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Top 6 Places to Get Free Driving Directions Online

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Many people go online to get free driving directions. But which online driving directions tools are the best and most accurate? During my many travels, especially while writing Backroads of New England (compare prices), I've had the opportunity to field test many free driving directions services. Here's my review of MapQuest, Yahoo! Maps, Google Maps and other sites where you can get free driving directions online.

1. Google Maps

Car for Google Maps
Alquiler de Coches @reservasdecoches

Google is a relatively new player in the world of online mapping, but wow. The detail and accuracy of Google's road maps is unparalleled, which is particularly helpful if you'd like to plot a scenic route rather than driving Interstates. Use Google's detailed maps to help you navigate New England's twists and turns. And click "Street View" for amazing, street-level visuals that can help you to effectively pinpoint landmarks and locations. Google has made continuous improvements since introducing its mapping tool. There's rarely a need to type an entire address: Google seemingly knows where I want to go. When I had an Android phone and relied on Google Maps frequently for navigation, I was amazed by the intuitiveness of the directions function.

2. MapQuest Directions

On the Web since 1996, MapQuest is still one of the standard-bearers in online driving directions and a site I sometimes turn to when I need to find my way. Getting driving directions is as simple as entering starting and ending addresses. The directions generated are easy to follow, and I've found them to be mostly accurate. MapQuest's driving time estimates can be a bit generous at times: You may arrive faster than indicated. Print your directions, share them on Facebook, email them or transfer them to a cell phone... even send them to your Garmin GPS or straight to your car if you have OnStar or SYNC. MapQuest offers a free map app for your iPhone or Android device, too. I prefer MotionX-GPS Drive for navigation on my iPhone, but the price of the less reliable MapQuest app is right! So, I have it installed as a backup.

3. Yahoo! Driving Directions

The free driving directions that you can get from Yahoo! are good and, in fact, I sometimes compare the directions I get from both Google Maps and Yahoo! before setting out on a trip. I'm not crazy about the printing layout for Yahoo!'s directions. And, on the whole, I think that Google tends to find the more direct route and that MapQuest is far superior, too. It's not a bad idea, though, to compare options, particularly if your destination is unfamiliar or the route prone to traffic congestion.

4. Rand McNally Online Driving Directions

Rand McNally has a map-making history that dates back to 1856, but the company was a bit slow to the dance and didn't offer free driving directions online until 1999. If you haven't tried Rand McNally for directions, you should, particularly if you are planning a long trip with multiple segments. I like the customization possibilities, particularly the ability to track total accumulated distance for each step of a trip or to devise a route that avoids highways. One-click tools allow you to find hotels, restaurants, gas stations and other services along a route.

5. Bing Maps

First, Microsoft gave us MSN's Map Blast, which looked like something that was created by a high school kid, not the techie folks in Redmond. Then, they introduced Windows Live Local Driving Directions, a slow-loading tool that was better than its predecessor. In 2009, Microsoft tried again to get mapping right with Bing Maps. I've only experimented a bit with this driving directions alternative, and so far, I like the clean, easy-to-read layout and color scheme, I haven't found the speed to be clunky, and I'm delighted that Bing offers navigational tips using landmarks, i.e., turn right at the McDonald's. Bird's eye view aerial maps are terrific, but it's an annoyance to find streetside views are not yet available for many locations.

6. AAA Driving Directions

My dad sometimes uses AAA for driving directions, but I often forget that AAA offers this service free online for anyone. That's probably for the best, as AAA is slower than other driving directions sites. The directions generated can be rather convoluted, so while they might get you there, it certainly won't be via the easiest route. The dense type in the printing layout is almost unreadable. AAA also has this annoying habit of demanding to know your zip code every time you visit before it will allow you to access content.

Poll: Which Online Driving Directions Site Do You Use?

Which driving directions Web site do you think is best? Vote in this quick poll. If you'd like, you can also post a comment about your favorite online place to get driving directions.

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