Saving money with a Garmin GTM-20 lifetime traffic subscription

I love to save money, but this deal still seems too good to be true.

My GPS is a Garmin StreetPilot c550, which is an excellent (though now discontinued) unit purchased in mid-2006. (See some comments I blogged about it.) Though bulkier than newer GPS units, the c550 has everything I want, including turn-by-turn directions and an integrated Bluetooth speakerphone. (It also has things I don’t want or care about, like an MP3 player.)

One of the key features of the c550 is its Garmin GTM-20 traffic receiver. It’s a cable that combines the 12V auto power adapter with a Navteq traffic receiver. The receiver, bundled in the box with the c550, came with a one-year subscription to traffic updates.

In the summer of 2007, and again in the summer of 2008, I purchased 12-month renewals of the traffic subscription for $60 each time. Earlier this week, the GPS told me that it was time to renew the subscription again. I like the traffic delay alerts, and so continuing the subscription was an easy decision.

Poking around the Garmin site, I found two options. I could renew the subscription again for 12 months for $60. Or I could purchase a new GTM-20 receiver with “lifetime traffic” from Garmin for $119.99.

That sounded a bit odd, but indeed, Garmin tech support confirmed that I could purchase that lifetime subscription — and get a whole new traffic radio — for twice the price of a 12-month subscription-only update, and that it’ll work with my c550. (Not only that, but the old traffic-less GTM-20 can serve as a spare 12V power cord.)

But wait, it gets better.

Just before I went to order the new GTM-20 from Garmin, I decided to check online retailers “just in case.” And yes, you can buy the “Garmin GTM 20 Lifetime Traffic Receiver for Select Garmin GPS” from Amazon for $85.

Amazing, eh?

Update June 25: The new GTM-20 arrived while I was away at SPTechCon. It looks different — instead of having an oversized 12v plug with an integrated receiver, as pictured above, the new GTM-20 has a standard plug and the receiver is in a bulge half-way down the cord.

The downside is that there aren’t any more indicator lights to show that the receiver is working. It does work just fine, though! The upside is that the bulge has a jack to for an external traffic-receiver antenna, which would be good for a vehicle with a shielded cab.

Z Trek Copyright (c) Alan Zeichick