Getting from A to B is something any sat-nav app should excel at, but the best can do more than just tell you where to go. Here, we name the best...

product test, android

Navigation apps on your phone are an essential part of modern life, but with so many options now out there, which one’s best? Well, we’ve put several to the test to answer that very question.

We tested our navigation apps by using them in the car over a variety of journeys, all of which included motorway and town roads. We judged the apps on what features they offer, their graphics, whether they are compatible with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto – so you can use them through your car’s own screen – and how easy they are to follow. While all the apps tested here are free, many offer in-app purchases, so we paid to test extra features before rating each contender.

Top 7: Sat-nav apps

7. MapFactor Navigator

product test, android

Price Free | Buy from App store | In-app purchases? Yes

This app requires you to download the maps of your relevant areas, removing any issues with data costs or poor signal. You have to pay £49.99 to get European ‘truck maps’, though, which also functions as a caravan or motorhome-friendly route finder. Full live traffic updates also cost either £1.79 per month, or £7.49 per year. It’s an effective navigator, and the maps are very detailed and are particularly good for walking trails as well as roads. However, for driving, you get better functionality with others that don’t require extra payment.

What Car? Says two stars 

6. ViaMichelin

product test, android

Price Free | Buy from App store | In-app purchases? Yes

This is a good app for planning complex routes with multiple stops, and it integrates well with points of interest because it has Michelin’s Green Guide attractions built in. It also has advanced route options, and can even tailor the route to suit those towing a caravan, as well as showing fuel prices and offering voice guidance. It’s just a shame that it doesn’t work with Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, and at times the map seemed slow to catch up with the car’s movements.

What Car? Says three stars 

5. Apple Maps

product test, android

Price Free | Buy from App store | In-app purchases? No

As its name suggests, Apple maps is only available on Apple devices, but it’s one of the best map apps if you’re an iPhone user. The map is really easy to follow, you get live traffic updates and (if you want it) the app gives you voice guidance. The routes it finds are reliably accurate, and it functions with Apple CarPlay. It is tricky to add multiple stops, though: points of interest – petrol stations, services etc – are easy to add to an existing route, but complex multi-stop routes are not as easy as on some rival apps.

What Car? Says three stars 

4. TomTom AmiGO

product test, android

Price Free | Buy from App store | In-app purchases? No

Like some rivals, the TomTom AmiGO app gets live traffic information from other AmiGOs (get it?). It works well, and the fixed and mobile speed camera alerts are very accurate. It even tells you what speed you’re averaging in average speed check camera zones. The navigation instructions are easy to follow but other apps offer more detailed maps. It’s compatible with Android Auto but not Apple CarPlay.

What Car? Says three stars 

3. Sygic

product test, android

Price Free | Buy from App store | In-app purchases? Yes

The beauty of Sygic is that you download the maps you want, so it’s great if you have a dodgy phone signal or don’t want to pay for data roaming while abroad. It also offers 3D maps with smart graphics, and a clever electric car mode that lets you set the range of the car you drive so it can suggest appropriate chargers on the route. It’s compatible with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, too. You have to pay £16.99 per year to get live traffic avoidance and speed camera warnings.

What Car? Says four stars 

2. RECOMMENDED – Google maps

product test, android

Price Free | Buy from App store | In-app purchases? No

Google maps is the default phone navigation app for many – especially Android users – and it’s still one of the best. The graphics are sharp and easy to see at a glance, there’s voice guidance, it’s compatible with phone mirroring apps, you can add multiple stops, and the live traffic updates are generally accurate. We had a few glitches where it tried to navigate us around traffic jams that had already eased, costing time rather than saving it, but it is generally reliable, accurate and easy to do complex routes on.

What Car? Says five stars 

1. BEST BUY – Waze

product test, android

Price Free | Buy from App store | In-app purchases? No

Waze is one of the most popular free navigation apps, and it’s easy to see why. Using data from other Waze users, the live traffic updates are really effective, and make it the best of all the apps listed here for finding nifty ways around traffic snarls. You do risk ending up in a queue of other Waze users – especially in big cities, where it’s often used by taxi drivers – but we’ve yet to find more effective traffic avoidance on any app. The map is easy to follow, there are no annoying in-app purchases, it’s compatible with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and the route graphics, traffic reports and camera warnings are all great. Multi-stop routes are difficult to set up and there’s no way to search for electric car chargers, but those are our only gripes.

What Car? Says five stars 

Different navigation apps for different routes

Navigation apps are fairly numerous, and it can be difficult to figure out which one’s best for you. Our reviews here will tell you which ones are best and why, but it’s worth considering what your priorities are, because they have different strengths and weaknesses. For planning long trips abroad, ViaMichelin or Sygic are both really great options, while if you want to muddle your way through the metropolis to a single destination, Waze is unbeatable. Google Maps is a solid all-rounder but lacks the specific features of some others. Ultimately, do consider trying different nav apps for different occasions if one has particularly appropriate features – they are free, after all.

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