Does It Cost Money to Update a Garmin?

By Amanda Knaebel

Updated August 30, 2017

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With 4.12 million miles of road in the U.S. currently, according to the Federal Highway Administration, there's a lot of opportunity for changes in routes. Garmin requires that you pay for most of its offered map updates, but you may qualify for a free update if you’ve recently purchased your Garmin GPS device. The company also offers lifetime update subscriptions for some devices, so you can pay once and update whenever you need to.

Garmin’s nuMaps Guarantee

When you purchase a Garmin automotive GPS device, the company offers a “nuMaps Guarantee,” which means you’re entitled to free map updates for the first 90 days. The 90-day counter starts ticking when the device acquires satellites for the first time, so if you’re giving a GPS unit as a gift, the recipient can still take advantage of the program for 90 days following the initial use.

Even if the GPS unit isn't giving incorrect directions or not finding certain roads, it's a good idea to download and install Garmin's Express software on your computer when you're getting close to the 90-day mark because you can't go back and check for free updates after that. So even if a new map update is released within 90 days of your device’s first use, you have to actually take the time to sit down and install it before your guarantee period is over. If you don't, you'll have cough up the cash for a paid update.

Purchasing New Maps

Outside of the nuMaps Guarantee, you have to pay for any map updates you want to install on your GPS unit. All updates purchased through Garmin must be installed through the Express software. Garmin doesn't follow any kind of set schedule for map updates, but Express shows any available updates and their prices when you connect your unit to your computer. If you're lucky enough to be planning a vacation to another country and you'll be driving while you're there, Garmin has maps for many regions all over the world available for purchase on its website.

If you plan on keeping your GPS unit for a long time and think you’ll want to update frequently, you can take advantage of Garmin’s nuMaps Lifetime package for your region. When you purchase nuMaps Lifetime, you can install any updated street maps and location information changes as soon as they’re available for your device without having to pay for each individual update.

Remember that "Lifetime" in this case doesn't mean for your lifetime. The package covers the lifetime of the product’s “useful life.” So if you buy another Garmin unit a few years later, you'll have to buy another nuMaps Lifetime package as Garmin doesn't allow you to transfer that package to another person or product. Don't neglect updating for a long time if you've purchased the Lifetime package either. If you don’t download any updates for 24 months or more, Garmin will determine the product to be past its useful life and no longer eligible for updates under the original nuMaps Lifetime purchase.

Other Map Categories

If you have a Garmin device specific to golfing, cycling, boating or aviation, you can download or purchase map updates from Garmin’s website. Some products, such as the Garmin Approach devices with golf course maps, come with free lifetime map updates, which you can access through the Garmin Express software on your PC or Mac.

For cycling devices, like Edge and Montana units, Garmin offers paid street and topographical map updates for different regions, including the U.S., Europe, Australia and New Zealand.

Some of Garmin’s marine cartography products come with a free chart update after purchase. If you buy a fixed-mount chartplotter, a preprogrammed BlueChart or a preprogrammed LakeView SD or microSD card, Garmin allows you to download one free update covering the region of your original purchase under its New Chart Guarantee. Don't wait too long though; you must use your free update within 12 months of your original purchase. You can also buy updates for your BlueChart or LakeView card at a discounted price via a download through Garmin’s Express software or through Garmin dealers.

Garmin’s aviation service, flyGarmin, enables you to purchase and download paid aviation database updates once you’ve created a free flyGarmin account. Most databases include Garmin Navigation Data, Obstacles, SafeTaxi and Terrain databases, and some packages include additional features, like IFR/VFR Charts and Garmin’s Airport Directory. Pricing for aviation databases varies depending on which device you’re using.