The ridiculous cost of in-car navigation systems

The maps used in my in-car navigation system are not current, so I went looking for an update. I found it, if I am willing to pay the exorbitant fee.

Navigation systems are one of the greatest advances in the automotive industry. While there are numerous mobile alternatives using phones, portable navigation devices and the like, there is nothing more convenient than having a factory-installed system. That convenience comes at an unexpected price, as I recently discovered.

I recently bought a used car with all of the technology bells and whistles. This included a nice navigation system integrated into the car. I use the system all the time and find it to be a great option. I have noticed that the maps presented by the system are not very current, so I checked into getting updated maps.

This particular system is produced by map-maker Navteq, along with the maps. A quick search took me to the mazdanavigation.com web site, where it told me how to verify what version maps I am currently using. The maps I have were dated 2006, so no wonder they are out-of-date for a constantly changing city like Houston.

The latest maps available for my car are dated 2010 and come on a DVD. The DVD map player is located underneath the front passenger seat, and installing the new map DVD looks to be a simple process. The problem is the cost -- $199 for the new maps.

Given the fact that the company had a deal with Mazda for these factory systems, that update price is definitely gouging owners. I don't mind paying a reasonable fee for current maps, but two hundred bucks is way out of line. From what I can determine the companies behind factory-installed navigation systems normally update the maps every year or two, so staying current is an expensive proposition. My research shows this is not unique to my car, and is obviously how these map companies line their pockets.

I don't mind paying for good technology, but I do object to paying over and over again. It makes those phone-based systems with online maps look pretty reasonable, if not as convenient.