Best Marine GPS
Most see a GPS as a great system for navigation on the road, but lest we forget that they can come in handy when on the water, as well. Marine GPS s are great for locking onto coordinates across the water and their sonar capabilities also make them perfect for fishing. If you own a boat and you love to fish or be on the water, these can be your best friend. Through a vigorous series of criteria, we have determined the best for your buck.
10 Best Marine GPS
Lowrance gen3 fishfinder
This device comes with both a built-in CHIRP Scan Sonar system and an internal GPS antenna. What this provides is an unparalleled view of fish that are lurking under the surface as cutting-edge technology has been implemented.
When searching in 2D, this sonar system can travel all the way down to 750 feet. In the StructureScan mode, though, it can only monitor down to 300 feet.
For your convenience, the choice is yours between either a touch screen or key pad, operation. Meanwhile, the screen itself dynamically shows high-definition sonar returns with a subtle color scheme.
Using supported smartphones and tablets, you can wirelessly connect with the Lowrance GoFree app. In addition, you can easily switch from outboard pilot steering to the electric-steer trolling motor.
Included and External Maps
Equipped with this GPS device are dual microSD card slots that allow you to add external maps. Plus, with the use of the GoFree app, you can upload maps and obtain new software features.
There is not much not to love about this fish finder and it is a necessity for any fishing enthusiasts. Once you figure out how to use it, the rest is history.
- You can switch from a touchscreen or key-pad interface
- To get the best view of fish, you can view the sonar and StructureScan simultaneously
- Can wirelessly connect to the GoFree app
- The manual does not recommend the best battery
- Based on the manual, it is difficult to know what you need
Garmin striker 4 biult-in
Equipped with a high-sensitivity GPS receiver, you can easily view your position in relation to the waypoints that you have marked. It is also simple to locate landmarks such as docks and brush piles. Plus, with a Garmin CHIRP transducer, this will also detail (in high clarity) fish lurking under the water.
The depth solely depends on the type of water you are boating/fishing on. In saltwater, it can reach depths of 750 feet. However, in freshwater, this more than doubles to 1600 feet.
The screen is large enough, 3.5 inches, to get a good interpretation of what you are looking at. Navigation wise, this implements a key pad operation instead of a touchscreen.
If you are riding on a speed boat, this GPS will actually display the speed of your boat on the interface. This comes in handy in instances where you are trying to catch a particular type of fish. In addition, you can also upgrade to higher-performance transducers (GT8 and GT15).
Included and External Maps
Unfortunately, depending on your preference, this device does not include maps but instead waypoints of your area. Because this is a non-mapping GPS, you will not need to concern yourself with this.
As a handheld marine GPS, it is hard to find much better than the Garmin Striker 4. If the non-mapping GPS technology does not bother you, then this is a no-brainer.
- It includes a CHIRP transducer that will provide clarity when looking for fish
- Has a built-in flasher and displays the boat speed
- You can upgrade to higher performing Garmin transducers
- No maps, just waypoints and tracks
- Struggles to maintain functionality when traveling at high speeds
Humminbird helix 5 chirp GPS fish finder
The Dual Beam PLUS sonar system has 4000 watts of power output and the internal GPS will plot maps and charts with a built-in Anima cartography. When needing a second look at an area, using the Sonar Recording feature you can rewind to a particular sonar feed.
You can expect this sonar system to capture data all the way down to 1500 feet.
The resolution, 800 x 480, and size, 5 inches, are not terrible by any stretch of the imagination. Plus, with LED backlighting you can easily view the contents on the screen. But, in this modern world of technology, it may be too basic for some.
When you are looking for specific types of fish, you can seamlessly switch between Clear Mode and Max Mode. The former will remove the clutter on the screen and display the strongest of targets. This comes in handy when fishing for monster pike and bass.
Included and External Maps
There is an included microSD card slot so you can upload maps from an SD card. In addition, you can also save waypoints on your SD card.
As a GPS and sonar device, the Humminbird Helix 5 knocks it out of the park. The basic interface, which is one of the only issues here, is more of a preference than a hindrance.
- Has a built-in feature that allows you to rewind to a particular sonar feed
- You can scan the water with both sonar beams simultaneously
- For fisherman, the sonar view replaces the fish arches with fish symbols on the interface
- Fairly basic display and interface
- No unit cover for protection
Standard horizon explorer VHF
The Standard Explorer GPS VHF Marine Radio has an internal 12 channel GPS built directly into the front panel. It is capable of entering up to 100 waypoints, which can then be selected and navigated to.
While it does not have a sonar system, it can be underwater in depths of under five feet for 30 minutes. Anything after that or deeper than that and you risk permanent damage.
On the large 3-inch LCD display, you will see an oversized dot matrix display of your coordinates and waypoints. For operation, it is run by various button and key pads.
In just a few simple steps, you can send out a DSC distress call in times where an emergency occurs. Plus, when mounting this GPS, the rear case design will grant you flexibility and you can mount it in extremely tight areas to save space.
Included and External Maps
All the data is implemented directly into the radio/GPS. It also uses waypoints so you need not concern yourself with external maps.
This will not be for everyone and is very special in the sense that it is a radio on top of a GPS that can be used for water navigation.
- There is an included three-year waterproof warranty
- It is capable of entering and saving up to 100 waypoints
- Can navigate to DSC distress calls in a few steps
- Can have reliability issues with the GPS and battery
Garmin echomap chirp 93SV
With the CHIRP sonar, this device is able to create crisp fish arches and a continuous sweep of the frequencies in the water. Plus, the internal five Hz GPS will update your position five times per second ensuring you are up-to-date at all times.
When you are down imaging, you can do so down to 300 feet. Meanwhile, just using a frequency of 83 kHz and 50 kHz will allow you to view 1000 and 3000 feet below, respectively.
The display is available in various sizes, four and five-inch square and seven and nine-inch widescreen. It is easy to see with an auto-dimming and sunlight-readable display. However, the key pad operation probably should be ditched for a touchscreen one.
Outside of the GPS and sonar uses, you can also use the free software Quickdraw Contours. This will create top-of-the-line and personalized fishing maps directly on the interface.
Included and External Maps
There are built-in maps and charts and there is availability for U.S. LakeVu maps, Canada LakeVu maps and U.S. BlueChart g2 charts.
Outside of the interface, for use as a sonar GPS, it is hard to argue with the results. Its elite sonar system and GPS make it worth the price alone.
- It is preloaded with over 17,000 lakes, including 13,000 with one-foot contours
- An internal five Hz GPS will update the location five times per second
- The sonar system is terrific
- It really needs a touchscreen
- When you have the range set, it will only look at the bottom on up (meaning you can’t not look for it)
Raymarine dragonfly 4 pro sonar
This comes equipped with a dual-channel sonar. The first is a CHIRP DownVision sonar that is used for photo-like images and the other is a conventional solar channel designed primarily to detect fish. Both of these sonar systems are combined with GPS navigation.
Each sonar system has different depths it can reach with the DownVision able to reach 600 feet and the conventional sonar 900 feet.
The screen measures 4.3 inches and is a high-definition LED backlight display that is optimized with sharp colors. With the power of the DownVision sonar system, you can also view photo-like sonar images.
When you download the Raymarine’s Wi-Fish mobile application, you can stream your sonar data directly to your smartphone. Then, you can share your findings anywhere you would like.
Included and External Maps
Pre-loaded in this GPS are US lakes, rivers and coastal maps. In addition, there is a microSD card slot in which you can insert an SD card to save screen shots.
The double sonar system is what truly stands out here, but the screen is quite smaller than other mounting models.
- It combines a dual-channel sonar system with GPS navigation
- With photo-like sonar images, you can easily view underwater objects
- Built-in Wi-Fi capabilities for streaming live sonar
- The rubber over the buttons is rather thin
- At high speeds, it can struggle to read the depth
Simrad go7 XSE fish finder
This is a chart plotter with the fullest of features and several cartography options such as NV Digital Charts and Insight. With the simplicity of a touch, you can then set waypoints and record your destinations.
It depends on the frequency that you are using, but the highest depth you can reach with this device is 1000 feet.
Besides its large seven-inch display, you can navigate the interface via the touchscreen. Tablet and smartphone users will find this convenient, and simple home screen and menu layouts make it simple to operate.
On your screen, you can do more than just simple navigation. Conveniently, you can customize your home screen with the shortcuts that you want. In addition, you can adjust the screen views and the layout of the panel.
Included and External Maps
It includes all sorts of maps and charts including over 3000 enhanced US lakes, a USA worldwide Basemap, Hotmaps and Hotspot maps, and optional chart upgrades.
When in stable use, this is as good as it gets. There are only a few gripes that hinder the overall quality, but they do not prevent it from being the highest recommendation.
- It has Bluetooth and Wi-Fi capabilities
- An included 60 Day return and lifetime tech support
- The technology tracks and displays all key information for boaters
- The plastic mount is cheap and poorly made
- When going fast and then slowing down, it can take a few minutes to relocate the bottom
Uniden handheld submersible radio
With its GPS technology, marine goers will be able to spot their favorite fishing and diving spots time and time again. Plus, in the case of an emergency, with the DSC system, rescuers will be able to pinpoint your location in the blink of an eye.
Again, as it is a radio, it has no sonar capabilities but can be submerged in under five feet of water for 30 minutes.
The interface is not going to blow you away, but its slim design allows this handheld device to easily fit in your pocket. However, the key pad is easy to operate and the LCD screen provides easy viewing.
In case you accidentally lose this device in the water, it is designed to float to the surface so you can spot it. It also features a NOAA weather alert which will allow you to know of any hazardous conditions heading your way.
Included and External Maps
As it works like a radio, there are no maps installed in the software. Instead, everything you need is immediately at your fingertips.
If it were not for two huge drawbacks, which will be addressed shortly, this could have easily been higher. However, for what it is, Uniden designed a terrific marine radio and GPS.
- Simply pressing the “Disaster Key” can allow the DSC to triangulate your position in case of an emergency
- Is waterproof for up to five feet
- You have the option of running it at 1, 2.5 or 6 watts of power
- It can only be charged with a cigarette lighter plug in a car
- The pin holding the latch of the battery is loose
Garmin GPSmap 276C receiver
To deliver superior data reception, the GPS receiver is WAAS-enabled and has an adjustable quad helix antenna. Plus, there are 3000 user waypoints of data that are included.
It is waterproof to IPX7 standards. What this means is that it will be protected against splashing water and short durations of water immersion.
The resolution and screen size is certainly not hi-tech, at only 480 x 320 and 3.8 inches, but the enhanced sunlight readability does make it generally easy to see in daylight.
If you want to use this past the marine life, you can use it in your vehicle and receive turn-by-turn directions to your desired destination. When using on water, there is a built-in feature that will inform you of when your boat has veered off the correct path.
Included and External Maps
It is compatible with BlueChart g2 maps and also accepts various optional MapSource data cards. Plus, when needing to make a map transfer, you can easily connect the 276C to a device with a USB port.
There is nothing technically “wrong” with this marine GPS, but it is not necessarily setting the world on fire. For most people, though, this will be an awesome addition to your boat ride.
- It will quickly inform you of when your boat has veered off track
- Stores thousands of waypoints
- Comes with an adjustable marine mounting bracket
- The resolution and size leave a lot to be desired
- May have to spend extra money on outside maps to get the most use out of it
Garmin GPSmap 78SC waterproof
It has a high-sensitivity GPS receiver making it lock on to satellites quicker. Also, it has a built-in triple axis compass and barometric altimeter.
Being waterproof to IPX7 standards, it is a perfect handheld device to use on your boat or in the water.
Unfortunately, this could be a deal breaker for some. The interface, while not terrible, is really outdated with a small 2.6-inch screen size and key pad operation.
If you enjoy sharing your tracks, waypoints, routes and geocaches with others than the GPSMAP 78sc will accommodate for you. With any compatible device users, you can wirelessly share this information. Plus, the device itself will float in the water.
Included and External Maps
Pre-installed on this GPS are BlueChart g2 U.S. and Bahamas coastal charts of marinas, shorelines, depth contours, harbors, and more. With a microSD card, you can also add additional maps if you so choose.
If it did not feel like a device from the 20th century (in terms of the interface), this would be top-end quality.
- A microSD card slot allows for additional maps
- You can wirelessly share waypoints and routes
- Has a high-sensitivity receiver
- The interface is outdated
- The pre-loaded maps are not sufficient for driving
Criteria Used For The Evaluation
Its GPS Capabilities and Any Sonar Capabilities
It might be beneficial for a GPS device to be potent in GPS technology, just a thought. When talking about a marine version, though, it is a little different to analyze. Besides the GPS, with some models, there is also the sonar you have to look out for. But, let’s start out with the GPS. Generally, it is always a plus if a GPS is a high-sensitivity version or WAAS-enabled. Both allow the system to locate satellite signals quicker and more efficiently. Also, some will use maps and some will strictly use waypoints.
But, most boating fanatics will be interested in the sonar capabilities of these devices. Not having sonar does not mean a GPS can’t be used in the water, but it offers tons of advantages. In specific, for fisherman, it can be used to detect the fish that are lurking under the surface. Thus, it is no coincidence that you will see some named “fish finders” as that is their primary purpose. As you probably noticed throughout this list, most top-end models implement CHIRP sonar for excellent clarity of the water.
The Depth the Sonar Can Reach
Not each marine GPS on this list has sonar capabilities, but this section is aimed at those that do. For the ones that do not, it is still important to know how far they can sink before risking permanent damage. Most will not have a huge depth, maybe five feet, but take note of it. However, for marine GPSs with sonar built-in, it is vital to not be ignorant and be knowledgeable of how far they will reach.
Choosing what depth suits your needs is as simple as analyzing which bodies of water you plan to visit. If you are going to boat or fish in any of the major oceans or the Great Lakes, you may want to aim for long depths of over 1000 feet. But, if you are a simple fisherman who plans to fish in their local lake, you may not need to worry as the lake may not even eclipse 500 feet. After you answer that question, you then need to make note of the different depths that sonar will travel in conjunction with the frequency and type of water. In other words, some may travel farther in freshwater than saltwater (due to the properties of saltwater). The same goes for the frequency as depending on what is being used, the farther and shorter it may reach.
The Quality and Design of the Interface
This criterion has nothing to do with the performance of a GPS, but man is it important. With any technology that has software inside, navigation of the interface will be prominent. When it comes to marine GPSs, it boils down to two huge factors: screen size and navigation choice. Firstly, the screen size as well as the resolution. Generally, handheld versions will have smaller screens than mounted versions. To accommodate for convenience, handheld GPSs need to be kept as small as possible. So, if you want a massive screen size shoot for a mounted version. From there, weigh how important the size is in your mind as some can range from four to nine inches.
Then, arguably more important, there is the navigation choice. A marine GPS is either going to be controlled via buttons and key pads or a touchscreen. Smartphone and tablet users will probably prefer a touchscreen interface for familiarity. With an extra-large screen size, button navigation can quickly become a hindrance. However, with handheld versions, the screens are small enough where a touchscreen interface could prove to be problematic.
Extra Features that Add Convenience
With technology, it is always nice when it is kept as convenient as possible. There is nothing more annoying than devices that are extra complicated and impossible to use. When speaking about marine GPSs, it is all about the extra features that add convenience. This really can sway from one device to another, but here are some examples of good ones to prioritize.
For a fisherman, it is nice when the GPS alerts you of the speed of your boat (especially if you do not have a speedometer already) when catching specific types of fish. Some other minor features could be the ability to customize the home screen of the interface, sending a distress call when in an emergency, floating on the water when accidentally dropped or lost, and wirelessly connecting to your smartphone.
The Maps and Any Ways to Add More
Obviously, this applies to devices that are programmed to use maps for the GPS navigation. Some of the entries on this list strictly use waypoints and do not use maps. For these, the issue of maps will never come up. However, for those that do, you may want one that comes equipped with several maps of lakes, shorelines, and marinas.
Also, even if they do, you may also be interested in adding extra maps to the device. Typically, the best way to do this is through a microSD card, so keep an eye out for models that have one included. With this, if a lake or marina is not loaded on your marine GPS, you could go to a certain site and download the specific map for it. Past this, an SD card (for some models) could also allow you to take screen shots of any sonar readings you want to document.
Q: What is a Marine GPS Transducer?
This term came up during this guide, but you still may not be 100 percent sure what it means. For science gurus, you should know that a transducer is a device that converts energy from one form to another, typically being a signal of some kind. For a fish finder, this is the heart of the entire system. What this device will do is change the electrical pulses into sound waves. In turn, it sends out these sound waves and receives the echoes that it hears. This is what allows you to view what is lurking under the surface. When the transducer sends out these sound waves, you can then see the fish and objects on your GPS device. If you plan to use a marine GPS device as a fish finder, then this is an essential key to the puzzle.
Q: Can You Use a GPS Car Unit in Your Boat?
The reality of the situation is GPS units will function anywhere where they have access to the satellites in the sky. Thus, you could potentially use a car-mounted GPS in your boat. But, it is not advised you do so as the performance will not be great. Marine GPSs, for the ones with maps, are loaded with topographic and shoreline maps. Sure, a car-mounted version would still get you to where you want to go but it would not give you step-by-step water navigation.
Besides this, most car unit GPSs are not designed with waterproof capabilities. If you are using the GPS in a boat without a hood, the potential is there for splashes of water to hit the surface of the device. Devices not built to withstand this could be compromised and potentially ruined. Do yourself a favor, and keep the car GPS in your car.
Q: How Do You Install the GPS on Your Boat?
Do not over complicate this as installing the GPS on your boat is not a hard task. However, it will vary depending on the type that you have. What it boils down to is if you have an internal or external antenna. With GPS devices that have an internal antenna, all you need to ensure is that it has a direct line to the satellites in the sky. These kinds are typically intended for smaller boats with hood access. If you have an external GPS antenna it works fairly similar, but there are a few differences.
Firstly, ensure that the antenna is installed on the top of the device in a way that it has direct access to satellites (remember, the satellites are above you). From there, you need to connect the antenna to your GPS receiver and wire it back to the console. After which, you can begin to turn it on and enjoy GPS technology on the water.
Q: How Do You Properly Use a Chartplotter?
Once you get the hang of a GPS, it becomes easier to control and function. But, when you are first using a chartplotter it can be confusing. If you follow these simple steps, though, you will be a master in no time. To begin, set your first waypoint. If you do not know how, look inside the manual as it should say which button to hit. Your first waypoint (which is a position on the chart) could essentially be your starting place and from there, you could set the next waypoint to your desired location.
To prevent yourself from having to route the full destination, which you can do by setting various waypoints along the way, if the device has it you can click on the “Go To” function. This will provide you with the direction to go and the remaining time to reach it. It really is as simple as that and you can add as many waypoints as needed.
Q: Can You Splice a Transducer Cable?
During your use of the transducer, there may come a time where you damage the cable. Whether by accident or not, you may be able to manually fix it. If need be, you can splice the cable to return it to working order. To do so, you must be very careful and first remove the plastic cover over the center of the wire. Then, peel back a section of the outer wire. Now, you want to put electric tape on both the outer wire and center wire in a way so they do not touch one another. You can simply weave the outer wire away from the center.
For extra precaution, you could also apply liquid electrical tape to the entire wire and also a sealant. Of course, if you do not feel like going through this hassle you can also choose to get a new cable.
Q: Is It Possible to Use These on a Kayak?
Yes, if you are using a fish finder or marine GPS with sonar, you can mount the transducer on a kayak. Due to sonar being sound, it can go through solids with little to no hassle. If you are willing to do a little work, you can make it work on your kayak. To begin, prepare the hull of your kayak (which is the main body) by cleaning it with rubbing alcohol. From there, apply some sort of silicone or adhesive to the hull and stick the transducer to it. But, be sure to get all air bubbles out as sonar waves can become compromised if they hit any air.
Did not think GPS was this advanced, did you? GPS can do more than just signal you to where to go on the road, as you now know, it can be very beneficial for marine goers as well.