Garmin nuvi 42LM

GPS devices were considered as handy extras for frequent travelers to have as they can accurately track your position in a global map. Advanced GPS devices have more detailed maps so you can see other kinds of data on the map such as real-time weather or traffic data. Software plays an important role in giving a GPS device plenty of features. But many customers nowadays don’t really buy into GPS devices because they already own one. The average smartphone that a lot of people get as a part of their mobile carrier subscription already has GPS features and the software is always growing. The map interface can be basic at first, but software updates can add more features. More importantly, popular smartphone operating systems like iOS and Android feature online app stores where you can download other GPS-related applications made by third-party developers. Smartphones can be superior in some software areas but there are also ways where today’s dedicated GPS devices are still miles ahead of even the best smartphones in terms of overall GPS capabilities. The best way to demonstrate this is to take a very inexpensive GPS unit such as the Garmin nuvi 42LM and put it head to head against a typical smartphone with GPS features.

Garmin nuvi 42LM
Garmin nuvi 42LM

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The Garmin nuvi 42LM falls under the budget category of automotive GPS devices and it is one of the representatives of Garmin’s refreshed 2013 Garmin nuvi models. This means that you can get a GPS device that costs less than $200 and have very recent maps covering the lower 49 states in the US. That is already one of the big advantages of the Garmin nuvi 42LM over other GPS devices.


With a device as cheap as the Garmin nuvi 42LM, you can’t really expect so much because cheap materials are often responsible for the low cost. The 4.3-inch screen is nothing surprising but one notable thing is that the design looks slightly confined compared to its cheap predecessor, the Garmin nuvi 40LM. It has a more rectangular look without the rounded corners. The weight remains the same so it is very portable although this GPS device is best suited for driving rather than walking.

This highlights another advantage of the Garmin nuvi 42LM that smartphones simply lack. A vehicle suction cup mount and vehicle power cable are both included in the package so you can immediately begin positioning the Garmin nuvi 42LM on the dashboard or windshield. While GPS mounts exist for smartphones, they need to be purchased separately and you still have to find one that is compatible with your phone.


The features of the Garmin nuvi 42LM are about as bare as you can get for a car navigation device. But this has the same Garmin nuvi branding as the higher-end Garmin models. Garmin is best known for their simple and straightforward interface that anybody should be able to use. Turning on the device for the first time takes you directly to the main home screen. If you want to test the GPS’s capabilities, you can do so right away by tapping the large “Where to?” icon on the main screen. From there, you can enter the destination and immediately focus on driving. You can add some customizations to the route too in case you want the route to exclude highways and tolls. Once the route is planned, the map is shown in a convenient 3-D view so you have a good perspective on what path to follow. Statistics are shown in this view as well so you can check your current speed and the ETA. As with every dedicated GPS device, voice directions is a necessary feature and the Garmin nuvi 42LM provides it. Voice directions are given whenever you must take a turn. In addition, the text-to-speech engine is used so the specific street name can be spoken.

When it comes to navigation, there are a couple of other basic but notable features. When entering a highway in the US, you can use the lane assist with junction view to see which lane you have to be in when making an exit. Bright colored arrows show so you can immediately move into position. This view uses 3-D graphics as well and even makes important speed limit signs visible in case you need to slow down. If you encounter any problems with the route such as a road under construction, the detour feature can come up with an alternate route.

The other option that you can access from the main screen is the “View Map” icon which just takes you directly to the map view. The mode can optionally be switched to 2-D as well if you want to see any surround points of interest. A couple of other smaller icons are laid out on the bottom of the home screen in case you want to change the settings or adjust the volume.

One of the best things about a budget GPS device like the Garmin nuvi 42LM is the plug and play nature of the GPS device. You just turn it on and all the map data is preloaded so you wonít need any additional maps unless you want to travel outside the US. Map updates are provided too so you can update the US maps to the most recent version. Since this is the Garmin nuvi 42LM and not the cheaper Garmin nuvi 42 model, map updates are completely free and will always stay that way. There is also a microSD card slot if you want to load other map content to the device.

Bottom Line

The Garmin nuvi 42LM is priced at $150 which is about the same price as an unlocked budget smartphone. This Garmin device lacks the connectivity features of a smartphone but you can mount it to the car immediately and take advantage of its exceptional performance in locking on to satellites. Combined with the very easy interface, the Garmin nuvi 42LM can be considered as an excellent road companion for any car that doesn’t have a built-in GPS unit.

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