Marine GPS Review 2020 – Know Where You Are At All Times

Before I owned my pontoon boat, I never realized how many important accessories or gadgets I needed.

I think we can all attest to that.

Typically, we all think owning a pontoon boat is just that, owning a boat and taking it on the water and having fun. However, this is not the case. A successful and happy boater needs a quality Bimini top, quality fish finder, and even a pontoon changing room.

While all of this is important, I think it’s safe to say that one of the most important purchases any pontoon owner can make is a quality pontoon boat GPS.

I can say that I am not always sailing the same waters or traveling to the same lake. It’s easy to get lost in an area where you are not familiar with the waterways.

When I went to pick out my GPS, I got lost in the many different options. I needed a GPS to find it! Today, I will be your personal GPS guide offering insight on pontoon boat GPS reviews and how to pick the best pontoon boat GPS for you.

Why is a GPS Important for a Pontoon Boater?

Now, I know you might be wondering, do I really need a Marine GPS device for my pontoon boat? In my opinion, GPS is a vital piece of technology that all boaters should have. Consider this a part of your safety kit.

Whether you are sailing the same lakes, ponds, or waterways, a GPS can be useful, especially in an emergency. Additionally, if you are like me, I like to fish at night.

Having a GPS device helps provide a satellite view of where I am at all times. And, if you purchase a high-quality GPS, it will even warn you about upcoming storms or any other threats in the area.

With that being said, rather than wonder why a GPS important, the better question is: What is the best GPS for my pontoon boat?

Selecting the Perfect Marine GPS

I think it’s safe to say that, to pick out the best marine GPS device, it’s important to understand HOW to pick out the perfect GPS. So, before you start researching or reading specific Pontoon Boat GPS Reviews, it’s important to ask yourself a few questions.

  1. What marine GPS do I need?
  2. Do I need the most technologically advanced products?
  3. Do I care about the bells and whistles?
  4. What features are most important to me?
  5. How much am I willing to spend on a GPS for my pontoon boat?

Now that you are starting to get a little clearer as to what is important to you. I will share some of the vital features and components that I looked at when considering a GPS for my pontoon boat.

Types of GPS

The first thing that I encountered when considering different GPS gadgets were three different GPS systems’ primary types. Each of these has its unique benefits, advantages, and disadvantages.

Handheld GPS

Handheld GPS used to be one of the most commonly sought GPS gadgets. However, as time and technology advanced, handheld GPS sort of fell-off. These gadgets typically run on 12-volt power.

My biggest piece of advice with Handheld GPS is that you need to consider the power of the battery and how long it will last.

The reason being, these might not last on a typically 10-12-hour boating day or fishing trip. So, you will be required to charge it while on the water.

Now, if you are looking for a GPS that is easy to read, especially for boaters that have vision problems, this type of GPS is not an optimal choice.

Portable GPS

Another type of popular GPS, and like that of a Handheld GPS, is a Portable GPS. These gadgets are typically larger than a handheld; offering screen sizes well over 6”. As a result, these GPS offers touchscreen capabilities and a few other modern amenities.

Dash Mounted GPS

The most common type of GPS today is the dash-mounted GPS. In fact, many companies are only producing these types of devices because it’s what is in demand.

Dash Mounted GPS is typically more expensive than any other type; however, it comes with better features, accessibility, and coverage.

I suggest that if you are planning on buying this type of GPS, plan on investing in an antenna as well. After using mine, I learned quickly that a bimini top could compromise the GPS’s signal strength.

Quantity of Satellites

When scanning through different GPS products, it’s important to look at how many satellites the device is connected to. For standard devices they typically use between 12-24 satellites. I learned quickly that the better and more accurate the data, the more expensive the device.


One of the most important features that I was passionate about was readability. I know that under the hot sun, the last thing I want to do is strain my eyes to figure out my location. So, there were a few important aspects of the device I was keen on:

  • Screen Resolution – The first feature and spec of GPS that I will look out for is the screen resolution. While the screen size is important, what’s more important is the resolution of the screen. If readability is important to you, then you want to find a GPS that comes with a strong screen resolution.
  • Color Screen – Today, there are two different types of GPS: color and monochrome. Monochrome devices are naturally cheaper because they do not offer any color. In my opinion, you should invest in a color screen because monochrome GPS is challenging to read, even if the resolution is great.
  • Sunlight Readability Modes – My biggest concern was being able to read a GPS in broad daylight. What I discovered was that good GPS product had something called “Sunlight Readability Mode.” I highly encourage all boaters to find a product with this!

The Quality of Mapping

Where GPS devices begin to get competitive is when you look at the quality of the mapping. What I mean is, what type of data is the device providing you with. Some products will only share with your latitude and longitude, and others will provide you with 3D mapping, weather forecast, and even what’s happening underwater.

There are three different types of mapping systems that consumers can choose from.

  1. Detailed

This is the most advanced mapping innovation to date. If you can invest in a detailed mapping system GPS, I would highly suggest it. The reason being, if you are tech-nerd like me, you will appreciate the beauty of this feature.

Detailed mapping systems provide boaters with a wealth of information, including what’s happening with Mother Nature, the terrain of the body of water, and even 3D insights.

  1. Standard

This is the most traditional mapping system that consumers are after. So, if you are not looking for the bells and whistles and only planning on only sailing on lakes or rivers, a standard will suffice. Standard mapping provides a boater with the standard mapping information, including depth, terrain, and the surrounding area.

  1. Non-Mapping

The cheapest form of mapping to date is known as non-mapping. Here, you will only get access to a basic compass and locational data.

Marine GPS Review

Now that I have shared some of the most important features to look at when researching different Pontoon Boat GPS, I thought I would share some of my experiences and pontoon boat GPS reviews. While there are dozens of options on the market, here are three of my personal favorite GPS Brands and products to consider:

Garmin GPSMAP 78SC

One of the best and most affordable GPS on markets today is the Garmin GPSMAP 78SC. This product comes with a 2.6-inch display and can last up to 20 hours. What makes this GPS device a great option is the World Marine Map and the Land Base Map.

Garmin GPSMAP 78sc Waterproof Marine GPS and Chartplotter
  • Marine-friendly handheld with high-sensitivity GPS receiver and 2.6-inch color TFT display
  • Perfect for boating/watersports--waterproof to IPX7 standards; floats in water
  • Built-in BlueChart g2 U.S./Bahamas coastal charts with shorelines, depth contours, navaids, harbors, marinas, and more

Garmin is one of the best providers of GPS devices, providing consumers with both sea and land mapping features. You can also get access to topographic maps, should you be interested.

I would like for my pontoon boat GPS review that this product will not feature all the bells and whistles. However, you will get good use out of this product for an affordable price tag.

Lowrance Elite-4 HDI

If you are looking for an upgrade from the Garmin GPSMAP 78SC (Amazon Price), take a look at the stunning Lowrance Elite-4 HDI. This product has a screen size of 4.3 inches, which is nearly double. While this device is not touch screen, it comes with some great features, including:

Lowrance 000-12641-001 Hook-4X Sonar W/Mid/Hi/DownScan XDCR
  • High-resolution, 4 inch color display
  • CHIRP sonar plus downscan imaging the power of today's leading fish finder technologies combined to provide the best possible view beneath boat
  • Downscan overlay Technology Overlays downscan imaging onto chirp sonar
  • Great Sonar Radar Capabilities
  • 12-Volt Power Supply
  • S. Mapping Systems, including contours.
  • May be used as a fish finder

This device comes standard as a handheld; however, you can mount it down to your pontoon boat.

Magellan Explorist 510 Marine Edition

If you are looking for a professional-grade GPS, you need to look at the Magellan Explorist 510 Marine Edition. This product is the most expensive out of the three, coming with a 3-inch screen size and touchscreen capabilities.

Magellan eXplorist 510 Navionics Marine Bundle
  • 12,000 Lakes for US.4 Hot Maps Premium regions combined into a single product
  • 3.2 Mega Pixel-Camera with Auto focus and Integrated Microphone and Speaker
  • The World Edition includes a detailed road network, water features, urban and rural land use, and a realistic shaded relief background

This product comes with some of the most comprehensive and detailed maps in the industry. In fact, with Navionics Gold SD Card, you will receive access to any lake or coastal area. Consumers also have the opportunity to select from City Navigator.

My personal favorite part of this product was the 3.2-megapixel camera that comes built into this GPS. It also has a microphone to save pictures and memos that you create with your voice.

This product is most certainly suited for professionals that are seeking a heavy-duty GPS. If you seek a GPS for lakes and rivers, you may want to consider one of the other two products on the list.

Finding Your Direction

Perhaps you can agree with me at the beginning of the article when I said that finding the best pontoon boat GPS suited for your lifestyle requires a GPS in itself. I hope that now after reading my pontoon boat GPS review, you have learned how to pick a GPS device or even the GPS device for you.

Don’t forget to ask yourself the important questions that I posted in the article. These will help eliminate potential GPS devices and prevent you from spending over budget. And, trust me, it’s easy with GPS devices to spend overboard.

And, the purpose of a GPS is to keep you on board.

Sail Safe!

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