Traffic receivers for car GPS: How do they work and what are the best brands?

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Traffic receivers for car GPS: How do they work and what are the best brands?


Car GPS is one of those inventions that may have seemed superfluous in the beginning, but that we can’t live without now. And what if there was a way to make it even more accurate and even more of a helpful tool for when you’re on the road?


By Editorial Team | 31st July 2019
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A traffic receiver can do exactly that for you, and make sure that your information is as up to date as possible, so that you can benefit from the most accurate information. That way, you save time and always reach your destination safely and quickly. And if you’re always on the hunt for the best GPS for your car, why not also look for the best car GPS tracker?

What are traffic receivers?

A traffic receiver is an add-on accessory that you can purchase for your GPS system. As the name suggests, it receives data regarding traffic via an over-the-air broadcast signal wherever it can identify it. Imagine having someone on the radio letting you know about the traffic conditions, so that you can make the best decisions.

The obvious benefit of this device is that you are receiving constant, updated information about the current traffic conditions, while you’re on the road. There is no need for careful planning or frequent checking online, because you are able to receive all the information you need, as you go.

There are a lot of different traffic receivers and products created and sold by a variety of different producers, which we’ll talk about in-depth. The actual receiver comes in the form of a cable, which will differ depending on the make of your GPS unit. The cable will connect to your 12-volt outlet.

Young woman driving her car, on her way home from work - doing the daily commute
Car GPS systems help with navigation (Picture: iStock by Getty)
How do traffic receivers work?

As we mentioned, traffic receivers work by picking up an over-the-air broadcast signal when it’s available. In order for the traffic receiver to be up and running, it needs to be placed where your charging cable normally goes. That means it is offering you the information you’re after and charging at the same time.

Some of the receivers, including the TomTom Traffic Receiver, make use of the local radio stations (who use the low-frequency Radio Data System-Traffic Message Channel). The GPS satellite information is received by your device separately. This can have advantages, but the main disadvantage is the fact that the placement and weather can severely affect the way the product works or how reliable it is. If your antenna isn’t in a place where it can pick up signal or there’s a storm, your receiver may not work as well as you’d like it to.

Installation is simple, as all you have to do is plug the receiver into the cigarette lighter adapter. Now, you can take the mini-USB cord and put it into your new unit. The receiver can go on your windshield, as long as it doesn’t block your view.

Once you finish your installation, you will have the information displayed on your GPS when you’re on the road. You will be able to access relevant information regarding traffic conditions that may affect your current journey, including accidents, delays, traffic jams, and anything else that could impact your journey.

What are the best traffic receiver brands?

As we discussed, several brands produce GPS traffic receivers now, and the cable you use depends on the model and make of your GPS device. There are a lot of good ones out there, so let’s take a look at the best companies that make traffic receiver devices for your GPS device:

  • Magellan

This one works hard to help you find your way and will update you with everything you need to know about traffic. It’s compatible with several units, including Magellan Roadmate RV 9465, Magellan SmartGPS, and SmartGPS 5295, and it comes with the standard Micro-USB end that will also help you out by charging your GPS unit.

  • TomTom

TomTom is a very well-known and respected brand when it comes to GPS devices and traffic receivers, so you know you’re bound to get a great product. Different models will work with different types of devices, but you can expect it to be compatible with the TOMTOM Go 1000, 1005 ,1050, 2050, 2405, 2435, 2505, 2535. This TomTom traffic receiver also charges your GPS device and will work internationally, so you’re in luck if you travel abroad with your vehicle.

  • RandMcNally

A great alternative to some of the more well-known brands that tend to saturate the market, RandMcNally products are just as high-quality and installation is a piece of cake. In addition, depending on the model, you may be lucky enough to get a traffic subscription to NAVTEQ Traffic.

  • Garmin

This is another incredibly popular brand for traffic receivers and GPS devices, so you’re in good hands with any of their products. Anyone can install the Garmin traffic receiver, and as long as the corresponding Garmin navigator is compatible, you should receive all your information through the FM signal. Like others, it also works as a charger and it’s compatible with lots of models, including nüvi 680, 750, 755T, 760, 765T, 770, 775T, 850, 855, 880, 885T, 5000.


As you can see, getting a traffic receiver can be an excellent option for any driver. Your GPS tracker for your car device is reliable enough, but it doesn’t always offer you the latest information about traffic conditions, and sometimes, that can make all the difference. A TomTom traffic receiver with USB, a product from Garmin, or a device from another of the previously mentioned companies could be the add-on you were looking for. You plug it in instead of your charging cable and you are able to receive live traffic feed via FM frequencies, as long as the device picks up the signal.

This can be essential if you’re in a time crunch or if an accident on the road has the potential to significantly impact your route and your arrival time. We all hate to get stuck in traffic and we could definitely benefit on a product which works to cut down on the time we spend in it, so a GPS car tracker could be the ideal solution.

Written by
Editorial Team
Our Editorial Team is constantly watching for new and exciting services to report on. They aim to bring balanced, honest reviews to the site to give you the best comparisons and ensure you have the knowledge to choose the product right for you. Read more.
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