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Sep 5, 2009, 10:44 AM

Post #1 of 4 (4002 views)


GPS Report

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GPS Experience in Mexico

We recently returned from a 3600-mile trip through Mexico and used the GARMIN 785T ( with the City Navigator Mexico NT card ( This unit was a warranty replacement for a Nuvi 760 that I had received as a present. At the time of purchase, the 760 had been rated as a “Best Buy” by CONSUMER REPORTS but GARMIN has since discontinued the model. Since I had received the replacement shortly before our trip, I had familiarized my self with most of the new features but was somewhat short on time to completely understand everything. When in the NM area, I contract as a courier and use the unit virtually every day and am quite familiar with its performance in the U.S. Prior to the trip, I did program a “custom route” based upon our plans.

My observations and comments follow:
1) Entry of addresses: NOB, the complete address will pull up but when entering the actual numerical address in MX, you will experience a problem. In most cases, the numerical part of the address will not come up but rather you will receive simply a choice of the street name and what “colonia” it is located in. In other words, you are able to get close but not necessarily being directed to the exact address. It is somewhat better in the larger cities but you cannot count on it. I should also mention that on much of our trip, we were traveling in areas we were familiar with from prior trips.
2) The entry of street names was often a challenge due to abbreviations used either by the unit or when one looks up addresses on the net for example.
3) Having read the specs from GARMIN, I expected the unit would have shortcomings finding streets in small towns but that was not the case. I was really amazed by the detail of streets in small towns of less than 1000 population that we ventured through.
4) I found that the estimated travel time between towns/cities was extremely conservative. For example, when leaving Zacatecas on our way to Chihuahua – it gave me an estimated travel time of 10 hours and 2 minutes from hotel to hotel (a distance of 523 miles). Note: In their vernacular – travel time is your moving time as it separates out any stops when the vehicle is not moving. Our actual travel/moving time was 7 hours 32 minutes. We had an average moving time for the drive of 67.7 mph with a high speed of exactly 100 mph for the day. A good portion of the day was spent on cuotas in very good condition and quite light traffic.
5) MSN DIRECT, an option on the 785T did not function in MX but then again, I had no idea that it would.
6) Fuel Consumption calculations tended to be way off. You can program in your estimated mileage for both city and highway into this unit along with the price of the grade of gas you use. In the U.S., the city streets and highways are apparently coded differently and it will calculate based upon the type of road. From my experience, all MX calculations are based upon city streets and thus a lower mpg.
7) This unit has the large screen and I would hate to use anything with one of the smaller screens. When in strange (to us) new towns or cities, I used the zoom-in feature a good deal.
8) Turn-by-Turn Vocal Directions – tended to be somewhat confusing in MX! As most experienced travelers in MX would know, street names often change in midstream. The GPS tends to treat this as a turn when one is continuing on the same diagonal or highway. The box is constantly squawking and would become quite irritating. The American voice option totally slaughters the street names while “Javier”; one of the Americas Spanish options does a great job! Now there is a real surprise! Note: I finally quit using the turn-by-turn voice and drove from the display.
9) One-Way Streets are another problem for the unit as it was constantly trying to direct you the wrong way on a one-way. We ran into a situation in San Miguel de Allende where we had the address for our hotel but kept going in circles until we finally arrived. As it turned out, the hotel address was on a street that was two blocks long and you really had to “sneak” up on it and the one-way streets made that difficult.
10) Speed Limits – are not programmed into the unit for MX. Not really a problem as most ignore them anyway!
11) Cuotas vs. Libres – I had the unit set for fastest route and it was somewhat hard to tell if it was actually directing me to cuotas. Having driven most of the cuotas, I tended to ignore the box and use my own personal knowledge to get on the cuotas. We did run into one cuota heading north out of Moreila towards Salamanca where the highway was not even on the GPS map. The cuota crosses a lake and it showed us driving in the water.
12) With two satellite reliant gadgets (GPS and Sirius Radio) – I did notice problems with both especially in Michoacan. Whether it was a combination of the mountains and trees, I am not sure but our signals would often scramble. Heavy trees seemed to have the greatest effect. One can forget knowing where they are when driving through the tunnels under the city of Guanajuato!
13) As with most GPS units, the GARMIN has points of interest guides with hotels, restaurants, gas stations, etc., etc. While I only tried this feature on occasion, it appears that this option isn’t great for MX. Some of the really large cities have a certain but limited amount of info. The few times that I tried this option, I often pulled up info from cities hundreds of miles away.
14) One of the screen options is that you can set the altimeter to display on the lower portion of the map. We found this to be quite interesting when traveling some of the higher areas in Michoacan and parts of Guanajuato.
Overall, I was quite happy with the unit! That said, I would still always travel with a GUIA-ROJI map book. Unlike traveling NOB with a GPS – travel in MX using a GPS still requires a decent sense of direction and past experience is also quite helpful. Streets in Mexico tend not to be laid out in a normal grid pattern and depending on town, ones sense of direction can be confused. Mountain towns/cities such as Patzcuaro, Guanajuato and San Miguel de Allende can be a real challenge since it is often difficult to spot a visible landmark!

If anyone has specific questions that I have not covered, please feel free to PM or email me and I will try to furnish you with the best info that I am capable of.
Albuquerque, NM

johanson / Moderator

Sep 5, 2009, 12:06 PM

Post #2 of 4 (3987 views)


Re: [chinagringo] GPS Report

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Thanks for the very excellent and detailed post. You sure did your homework :)


Sep 5, 2009, 11:50 PM

Post #3 of 4 (3964 views)


Re: [johanson] GPS Report

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good report..... even if you cant afford a navigation unit like that one, you can always get the basic gps that will help you when you are driving through mexico and using the map to determine where you might want to stop overnight....


Sep 6, 2009, 5:55 AM

Post #4 of 4 (3959 views)


Re: [mexliving] GPS Report

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Keep in mind that GPS units rarely sell for the MSRP - in this case $499.99. Just did a quick search and found for $349.99 on Amazon. Most of the differential between models is the number of added features and whistles & bells. I do recommend highly that you purchase one of the large screen models. We have ours mounted to one of the weighted non skid pads that sit directly on the dash and can be moved around to the best position for the driver.

I neglected to mention that this unit, like many others, can be used as a handheld unit when walking around. It is great for marking one's parking location or favorite stores in say Tonala, where it is possible for one to forget exactly where a store was located. Just a small side benefit.
Albuquerque, NM

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