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Got an old nuvi with old maps? You can still use it.

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If you have an old Garmin nuvi with outdated maps, you can still use it as a pointer if used in a specific way. And yes, there's a reason I show the Rand McNally Road Atlas above. I'll talk about that in a moment.

At the time I write this in 2021, there are an absolute ton of old Garmin nuvi GPSes on eBay. The ones that aren't "LM" (Lifetime Maps) models are some of the cheapest available since the maps can't be updated in them...

...but that doesn't make them useless.

Here's a video about it. See below for further explanation:

If you purposely turn off the maps in a nuvi, set the map display to a 2D mode, and then set the route calculation mode to "Off Road", at that point it acts the same as a handheld GPS would. At that point, there is no more turn-by-turn directions, but will point a straight line from where you are to where the destination coordinates are.

You can get coordinates for anywhere from Google Maps, Bing Maps or any other number of mapping web sites. Manual coordinate input as show in the video is easy to do, and you can mark favorites by name that way.

Having paper maps from a road atlas isn't required but recommended just so you have a better idea of the layout of the land.

Sometimes a pointer is all you need

Using a nuvi like this means it will act as a pointer and nothing more. You just start driving and figure out which roads to take on your own until you get to the coordinates.

This is, as far as I'm aware, the most basic type of GPS navigation for a car there is.

If you have an old nuvi that still works and can acquire a GPS signal, yes, you can do this right now.

Tips and tricks

Set coordinate format to h ddd.ddddd° or h ddd.dddddd° (whichever you have)

It is by far the easiest to use coordinates in this way. The nuvi has several ways of accepting coordinates input. Change yours to h ddd.ddddd° or h ddd.dddddd° to make it as easy as possible. This option is configurable from the coordinates input screen on the nuvi.

Saving coordinates as favorites

The way to save coordinates as a favorite varies from model to model, but they all have the capability. Enter in the coordinates, and then you should see an option to "Save". If you don't, there may be a little triple-line menu (sometimes called a "hamburger" menu) where the Save option is. From there you can name the favorite whatever you want.

Manual map zooming

You will have to adjust map zoom manually. Zoom out when first beginning your trip, then manually zoom in the closer you get to the coordinates.

Coordinates input

The first number, latitude, is always north or south. A north number is positive (ex: 33.00000) and a south number is negative (-33.00000). The second number, longitude, is always east or west. An east number is positive (ex: 96.00000) an a west number is negative (-96.00000). On the nuvi, you first press N or S for latitude north or south, and E or W for longitude east or west.

Number of digits

Older nuvis accept coordinates with 5 decimal places and later models 6.

If the coordinates given is some crazy long thing like this:

33.143699998804266, -96.83559731792866

Round this down to 5 or 6 digits after the decimal.

5 example: 33.14370, -96.83560, which on the nuvi would be N 33.14370 W 96.83560.

6 example: 33.143700, -96.835597, which on the nuvi would be N33.143700 W 96.835597.

Having more digits is technically more accurate, but you will see very little positional difference between the two.

Also, if you're given a short set of coordinates like 33.1437, -96.8356, you can fill in the other places with zeros. A 5 example would be 33.14370, -96.83560 and a 6 example would be 33.143700, -96.835600.

Back to GPS stuff