Driving in Italy: Do Rental Cars Have GPS Navigation?


As exciting as it may seem, driving in a foreign country can be hectic and stressful, and Italy is no exception. Besides the narrow roads and confusing restrictions, many people fear getting lost on the streets in Italy. Thankfully, using GPS can make travel a lot easier. 

Black FIAT GPS Navigatore
A Fiat 500 GPS | Photo by MotorGold Bologna

Rental cars in Italy have GPS and are provided at an additional cost. You can also buy your own GPS device or use a GPS app on your smartphone like Google Maps or Waze. Call the rental company ahead of time for more information.

We’ll go through all of these options in detail below, so keep reading if you’re planning a trip to Italy (when it’s safe to travel, of course.) You’ll also learn which apps, companies, and services provide GPS when you’re in a foreign country.

Do Italian Rental Cars Have Built-In GPS?

Some rental cars have built-in GPS, but they usually cost more. Many new cars have a screen in the dash console that serves as a GPS, audio control system, and a backup camera monitor.

These features are still considered luxuries for rental cars, so it might be cheaper to get a separate GPS device at an additional cost.

Thankfully, you can get a portable GPS before you hit the road (or fly overseas). Some travelers prefer this method because it lets them save money on high-end luxury rental cars. If you don’t need all of the extra features, you can attach your portable GPS when you land in Italy and start driving.

You can buy now a Garmin on Amazon for a reasonable price by clicking on this link. Remember that you have to download the map of Europe separately.

If you’re set on getting a rental car that already has a GPS system, you’ll be glad to know that they’re becoming much more common. As car companies produce better stock models, rental companies expand their supply to have GPS (and other luxurious features). In other words, you’d be surprised by how many rental cars have GPS systems.

In the next section, I’ll break down some of the well-known car rental companies that include GPS systems in their vehicles.

Which Car Rental Company Includes GPS?

Virtually all major car rental companies in Italy provide a GPS. Budget’s “Where2” and Hertz’s “NeverLost” branded GPS devices are exclusive to their respective company, while others offer a third-party GPS brand like Garmin.

How Much Do GPS Devices Cost To Rent?

Prices vary between brand, type, and location. Here’s a table with the average GPS cost from the most popular rental car companies in Italy. Some rental car companies provide a discount when using a GPS for a certain period of time, and some don’t.

Rental Car CompanyPer DayPer Week (5-7 Days)
Budget$5.95 – $15.95$29.75 – $89.00
Hertz$21.89$109.45
Maggiore$16.24$104.27
Avis’$15.98$111.86
Enterprise$8.57$59.99
Alamo$7.00$49.00
Europcar$14.76$103.35
Sixt$15.75$110.28

Renting a GPS unit is probably the most expensive option. But sometimes car rental companies include it in the price. Make sure to check for any promotion before signing the contract.

Should You Bring Your Own GPS Device?

If you don’t travel very often, investing in your GPS might be a waste of money. If you buy a GPS in the US, the chances are that the GPS will only have a map of America, and it’ll cost extra to download maps of Italy or Europe. Plus, you’ll have to update the maps, so you don’t use an outdated version.

However, if you travel often, all those extra GPS fees will add up over time, so buying a GPS is worth it in the long run. You will also get to keep it.

Some watches, phones, and tablets have GPS systems that you can hook up to touchscreen monitors in your rental car. If you use this method, you can save the routes for future use.

Many new-age vehicles come with GPS, so you don’t have to worry about it unless you’re renting an old car. In most cases, Italian rental services are up to current standards. You’re more than likely going to find GPS in the vehicle’s touchscreen. The best way to know is to call the company ahead of time.

Mobile GPS Apps

It is possible to use the GPS tracking system of your iPhone or Android phone in Italy. However, you will need to have an internet connection for the maps to work. Some GPS apps allow you to download them to your mobile device memory.

I’ll focus on using the internet later, but for now, let’s look at two of the most popular GPS apps. There are plenty of GPS apps, but only a couple of them are accurate and worth your time.

It is way easier to handle a smartphone than a bulky GPS navigator. However, you will have to pay attention to your battery level all the time. GPS drains a lot of energy, so you may want to use a cigarette ligher.

Google Maps

Google Maps works perfectly fine in Italy with any phone. It reports fixed and mobile speed cameras, T-Reds, tutors, and much more. You can also make lists and custom maps of places you want to visit, such as a nice restaurant or a little-known tourist attraction.

However, Google Maps doesn’t show restricted areas. As mentioned above, keep an eye out for signs to make sure you don’t blindly drive into one. Many people have received a ZTL ticket when following the directions.

You can download the maps for free directly on your phone and use them offline. But some features such as walking and transportation directions may not be available. Still, it is an excellent option if you don’t want to spend money on data plans. Remember to download the maps before leaving your country.

GPS phone navigator app
Example of Google Maps’ speeding machines in Italy

Waze

Unlike most GPS, Waze is a crowdsourcing app. This means that other users can report accidents, speeding machines, traffic jams, and Limited Traffic Zones in Italy. It even shows gas stations with their respective prices.

One caveat is that Waze does not offer to download maps offline. That being said, it makes up for the lack of offline usage by adding instant results and a customized interface.

You won’t have any problem whether you choose Waze or Google Maps. Just hook your device to a dashboard mount, and you’ll be good to go. It’s important to mention that both of them can lag in areas with poor coverage.

For this reason, many travelers prefer built-in GPS or the previously mentioned GPS devices. Either way, you’ll always have directions whenever you need them. 

If you’re trying to communicate with friends and family back at home, or you want better data speeds with reduced data roaming charges, read on.

Should You Get an International Plan or an Italian SIM Card?

To use a GPS app in Italy, you’ll need an internet connection to your phone. But international data plans can be expensive, and surprise, data roaming expenses aren’t fun, so check with your cell phone carrier to see what your plan offers. 

For example, plans like T-Mobile’s Magenta give you unlimited data and text in more than 200 countries (including Italy) for around $70/month for one line. That’s definitely on the more expensive side, mainly because you don’t get super-high-speed internet abroad. 

You can also buy a prepaid SIM card for traveling. Some popular carriers are 02, which provides 5GB for about $25, and orange, which gives 20GB for around $50. Besides GPS, you will have access to social media, calls, etc.

Another option is to buy a SIM card after you arrive in Italy. And it doesn’t have to be expensive at all. In fact, you can get 30 GB for as little as €10 per month with some carriers.

Make sure to check out this post if you want to learn more about Italian carriers. I cover all aspects that may influence your decision.

Conclusion

When you get to Italy, you’re going to need some GPS. Whether you buy your own, rent one, or use your smartphone, it’s essential to be aware of all the ups and downs of each option. 

Renting a GPS adds to the overall travel cost, but your GPS may be outdated. Smartphone Apps can use a lot of data, and depending on your data plan, the connection might be slow or expensive. Many GPSes might not warn you of Limited Traffic Zones, resulting in you having to pay a fine.

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