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Garmin Drive vs DriveSmart (2021): What’s The Difference?

If you’re thinking of getting a dedicated GPS unit, surely, you’ve come across Garmin’s Drive and DriveSmart GPS devices. After all, these are some of the most popular GPS devices in the market. The Garmin Drive is an entry-level GPS unit that has all the basic navigation features that you’ll need, while the Garmin DriveSmart is a step above in many ways. In this post, we’ll be comparing the two to find out how they differ. By the end, you should be able to pick and choose which one is best for you.

Garmin Drive vs DriveSmart Comparison Chart

ModelGarmin Drive 52 and TrafficGarmin DriveSmart 65 and Traffic
 Garmin Drive 52 and Traffic, GPS Navigator with 5” Display, Simple On-Screen Menus and Easy-to-See...Garmin DriveSmart 65, Built-In Voice-Controlled GPS Navigator with 6.95” High-Res Display
PriceCheck PriceCheck Price
Dimensions5.5 x 3.3 x 0.8 inches6.8 x 3.9 x 0.7 inches
Weight6 oz8.45 oz
Display5 inches
480 x 272 pixels
Resistive touch
6.95 inches
1024 x 600 pixels
Multi-touch, glass
microSD card slot
microSD card slot
Voice-Activated NavigationNoYes
Smart Notifications via AppNoYes
Live Services via AppNoYes
Map UpdatesYesYes
Foursquare and TripAdvisor POIsYesYes
Speed Limit IndicatorYesYes
Driver Alerts YesYes
Battery Life1 hour1 hour

Design and Display

With its larger display and higher resolution screen, the Garmin DriveSmart 65 is able to output sharper and more detailed images than the Garmin Drive 52.

garmin drive vs drivesmart design and display
The Garmin Drive 52 & Traffic (left) is smaller than the Garmin Drive 65 & Traffic (right).

The most obvious improvement that Garmin DriveSmart GPS units have over Garmin Drive devices is their screen. Garmin DriveSmart GPS devices have a bigger screen, a higher resolution and improved touch functions. The Garmin Drive 52 has a 5-inch screen with a 480 x 272 resolution, whereas the Garmin DriveSmart 65 has a 6.95-inch screen with a resolution of 1024 x 600. Images on the Garmin DriveSmart 65 are sharper and more detailed so it’s nicer to look at.

When it comes to their touchscreen functions, Garmin DriveSmart units support multi-touch that contributes to its better user experience. In contrast, the Garmin Drive units have a resistive touchscreen that’s a bit outdated.

Since Garmin DriveSmart units have a larger screen, obviously, they are much bigger than Garmin Drive units. The Garmin DriveSmart 65 measures 6.8 x 3.9 x 0.7 inches and it weighs 8.45 oz. In contrast, the Garmin Drive 52 measures 5.5 x 3.3 x 0.8 inches and it only weighs 6 oz. Both of them can be mounted to your windshield or your dashboard using the included suction cup and base attachment.


The Garmin DriveSmart 65 comes with all the features of the Garmin Drive 52 and more.

garmin drive vs drivesmart features
Garmin DriveSmart GPS units come with smartphone pairing and voice commands.

Garmin Drive GPS devices have all the basic functions that you’ll need in a car navigation system. Features such as real directions, traffic, lane assistance, speed limit indicators and driver alerts are all available on the Garmin Drive 52. Along with those, it also has Foursquare data and TripAdvisor ratings to let you know of interesting places that you might want to go to.

Garmin DriveSmart units also have all the mentioned features above, and it comes with some additional ones such as voice-activated navigation, hands-free calling, app notifications, live services via the app and WiFi map updates. These added features make Garmin DriveSmart units easier to use than Garmin Drive units.

Another difference between the two is that Garmin DriveSmart units have a larger internal storage than Garmin Drive units (16GB vs 8GB). They both have a microSD card slot if you need to expand their storage. The two come with preloaded street maps and you can add more using supported apps. Since Garmin DriveSmart units come with WiFi, their maps get updated automatically whenever you are near a WiFi network.

Check out our Garmin Drive 51 vs 52 comparison here


With its voice-activated navigation, the Garmin DriveSmart 65 is easier to use than the Garmin Drive 52.

garmin drive vs drivesmart performance
Garmin Drive (left) and DriveSmart (right) GPS units are similar in that they have TripAdvisor ratings and Foursquare data.

They are both easy to use once you’ve powered them on. You can use them right away since they come with preloaded street maps, but you can also adjust various settings first. Their UI and layout are pretty much the same. They look a bit outdated but functionally, they work great.

Both Garmin Drive and DriveSmart GPS devices give you directions using points of interests, landmarks and street names. This is especially helpful if you are unfamiliar with an area and you don’t know the street names or if there are no signs. They also display speed limits on the screen and they alert you of incoming curves, school zones and other warnings.

Since they support voice-activated navigation and their touchscreen is more responsive, Garmin DriveSmart GPS devices are easier to use. In addition, they can pair with your smartphone for hands-free calling and they also offer smart notifications.

Both Garmin Drive and DriveSmart units have a battery life of up to 1 hour if you need to unplug them.


If you need a cheap and basic GPS device, the Garmin Drive will work just fine, however, if you want a more user-friendly device, it’s worth it to get the Garmin DriveSmart.

Choosing between the two is easy enough. If you want something cheap but with all the functions that you’ll need in a GPS device, Garmin Drive units such as the Garmin Drive 52 and Traffic will work just fine. It’s cheap and it has all the important functions that you’ll need, such as preloaded maps, driver alerts, accurate navigation and more. However, if you want something that’s more user-friendly and feature-packed, Garmin DriveSmart units like the Garmin DriveSmart 55 and Traffic or the DriveSmart 65 and Traffic are worth getting. They have all the features of Garmin Drive GPS devices but they also come with a larger screen and additional features such as voice-activated navigation, Bluetooth and WiFi connectivity and hands-free calling, just to name a few.


📌 What is the difference between Garmin Drive and DriveSmart?

Garmin DriveSmart GPS devices have larger screens and they come with additional features such as Bluetooth and WiFi connectivity, voice-activated navigation and more.

📌 Does the Garmin drive 52 have free map updates?

Yes, all Garmin Drive, DriveSmart and DriveAssist GPS devices come with free map updates.

📌 What is the difference between Garmin DriveSmart 55 and 65?

The differences between the Garmin DriveSmart 55 and 65 are the size of their screen and resolution. The Garmin DriveSmart 55 has a 5.5-inch screen with a 1280 x 720 resolution while the DriveSmart 65 has a 6.95-inch screen with a 1024 x 600 resolution. Features-wise, they are the same.

📌 What is the best GPS for seniors?

The Garmin DriveSmart 65 is one of the best GPS units for seniors since it comes with a large screen that’s easier for those with impaired vision. It also supports various quality of life features such as hands-free calling, voice-activated navigation and more.

Last update on 2021-07-19 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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Carlo Salvador

Senior Editor at Compare Before Buying. Writer and researcher passionate about fitness, gaming and music.