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What GPS should I buy?

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Some variation on this question is almost always on the first page of this forum. There is no perfect GPS and the one that's perfect for you is terrible for someone else. The threads tend to be charged with facts that may be irrelevant to you. (The inability to get maps in Elbonian don't matter if you don't foresee traveling to Elbonia.) Still, most geocachers have a relatively shared set of wants from a handheld GPS and can benefit from prior discussions. Here we'll try to have a collection of some of the best existing discussions.

January 2020 edition of this same question. TL;DR: The least expensive Garmin with the features you crave, sorted on the axis of touch screens vs. DPADs.

http://forums.Groundspeak.com/GC/index.php?showtopic=339996&st=0 Oregon 700, 750 touch screen

https://forums.geocaching.com/GC/index.php?/topic/349766-garmin-gpsmap-66-series-announced-on-2018-08-06/  GPSMap66 dpad 
eTrex 10, 20x, 30x - Entry-level, clickstick models. (Very similar to others)

Older models

http://forums.Ground...howtopic=228850 Oregon or PN-40 

http://forums.Ground...howtopic=228348 CO/Dakota or PN-40

http://forums.Ground...howtopic=228705 Vista HCx or 60CSx

http://forums.Ground...howtopic=228663 Dakota vs PN-40

http://forums.Ground...howtopic=229784 Oregon vs. PN-40


I'd like to keep this pinned thread short of actual discussion (and will use moderator superpowers to keep it that way) but instead include links to other existing threads.

Edited by robertlipe
Jan 2020 update
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Many newb buyers come in with a low budget, sometimes because that's all they truly can spend, but usually because they think buying cheap first is a good idea. I think differently and here's why...


Buying cheap first means you're likely going to "outgrow" your unit quickly. A budget of $100-$200 really limits you to an older model in the Etrex "H" series or the Vista/Venture series. Not that these are bad units, just older and not with many features. These are mainly basic units, some with mapping and some with expandable memory...but not much more. Like I said, these aren't "bad" units, they will get you to ground zero just like the newer and higher priced models...usually


However, once you own the unit, you are likely to meet up with other cachers and then you're prone to the dreaded "GPS ENVY"! Yep, you see Joe Cacher's feature rich Garmin OR 550T which can route you to the cache, gives you paperless caching, has a camera and is touchscreen...and you feel your unit is now less than adequate. OUCH! Seeing the new features you could have really makes you want and that want means you are now looking to spend MUCH more money on top of the money you already spent! Some examples:


Hey, that guy has maps? I want maps! Maps are NICE!! Well, aside from the free maps which most newbs know nothing about, maps for those cheaper units are about the same as the unit cost in the first place...but are a wonderful addition. Some mapping units will route, so those maps can be justified as giving you a routing unit for your trips etc...but that's still another expenditure.


Now, some see the paperless caching and think "how can I achieve that without buying a new unit"? Soon, buying a PDA is the thought...and an option. So, you spend more money for a cheap PDA, you learn how to jump through the hoops of loading both your GPS and PDA full of info (a hassle on many PDAs) and you tell yourself you are happy. Are you though? What if you forget to charge the PDA? What if the PDA suffers from the abuse of caching (rain, slapping around in your backpack or whatever, being dropped etc)...PDAs are not rugged like a GPS is, they tend to dislike being handled harshly. Carrying two devices in the woods means double the risk of problems, I know this from experience! So, with that in mind, and the fact that working with two devices is a bit of a hassle, you soon tire of this and are again wanting more...


Well, let's add up what has happened so far:


Cheap GPS $150 (split the $100-$200 range)

any maps? $100 (can be free, but routing usually isn't)

cheap PDA $20

apps to make the PDA work for caching $20 (give or take)

screen protectors? $15-$20 (give or take)


OK, taking the low end of the numbers, I come up with $305 spent on that "cheap" GPS. Maybe that was spread out over time, but it's still money spent. And what? Are you happy with your unit and the set-up you now have?


Now, I know most try to figure out if caching is going to be to their liking, that's the reason for the lack of willingness to fork over the bigger bucks. My advice would be to hook up with another local cacher and go out for a few finds. If, after this, you feel like the majority of us did and do, you will be hooked INSTANTLY! Can't figure out how to find another local cacher? GO TO AN EVENT!! This is best because you can then see all the different GPS units people are using! Buying a cheap unit MIGHT even work against you, the wrong purchase and you're fighting just to make a find...OUCH! If you're not having fun you might even be turned off from caching, a shame because this is a great activity.


So, sorry for the long winded post, but it all boils down to making a decision. Are you wanting to go through the cheap buy cycle? Can your budget actually "grow" to include a better unit?


If you did like my example above, you spent around $300. Look around, there are some good choices for that range! Magellan has a few units which would work nicely (and Magellan has made progress toward making reliable units once again). Lowrance has a few dogs in the hunt, but the info I've seen says you should look closely and be aware of possible issues since these units are new and probably have bugs still. Garmin has a few choices too, as does DeLorme. Being a bit patient, doing some research and watching sales could just make you a happy GPS buyer!!


Besides, after spending that $300 (as seen in my example above), and then still wanting more...now you're looking at another $300 (and up) expenditure. Paying twice for something hurts! So, I advise that you definitely stay within your budget, but take a hard look at that budget and decide if that budget is true to your needs!!


Good luck!


As a note, MOST GPS units will still require the purchase of routable maps which will still cost you $100 or so. Buying expensive doesn't exempt you from buying maps, screen protectors etc. I say most because there is one maker who does include maps with the purchase...

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I agree that sometimes buying a lower costing unit can cost more in the long run because of "GPS envy"...however, if you buy the RIGHT starter unit, you may be able to resell it for nearly what you paid for it.

Example: I've got a Garmin Legend HCx, paid around $170 for it. I bought one of those $100 SD cards for mapping. I also downloaded a $10 equestrian trails map. So that's $280 spent, right? Well, if I can sell the unit for around $150 (or thereabouts) including the equestrian trail map, that means I'm out roughly $130....right? Well, almost. I'm buying a "bigger and better" unit that can utilize the $100 city navigator map, so I'm not out that $100. That leaves roughly $30 that I'm "out" (give or take, depending on what the old unit can sell for). That is a figure I can live with, because I feel that I got that much use from it, and am more than happy to have used it and learned so much. (unique math to fit the situation. :anicute: )

Which means...the new Oregon 400t that I'm getting will be an easier unit to learn, as I've already got some of the basics figured out on a simpler unit with fewer bells and whistles...which translates to more fun in the long run.


So...my thoughts are: if you're going to buy a unit, think ahead to "how hard will it be to sell for a reasonable price when I a) outgrow it or ;) decide I don't want it anymore?". Spend the few extra bucks for some of the more coveted features (accepts memory cards, high sensitivity antenna, etc), and check online (ebay, amazon, here, etc) to see if there's a GPSr that suits your needs for a better price than you can get locally. You might be surprised at what you can afford.


Best of luck!

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Speaking from experience.... I bought a Garmin Etrex Vista HCx. ($200.00 from Amazon). I was brand new to Geocaching and was excited to get one. Before doing all my homework, like I usually do, I bought this unit.


I am one month into Geocaching and I am envy of all those Paperless GPS systems out there. I want one so bad. Don't get me wrong, there's nothing wrong with my GPS. I can down-load the information and it leads me to it. But I either have to print out the "Cache info" or use my cell phone when I am needing more information.


I am trying to hold out on getting a new one but it's hard. Make sure you buy a GPS that your not going to outgrown in a matters of days. I am hooked on Geocaching and can see me doing this for a long time. Spend just a little more money and get yourself a unit you'll be happy with.


Just my input!! Thanks and good luck.

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