Whether you’re looking for the best handheld aviation GPS, or something a little bigger and with more features, there are several excellent models to consider that are suitable for all budgets.
6 Top Rated Aviation GPS Units
- Top Pick (Handheld): Garmin inReach Mini, “Ticks all the right boxes for anyone looking for a handheld model.”
- Runner-Up (Handheld): Garmin aera660, “Its touchscreen display will win many pilots over.”
- Most Portable (Handheld): Garmin D2 Air Aviator Smartwatch, “GPS doesn’t get more portable than a watch.”
- Best GSP for iPad (GPS Receiver): Stratux ADS-B, “An excellent choice for pilots who are budget-conscious yet aren’t willing to compromise functionality, or especially compatibility.”
- Most Features (GPS Receiver): Garmin GDL 52, “If you’re looking for the most feature-packed GPS receiver, you’ve found it in the Garmin GDL 52.”
- Also Great (GPS Receiver): Garmin GDL 50, “If you can live without SiriusXM, save some money and go for the Garmin GDL 50.”
Best Handheld Aviation GPS
Top Pick: Garmin inReach Mini
Ticks all the right boxes for anyone looking for a handheld model.Check Amazon for Pricing
This very cute-looking aviation GPS ticks all the right boxes for anyone looking for a handheld model.
It is very compact yet has an oversized display, making it easy to read; allows for several ways to connect (compatible with Garmin handhelds, wearables, and many other mobile devices); provides the inReach weather forecast service, so you know what conditions you can expect; and, of course, delivers an accurate and reliable GPS satellite communication system.
If you want a similar model with more features, take a look at the Garmin inReach Explorer+. The tradeoff is that it’s a bit more expensive and bigger.
Also Great: Garmin aera660
The Garmin aera660's touchscreen display will win many pilots over.New: $749.00
The Garmin aera660 isn’t quite as portable as other models, but its touchscreen display will win many pilots over.
It has built-in GPS/GLONASS that when used together provide more accuracy than other units that use either alone.
Besides coming packed with more features and capabilities than other GPSes, the aera660 richly colored, easy to read display in all conditions is a big selling point over other models.
Most Portable: Garmin D2 Air Aviator Smartwatch
GPS doesn't get more portable than a watch.New: $599.00
It’s fair to say tht GPS doesn’t get more portable than a watch.
The Garmin D2 Air Aviator smartwatch fits a lot of functionality into its touchscreen display, including an instrument-like HSI course needle to keep you on the right flight path; a pulse oxygen checker, and weather reports, including TAFS, METARs, and barometric pressure.
Best Aviation GPS Receiver
Best Avation GPS for iPad: Stratux ADS-B
An excellent choice for pilots who are budget-conscious yet aren't willing to compromise functionality, or compatibility.New: $389.99
The Statux ADS-B is an excellent choice for pilots who are budget-conscious yet aren’t willing to compromise functionality, or especially compatibility.
The Stratux is compatible with iPhones, iPads, and Android devices, as well as ForeFlight, FltPlan, Avare, and pretty much everything else out there.
It quickly receives and displays air-to-air traffic, data, and FIS-B weather; in addition to METARs, TAFs, NOTAMs, winds, and temps aloft, and more.
Most Features: Garmin GDL 52
The most feature-packed GPS receiver on the market.New: $1,149.00
If you’re looking for the most feature-packed GPS receiver, you’ve found it in the Garmin GDL 52.
It provides GPS position, speed, and altitude information, as well as backup attitude reference. Weather conditions are displayed in an animated graphical matter, and METARs, TAFs, NOTAMs, etc. are all displayed too.
Two features that really set the GDL 52 apart from other GPSes, though, are SiriusXM access, and its TerminalTraffic display that shows all the aircraft trajectories which are most likely to converge with your own, resulting in an invaluable safety feature.
Also Great: Garmin GDL 50
If You don't need SirisuXM, save some money and get the Garmin GDL 50.New: $699.00
If you can live without SiriusXM, you might as well save some money and go for the Garmin GDL 50.
It contains all the features that the more expensive GDL 52 has but at a lower price point.
Important Factors to Consider When Buying an Aviation GPS
While many GPS systems are compatible with both iOS and Android devices, it’s not uncommon for some models to either only support one or the other. There’s also compatibility with ForeFlight FltPlan Go, and other Electronic Flight Bags to consider.
Plug-in vs. Wireless
Take a look at your other devices and consider if they are better suited for a plug-in or wireless connection.
Ease of Use
How easy the aviation GPS receiver is to use should be one of the main things you look for. When you’re in the cockpit, you don’t want to be fiddling about and frustrated as you try to get the receiver to do what you want it to do. Some models are just more intuitive to use than others, and those are the ones you should focus on.
Large buttons and a bright display are other important considerations, especially when flying at night.
You’ll find that GPS receivers can function just off batteries, are aircraft-powered, or a combination of the two. Consider a model’s mode of operation, and how many hours of continuous operation you can depend on before a recharge is required.
Some models offer basic GPS functionality, while others come packed with animated graphical weather, and traffic services, TAFs, METARs, NOTAMs, backup attitude, etc. Some pilots very much want these features whereas others can happily go without.
Consider your needs and what your budget allows.