garmin streetpilot c340 gps

Everywhere I have lived, the very few “close” bike races have been about an hour away, while most were three or four hours away! And being mountain bike races, they were usually located quite far from the highway, making for some interesting travels.

While the adventure is part of the fun, if you leave at 5:00 am for a 9:00 am race, and it takes three hours to drive there, you can’t waste time getting lost!

So whenever the Garmin GPS systems finally dropped in price to a reasonable level, I finally bit the bullet and picked up a Garmin Street Pilot c340 from Amazon.com for about $320.

Garmin StreetPilot c340 Basic Features

There are a lot of features here, so I probably won’t name them all, just the ones that really stood out for me. (For more info, just look at it on Amazon.com – all the features are listed, and there are 1100+ customer reviews!)

There were two things that really sold me on this model instead of the lower priced c320 and c330.

First, the c340 has a slew of pre-loaded maps. Its internal storage contains maps of the USA, Canada, and Puerto Rico. So I could drive all around the country and even pass through Canada if I felt like it, and this unit would have all the detailed maps I need.

With the two lower models, they only hold one specific region at a time, so cross country trips would require hooking the GPS to a computer and switching maps. Or you’d have to load the extra maps via an extra memory card.

The other key is the voice commands. The c340 actually pronounces names of streets, with directions like “turn left on Market Street.” Lower models like the c320 would just say “turn left in 500 feet,” which could be a little confusing if there are quite a few streets close together.

Aside from those features, everything is pretty standard for a car GPS unit. It has road maps of the country, along with pre-loaded “points of interest” like hotels, gas stations, and restaurants.

To use it, you just input the destination address with the touch screen and it sends you on your way.

Garmin StreetPilot c340, In Use

garmin streetpilot c340 gps

Features are nice, but what’s really important is how well they actually work…

Starting out, it clings to the windshield very well using the included suction cup mount. I’ve taken it on bumpy dirt roads and it’s fine. The key is to always make sure the windshield and mounting surfaces are clean. If there is any dust on either surface, it won’t stick as well.

(So get out the rubbing alcohol or Windex and wipe it down before mounting.)

The windshield mount is also cool because it lets you switch the GPS between unlimited cars. With an in-dash system, it would cost more and only be good for one car!

(If I was desperate, it would work in my jersey pocket on road rides. Not as sleek as a Garmin Edge would be, of course, but usable.)

The maps look great on the 3.5″ screen, and there’s even a night mode that the unit switches to, making it easier to read at night. It’s fine at night, but it does suffer from glare in direct sunlight.

garmin streetpilot c340 gps

It gives directions on the screen with text and arrows, and also gives you voice prompts. Some of the voices are annoying, but you can switch things up to various accents, male or female, so at least one of the voices should be good.

I switched between a few of the British and Australian voices, although I settled on American English in the end.

As for accuracy, it was usually right. Usually the address is shown on the map correctly, but every so often it shows the address slightly off, like a block away. It’s not a huge problem, but it can be hell in the city!

There’s also the problem where the satellites think you are on a road parallel or close to the one you’re actually on, so it gives you directions that want you to go through road blocks or over curbs to get where you want to go!

There’s also the slight problem of inputting zip codes and/or street names for small towns, and then they’re not actually listed on the maps! That can be very frustrating, so sometimes you rely on the GPS to get you to the area and then you need directions to get to the exact location.

To top things off, it doesn’t always give you the best route. If you try using this in your hometown, it will probably have you going different routes than you would normally use. That’s because a computer analyzing a road map doesn’t have the first-hand experience of a local driver.

I guess even GPS technology has limitations sometimes!

Neat Ways to Use Your GPS

Ever get stuck in a huge traffic jam on the highway? Get jealous when people are taking exits and get to drive, while you sit there?

Well I figured if I had a GPS, I could take any random exit, then the GPS would recalculate my route and send me off to my destination on smaller highways.

That sounds like a great plan, and it can work sometimes, but it’s rarely that easy. Usually the GPS just calculates a new route to put you back on that crowded highway!

But even though that didn’t work, the Garmin impressed me with something else neat – I could use it as a second set of eyes.

One pitch black night I was driving on unfamiliar roads, out in the sticks, in pounding rain – definitely a low visibility situation. Then I realized if I zoomed in real close with this GPS, it would actually give me a good preview of all the twists and turns.

It proved much more helpful than looking out the windshield. So I successfully drove for miles using the GPS screen to guide my movements!

Of course, this is extremely dangerous. I don’t actually recommend doing this, though. I wouldn’t advise driving in such conditions at all.

And when it comes to road obstructions that aren’t mapped (like deer,) that could be big trouble! But nevertheless, it’s something to think about in emergencies.

Garmin StreetPilot c340 Complaints

I listed some minor complaints above, but there are a few big complaints that make me weary of Garmin (if not all) GPS systems.

First, the ever changing zoom levels. On the touch screen, you can zoom in and out to get a better view of the map. But the unit ends up reverting to its preferred zoom level.

Let’s say you’re on the highway and you zoom in real close on the map to figure out exactly what side street exit to take. It will be fine for a while, but then the unit zooms out on its own, whenever it wants! You might go around a curve or make a turn, and it zooms out as much as possible.

Then you have to hit the screen to zoom back in, each time it does this. That’s very annoying, and potentially very dangerous.

I really hate that, but this is kind of unnerving – sometimes the unit drops the satellite signal.

In certain areas, usually (but not always) near tunnels and bridges, it will drop the satellite signal. It usually comes back shortly after, which is fine sometimes, but other times those 3-5 seconds happen in the middle of a complicated, unfamiliar city! And sometimes it takes another 10-20 seconds to reacquire satellites and reconfigure the route!

It will get you back on track eventually, but sometimes a missed turn could mean another 30 minutes of looping back around through congested traffic!

This next problem is just an annoyance, but it sucks when it happens: sometimes the unit would be plugged in, but not actually charging. So it runs on battery power instead and goes dead at the worst possible time!

You have to make sure, when you place the GPS into its mount, that it snaps fully in place. There is one tab on mine that doesn’t always shut easily, and there were a few times where my unit went blank while cruising down an unfamiliar highway because of this!

(No problem once you figure this out, but it was kind of scary at first. So always make sure it’s snapped down completely into the mounting bracket.)

Oh, and make sure you plug this in about once every month or two and get a full battery charge. You can do that in your car or via USB on your computer. (If you have a Jeep like I do, the 12V plug will charge your GPS, cell phone, etc even when the car if turned off, which is very convenient for this.)

My final verdict is…

Despite the limitations, this GPS came in very handy. The c340 is actually discontinued now, and you can find new ones on eBay for $100 or so.

If you want something similar but newer, the Garmin Nuvi is now priced as low as the c340 was last year (before it was discontinued,) so consider one of them instead. It’s virtually identical in function, but it’s lighter and sleeker.

(Considering Amazon.com has the Nuvi 350 on sale for $150, at least at the moment, I’d rather go ahead and buy that than spend $70 just for a new map version for my c340!)

Official website: www.garmin.com

Buy online: at Amazon.com or www.eBay.com

Product Review Details
Company: Garmin
Product: Garmin StreetPilot C340 Portable Car GPS
Reviewed by: Coach Levi
My Rating: 3.5 out of 5
Date last updated: 2008-11-22
Obtained Product: Purchased at retailer.
CoachLevi.com Advertiser: No.

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2 Comments
  1. I have had a c340 for exactley 12 months and two weeks (waranty expired). I was in a wooded area of which the only navagation I had was the 340. It fell from its mount hitting the dash and the onto the floor. The jolt killed it. Since then I have seen other reports of how delicate the unit is and one stated, “What ever you do don’t drop the c340.” You might want to address that for your readers.

  2. @Robert

    I’ve been in that situation all too often. Everything seems to break right after the warranty expires!

    However, my c340 has fallen off the windshield, bounced off the dash, and landed on the floor no less than three times. (This was what made me realize how important the dust-free mounting surface is.)

    But even with those falls, the unit still works like it did the first day I got it.

    I don’t doubt that you could break one (considering it’s an electronic device,) but mine has proved very durable.

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