New Chartplotter Guide: Navigate The Waters With Confidence

When it comes to boating, safety is of the utmost importance. To ensure a safe and enjoyable experience, it’s essential to know how to select a new chartplotter. With so many different types and brands available, it can be difficult to decide which is best for you. To help you make the right decision, here are the key factors to consider before and after you choose.

What Is A New Chartplotter?

A chartplotter is like a GPS for your boat. You can download maps, store waypoints, and set routes. Waypoints are coordinates that mark your journey. It keeps track of your progress and shows you how to get back to where you started. It can also record your tracks so you can avoid obstacles like rocks. All this makes navigating the waterways easier and safer.

person's finger pointing to orange colored image on a chartplotter screen

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Table of Contents

Types of Chartplotters

There are several different types of chartplotters available on the market today, each with individual pros and cons. Some of the most common types include standalone units, multifunction displays, and smartphone apps.

First, standalone units are dedicated versions that are designed specifically for marine use. They typically have larger screens and more advanced features than other types, but they can also be more expensive.

Multifunction (MFD) displays are the second type, which integrates with other marine electronics, such as radar, sonar, and AIS. They offer a more comprehensive solution for boaters who need multiple features in one device.

The third type is smartphone apps. These are map plotting apps that can be downloaded onto your smartphone or tablet. They offer a more affordable and portable option for boaters, but they may not have all the features and reliability of dedicated chartplotters.


Decide the Type and Locale of your Boating:

person on sailboat steering and engaging chartplotter during sunny day with man in background

Offshore boating or at the Great Lakes demands a complex functioning unit. One that has greater processing speeds and the ability to download updated charts. As well as networking with other electronics in your watercraft. Also, think about offshore sailing, it should work when there’s no satellite connection. Whereas, if you boat in small lakes and inshore coasts. Look for a less complex version as it will likely serve you just fine. In this instance, if you’re an angler, you could pick a fishfinder/plotter combo.


Size of your vessel:

It should be obvious that if you own a small Jon boat or skiff, you don’t need a 12-inch model. Likewise, if you own a 30-feet-plus cruiser then a 5-inch unit isn’t appropriate. It will lack both the tech and display to be efficient for your use. Try to find a balance between features and screen size.


Screen Size and Display Quality

Both size and display quality of your new chartplotter are important factors to consider. Especially if you have a larger boat with other marine devices at the helm. Or if you are boating in different lighting conditions, such as direct sunlight.

In general, the screen size is the diagonal measurement from corner to corner. Available sizes range from very small 5-inch handhelds to large 12-inch models. Imagine how the display will best fit your vessel and allow you a comfortable view. Especially if you have a larger boat with other observable marine devices at the helm.

To put it simply, larger screens are better for larger boats. Whereas smaller screens are better for smaller boats.

Next, display quality is also important. As it can affect how well you can see your chartplotter in different lighting conditions. LCDs are more common and affordable, but they can be harder to see in direct sunlight. LED displays are brighter and easier to see in all lighting conditions. The caveat here is this type can also be more expensive.


up close image of a Garmin brand chartplotter screen


GPS and Mapping Features

Accurate GPS and mapping features are the number one most important feature for any chartplotter. Traditional mapping is based on paper charts, while digital mapping is based on satellite imagery and is more accurate and up-to-date.

Look for models that offer via either a WAAS (Wide Area Augmentation System). Or a EGNOS (European Geostationary Navigation Overlay Service) for improved accuracy.

Depending on your locale, look for a model that supports the latest map software. Such as C-MAP, Navionics, and other charts.

If you split time fishing or cruising, consider getting a high-quality transducer. This allows you to see down and around your vessel to seek out fish targets and avoid obstructions. Ensure the one you choose is easy to install and reliable enough to keep up with fast-moving waters.

Additional features like satellite imagery, 3D mapping, and auto-routing can also be useful for boaters. However, they may also come at an additional cost.


User-Friendly Interface

A new chartplotter can also provide a user-friendly interface that makes navigation simple and easy. Many modern chartplotters offer intuitive touchscreen displays. This means that you can access the information you need quickly and easily, without having to navigate complex menus or settings.

Man Operating Navigational Chartplotter Screen On Sail Boat In Sea

Although, don’t discount buttons as they are great for engaging in slippery and cold environments. Something to think about!


Connectivity and Networking

Connectivity and networking features are especially important for larger boats or boats with multiple displays. Wireless connectivity and NMEA 2000 networking data sharing between devices. While radar integration can improve your situational awareness and safety.


Price and Brand Reputation

Chartplotters can range in price from a few hundred to several thousand dollars, depending on the features and brand. It’s important to choose a model that fits your budget, but also has the features and reliability you need.

The most popular brands in the marine technology market include Lowrance, Garmin, Raymarine, and Simrad. Do your research and choose a brand that has a reputation for quality and customer service.


Conclusion: Choosing A new chartplotter

It’s true, that choosing a new chartplotter for your boat can seem overwhelming. But with your new-found knowledge, and considering the factors above, you can make an informed decision. One that will enhance your navigation capabilities and boating experience. Whether you’re a weekend boater or a seasoned sailor, the right chartplotter can help you navigate with confidence and safety on the water.

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