On paper, the TomTom Start 50 looks like a good deal: Its big 5-inch screen comes at a very low price. Unfortunately, it doesn't always navigate well. It's sluggish in one test, and some owners complain about bugs, bad routing and maps with missing roads. For a good car GPS on a budget, reviews prefer the Garmin nuvi 42 (Est. $110) .
Mixed results. Experts don't rate the TomTom Start 50, but do test the TomTom Start 55 TM (Est. $145) , which adds Canada maps, lifetime maps and traffic, but is otherwise identical. One review says that it navigates just fine. But in another test, at PCMag.com, it's just slow. GPS lock takes six full minutes in a Manhattan parking garage, and map animations creep along at about one frame per second. And after all that, GPS accuracy is just "so-so." Owner reviews are mixed, too: Some report no problems, but others say the TomTom Start 50 can't seem to lock onto satellites or picks bad routes. Some say entire roads are missing from the map. The Start 50 has U.S.-only maps and no free updates.
Very basic, with no traffic. To slash its price below $100, the TomTom Start 50 sacrifices just about everything extra. There's no traffic information (and you can't add it), so it can't steer you clear of roadwork and traffic jams. Also absent: Bluetooth, trip planner, exit services (to tell you what's available at the next exit) and the ability to automatically sort multiple destinations into one efficient route. The TomTom Start 50 does have a speeding-alert feature and can be set to recommend driving breaks and pick the most fuel-efficient route.
No voice commands, and the screen gets mixed reviews. It's bigger than most budget GPS units', but the TomTom Start series' 5-inch touch screen doesn't please everyone. One expert source rates it "very good" -- bright, good contrast, not too much glare -- but Jamie Lendino at PCMag.com feels exactly the opposite, saying it presents "relatively poor contrast ... washes out a bit in direct sunlight." Lendino does like the TomTom's easy-to-read maps and menus, though, calling them "informative and well-organized." The Start series speaks directions, but it doesn't understand voice commands. Its suction cup windshield mount is built into the back of the unit, folding flat when you want to remove and carry it.
Garmin makes a better cheap GPS for cars. The TomTom Start 50 is hit or miss: It navigates great for some experts and owners, but lousy for others. For a similar price, the Garmin nuvi 42 (Est. $110) performs consistently well in reviews.
ConsumerReports.org tests the TomTom Start 55 TM (which is identical to the Start 50 except for the addition of Canada maps, lifetime map updates and traffic information) and ranks it alongside lots of other car GPS systems based on routing, ease of use and more.
Review: TomTom Start 55 TM, Editors of ConsumerReports.org, Not Dated
PCMag.com also tests the TomTom Start 55 TM, giving it only a "Fair" rating. Satellite lock and map refresh times are way too sluggish, Lendino says.
Review: TomTom Start 55 TM, Jamie Lendino, April 18, 2013
The TomTom Start 50 car GPS is a customer favorite here, with about 30 reviews posted. Several do recommend stepping up to the model with lifetime map updates, though (the Start 50 M).
Review: TomTom Start 50 Bundle 5" GPS, Contributors to Walmart.com, As of October 2013
Two dozen owners review the TomTom Start 50 here, and about nine out of 10 would recommend it to a friend. Several say they got buggy units that wouldn't work at all.
Review: TomTom - Start 50 GPS, Contributors to BestBuy.com, As of October 2013
Only a handful of owners have reviewed the TomTom Start 50 here, and it gets mixed reviews. Half are satisfied, but the other half rate it mediocre or worse, saying they can't get it to work or route correctly.
Review: TomTom Start 50, Contributors to Amazon.com, As of October 2013