TEST DRIVE

Showing You the Way

Rental-car agencies are making it harder to get lost by upgrading their fleets with the latest GPS technology. BT editors tried out five units to see which one rules the road.

From left: Enterprise's Garmin nüvi 265W, Hertz's NeverLost, Dollar/Thrifty's Garmin nüvi 660, Avis/Budget's Garmin nüvi 780, Alamao/National's Garmin StreetPilot c330

ENTERPRISE
Garmin nüvi 265W
Rents for $10/Day
Reliability: When my friends and I took the wrong highway, the GPS put us back on track—but did we really need to spend 30 minutes driving through a residential area? The unit performed much better on winding roads in the countryside.

User-friendliness: A safety mechanism stops you from entering a new destination while driving, but we were able to override it. Of course, I typed while my friend drove. —Amy Chen

HERTZ
No retail equivalent
Rents for $13/day

Reliability: Craving burgers, my partner and I searched the machine's business directory for a diner. But the address was wrong, and we ended up at a dead end near some oil tanks. It looked like the sort of place where Tony Soprano might whack an enemy.

User-friendliness: The unit was fixed below the dashboard in a non-distracting spot, but it wasn't removable, making me super nervous about break-ins when we parked. —Sean O'Neill

AVIS/BUDGETBT Pick!
Garmin nüvi 780
Rents for $14/day

Reliability: The GPS directed my boyfriend and me like a dream, even negotiating a tricky roundabout with aplomb. The best feature was the real-time traffic update, only available on newer machines. It rerouted us around a backup—and we saved 30 minutes.

User-friendliness: Only one complaint: We thought the contraption was strangely quiet, only to realize it was set on mute. There was no mute icon on the map, so we had to search through the main menu to find it. —Justin Bergman

DOLLAR/THRIFTY
Garmin nüvi 660
Rents for $12/day

Reliability: Using the GPS to find gas, my husband and I were led to a Shell station with broken pumps, then to a closed Mobil station, and finally to a bodega. We got Doritos, but no gas. Later, it told us to leave the highway, drive on an access road for five miles, and then get back on the highway. Bizarre.

User-friendliness: We couldn't for the life of us figure out how to disable the no-typing-while-driving safety feature. Each time we wanted to enter a new address, we had to pull over, which was annoying, to say the least. —Beth Collins

ALAMO/NATIONAL
Garmin StreetPilot c330
Rents for $12/day

Reliability: The unit made mistakes on two major turns. Once, it told my wife and me to go right to get to a town—and we knew we had to turn left. It let us pass the other turn altogether before realizing its mistake and irritatingly announcing that it was "recalculating."

User-friendliness: The machine gave us ample warning before some direction changes but completely surprised us with others. I was going 60 mph on one road when the GPS told me to turn in 400 feet. I blew right by it. —Michael Mohr

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Note:This story was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.
 

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