Is There a Fee to Use a Garmin?by Aaron Charles
The short answer is no, there is not a fee to use a Garmin GPS. That is, once you buy a Garmin, there's no recurring fee to use the device. You plug it in and use it. But if you want certain services, such as traffic or map updates, that go beyond the basic mapping features, you might have to pay a fee.
Two popular features require a one-time fee that gives you either a period or lifetime of service -- live traffic updates and map updates. Traffic updates feed you moment-by-moment details that help you avoid traffic jams, and map updates keep your Garmin maps current so that you're in step with new roads or road closures. Generally such fees may range from $50 to $100. But for some devices, Garmin includes a lifetime of traffic or map updates in the purchase price.
Garmin charges yearly subscription fees for some of its services, such as features grouped under the nüLink! brand. With nüLink! services, you can check the status of flights, traffic and weather and perform Google searches in order to find restaurants or stores nearby. Yearly fees are subject to change, but as of the date of publication nüLink! services cost about $50 per year in the U.S.
Garmin offers an app called StreetPilot for the iPhone and Windows Phone. Depending on the phone and service, you can pay a small fee -- about a dollar -- to download the app and try it out for a month, after which point you'll need to pay a monthly or yearly fee. You can also opt to pay a one-time fee that will let you run the full-featured app indefinitely.
When considering a Garmin service, pay special attention to the details. It's not always immediately clear whether a fee is a one-time fee or if it's a recurring fee. Sometimes you won't find out the full details until you reach the purchase point.