A few years ago, a navigation system was an important option to have in your car. Not only could it save you from getting lost, it also improved your resale value -- and it was a neat touch in your dashboard. But in the age of smartphones, do we really need car navigation systems anymore? We've listed some of the pros and cons of in-car navigation.

Cost

In years past, a typical navigation system option ranged anywhere from $1,500 to $3,000 extra. Sometimes navigation systems were even bundled with more expensive options, which made them even pricier.

Today's navigation systems have come down in price, which makes them far more attractive to shoppers. The navigation system in the 2013 Ford Fusion, for instance, is a $795 option on a model already equipped with MyFord Touch. That means getting a navigation system is far less expensive than it once was.

But for some drivers, it's still too expensive. That's because many modern car owners will use portable navigation systems or smartphones instead, which commonly include a navigation feature. This is especially true for drivers who don't venture into areas where smartphones lose service.

As a result, you'll have to weigh the cost of a navigation system to decide if it's right for you.

Convenience

Although navigation systems aren't always cheap -- compared to smartphones, in particular -- they're very convenient. That's especially true if you use your smartphone for music or making phone calls while you're driving.

If that sounds like you, you may want an in-car navigation system. That way, you can leave your smartphone plugged into your stereo -- or you can hold it up to your ear -- and you don't have to constantly check it to see where you're going. After all, in-car navigation offers clear directions that show exactly where you need to go, what road you're looking for and when you need to turn -- all within your line of sight.

As mentioned, navigation systems never run out of battery -- and unlike a smartphone, they won't lose service. So if long-haul driving is your thing, a navigation system might be a good idea.

Substitutes

As we've mentioned, today's navigation systems have an increasing number of substitutes. In addition to smartphones, drivers can buy portable navigation systems that can be just as good as in-car units. And they can be more convenient, since they're movable from one car to another.

The main problem with these navigation units is that they can become damaged or -- more frequently -- stolen. Many smash-and-grab thefts involve portable navigation systems left in vehicles. Also, unlike a traditional navigation system, a portable one can be left behind. Still, many portable navigation systems are half the cost of in-car units. Many drivers find that to be a much better deal, even with the potential drawbacks.

Appearance

For some drivers, a navigation system is all about the look. Many shoppers enjoy the look of having a map in the center of their dashboard, while others simply enjoy having a screen. We understand, as -- having spent lots of time in modern cars with in-dash screens -- it can feel a little dated to return to an older model with typical buttons.

In this case, a navigation system adds two benefits: navigation and appearance. But it's important to note that many modern cars now include center-mounted screens regardless of whether they have navigation. That means, in many cases, that screen-loving drivers don't need to pay extra to get a high-tech dashboard.

Resale Value

In years past, navigation systems have been among the few options that can increase a car's resale value. To us, that may not be the case in the future.

One reason is accuracy. While smartphones and portable navigation systems are accurate up to the minute, in-car navigation systems usually become dated quickly. And if their maps don't get old, their designs do. They can be updated but usually at great expense -- and most manufacturers switch designs so often that new maps can't be added to models past a certain year.

We also think smartphones and portable navigation systems will be a factor. To us, those items will deter used-car shoppers -- who are usually more price-sensitive than new-vehicle buyers -- from paying extra for navigation. As a result, we'd recommend not choosing navigation if your main consideration is resale value.

Is It Necessary?

Choosing a navigation system can be an expensive decision -- and it's one we can't make for you. But we do suggest considering the facts we've mentioned before you make your choice, since in-car navigation is no longer the no-brainer it once was.

author photo

Doug DeMuro has a wide range of automotive industry experience, from work at a Ferrari dealership to a manager for Porsche North America. A lifelong car enthusiast, Doug's eclectic vehicle purchases include a Porsche 911 Turbo, an E63 AMG wagon, an old Range Rover and a Mercedes Benz G-wagen.

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