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What GPS Should I Buy For My Boat?

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What GPS should I buy for my boat? This is a question that we often hear from the boating community. In this boating resource guide, we answer this question and provide you with other information you need to pick out the right navigation system for your boat.

What GPS Should I Buy For My Boat?
What GPS Should I Buy For My Boat?


With tons of GPS units available on the market, each having specific features that are designed to address particular needs, choosing the right one for your boat can be a challenge. To come up with a wise and worthy decision, here is a guide on how to choose the right GPS for your boat.

Getting lost on wide-open seas with hardly any point of reference or physical barriers to navigate around is scary. That’s why you’ll need a reliable boating navigation system with you. 

But do you know what type of GPS to buy for your boat? In this article, we’ll try to answer your questions about choosing the right type of boating GPS.

What Kind Of GPS Do Boats Use?

Boat GPS provides an accurate method for mariners to navigate, measure speed, and determine location which increases safety levels and efficiency for mariners all over the world. The following are the different types of GPS systems for boats: 

  • Fixed-Mount Marine GPS- Easy to install fixed GPS units is one of the best options for boaters. They often feature large waterproof displays with full coverage of the United States. It is also powered by your boat’s electric supply so no need for other power supplies.
  • Handheld marine GPS units- These portable devices are most utilized by smaller boats(kayaks, sailing dinghies, paddleboards, etc.). They are also great backups for larger boats in case of a power shortage. Though they have smaller screens, these devices still get the job done. Handheld GPS is often powered by AA batteries and can be mounted on boats.
  • Multifunction Displays- Streamline your electronics with a multifunction display that enables you to integrate various equipment in just one screen: radar, GPS, sonar, weather, video inputs and more. This is the perfect choice if you have very limited space on your boat.
how to do I choose a boat GPS
What GPS Should I Buy For My Boat?

When looking for a GPS navigation system for your boat, you should consider the size of your boat and what type of activity you’re most likely going to do. Check its features and choose a GPS that works for you.

While purchasing a GPS system can be a bit of a shocker when it comes to its price. Just know that if you pick the right one, it’s going to be a very good investment considering how many lives it has saved and countless boating accidents prevented since its invention.

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Boating Pre-Departure checklist
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How To Use Boat GPS Navigation

GPS, or Global Positioning Systems, are satellite-based navigation systems which means that they will work anywhere as long as they can receive satellite transmissions. The more signals it receives, the more accurate it is. 

Boat GPS may be a bit overwhelming for beginners but the basics of using it are pretty straightforward.

  1. First, you need to select a waypoint for your boat to follow to reach your destination. You can do this using the cursor of your GPS or use your finger if it’s a touch screen. Hit the GO button.
  2. A compass should be displayed on your GPS screen and would change direction depending on how you steer the boat. You just need to follow the course that has been charted.
  3. Head towards each checkpoint on the chart in as straight a line as possible. As you move forward to the first checkpoint, you’ll notice your boat’s position is gradually changing as well.
  4. Now, all you need to do is follow the next successive checkpoints until you have reached your destination. You can also modify your route and move the checkpoints if you know a faster or more scenic route to take.
 How To Use Boat GPS Navigation

As you sail, your boat’s GPS should display obstacles on the way and pop-up warning signs. You should also see the distance of your boat from the ground on the GPS and use it as a reference so as not to go beyond your boat’s maximum depth and hit the ground.

What Is The Difference Between a GPS and a Chartplotter?

Global Positioning System (GPS) and Chartplotter are two technically different terms that are often used interchangeably. The main difference between these two is that GPS is based on orbiting satellites and will only give you the longitude and latitude of your current location, nothing more. A Chartplotter on the other hand use that GPS location and plots it on maps stored in its memory. 

In essence, all chart plotters use GPS, but not all GPS are chart plotters.

Difference Between a GPS and a Chartplotter

GPS gives numeric code for a certain location in the form of latitude and longitude which can be difficult to interpret. Chartplotter presents a graphical view like a map, making it easier to understand.

Nowadays, it’s common to find chart plotters that are able to provide the best and fastest route to your destination. Some even have GPS chips embedded in them making an all-in-one boat navigation device.

How Do I Choose A Boat GPS?

There are so many GPS navigation devices available today making it quite difficult to tell the good ones from the bad. And with many technicalities involved, you’ll need to do a great deal of research and consider a number of factors in order to pick out the best GPS for your boats.

To make things easier for you, we have already gone ahead, searched, and reviewed the best options on the market.

Check out our buying guide for best boating GPS in 2022.

Boating GPS
What GPS Should I Buy For My Boat?

It is important to remember though, that boat GPS should be regarded as an aid to navigation and works best in consort with traditional methods and a good understanding of the watery environment.

Pontoon Boat Accessories

Pontoon boats are a great way to have some outdoor family fun on the lake or a party with friends out on the open sea. Check out these practical must-have pontoon boat accessories to add to your boat for smooth sailing.

Download Your FREE Boating Pre-Departure Checklist

Boating Pre-Departure checklist
Download Your FREE Boating PDF

Recommended Boating Resources

MORE RELATED RESOURCES

If easy boating life is what you’re aiming for then you don’t only need a GPS, you should also get anchors for your boats. Check our latest post on the best power anchors for pontoon boats. And speaking of easy, make things easier for your fellow boaters by learning some boating etiquette in this Boating Guide for Guests.

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