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Looking for inexpensive handheld unit that shows my location

I have a Garmin Nuvi in my car to tell me how to find places, unfortunately it does not tell me where I am (actual latitude and longitude) I often drive and ride a motorcycle on out of the way roads, and if I should have a breakdown, I have no way of knowing where I am so my road service plan can find me. I have a regular cell phone, and do not plan on getting a smartphone. I don't need something fancy, just a way for me to know my exact location. Any ideas? Thanks.


  • sussamb 813 Points
    Which nuvi? Most modern ones will give you your coordinates?
  • Boyd 1985 Points
    Tap the vehicle icon on the Nuvi. It should show a page of "where I am" info including your coordinates, nearest intersection and nearest address. I think this has been a standard feature for many years.

    Another approach is to press Where To > Coordinates. The default coordinates that are filled into the form will be your current location.
  • I have a Garmin Nuvi 2597. It does give a "location" number, but nothing I recognize. It looks like this 12S VB 184474098576. I have no idea what that means. I'm looking for something that gives actual coordinates, such as degrees, minutes, seconds N/degrees, minutes, seconds W.

    I also have an old Garmin eTrex. It is the yellow one. It has no number, I think it may be the first eTrex made. It does give actual coordinates, in tiny little numbers down at the bottom, but it is a greyscale display, and no matter how I adjust the contrast the numbers are to faint to be read accurately.
  • Boyd 1985 Points
    edited March 2017
    That is very strange. How did you get to that screen? Did you tap the "vehicle"? This is what is shown on every Nuvi I have ever seen.


    The coordinate format is affected by the preference you choose however. The menu may be different on your Nuvi, but typically you would press Settings > Units & Time > Position Format > Coordinate Format. What is shown on that screen? Mine is set to h ddd.ddddº

    If yours is set to something else, then change it to whatever you prefer. The other commonly used options would be h dddº mm.mmm' or h dddº mm' ss.s"
  • Thank you everyone for the help. Turns out my units were set to UTM. They now work properly. Now I need to decide what to get to carry with me on my motorcycles. I thought about a newer Garmin eTrex, I will check one out, but I have 2 of them already, and while they do show proper coordinates, they are virtually unreadable. A newer one with color display might be better. But considering the low cost of a used or refurbished Nuvi, which shows the coordinates bright and clear, I might just get another one of those, put it in a padded case, and stick it in a saddlebag.

    All of this may seem a bit much, but I was out driving my car, and realized that if I had a mechanical problem, I had no way to know where I was, so my road service would be useless. I would be unable to tell them how to find me. I never realized until a couple of days ago that my GPS did not show my coordinates.
  • Boyd 1985 Points
    edited March 2017
    I am still not clear on what you are trying to accomplish. Sounds like you are already covered with the Nuvi and old eTrex as a backup (just carry some spare batteries). Even if the display is hard to read, surely you can hold it close for long enough to see the coordinates and make a call for help.

    Unless you have a really ancient cellphone (like 10 years old), it will have an internal GPS, a law was passed many years ago requiring this so that 911 could see your location. So you don't need a smartphone for that - 911 will know where you are even if you don't. :)

    Of course, none of this makes any difference if you're in a location with no cell service. If you're concerned about that, Garmin recently bought DeLorme and now sells GPS units that can send messages through satellites:
  • The Nuvi problem has been solved. As for the old eTrex, it is so hard to read that I really would like something easier. It would be easy to make a mistake trying to read the numbers on the eTrex. My cell phone is only a couple of years old, but it is not a smartphone, it is an old fashioned pay as you go Virgin Mobile flip phone. It works fine as a phone, but there is no GPS on it. I have both the cell phone and a VHF/UHF amateur radio to call for help on, in a serious emergency. I just wanted a way to be able to tell my road service plan where I was in case of a non emergency breakdown.
  • privet01 221 Points
    edited March 2017
    I think just tell them to drive down so-and-so road til they see a motorcycle on the side of the road will still work. It's what we did before GPS.
  • Boyd 1985 Points
    Your phone does have a GPS, like I said that is required by law for all mobile phones. As to whether you can view the coordinates on the screen, I don't know, possibly not.

    But hey, I was just trying to save you some money. If you just want to buy a basic GPS to show your position, a Garmin eTrex 10 should do that and should be cheap if you can find a refurb. OTOH, you could get any Android or iPhone and use it as a GPS withough purchasing any phone service or inserting a SIM card. There are many free apps that can display this and most new phones have decent GPS chips with GLONASS. You should certainly be able to find Android smartphones for as much if not less than an eTrex 10 and they would have the option to be used for other apps as well. You don't need any cell service to use a smartphone as a GPS.
  • Can you tell me more about the phone? The phone I use does not display coordinates, but I can get a free Samsung Galaxy SII. I do not want to activate it, I am not a big cell phone user, my pay as you go phone costs me less than $10 a month. If there is a way to make the Samsung show me coordinates without service, that would be great. Thanks.
  • Boyd 1985 Points
    edited March 2017
    Sure, I think any Android phone can be used without a SIM card or service plan. You can just use it at home on wifi to load any apps and maps that you want. Most Android phones have micro SD card slots so you can expand storage inexpensively if you want to load large maps.

    I like the Oruxmaps app for Android, it's free and has an impressive feature set. Lots of options for free maps. It can take awhile to learn all the features though -

    Now if you only want to see coordinates you don't need an app with all those features. Have not really looked for that kind of app but there should be plenty available through Google Play. I have an Samsung Android tablet that I use sometimes, but use an iPhone for everyday stuff, so I'm not real current on the state of Android these days. The iPhone has a built-in app that will show coordinates, not sure about Android.

    Check the fine print on the "free" phone though, there may be a requirement to purchase a service package to get it. And it could be "locked" in a way to prevent it from working without their service.

    But there should be plenty of unlocked phones you can buy that are as cheap as a bottom of the line Garmin unit. A used one would be even cheaper. No personal experience with these, but have been reading they are popular for use as a GPS and people use them with no service agreement or SIM card. Looks very impressive, waterproof and shockproof, street price a little over $100. Have thought about getting one just to play around with. But I really have too many GPS devices already. :D
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