Many higher end radar detectors include a GPS chip in the detector. Some detectors even come in two separate models, one with GPS and another without. Some detectors lack a GPS chip built-in, but they offer Bluetooth capability so you can pair it with your phone, run an app, and use your phone’s GPS to add the same functionality. Should you get a detector with GPS? What are the benefits of GPS? Would your driving require a GPS chip or would you be just fine with a more basic and less expensive detector? Let’s take a look at the benefits of having a GPS chip in your radar detector so that you can decide which route is best for you.
Primary Benefits of GPS in a Radar Detector
The primary benefits of GPS in a radar detectors essentially boil down to reduced false alerts as well as being notified of RLC’s around town. More specifically, the benefits are:
- Low speed muting
- GPS lockouts
- Red light camera / speed camera alerts
Let’s look at each feature individually in more detail.
Low Speed Muting
If you spend a lot of time driving around town, this is basically a must. When you’re sitting at a redlight or stuck in stop-and-go traffic, you don’t need your radar detector screaming at you constantly and requiring you to constantly have to reach over and hit the mute button. That gets old quick. The solution is to use low speed muting where you select a speed in the RD’s options and tell it to mute false alerts below this speed. This way the detector is relaxed and chilled out around town and only starts alerting you once you start getting up to speed.
Some people may be concerned about this muting legitimate signals as well and that may happen, particularly on K band where false alerts are more common. (Some detectors only apply low speed muting to X and K band while others also mute Ka and Laser.) To address this, some detectors may give you an initial beep or two to alert you and let you know that something is going on while others will remain completely silent and not bother you at all. Additionally the alerts will also still appear visually on screen so you’ve got a heads up and can keep tabs on what’s going on. It’s a nice compromise to have the detector quiet and relaxed around town while visually still letting you know something is going on so you can glance over as needed just in case
This feature is also pretty invaluable. If you’re constantly driving past the same stationary false alerts from automatic door openers in shopping centers and drugstores or speed signs on the side of the road, wouldn’t it be nice if a radar detector could learn those are false alerts and not alert you to them every single time you drove by? Wouldn’t it be cool if your detector could recognize the difference between the false alerts it has previously learned and new radar signals coming from police officers and alert you to police officers while staying quiet when it sees a false alert? Well that feature is called GPS lockouts and it’s an incredibly useful feature to help cut back on incessant false alerts.
This feature is primarily useful in urban areas where you have shopping centers, grocery stores, drugstores, and speed signs. However, you’ll sometimes be able to pick up shopping centers that sit right next to the highway so it can be useful on the highway as well.
If you drive primarily in rural areas where you don’t encounter these sources of stationary false alerts and/or you’re constantly driving to new places where your detector hasn’t yet had a chance to learn these false alerts yet, you won’t need this feature. However, if you regularly drive in the same areas, particularly where these false alerts are located, this feature will be very helpful. Different detectors may have different names for this feature (ie. GPS lockouts, Mute Memory, FalseList, TeachSuppress, etc.), but they all fundamentally do the same thing.
Automatic lockouts: Some detectors have the ability to automatically recognize false alerts and begin locking them out for you after you’ve passed them a few times. I love this feature and think it’s especially helpful for people who are just starting out so you don’t have to worry about doing it yourself or making a mistake and inadvertently locking out something that shouldn’t be locked out. Radar detectors that include automatic GPS lockouts include many Escort detectors such as the Max360, Max2, Max, iX, 9500ix, Max Ci, and Max Ci 360. You’ll also find this option available with the Stinger VIP as well as the Valentine One if you get the BT module (Android or iOS), pair it with your phone, and run YaV1 (Android) or V1Driver (iOS). If you like, you can also manually lock signals out too instead of or in addition to letting the autolockouts do the work for you.
Manual lockouts: Some detectors offer this GPS lockout capability as well, but they don’t have the ability to automatically learn and lock those signals out after seeing them a few times (usually due to patent restrictions). Instead, when you encounter a stationary false alert that you want to lock out, you teach the detector (usually by double pressing, triple pressing, or long pressing the mute button, or pressing a button on your phone) and the detector will then learn this false alert and filter it out for you in the future when you come by again. Radar detectors that include manual GPS lockouts include the Uniden R3, Uniden DFR7, Radenso Pro, Radenso Pro SE, Radenso XP, Escort X80 (phone app required), and Escort Redline and Beltronics Magnum (Escort Live cable and phone app required). Net Radar also offers manual lockouts with pseudo-auto lockouts. You can do normal manual lockouts (BT module and phone app required) or put it into a learning mode where it will learn every single K band signal you pass, automatically lock them out on the very first pass, and then remember each signal so that they remain locked out when you come by again in the future.
Personally I think autolockouts are the easiest solution for people, especially when you want something plug and play that can do the work for you. However, locking signals out in the beginning really isn’t that big of a deal and once you do that, you don’t have to keep doing it so it’s really something that you need to do just the first few times you drive through a new area. If you’re willing to do a little more leg work initially and lock signals out manually, that opens the door to many other fantastic detectors and so I think it’s well worth it. To help make it easier for you, here’s a video guide teaching you how to use manual GPS lockouts.
Red light camera / Speed camera alerts
Finally, if you’d like your radar detector to alert you to the presence of redlight cameras and speed cameras, you can get a detector with an updateable RLC/speed database built right into the detector and as you approach an RLC or speedcam, your radar detector will warn you.
You can also get this same functionality by downloading and running Waze, something I’d recommend no matter which detector you choose because the realtime cloud-based police spotted alerts will add another great layer of protection. Waze can alert you to RLC’s and speedcams just like your RD and it doesn’t cost a dime. It is nice not having to run the app every time you get in the car, but if you’re running the app anyways for navigation and police spotted alerts, that’s something to consider too.
Secondary Benefits of GPS
There’s a number of other secondary benefits as well. They’re helpful too, but not necessarily to the degree that the three primary ones are. Here’s a quick runthrough. They’re pretty self-explanatory so I’m not going to go into detail with each one.
- Manually marking locations such as common speed traps you personally know about where you’d like to be notified every time you pass by again in the future
- Automatic detector shut-off when parked if your radar detector isn’t plugged into a power plug that turns on and off with your car
- Automatic speed-based sensitivity adjustments (full sensitivity on the highway and reduced sensitivity around town to cut down on false alerts)
- Speedometer displaying your speed on screen
- Compass displaying your direction of travel on screen
- Overspeed warnings (alert if you’re traveling above a preset speed)
- Displaying the time
Not all GPS radar detectors have all of these features
It’s also important to point out that not every detector that has GPS automatically has every single one of these features.
For example, the K40 RLS2 ($399) has a GPS chip for low speed muting, but no GPS lockouts. It also doesn’t offer RLC alerts, but you could press a button to manually mark every RLC yourself if you like.
The Cobra DSP9200BT ($169) doesn’t have a GPS chip built-in, but if you pair it with Cobra’s app iRadar, you can add some GPS functionality such as low speed muting. It doesn’t have GPS lockouts but actually has the opposite. Instead of learning and filtering out known stationary false alerts, it instead shares them all to the cloud and notifies you of everyone else’s false alerts so you have to not only contend with your detector’s false alerts, but you are also getting alerted to everyone else’s too which is seriously not cool. On a positive note, if you run their app you can get alerted to redlight cameras and speed cams so there’s that.
The top tier radar detectors will offer all three primary benefits (with the exception of the V1 and Net Radar which don’t offer RLC/speedcam alerts).
As for the secondary benefits, some detectors will offer some features, some will offer others. Some features like being able to manually mark locations or displaying your speed are pretty common. Other features like speed-based sensitivity adjustment or automatically shutting off your detector if you’ve been stationary for a long time but your car is still supplying power, those features are only offered on some detectors and not others. It’s up to you to do the research on any detector that’s caught your attention.
When the Difference between Two Detectors is Only a GPS Chip
There are a few radar detectors on the market where the only difference between them (other than price and name) is literally just that one has a GPS chip and the other doesn’t. As expected, the GPS version is more expensive and the more basic GPS-less version is more affordable.
In terms of performance and ability to filter out moving false alerts from nearby vehicles with blind spot monitoring systems, the radar detectors are identical. Remember, they’re virtually the same radar detector and they’re built on the exact same platforms. The only differences are the stationary false alert filtering capabilities including low speed muting and GPS lockouts, redlight camera alerts, and some or all of the secondary benefits I listed.
Here’s a quick list of the non-GPS and GPS variants of several different popular radar detectors:
For those of you guys who live in California, K band is almost completely non-existent. Since that’s the case, you could disable K band entirely and not bother with having to filter out the false alerts on K band using low speed muting and GPS lockouts in the first place. Just disable K band entirely and boom! No more alerts whatsoever. 🙂 (Plus you have the side benefit of filtering out every blind spot false which no radar detector can filter out 100%.)
If you’d like to go this route, you can opt for a GPS-less version of a detector and save yourself a bit of cash.
For further reading, read this thread about K band in California.
As for red light cameras and speed cameras, tickets from them can be pretty pricey in California, upwards of $500 depending on where in CA you are. To combat this, you could instead just run Waze on your phone and you’ll get alerted to them for free without having to get a RD with RLC/speedcam alerts.
Which Radar Detector Should You Get?
Now that you’re up to speed on what GPS offers you and whether or not you need those features, take a look at my Complete Radar Detector Buyer’s Guide to pick out a radar detector that best suits you.
If you’d like a quick run through of some of my personal favorite radar detectors with and without GPS, both windshield mounts and remote mounts, I’ll list them down below.
My Favorite Windshield Mount Radar Detectors WITH GPS:
- Uniden R3 ($399)
- Escort Max360 ($649)
- Valentine One ($449) (additional Android or iOS bluetooth module and Android or iOS phone app required)
- Uniden DFR7 ($269)
- Radenso XP ($399)
My Favorite Remote Mount Radar Detectors WITH GPS:
- Net Radar ($599) (additional bluetooth module and Android or iOS phone app required)
- Stinger VIP ($2500)