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Hertz NeverLost Portable GPS review

An optional item with many Hertz car rentals
 

The Hertz NeverLost Portable GPS unit is actually a Magellan Roadmate 1430, with a few minor tweaks to its user interface.

A hig-resolution large 4.3" screen and good graphics and interface makes it easy to use.

Part of our series on GPS - additional articles to be published in coming weeks - see links on the right.

 

 

The Hertz NeverLost Portable GPS is a rebadged Magellan Roadmate (the closest equivalent is their 1430 model).

It is bright and clear, easy to read, and intuitive to use, with what we suspect to be a slightly 'dumbed down' interface compared to a regular Magellan Roadmate 1430.

The unit has all the basic features you'd want in a GPS, plus traffic data.  It is a good unit for people unfamiliar with GPS, but we recommend it is better to own your own unit if renting cars in your home country.


The Hertz NeverLost Portable GPS - What You Get

The unit comes in a woven nylon padded zip carry bag.  Inside is a huge amount of foam packaging, the unit itself, cables and power supply.

Interestingly, neither a manual nor a mounting device was included - be sure to check the unit and get it working before leaving Hertz.  A windshield mount was quickly provided after I noticed this and returned for one, but it was only later that I noticed the lack of a manual.

The unit has been somewhat 'ruggedized' by the addition of an external plastic wrap around frame, perhaps merely to obscure the Magellan branding and add a bright Hertz logo.

Using the Unit

The Hertz NeverLost Portable GPS was easy to use - indeed, suspiciously easy to use, which makes me wonder if they have 'dumbed down' the feature set, leaving out some of the 'power user' features (such as adding POIs) in the interest of presenting an uncomplicated and uncluttered series of menu options to first time GPS users.

The unit was very slow to turn on, and - impatient that we are in this modern day and age of instant everything - it was galling to wait about 20 extra seconds from turning on the ignition and starting the car to having the unit up and operating and ready to tell you whether you should turn left or right.

Once it had powered on fully, the unit quickly locked on to satellites and generally gave excellent accuracy.  Like almost all modern GPS units, it has a 'snap to road' feature so it assumes you're driving on the road if it calculates your position close to a road.  This can give trouble with some units, in cities with tall buildings obscuring the satellites in the sky and streets close to each other.  This can cause the unit to sometimes jump from street to street, but my limited testing in central city areas showed no such problems with this unit.

It was quick and easy to program in routes, and easy to understand its directions.  There were only three times (in almost 800 miles of driving) that I encountered ambiguities in directions that caused me to take the wrong road, and the unit's automatic recalculation of route feature quickly steered me back to where I should be.

But, as good as the preceding sounds, there were also some limitations that severely reduced its effectiveness.

For example, most of the time, I had no idea where I was.  Let me explain.  The unit would always automatically zoom in to a very close detailed view of the surrounding few hundred yards, and always showed the direction I was heading in as 'up' on the map page.  So I never knew where I was relative to local towns and cities, I could never use the unit to find out what something was that I saw out the window nearby, and I never had any sense of the direction I was traveling in or if the route was a straight one or a zig-zag type route.  Even if I did zoom out, it seldom showed much detail, and even omitted many city and town names.

This was a bit disorienting, but not necessarily a major problem that interfered with my driving safety or pleasure.  But there was another issue that did indeed interfere with both the driving safety and pleasure.

Readers have written in with similar comments, including referring to the units as 'Everlost' and 'Alwayslost'

The unit did not seem to distinguish between England's very narrowest single car width country lanes and its broadest four lane highways, and would route me via the shortest way possible to wherever I wanted to go.  This shortest way invariably included travel on narrow one-lane country lanes - I hesitate to call them roads.  With few passing places if oncoming cars approached, and lots of blind corners, it was always a high-anxiety process driving along these lanes, with an ever-present fear that some fool would come flying around a blind corner and straight into me.  (Even worse are what I call 1 lane roads - you can only pass on these if both cars pull over so one set of wheels is right on the road edge or ditch, and if either you or the other driver doesn't do this all the way, at best you'll hit your driver side mirrors, and at worst, you'll have a nasty head-on collision.)

There is no reason why the mapping software can't be more intelligent at distinguishing between major 'A' roads, secondary 'A' roads, smaller 'B' roads, minor unnamed unnumbered roads, and single lane narrow country roads, and offer driving more choice in terms of what type of route you wish.  It already has an option to allow drivers to avoid toll roads (exceeding rare though they are) - how about an option to avoid single width country lanes as well?

Seriously, this is a surprising omission with potential liability implications for Hertz.

Similar issues can present themselves in the US too, especially being directed into 'bad neighborhoods' as part of a route through a city.

Entering an address, in the UK, can be done in a uniquely easy way.  Unlike the zip codes in the US, any one of which can potentially include an entire city and thousands of addresses, the UK post codes are much more exact, zeroing in to just a handful of houses.  So if you're wanting to tell the unit were to take you, the (typically six or seven character) post code is the quickest way to enter the address into the unit, and will get you to within a house or two of where you want to be.

Another nice feature, if you just simply want to go to a new city or town, is to choose the 'City Center' option (interestingly this UK unit uses the US spelling for 'center' rather than 'centre') where you simply enter the town name and the unit takes you to a position in the heart of the town or city.

If you come across a closed road or traffic jam, you can hit the 'Detour' button which allows you to tell the unit that it needs to re-route around a specified number of miles of original travel.

When the unit was speaking directions, the volume level was good and the sound clear.  It is easy to adjust the volume if necessary, and I turned the volume down slightly.

The main touch screen shows a map of where you are, plus has button images on it for various actions - the main ones being for zooming in and out, adjusting the volume, a 2D/3D display toggle (I much prefer 2D), satellite signal quality, a 'Mark this spot' button which doesn't seem to do much, and a Menu button to access other menus.  It makes for a slightly cluttered display, but the high screen resolution allows for plenty of information to be included.

It had insufficient levels of zoom.  For example, it would go from a 2 mile scale to a 5 mile scale, then to a 12 mile scale, then to a 40 mile scale.  Better units have each zoom level slightly less than twice the previous scale, which in this case might be 2 miles, 3 miles, 5 miles, 8 miles, 12 miles, 20 miles, 40 miles - 7 steps instead of 4.  This gives you more control over what you see and don't see on the screen.

Because the unit is battery powered and portable, you could take the unit out of the car and use it to walk around the towns and cities you visit as well.  This is a nice bonus extra feature.

Should you Rent one with your Car Rental?

If you're traveling domestically within the US, we suggest you do not rent a NeverLost GPS (or any other unit with any other rental car company).  Instead, we suggest you simply buy your own unit.

This gives you something you can use at home as well as when traveling, and it also means you have the considerable benefit of having a unit you are familiar with and know how to operate, rather than encountering a new unit for the first time and having to learn how to operate it 'on the fly' (a dangerous recipe that encourages an accident if you are driving and not concentrating on your driving).

With good GPS units costing as little as $200, you'll quickly recoup its cost through saving the extra GPS rental charges, and have the added benefit of ongoing ownership of your own unit.

But if you're traveling internationally, different factors apply.  Your US unit (if you have one) almost certainly doesn't have map data for the countries you'll be visiting.  This means you'll either have to buy extra map data sets, or rent a unit with your car.

A set of map data for a country or region can easily cost as much as $200.  While this could be considered an investment that you can re-use on future visits to that area, remember that map data 'ages' and so unless you're planning on regular visits to the area, the chances are that when or if you return, you might choose to buy an updated set of map data at that time.

For that reason, you might find it cheaper and easier to simply rent a unit with your car in the foreign country.  Alternatively, if you're planning on an extended rental, why not order a unit mail-order (eg from www.amazon.co.uk or www.ebay.co.uk  for the UK) before you go - units can be found for under 100 (US$200).

One other point - the Hertz unit evaluated in the UK came with local traffic data services too (it is believed that US units do not yet offer this capability).  This is something you'd not have if you were traveling internationally with your US unit, and might be considered a valuable extra feature that further encourages you to rent a unit internationally rather than to bring your own US unit, pay extra for maps, and miss out on the traffic information services.

Feature Analysis
 

Feature

Test Unit

Model

Hertz NeverLost Portable GPS

(It is a rebadged Magellan Roadmate 1430)

Price

Available as an optional extra through Hertz - in Britain I paid 10/day ($20) for a five day rental of a unit in May 2008 - ie a total cost of $100 for the five days.

Is generally less than this (eg $6) per day in the US.

Hertz says if you lose/break it, you have to pay a replacement cost of about (from memory) 550 ($1100).  This is outrageous profiteering because a Magellan Roadmate 1430 sells for a list price of $400 and a street price of $300 or less.

Review Date/Details

Unit was reviewed in May 2008.

There was no way to ascertain its software version or release date.

Connecting the unit to a computer and looking at file dates showed most files with what is doubtless a 'null' or default date of 6/15/2005.

Warranty

Not applicable.

Support

Presumably you could call Hertz with questions.

Inclusions

Unlike earlier model Hertz NeverLost units, which were hard mounted into the vehicle, this unit is a portable unit that comes in a padded carry case, and you simply affix it to the windshield of the car you're renting.

Clearly this makes inventory control much easier for Hertz, and allows them to potentially offer GPS rentals with every car they rent, rather than, as in the past, just with more upmarket vehicles.

The unit comes with a windshield mount, a power cable to connect from the cigarette lighter to the unit or mount, and two power supplies to power it from a wall plug (not sure why two were provided - one ends in a USB charger plug and the other in the special round charging plug for the unit).

No manual was provided.  There were no written instructions whatsoever.

Runs out of the box

Yes, mount it, plug it in, turn it on, and it starts working.

Easy to follow menus and screen prompts make the missing manual almost unnecessary if you have previous experience with GPS units.  But if this is your first ever encounter with a GPS, you might need some time to familiarize yourself with what it is and how it works.

Size

The unit comprises the Magellan unit packaged inside an outer plastic wrap around shell, and so is a bit larger than the Magellan unit by itself.  Presumably this is simply to obliterate any Magellan branding on the unit.

It measures 5.2" x 3.4" x 1.1".

Weight

The unit by itself weighs almost 8 oz, but this is not a very relevant issue for this situation.

Mounting Accessories

The unit comes with a windshield suction cup mount, with a couple of flexible joints to make it easy to get the unit properly mounted and positioned.

The suction cup proved strong and secure (indeed, it was hard to remove at the end of the rental!).

Screen Size

4.3" diagonal screen

2.1" x 3.7" =  9:16 aspect ratio

Screen Pixels

Not stated, but Magellan describe the unit as WQVGA which is 272 x 480, a standard resolution for this screen size.

Screen Colors

Unknown but sufficient.

Screen Visibility

The screen is reasonably clear and easy to read in most lighting conditions.

The reasonably high pixel density allows for easy reading of map details and text displayed.

Screen Backlighting

Yes, multiple levels offered.

Day/Night Mode

Yes, switches automatically.

Controls

The unit has only one physical control - an On/Off switch on its side.  This is not often needed because normally the unit comes on when you switch your ignition on and goes off when you switch it off again.

All other functions are controlled via soft menus on the touch screen.

Interactive help files available

No

Limited functionality when moving

No - all options are available when driving, although an initial startup screen sternly warns you against programming the unit while driving.

Graphics processor speed

Excellent.

GPS Receiver

Believed to use a Centrality Atlas III unit.

Reception is good - multiple satellites are quickly acquired and the signal remains strong in most situations, including limited sky visibility and even indoors (in portable mode).

Max number of satellites simultaneously tracked

Not stated but believed to be 30 - way more than would ever be possible or necessary.

WAAS enhanced

Although Magellan claim the unit supports WAAS and EGNOS, there was no sign of the unit receiving signals from these extra satellites - maybe they deliberately don't show this information on the satellite display?

Dead reckoning capability

None.

Satellite display

Yes.

A rudimentary satellite display screen shows the number of satellites being received and the signal strength from each satellite.

The unit also shows signal strength bars, like on a cell phone, on its main 'home page' map display.

Accuracy calculation

No.

Can the unit show you your current latitude and longitude and compass heading

This information is shown on the satellite display screen.

It only shows compass heading by the four cardinal points (North, South, West, East) and the four midway points between them (NE, SE, etc).  It doesn't show degrees.

Can the unit show you your current altitude

Yes, it shows altitude in feet on the satellite information page.

Can the unit show you the exact time

No.

External antenna capability

Yes.  Connection through the windshield mounting unit.

CPU processor speed

Not known, but the unit performs calculations and screen updates very quickly.

Trip Computer functions

None.

It does display an estimated remaining travel time and current speed, but nothing else.

Battery Type

Magellan indicate it is a Lithium Ion battery.

Battery Life

Magellan claim 'up to three hours'.  This depends on screen brightness.

Power Input

The unit can accept power through the supplied cigarette lighter adapter for the car, or through the supplied mains charger units.

Auto Power On/Off

Yes.  The unit remembers programmed destinations when turned off and on, and gives you the option to resume a previous route when turned on again.

 

Mapping

Map provider

Not known, believed to be NavTeq in the US.

Countries provided

In the unit tested in the UK, it had most of western Europe as far as the Czech Republic pre-loaded into the unit's memory (over 1.5GB of map data).

Update policy, frequency and cost

Not applicable.  Presumably Hertz ensures their units are up to date.

Other countries also available

Not applicable.

How is map data loaded into the GPS receiver

Map data is pre-loaded on the unit in its internal memory.

Can the entire US be loaded into the unit

Yes.  The unit can hold all of the US and Canada, or, in the case of the unit tested, most of western Europe.

Speaks Directions

Yes.

Speaks Street Names

Yes, and does a very good job of pronouncing street names, even some English names with strange pronunciations.

Languages spoken

The system can display prompts and speak in 13 different (European) languages.

2D/3D

Yes, you can choose between these options.

Can you choose between North up or Direction of Travel up

No.  The unit is permanently in a direction of travel up mode.

Split screen mode

Not normally, but the screen splits when approaching turns to show a close up of the turn as well as the normal map.

Map Scale Shown

No.

The unit automatically zooms and keeps returning to a very detailed level of zoom - this is appropriate for city driving but not when you're on a long distance drive and the next turn on the freeway isn't for 100+ miles.

Number of POIs provided

Not known, but Magellan claim 6 million for their US units.

Most things we looked for seemed to be in the UK POI listings.

Number of user POIs that can be added

Hertz do not allow you to add user POIs to the unit.

POI information includes phone number

Yes.

POI proximity alert

No.

Speed limit warner

No.

Does it show both miles and kilometers

Yes.

 

Route Planning

How to enter addresses and other data

The touch screen only works in ABCD format.

The keyboard doesn't grey out letters as an aid to typing in names, except when typing in city names.

You can partially type a name and then call up a list of matching places.

Can you build a multi-stop journey with waypoints

No.

Will it solve the 'traveling salesman' puzzle

No.

Can you program assumed speeds for different road types, and if so, how many different road types?

No.

The unit's default settings are reasonably accurate, but like many units, when you move into more congested areas, the unit's time/distance estimates become overly optimistic.

Can you choose different settings for different types of vehicles

No.  You have a choice of normal mode or pedestrian mode (this presumably allows you to walk down narrow lanes, the wrong way on one way streets, etc).

Can you program preferences for road/route types

No.  This is a major weakness of this unit, particularly in the UK, which has a spider's web network of very minor roads that present as more direct routes than the major roads, but which most people don't want to drive on because they are frequently one way and difficult (even dangerous) to drive.

Does the unit present you with multiple route choices to choose from

No.

Can you choose between fastest/quickest and shortest route options

Yes, each time you select a destination the unit can optionally offer you a choice between faster time or shorter distance.

Will it show breadcrumb trails?

No.

 

Extra Features

Bluetooth

No.

Export data to laptop

Yes - has a USB port for exporting and importing data.

Can it play MP3 or other digital audio

No.

Can it play MP4 or other digital video

No.

Can it display pictures

No.

Integrated with real time traffic reporting

Yes.  The unit provided moderately sensible updates on traffic congestion and offered to re-route to avoid the congestion.

Integrated with other location services

No.

Other features

Hertz apparently has a feature where you can pre-plan routes on your computer at home then transfer them to the unit via SD card, but they told me nothing about this, either when I first booked the car and unit, or when I received it.

 

Read more in the GPS articles series

See the links at the top right of the page to visit other articles in our GPS series.

 

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Originally published 30 May 2008, last update 02 Jul 2017

You may freely reproduce or distribute this article for noncommercial purposes as long as you give credit to me as original writer.

 
 

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