SatNav Advice: TomTom or Garmin


Satnav IconThe Big Satnav Debate – To Buy Tomtom or Garmin?

Since starting to write these articles I have been asked dozens of times, “What SatNav should I buy?” This can be a real contentious subject. Plenty of riders will have their own opinion which will certainly differ from mine. However I shall put my head above the parapet and give you my thoughts on the subject.

First I should say that an inexpensive way to get a SatNav is to download navigation software from the web onto your mobile phone. You can then purchase a handlebar clamp to clip your phone to the bike. This is a low cost way of getting a SatNav but it has its drawbacks. Most phone screens are a shade small and it is not easy to get power to the device. Also it is not always easy to copy routes from a mapping software programme.

The two main players in the motorcycle SatNav field are Garmin and TomTom. TomTom really only has one motorcycle model, the Rider Pro, at just over £300. Garmin has a number of models, the 590 at about £480; the 660 which is a rather dated model at around £380; and the Zumo range consisting of the 340LM and the 390 LM*. I have owned both Garmins and TomToms and there is not a lot to choose between them. However if I had to choose I believe the Garmin has just got the edge.

  • The majority of riders around me are using Garmin and therefore it is easy to exchange files.
  • Also the TomTom’s car kit is an extra where as the Garmin includes it.
  • The Garmin screen is slightly better in bright sunlight.
  • Added to that BMW, Harley-Davidson and Honda all provide optional GPS which are all manufactured by Garmin.


So presuming that the Garmin is my choice I then need to select a model. The Garmin 660LM and 590LM are top of the range with lots of nice extras such as Bluetooth to make telephone calls and play MP3 music. The 590LM, being the most recent top of the range model, has a lockable bracket and a slightly larger screen, plus a few other neat tricks. It is a bit more expensive than the 660LM but if money is no problem then go for it.

However as we have just come out of a recession and you might find it difficult to persuade the ‘boss’ to spend the household funds on a 590LM then the 300 series is definitely worth looking at. There are two models available, the 340LM and the 390LM. Basically both models are very similar, but there are some small differences, one being that the 340LM has limited Bluetooth. It will only output into an earpiece the navigation instructions where as the 390LM has all the functions similar to the 590LM – you can use your telephone through it. The 340LM has UK and Western Europe maps whereas the 390LM has UK plus Western and Eastern Europe. The 390LM has tyre pressure monitoring, however you need to buy the tyre pressure cap readers separately. It also has curvy routes, which is great when you drop waypoints direct on to the SatNav, but a complete no no if you are using mapping software to plot your routes. As I do not like to use my phone when riding, or listening to music, I went for the 340LM at about £300. If you want to use your phone then the 390LM is for you and costs about £320. And remember both models come with full car kit.

(18 months ago I purchased the 350LM, which is no longer available, it is very similar to the 340LM. I believe there are still some 350LM’s selling on the web at below £250 – real bargains.)

Also be mindful that a SatNav, whatever model, only takes you from point A to point B. To turn it into a useful Sunday social riding device, or a touring device, you need to be using a mapping software product such as TyreToTravel or Basecamp. I know I keep harping on about this in all my articles but the two items go together like cheese and biscuits!

So my choice is the Garmin 340LM at about £300. The LM refers to Lifetime Map updates, that is the lifetime of the device, not you. You can also purchase lifetime speed camera warnings. Oops sorry we don’t call them speed camera warnings they are Proximity Alerts. You will also need a screen protector plus I recommend a hard case, not a soft case. All available on the web.

Garmin and TomTom owners will obviously have their loyalties to each manufacture and will fight their corners fiercely, however having had my feet in both camps my choice has to be Garmin by a short head.

I shall now put my flak jacket and steel helmet on, duck behind the parapet, and await the incoming TomTom fire.

Keith Yallop

*Please note that all prices and technical specs where accurate as of December 2014, please check before purchasing.

Anyone out there use a TomTom regularly and would like to reply or review? We like to have a balanced view. Editor. Email