Garmin Zumo Versus Google Maps

Garmin Zumo versus Google MapsGoogle Maps has been around for awhile.  So has a Garmin Zumo.  The question is which is better.  We are going to compare a Garmin Zumo versus Google Maps.

If you aren’t familiar with Google Maps, a screenshot accompanies this article.  Google Maps is a smartphone app available free of charge.  The endeavor first started in 2004, was purchased by Google and turned into a web app.  Today it’s been transformed into a navigation app with a few unique features such as satellite imagery.  Google Maps is one of the most popular navigation apps around.

The Garmin Zumo has been available for roughly the same amount of time.  A lot of bells and whistles have been added over the years but the core functionality of navigation remains the primary focus.

Let’s look at a head to head analysis of the Garmin Zumo versus Google Maps.


Most Garmin Zumo models sold over the past few years have the letters “LM” after the model number.  That is an acronym for Lifetime Maps.  Garmin updates their maps a few times annually and if you have a Zumo with a lifetime map subscription the updates are free but must be manually applied.

Google Maps is constantly updated.  Users can suggest map corrections by sending feedback to Google.  Maps can be enhanced by overlaying them with satellite imagery.  The satellite imagery can be remarkably clear.  In my particular case, I can see my car parked in the driveway.  That’s fairly impressive.

Both are accurate.  Neither more so than the other.

Garmin Zumo versus Google Maps Winner:  Google Maps


When it comes to Google Maps, it’s a matter of the smartphone chosen as the host.  Yes, Google is in the hardware business too thanks to the Google Pixel but you can run Google Maps on any smartphone.  A Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge and Apple iPhone 7 are waterproof but most aren’t.  Additionally, there aren’t any that we know of that are glove friendly and most aren’t anti-glare.

A Garmin Zumo is waterproof.  For example, the Garmin Zumo 395LM is rated as IPX7 which means it can withstand incidental exposure to water of up to 1 meter for up to 30 minutes.  Good for light to moderate rain.  We’re not talking submarine type waterproof, but that’s fairly good for a GPS.  While we do not recommend riding in the rain, this means that you don’t need to worry about your Garmin Zumo getting a bit wet.

A Garmin Zumo has some hardware advantages compared to a smarphone.  The display is typically anti-glare and glove friendly.  Glare on a device mounted on a motorcycle’s handlebars can be horrible but the anti-glare features of the latest Garmin Zumo models seem to overcome that.

Of course, a smartphone has overall greater ability versus a Garmin Zumo but we’re simply comparing these two devices in their motorcycle GPS abilities which is why the Garmin Zumo comes out ahead in the hardware category.

Garmin Zumo versus Google Maps Winner:  Garmin Zumo

Motorcycle Attachments

Be sure to get a quality mount with either solution.  On a motorcycle, we recommend well made metal mounts that can withstand vibration.

A Garmin Zumo includes a metal mount made for motorcycle attachment.  Since the beginning of time, a Garmin Zumo has used a design that includes a cradle that is bolted to a metal mount that bolts onto a handlebar or clutch assembly.  The Garmin Zumo can be adjusted into a variety of positions to accommodate the rider.

When it comes to using Google Maps on a smartphone, a variety of mounts are available.  Quality ranges from bullet proof to a toy.

The Garmin Zumo is ready to install on a motorcycle right out of the box.  Not so with a smartphone.  Smartphone users need to purchase a mount.

Garmin Zumo versus Google Maps Winner:  Garmin Zumo


Some Garmin Zumo models include live traffic.  The Garmin Zumo 595LM includes live weather radar and traffic information from the Smartphone Link app.  However its sibling, the Garmin Zumo 395LM doesn’t have any of that.  I find this traffic feature works well in larger metropolitan areas.  Not so much in rural areas.

The photo that accompanies this article is a screenshot of Google Maps on a Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge running Android.  It’s a typical rush hour in Northern New Jersey.  The red line depicts traffic on Route 80 East.

Google Maps features real-time traffic data to show traffic jams.   It lacks the social information from their other traffic app (Waze) so you won’t see user generated reports for police activity, roadkill or a car off to the side.

The traffic coverage capabilities are roughly the same on Google Maps and a Garmin Zumo.

Garmin Zumo versus Google Maps Winner:  Tie

Bluetooth Integration

Google Maps runs on a smartphone where Bluetooth is already present.  Incoming calls are handled well with Google Maps.  You have the ability to mute spoken directions when speaking on the phone.

A Garmin Zumo has Bluetooth integrated with the device but be sure to get a Bluetooth headset that works properly with a Garmin Zumo as some do not.  Additionally, not all Garmin Zumo models work the same when it comes to Bluetooth.  We wrote an article on Bluetooth which outlines the capabilities and it’s worth reading if this is important to you.

Garmin Zumo versus Google Maps Winner:  Tie

Motorcycle Specific Features

Google Maps doesn’t have any motorcycle specific features.

What are motorcycle specific features?  Think about features such as the ability to select the type of route you want like more turns or hills or the ability to bypass highways.  Think about things like alerts for sharp curves and information about state helmet laws.  Also hardware features such as an integrated tire pressure monitor or glove sensitivity.

Garmin Zumo versus Google Maps Winner:  Garmin Zumo


Google Maps is absolutely free.  You don’t pay a thing to use this app.

A Garmin Zumo isn’t free.  While cost will vary by model purchased, it’s going to cost more than zero.

No contest.

Garmin Zumo versus Google Maps Winner:  Google Maps

And the Winner is….

There’s no clear winner.  Google Maps wins big time on cost.  Garmin Zumo wins handily on motorcycle specific features and hardware.

If hardware durability and motorcycle features are the most important thing, the Garmin Zumo is the right choice.  If cost is the number one priority, Google Maps is free.