A marine navigation system is something that all sensible mariners will know to have on hand.
Everyone’s needs within their marine GPS vary. For fishermen, a GPS with quality Sonar would be ideal due to its representation of the elements within the water. However, for travelers frequently embarking on boat trips or journeys, a maps function and route planner would be on top of the list.
The only difficulty with purchasing marine GPS units is the sheer volume of models on the market. There are huge amounts of variations within brands, features, and even materials so it can be difficult to sift through them.
We’ve compiled detailed yet straight to the point reviews of our top marine GPS’s, and a helpful buying guide at the end!
Best Marine GPSes
Best For Low Budgets1Garmin Striker 4 GPS Fishfinder
Best For Low BudgetsGarmin Striker 4 GPS Fishfinder
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|2||Garmin GPSMAP 78 Handheld GPS||Buy On Amazon|
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Best Overall3Humminbird HELIX 5 G2 Fishfinder GPS
Best OverallHumminbird HELIX 5 G2 Fishfinder GPS
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Best For Higher Budgets4Garmin EchoMap+ G3 GPS
Best For Higher BudgetsGarmin EchoMap+ G3 GPS
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|5||Cobra MR HH350W VHF Radio/Marine GPS||Buy On Amazon|
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|6||Ray Marine Electronics Dragonfly Pro 7 GPS||Buy On Amazon|
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1. Garmin Striker 4 GPS Fishfinder
- Includes Clear Vu Scanning Sonar.
- Simple to use display.
- Includes a waypoint map.
- Effective “Chirp Sonar”.
Garmin Striker 4’s high-frequency ClearVu and CHIRP sonar provide exceptional quality images that make finding fish and other objects easily. It shows detailed representations, meaning you won’t have to spend unnecessary time trying to understand what it has picked up.
It has two different sonar frequencies that you can switch between easily with the keypad. The first option has better clarity and lowers coverage to see details. The second option has a larger coverage and less clarity depending on your needs.
The device is compact and easy to use, with a decently sized 3.5-inch display and bright backlit color. It holds large keypad buttons to operate the device. While in use, the screen will also track your journey and inform you of your speed and time. This data can be saved to allow you to return to the same spot another day!
In addition to this, you are also able to mark specific spots on your journey maps.This is excellent for highlighting fishing hotpots if that’s something that you plan to use your marine GPS for.
Lastly, the GPS shows your current position, but it will not display your coordinates. It will allow you to save a maximum of 5,000 waypoints on the device.
- Built-in flash.
- 3.5-inch display.
- Find fish function.
- Waterproof in 1 meter for up to 30 minutes.
- The mount does not have suction.
- No advanced features.
2. Garmin GPSMAP 78 Handheld GPS
- Floats in water.
- Built-in worldwide map.
- Plug-in SD cards are available for more maps.
- Extra Custom Maps software.
Although you might not intend to tip your GPS overboard, it can happen. As the device will float on the surface, it can easily be fished out. To top this off, it’s also IPX7 waterproof meaning it survives in up to 1 meter of water for up to 30 minutes!
In addition to this, this model comes with a built-in worldwide base map, allowing you to instantly navigate anywhere without delay. You can also insert extra microSD cards to download other maps. It includes a 1.7GB memory for all of this.
A unique feature of this Garmin marine GPS is the free “Custom Maps” software that they offer. This can be used to transform paper maps and other forms of maps (such as electronic ones) into marine GPS-friendly maps to download onto your device.
Finally, the actual GPS software within this model is both high quality and reliable. The GPS receiver is WAAS-enabled (Wide Area Augmentation System) and locates you quickly and accurately – even preserving the connection in densely covered areas. Plus, it has HotFix™ satellite protection
With its high-sensitivity, WAAS-enabled GPS receiver and HotFix™ satellite prediction, GPSMAP 78 locates your position quickly and precisely and maintains its GPS location even in heavy cover and built-up areas.
- 1.7 GB memory.
- Easily fits into your palm.
- High sensitivity receiver.
- Waterproof battery compartment.
- No built-in compass.
- The display could be a little higher resolution.
3. Humminbird HELIX 5 G2 Fishfinder GPS
- 5-inch color display.
- Optional SD card slot.
- CHIRP Digital Sonar and Imaging Sonar.
- Includes real-time maps.
This GPS unit has a high-quality design and features several cutting-edge technologies plus well-designed aesthetics.
Firstly, this model has an awesome 5-inch ultra HD color display with remarkable definition. It has 800 horizontal pixels and 48 vertical pixels, plus the screen is LED-backlit. It’s easy to read in both light and dark times of the day.
Furthermore, it has an optional SD card slot on the read, just underneath the waterproof case. You can insert your SD card to download your journeys and data.
It also includes “AutoChart Live” which allows you to create real-time maps of your fishing locations. Plus, it has a built-in Humminbird base map.
The model gets its fishfinder name from the superb quality Compressed High-Intensity Radar Pulse (CHIRP) sonars. The result of these technologies is a clear view of fish and other objects that alternative 2D sonar does not show. This is perfect for mariners in water with lower visibility where they won’t be able to search themselves. It can scan up to 1000 feet in depth.
Lastly, it features both a wide beam and a narrow beam. It also has DualBeam technology to combine two beams for more precision and detail.
- 2 different display modes.
- Includes customizable beams.
- Includes down imaging.
- Real-time maps.
- The larger size may be too bulky for some people.
- The plastic screen casing isn’t so durable.
4. Garmin EchoMap+ G3 GPS
- Large LED screen.
- Built-in WiFi software to connect with apps.
- QuickDraw mapping software.
- The charging cord plugs into the mount.
This Garmin EchoMap+ is hardly just a GPS device. It comes with a huge array of features, and additional options to create an all-in-one marine device.
Firstly, it has a beautiful and generously-sized 9-inch LED touchscreen display taking up the majority of the front of the device. It’s well lit and easy to read during both the day and night. The right-hand side features easy-to-use keys to change settings and navigate through the system. The device itself is crafted from durable plastic, with waterproof casing surviving an IPX7 rating.
It comes with a power cable to charge the device, rather than needing to change batteries. The charging cable plugs directly into the swivel mount for convenience.
Furthermore, this Garmin model gives you a practically 360 view of your boat’s surroundings. It comes with CHIRP sonar, CHIRP ClearVu, and CHIRP SideVu.
These combined give you practically photographic images of the underneath and side of the water surrounding your boat, plus detailed scans of fish and other objects.
This is perfect if you are looking to catch specific by detecting them underwater. As an added bonus, it’s compatible with the Panopix all-seeing sonar which you can install separately if you’d like to go one step further!
Lastly, the screen displays real-time lay lines, heading, course-over-ground lines, and wind rose plus wind angle and speed. This is ideal to plan your course alongside your GPS location.
- Purchase and download additional maps through the app.
- Displays live-time sonar.
- Displays stats such as wind angle and speed.
- Weighs only 2.3lbs.
- Does not include a worldwide basemap.
- Could be too bulky for those looking for a compact device.
5. Cobra MR HH350W VHF Radio/Marine GPS
- Unique white design.
- VHF radio plus a built-in GPS system.
- Monitor multiple channels at once.
- BURP feature for clear communication.
This compact yet powerful Cobra marine GPS radio has been created with multiple useful and enjoyable features making it the ideal simple handheld GPS radio.
It has a stylish and unique white design that looks great for any mariner’s gear. Although it’s fashionable, the white color is also entirely practical due to its visibility at night time when compared to dark-colored radios. It’s also extremely easy to see the illuminated display in both darker and lighter conditions.
The Cobra radio has a built-in GPS navigation system. It displays your exact coordinates and allows you to send your location using Digital Selective Calling calls (DSC). This is an excellent safety feature in case you need to send a distress signal.
Furthermore, this marine GPS radio includes channels in the US, Canada, and internationally making it suitable for worldwide use. You are also able to program 3 different channels at once. You will be able to monitor Channel 16 (the emergency and distress channel) plus two others of your choice at one time.
It also has access to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) channels. This model also allows you to make and receive BlueTooth calls.
Another unique yet helpful feature of this Cobra radio is the Rewind-Say-AgainⓇ function. This automatically records the last 20 seconds of any VHS call allowing you to play it back in case you missed any details. It also has an emergency strobe light and flashlight as a safety precaution!
Last but not least, this model has 3 different wattage options to alternate between long and short-range communications. It transmits between 15 and 40 miles depending on weather conditions and the location of the antenna. It’s a perfect option to include both radio and essential GPS needs for your boating trips.
- Backlit display.
- Makes BlueTooth calls.
- Flashlight plus emergency strobe light.
- No sonar scanning.
- No journey planning or maps.
6. Ray Marine Electronics Dragonfly Pro 7 GPS
- Wide spectrum CHIRP technology.
- Optical bonding LCD display.
- Ball and socket mounting system.
- Includes CHIRP DownVision.
The Dragonfly Pro is a super marine GPS with many additional features that make it so worthwhile for your wallet.
Firstly, it provides you with crisp, clear, and photograph-like imaging. It includes the renowned CHIRP DownVision™ sonar software as well as a dedicated CHIRP fish finding channel.
This is ideal for mariners who go out to fish, as well as others who like to observe marine life during trips. It also has the option of DualChannel sonar. Furthermore, the sonar works as deep as 600ft!
As Well as the sonar imaging, this model includes high-quality Lighthouse charts with all the details you’ll need to navigate your journey. Plus, it comes with an SD card slot to purchase even more map variations that you may need.
The model has a beautiful 7-inch LCD display for clear viewing in any weather conditions. The colors are bright and sharp, plus the specially designed screen will never fog up. Plus the device includes a ball and socket mounting system that can be positioned anywhere.
To make it even more special, the Dragonfly model has built-in Wi-Fi to connect to smartphones. Doing so allows you to transmit the sonar data into your device using their mobile app. You will then be able to pull images from the sonar imaging from your own boating trips!
- Large 7-inch display.
- Photograph-like images.
- Special fish targeting channel.
- Built-in WiFi.
- Bulkier size takes up space.
- The controls are not backlit.
Marine GPS Buying Guide
What is a Marine GPS?
Global Positioning Systems (GPS) are navigation systems that were originally developed for military purposes. They are satellite-based systems that acquire radio signals from satellites in order to determine your geographical location.
This is done in coordinates. A marine GPS is a device that is specially designed with additional features to be used by mariners on the water.
There are many different types of marine GPS designed with extra features to suit mariners. Let’s dive into some more details.
Although some GPS devices are a little larger, many models come in compact handheld sizes. A handheld GPS will usually have a 2 or 3-inch screen, alongside an antenna and a basic keypad. While they are small, they don’t lack features. Some models come with maps and radio functions too.
GPS Fish Finders
A very common use of marine GPS devices is to locate fish. These models will usually come with different types of sonar technologies, such as CHIRP sonar which you will have seen mentioned in our products reviewed above.
Fishfinder GPS devices with sonar work with something called sound propagation. The emitted sound pulses will return to the device and be translated into imaging on your screen. Some have high detailed content that looks almost like a moving photograph and others will show basic 2D outlines of shapes like fish and rocks.
Chartplotters take GPS navigation one step further by combining the GPS data into an electronic navigational chart – in simpler words: a map. It functions as a real-time moving map much like your car SatNav or smartphone directions app.
They are often integrated into marine GPS models, and they will often show speed and heading too.
Different features are what sets nautical GPS models apart. As you’ll see below, there are some key features that differ between models.
Ease of Use
Traditional models are usually handheld, with a smaller screen and a few basic keypad buttons to help you navigate through the device.
More advanced models have modernized designs with larger screens and far more functions and accessories. You’ll want to take a careful read of the instructions manual so prevent you from feeling overwhelmed with how to use your GPS model.
Display sizes in marine GPS units vary quite drastically. Some models are similar to small mobile phones with 2 r 3-inch screens, whereas recent models and more advanced versions come with 7 plus inch screens. A larger display can be a better option for those wanting powerful and clear sonar images.
GPS itself will show exact coordinates and sometimes a geographical map too. However, most marine GPS units, and many we have covered above, come with additional installed navigation data and mapping software such as LightHouse maps with the brand Ray Marine. These allow you to track, download, and save your routes.
The water-resistance of most devices is measured using an IP rating. This measured the resistance of the device to dust, water, and other factors. You’ll find above that most marine GPS models are IPX7 rated; meaning they can survive in up to 1 meter or water for up to 30 minutes.
Every GPS unit we have covered above is portable thanks to the fact that they are usually fairly lightweight and not too large. There are some larger portable marine GPS that won’t fit into a pocket but would need a suitably sized bag. Other handheld models are ideal for personal use.
To protect your GPS unit while traveling, you might want to look for a carry case too.
Prices vary between marine GPS units based on some specific factors:
- Whether or not they include radio functions.
- Any pre-installed software.
- Extra features or technology such as being a touchscreen.
- IP rating.
- Screen size and whether or not its HD.
- Quality of sonar.
Frequently Asked Questions
First and foremost, you should have a clear idea of exactly what you would like your marine GPS to do, and what functions you will use it for. You will then need to select your budget and start to look.
To make this all easy for you, you can look over our highlights, pros, and cons plus the technical specifications, and 3 different ratings of all the marine GPS units above to find the perfect one for you.
At last, we have reached the end of our marine GPS journey, and hopefully, you have settled on the perfect one for you.
We have covered 6 top marine GPS devices from different brands, and varying in features, sizes, and more. We have also covered a frank buying guide to help you make your decision.
You may just one a simple device that will locate your coordinates for safety purposes. In this case, you can go for a more simple handheld model.
Alternatively, if you are a fisherman and want to raise your boat standards to catch exactly what you are looking for, you may want a more advanced model with top-notch sonar.
It’s clear that whatever your needs, it’s almost guaranteed that you will find a marine GPS that does exactly what you want it to do!