Your source for GPS info in everyday terms

Home · GPS Reviews · Garmin Nuvi 255 Review

GPS devices are wonderfully capable but also complicated for the new user. GPS Primer provides GPS info explained in simple, everyday terms to get you started on the right foot in your travels.

Garmin Nuvi 255 Review

The Garmin nĂ¼vi 255 3.5-Inch Portable GPS Navigator is my first foray into vehicle GPS. I purchased it for a vacation driving from Pennsylvania to Florida. The nuvi 255 is a very basic model. The full-color, almost-square touch screen is about 3.5 inches diagonally. There are larger models, but this one takes a minimum of windshield real estate. I found the screen size to be fine. I have not used larger models, so I may not know what I am missing. My nuvi 255 was not bundled with lifetime maps, but it does come with one free map update. Lifetime maps are available as an upgrade from the the Garmin website. It does not have traffic. It will find gas stations and other services.

We had a stop on our trip that was a personal residence in a development, and here's where it really shone. Residential developments can be confusing for a stranger. Rather than following a set of multiple-turn directions hand written or printed from google, the Garmin nuvi 255 took us straight there with a minimum of stress.

My pros and cons are as follows. This is my first vehicle GPS, so some comments may not be specific to the model, but rather the brand or simply the state of technology at this time. And there's a strong chance some of my cons will be addressed with a read of the manual, but when it comes to gadgets, I'm in the school of "If the feature I want is there, but isn't obvious, it's a design flaw."


  • Small screen size is unobtrusive yet gave me all the information I needed. I know others like the bigger screens, but I did not feel limited
  • Several accents to choose from, if you want an Aussie or a Brit to lead you
  • Many languages built-in, though we used only the English
  • Directions were mostly accurate, with a few exceptions
  • Displays speed limits
  • GPS calculated speed is very nice. Our vehicle odometer showed us to be 2 mph faster than we really were.
  • Real-time destination arrival time.
  • Security pin option
  • Inexpensive. I found a refurb from Amazon for under $70
  • Windshield mount was secure, easy to use and remove
  • Remembers a list of recently entered addresses, even if not officially saved
  • Detour function worked quickly
  • Satellite acquisition took a few minutes after being off for a few days, as any GPS must do. But for daily use during our trip it never needed time to acquire them.


  • Voice accents were pretty weak. Basically the same male or female computer voice faking a different accent. The female Brit's "Boulevarrrrrrrrggghd" had a little too much Pirate.
  • When we went off course, the unit suggested returning to the route by going the wrong way on a one way street.
  • At one point, the unit somehow failed to track our location as we approached a turn, and we missed the turn, thinking the unit knew something we did not. It caught up in a few seconds, and got us back to the right path, but that could be a big problem on an interstate with few exits or turn-arounds.
  • I'd like an option to show the destination arrival time as a countdown.
  • I'd like the option to quickly display the time on the GPS unit main navigation screen.
  • Overhead view requires a lot of zooming out to be useful, and did not remember previous settings
  • I'd like to be able to instantly zoom out to, say, a 100 mile view to see the big picture, like a paper map can provide. I could get there, but after a lot of zooming out, which is not a safe task while driving
  • The security pin if wrongly entered throws up a large, unhelpful warning window that is difficult to clear in order to retry
  • Battery life is very short, maybe 15 minutes. I'd like more time so that I can enter addresses and such in a comfortable seat or at a picnic table away from the car, particularly with multiple destinations planned. EDIT: The battery life was 15 minutes when I was using it actively, entering address or previewing routes. When I used unplugged it to navigate with minimal interaction, the battery life stretched to two hours.
  • Speed limits accuracy was so-so. On interstates and other four-lanes, it was accurate 90% of the time; on secondary highways, it was somewhat less. It appeared to me that some limits had been recently changed and the maps had not caught up.
  • I'm not sure, but I may have burned my free map update prematurely. It may actually have come with the most recent maps, but I did not know how to be sure.
  • The map update software for Mac frequently crashed. I'm still not sure I have actually completed the update to the unit, but I do know I have exhausted my one free map download from the Garmin website. As a newbie, my opinion of the map update procedure is unresolved until I have more time to sort it out.
  • The estimated time of arrival seems too optimistic when a route has a lot of stop lights. We'd have to hit nearly every light green in order to keep up with the original estimates.

There you have it, a newbie's guide to the Garmin nuvi 255. I really enjoyed using the unit, and look forward to future trips with it.

Helpful Links:

  • Garmin nuvi 255 manuals
  • Garmin nuvi 255W 4.3-Inch Widescreen version. The widescreen version of the 255. It is still available, but all widescreen 205-series have been superseded by the 1300-series. The basic 255 non-widescreen is still in production.
  • Garmin nuvi 1350LMT 4.3-Inch Portable GPS Navigator, the replacement model for the 255W