How can I load my own maps into my new CONSUMER model GPS receiver?
I want to use third party maps or "free maps" downloadable from the internet to avoid having to buy Garmin (or Magellan or Lowrance) GPS maps for upload into the GPS.  (Revised 11 October 2008)

Some Answers about mapping type  Consumer GPS  receivers and what maps can be loaded:

    Can I upload all types of MapSource maps?  Yes, Including third-party maps.
    Can I upload all types of Metroguide maps?  Yes, but only v. 4 will autoroute.
    Can I upload City Navigator and CitySelect maps for USA and Canada?  Yes,  but automatic routing will not work UNLESS the particular GPS unit supports automatic route generation.
    What OTHER brands of maps can I upload into my VISTA or LEGEND aside from Garmin furnished maps? Those from Garmin licensees.
Garmin has licensed their map technology to a number of companies and as of September 2004, fifteen or more are offering Garmin compatible maps for a variety of countries.   We have not seen any of these maps so cannot comment on their detail or quality.
    Does the above mean I CANNOT upload any Delorme maps, USGS, OSGB, and Rand McNally to my GPS?  Yes it does.
    Can I load Magellan or Lowrance maps into my Garmin GPS?  No.  Microsoft AutoRoute maps?  No.
    Do you mean to say that I cannot load ANY maps except those furnished by Garmin or their licensees?  No.
There are several non-licensed map programers making MapSource maps for Garmin units.  We have reviewed a few HERE, HERE, and  HERE.

    What about Lowrance GM100 and OziExplorer,  Aren't they the exception?  You can make very minor changes to Lowrance maps using OziExplorer and then upload these to the GM100,  but a) the process is very labor intensive and b) the resulting maps are very rudimentary in quality.
    What about more expensive "non consumer" GPS models?  The Trimble Explorer III and PathFinder Pro Series have the capability to upload some very limited vector maps plus raster maps in *.tiff format,  but only about 2 megabytes of such data.  Please check with Trimble and see if this $3000 model can perform as you require.

    Is there any hope for the future?  Yes,  Garmin's expanding licensing program is bringing more and more worldwide map makers the ability to make Garmin compatible GPS uploadable maps.
    But other vendors (OziExplorer, Fugawi, Delorme, etc.) tell me that their maps are "GPS Compatible" or that they "can be used with my GPS".  Is this true?  Yes.  It is true that you can hook your GPS up to a laptop (or desktop) PC type computer and your GPS can send position signals to these "GPS compatible" mapping programs.  You can then track your movements on your PC computer.  In this sense, the programs ARE compatible. Some 3rd party programs (such as G7toWIN, when working with SOME GPS MODELS can also upload/download waypoints, routes and tracks to these "compatible" GPS receivers.  It is YOUR responsibility to check with the particular software vendor to verify if YOUR GPS is "compatible" or not as "compatibility" is not universal.

    Note: as of 10 July 2002,  a new program called GPS MAPPER was made available.  It now has a graphic front end and the original program is only used for the actual conversion task.

    There is also a group working on a Magellan solution but they have not completed it yet as far as I know.

Joe Mehaffey

Some details added by Dale DePriest in Nov 2003

Technically the way to talk about this problem is to state that all vendors use proprietary map formats internally in the GPS receiver. Therefore they will not support someone else's proprietary format. Maps supported for any GPS must be in a format that that GPS can use, so Garmin maps must be generated in a format that is useable by Garmin receivers, no matter who makes the maps. Recently Garmin has licensed its format to other vendors so these vendors are starting to release maps that are compatible with Garmin receivers.

Magellan has a new product that permits the shape files from ESRI to be converted to its internal format. The Receiver that permits this is pretty expensive. 

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