Waze vs Google Maps: Which Navigation App is Best to Use?

It’s a comparison guide on Waze vs Google Maps. Getting ahead in the world of mapping apps isn’t simple, and Google Maps’ long-standing dominance is hard to top. But the savvy drivers of the world know that Waze is a priceless tool thanks to its crowd-sourced traffic and alert features. But which one should you be using?

Google owns both apps, are easily available on iOS and Android, and are supported by Apple’s CarPlay and Android Auto. That said, they’re built very differently and are meant to be used in different ways. Here’s our primer on what each navigation app does best and why you really should be using them to get around.

Waze vs Google Maps
Waze vs Google Maps

Waze vs Google Maps: Key Differences

What Google Maps do best?

Google Maps has been about longer than Waze or Apple Maps. So it gives the sense that it’s built up quite a robust feature set over the years, support for several different modes of transport. It doesn’t matter if you prefer to drive, walk, cycle, rideshare, use public transportation, or only travel by cab.

You can change between each of these modes with a single tap. Google Maps shows train lines and bus stops integrates with ride-sharing platforms like Lyft and Uber and even displays Subway station platforms with listed entrances and exits.

If you’re about to set off and the streets are gridlocked, Google Maps will even recommend a better time to embark on your journey. And with location sharing, you can broadcast your whereabouts to friends and family before you go there.

The sum of these features performs Google Maps as a great all-purpose navigator, regardless of how you’re getting from point A to point B. But for those who spend the bulk of their time driving, Waze gives a compelling alternative.

What Waze does Best?

Unlike Google Maps, Waze is designed for drivers first and foremost and relies on the property of user-reported data. Waze users can alert each other to traffic, road hazards, and even cop locations with a few easy tips.

Speed traps, road closures, accidents, and other items of note will dynamically pop up on the map as you’re driving along, assisting you to save time as well as avoid getting the occasional speeding ticket.

But Waze doesn’t simply show you this information — it acts upon it, by dynamically adjusting its recommendations in real-time, based on where other drivers are getting held up. If a better path suddenly becomes available, you can trust Waze to let you know and direct you down the faster path.

Waze is so committed to getting you everywhere faster that it occasionally offers route suggestions that feel pretty adventurous. A cursory search online reveals stories from many app users, saying that it sent them down unusual roads to circumvent traffic.

Nevertheless, some drivers swear by Waze’s know-how. The app’s recommendations have become so popular in specific communities that they’ve forced local officials to shut down roads receiving more congestion than they’re built to support.

And just as it relies on its users to self-report road conditions, Waze enlists contributors’ aid to improve maps for their surroundings. The Waze Map Editor allows trusted local experts to edit street data, turn permissions, house numbers, and more, which can yield more accurate guidance than Google Maps.

What About the Ads?

The only catch? While Waze is free, it is supported by ads, and there’s no premium version. While there’s nothing wrong with effective advertising, Waze’s ads are particularly annoying since they can pop up anytime your vehicle is stopped. Dismiss one ad, and another may even substitute it before you set off again.

That would be somewhat frustrating traveling by foot, but it’s borderline dangerous and irresponsible in a car. When a driver needs route direction at a moment’s notice, it should be there, not obscured behind a billboard for McDonald’s.

Luckily, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay forbid ads when Waze is projected through a car’s display. However, users who don’t have the luxury of either of those platforms will indeed be prodded with ads if they use Waze directly on their smartphone or have their device mounted on the dash or windshield.

When to Use Google Maps?

In most states, Google Maps is the navigator you want by your side, simply because it can do so much more than Waze. Giving directions is only one of its various talents. 

For instance, if you’re going out to grab a bite, Google Maps will list reviews and the busiest operation hours. In many locations, it’ll even present the average wait time. You’ll get to see photos of the restaurant and a vague estimate of what you can expect to spend. Waze can do none of that because it’s only concerned with getting you there.

Google Maps also gets updated with new features more often and claims a few clever ones Waze doesn’t. You can save specific maps for offline viewing, for example, and create your maps with pins on points of interest — perfect for planning a getaway or a long day out. 

Google also has a few fancy tricks that you won’t see anywhere near Waze, including Street View, augmented-reality-enhanced directions, real-time transit data, location sharing, and more. Make sure to check out our guide on how to utilize Google Maps for everything you need to make the most out of Google’s dominant navigation app. 

Ultimately, drivers wouldn’t be wrong to stick with Google Maps for its breadth of features — but the app is essential for anyone who travels about without their car.

When to Use Waze?

Waze is an excellent source for drivers, whether they’re commuting to work or going on long road trips. It’s even ideal for those who prefer two wheels to four, as Waze also involves a Motorcycle Mode that incorporates data specifically by and for riders.

If you like to carpool, Waze also factors HOV lanes into its guidance policy to potentially trim even more time. Music lovers also will acknowledge the app’s music integration, which adds controls for popular streaming service right there above the map to spare you the trouble of having to switch back and forth between apps. Waze includes support for several services, including Spotify and YouTube Music, but it’s worth pointing out that Apple Music is not on that list.

Waze also tends to advertise shorter travel times than Google Maps, but not always because it’s using different routes. For instance, Waze showed an ETA that was 5 minutes sooner than Google Maps for the same 2-hour trip. While another journey that was about half as long, Waze said it would take 2 minutes less. These aren’t significant discrepancies, but anecdotally, I’ve found Google Maps predictions to be a little slow (though that may say something about my excessive spending habits).

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