When you're traveling, it's good to have options. Factors such as first class vs. economy, or pet-friendly vs. pet-free, can have a significant impact on your choice of destinations and method of travel. The same holds when you use your Garmin GPS to choose a driving route, even if you're just trying to cope with your commute. The Garmin enables you to pick the shortest possible drive, the quickest drive or the one that uses the least fuel, depending on your needs.
The shortest path between two points is a straight line, but that's not usually a practical option when you're driving. Deciding which is the shortest of several routes can be a headache for a driver, but it's easy enough for a GPS. When you choose "Shorter Distance," your Garmin will review all possible routes to your destination. Since it already knows the length of each segment of roadway, it's an easy calculation. The device adds up the total mileage for each possible route, compares the totals, and shows you the routes that requires the shortest actual driving distance. Unfortunately, physical distance isn't always the most important consideration.
There are only so many hours in a day, and the shortest possible route won't always get you to your destination in the shortest possible time. Surface streets typically have lower speed limits, stop signs or traffic lights, and plenty of crosswalks. It's often more efficient to find a highway or major commuter route, drive past your intended destination, then take an off-ramp and double back. You'll benefit by avoiding all those potential sources of obstruction, and by the higher speed limit on the major roads.
The "Less Fuel" option is trickier to calculate, because it's more variable. Highway driving is typically more fuel-efficient than city driving, so routes that take you onto major roads should theoretically save gas. In practice, it's more complicated. As a rule, the faster you drive the more gas you'll burn, and your quickest route from A to B is sometimes significantly longer. Your Garmin takes those factors into account, and can even calculate the cost of individual routes if you've entered your car's mileage and the local cost of gas.
Choosing Your Route
Which route you choose is a matter of personal preference, or your priorities at that moment. For example, you might prefer the shortest route if your car is elderly and failing, or if you're deliberately keeping its mileage low as part of your resale strategy. Choosing a faster route prioritizes your time constraints over cost control or ecological impact. Opting for the lower-fuel route emphasizes frugality and environmental awareness. Models with Garmin's Ecoroute feature can even calculate your carbon footprint for each route. Bear in mind that if you drive a hybrid, its calculations will be inaccurate. The stops and starts of city driving are costly in a conventional car, but hybrid drivers benefit from the regenerative braking and low speeds.
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