fact, there are several articles you can find on the web that tell stories of boat accidents that could have been catastrophic had it not been for the rescue of an on-board GPS device. The Coast Guard can immediately be informed of your exact location if anything goes wrong. Even if it's a simple handheld GPS unit that rarely gets used you can feel relaxed knowing you're equipped for the unexpected.

2. How does a GPS device work?

The first thing a GPS device does when started is receive a signal from satellites. A GPS unit gathers information from about 30 satellites currently circumnavigating the globe. Only about 6 - 12 of them are able to be seen at a time, assuming there's nothing blocking it and a majority of the GPS units will link to several of these satellites at once providing a more spot on signal.

3. Which is better, Handheld or Mounted?

It depends on whether you'll only be utilizing the GPS device for boating only, or carrying it with you on land as well. There are highly state of the art GPS devices sold on the market today that can help you not just on the open seas but in traffic and in the mountains also. Another option to evaluate is connecting your GPS cables to the wiring on your boat or whether you prefer to keep it separate and run off batteries. Let's review some pros/cons.



  • Can be connected with the electrical cables on your boat and run off your battery
  • Some GPS units can be integrated with other electronics on your boat and display data from your Chartplotter, Fish Finder, Radar, etc.
  • Large visual screen, some with touchscreen capabilities


  • Your GPS device is limited to only your boat
  • Installation of your mounted GPS wiring can be strenuous
  • More costly than handheld devices



  • Can be brought with you wherever you go
  • Easy learning curve, simple to operate
  • Reasonably priced


  • Smaller visual screen

4. Which features do I really need?

This, obviously, has no easy answer. It all comes down to what features you;ll be utilizing it for and what you may be using it for in the times ahead. If you use a compass typically and you're in the market for a GPS unit as a backup then you will most likely do just fine with a simple, handheld device. If you intend to totally integrate your latest GPS with your boating adventure then the more features the better, to a certain level. Only purchase what you know you'll make use of. It's easy to yearn for the newest 7-inch display GPS with the most advanced Fish Finder but is it a must have?

5. Any ways to save money when purchasing a Boat GPS?

One thing to take note of before you make up your mind on a GPS unit for your boat are maps. Some GPS units will come equipped with a few maps preinstalled but they might not be very accurate. Oftentimes people find it essential to upgrade to more detailed maps of their region. There are authorized maps online to download, such as HotMaps, but they're typically costly. You can Google search 'free gps maps' and find a sufficient number of sites that will authorize you to download maps of close by places free of charge. A majority of GPS devices come equipped with a USB cord that will hook up to your PC, permitting you to install your downloaded maps. It is highly advised to get all-inclusive maps of your region, whether purchased or free of charge.

Another tip to save cash would be to ask yourself if it's time to upgrade to a new phone. If the answer is yes, there are several mobile phones available that have GPS features built-in. If you don't think you'll need a stationary GPS on your boat but would prefer to have your precise whereabouts in case of an emergency then settling on a smartphone with GPS mapping might be useful.