My AAA membership gives me free maps and guidebooks for any area I plan to visit in the US. Some may think at this point, “Maps? That’s old school, why don’t you just use a GPS?” Most of the time I do. I typically rent cars from Hertz and choose to have the optional “Never Lost” GPS navigation. I currently don’t use a cell phone with built-in GPS. There are pros and cons paying the extra money for the Hertz Never Lost system, however, especially when you expect that you will “never” get lost.
Things I don’t like about Hertz Never Lost
The number one thing I don’t like about the Never Lost system is the way you have to input information. The keypad is clumsy and not very intuitive in my opinion. The multi-directional arrows, coupled with the voice call-out of letters and numbers is confusing. The first time I used the system, I thought when the voice called out a letter or number, it had simultaneously selected that same letter or number for input, and I would start over. Little did I know that it was just telling me that was the letter or number I was currently highlighting, and I still needed to press “enter” for each digit I desired.
Which brings me to the next difficulty with the keypad. The number of entries you have to make is extraordinary. It takes several minutes of scrolling, pushing, and selecting-digit-by-digit–confirming each digit by pressing, “enter”. There is a built-in list with full street and city names as a shortcut, but you still have to push the button to scroll down to your selection as they are listed alphabetically. It works great if you are choosing a city such as Akron, Ohio as it will be near the top. If, however, you are looking for an address in Walla Walla, you will need to scroll through every city name in Washington that comes before it alphabetically. I don’t know why there isn’t a keyboard allowing an address entry on a small screen, pressing enter-once.
If you are unfamiliar with Never Lost GPS, get instructions from a Hertz attendant. You will want a demonstration on navigating the buttons, otherwise you will spend hours trying to figure it out on your own, especially if you are unfamiliar with this type of technology.
The next downside to Hertz Never Lost is the seemingly built in promise of never being lost. This simply is not true. While it is a good GPS, there are many glitches.
The first major glitch is the lack of road construction recognition. With the recent Federal push for fixing our nation’s highways, this is a big issue if you are traveling by car. All across the country there are detours for roadwork, and off ramp closures.
Hertz Never Lost doesn’t recognize this. This can be quite a surprise when you are traveling on a dark rainy freeway in the DC area on a toll road, and the system instructs you to exit at the next right-only to find out the next exit is blocked. No worries, you take the following exit and wait for a minute while the system recalculates your route, giving you new directions.
In theory, this is true. There are places in the country, however, that GPS systems don’t work. Such was the case on a recent trip to Upper Marlboro, Maryland. The Never Lost GPS quit working once we left the main Beltway loop. Fortunately we had written directions and arrived to our event on time. This was not the case after the event was over, and it was dark-and raining. The street signs were unreadable in the dark, so our written directions were of no use.
Trying to find where you are in the middle of the Maryland countryside on a dark, rainy night, unfamiliar with the area, is the one time you really want your GPS system to work. Unfortunately for us, it didn’t. We ended up lost with a confused, soft toned nagging GPS voice repeating incorrect instructions while bells went off indicating roads not there, recalculating us into a circle.
The area doesn’t need to be remote for the system to fail either. On this same trip we stayed at a hotel about three miles from Dulles International Airport. When time came to catch our early morning flight (after being lost the night before), we chose the “return to Hertz” selection, and the system led us onto a road dead-ending into a warehouse parking lot. After several turns and lucky breaks, we were finally on the right road. At this point, at about 4:45am, we were still on time to catch our 6:15am flight…barely.
Hertz Never Lost is a good system–probably not the best–but better than having nothing if you are in an unfamiliar area without a map. I have used it on several of my travels and have been relatively pleased with the performance in the past, despite how clumsy it is.
For an additional $12 dollars or more a day, I am not sure it is worth the investment, however, when I can still go “old school” and use my free AAA maps. At least they won’t nag me to make a u-turn at the next available right when it just finished leading me in the wrong direction. Perhaps if they change the name to Hertz “Almost” Never Lost, it would at least lower my expectations.