Avis GPS

After an amazing WordCamp Scranton on Saturday I was heading to a friend’s birthday on Long Island on Sunday, a few people were surprised I had flown from New York and said driving took about the same amount of time when you factor in all the airport hassle.

I Google Mapped it and it did look like it was only 5-6 hours from Scranton to where I was going. Being a born and raised Texan, I love a good drive, and I probably haven’t had a proper road trip since my sister’s birthday a few years ago when we went up Highway 1. I’ve also never driven on the East Coast, and it seemed like there were some really pretty parks and lakes in between Scranton and Long Island so I ended up going to the airport anyway because that’s where the rental cars were.

I like Avis. They try harder. 🙂 One thing they do that’s pretty cool is sell  decent cables, USB wall chargers, and car chargers for a cheap price right at the check-in desk. (I always carry my own car charger, this is my current pick. It’s super-handy in Ubers as well.) Amazingly though they still try to give you one of those Garmin GPS units that’s worse than your smartphone in every possible way. I’m sure it’s a money maker, otherwise the only reasonable thing to do would be provide a smartphone mount (or have one already set up in the car) rather than saddling people with an archaic, non-networked navigation device that has no idea about construction or traffic.

I ended up going to a Walmart that was nearby to pick up a car mount (price, $12) that ended up being a life-saver for the trip. I also believe that every person in tech should visit Walmart at least once a year, and spend time in their technology section. It’s good to understand and see how people who don’t live for technology every day interact with it. It’s eye-opening, and it’s handy to know what’s in stock in case you need 50 feet of ethernet at 4 AM.

Dropping the car off in Manhattan, it looks like they charged me $20 for a GPS which I don’t even have, so now going to need to sort out both the fee and the “missing” GPS system.

tl; dr: Smart car rental companies should ditch the GPS, provide smartphone mounts instead.

11 thoughts on “Avis GPS

  1. Last year I went to Boston and rented at HERTZ. They gave me a customized Android smartphone in lieu of a GPS. It had Google Maps directions and, best of all, you could tether your devices to it which is awesome for foreigners like me.

  2. I use a Garmin here in the UK because it pings loudly if I exceed the speed limit, which is really useful. Wish my smartphone did this, but it doesn’t. Maybe it’s a patent thing…

  3. Hi Matt, I agree with you in most scenarios but one. Old GPS systems are still useful, specially if you just arrived in a different country (likely to happen in airports) and don’t have internet connectivity on your mobile device. That’s worst than Waze/other tools, but still is a life saver. Cheers.

  4. 2 thoughts… 1) Was driving over flying worth it? and 2) People should go to Walmart at least once a year for a reality check as well on the state of America. I’m so often saddened by what I see when I go. As amazing as a technology offering is, the degradation of human society is what bothers me more (often in the name of technology!).

  5. I think the rental car GPS is still a money maker because there is surprisingly still FUD around using your phone as a GPS. My mom insists on printing directions out from Google, but gets very nervous when I tell her to just use her phone. My dad is even worse.

    Selling a mount at the rental car place makes sense though. On my last trip my “navigator” was not very adept at describing where I needed to go.

  6. I recently visited Iceland, where I rented a car (not from Avis), and they gave a choice of either a GPS, or a MiFi (Mobile WiFi) modem, precharged with some credit (and rechargeable). It was perfect. Me and my girlfriend connected our phones, used Google Maps for navigation, but could also research what to do and where to go, and check emails and social media, both in the car and in our hotels – such a win, and hassle free and cheap. Car rental places can still make the couple of extra bucks, but deliver something of value as well. I see also in lots of AirBNB places in Japan, the hosts will supply you with one for your stay, so you can take it out of the partment and use it to navigate (via your phone and Google Maps).

  7. Yes smartphones are generally better nowadays but as others have said, limited roaming ability or built in maps when overseas, sometimes a dedicated hired GPS is the only viable solution.

  8. I second the value of GPS if:

    a. You don’t have a mobile signal when you land.
    b. If you travel to a remote area where a mobile signal is not available. For example, last weekend I drove from Asheville, NC to Hot Springs, NC. AT&T does not extend mobile service to Hot Springs, so we didn’t have a signal to navigate from Hot Springs to Max Patch, a bald mountain that is popular with hikers on the Appalachian Trail. Without our GPS, I wouldn’t have had the ability to figure out how to get back to Asheville, without going back through Hot Springs. We keep our GPS in the Honda CR-V for that very reason (even though I don’t like it all that much).
    c. If there is no Walmart (which we prefer not to shop in and we’d prefer you didn’t either) and your phone goes dead, then having a GPS as a backup is a decent alternative.

    It sounds like you don’t drive as much as some people do–especially in rural areas–or you would have a better grasp on these things.

  9. Last I rented a car it was Avis. Except the Car I was given was Chevrolet and it came with OnStar. While it didn’t have a map I was able to get turn by turn navigation from the car. It wasn’t the best but it was free and worked.

  10. Echoing the sentiment of some of the other comments – I have an iPhone and I still have a GPS on my wishlist for the following reasons:
    – Phone can be used for other stuff even while navigating
    – Bigger screen is easier to see
    – Doesn’t drain my phone battery
    – GPS doesn’t require data connection
    – Mounted GPS can serve as bluetooth connection and microphone for your phone (if your car doesn’t have one already)

    I still very much have a thing for single purpose devices for all tasks that I need to do for an extended amount of time. Just got an email that HBO Nordic is killing their app for my Samsung TV, which really bugs me, because that now means that either my phone or computer will be occupied (and drained for power) when I want to watch their shows.