Waze vs Google Maps: The Ultimate Showdown [Unbiased Review]

When you’re driving for Uber or Lyft, proper navigation is king. After all, the most important thing I driver has to do is correctly get passengers from point A to point B. If you take a roundabout way, or get lost on the way, you’re going to get a negative review. Disclosure: is supported...

When you’re driving for Uber or Lyft, proper navigation is king.

After all, the most important thing I driver has to do is correctly get passengers from point A to point B. If you take a roundabout way, or get lost on the way, you’re going to get a negative review.

Disclosure: is supported by our users. We may recieve compensation from the companies whose products we write about, test, or review. We are independently owned and the opinions expressed here are our own.

But even if you know the way around town like the back of your hand, other obstacles like traffic or construction can really slow things down.

Fortunately, GPS and navigation apps are getting better all the time, they can even suggest alternative routes to bypass traffic jams.

Even though there are plenty of navigation options out there, you’ve probably noticed 2 apps are always at the top of the list:

Google Maps and Waze

Drivers all over the country are quick to debate Google Maps vs. Waze, much like tech consumers battling between Apple iPhone or Android.

In this article, we’re going to settle the dispute, and give an unbiased balanced review of the two apps, so  you’ll know which is the best one for you.

Let’s get started.

Waze vs Google Maps: The Basics

Before we dive into a head-on comparison, let’s define the two contenders.

Waze Maps – Waze is a community-based map and navigation app. Drivers can share real-time data about accidents, traffic incidents, speed limits, speed traps, and other trip information that helps other drivers navigate the fastest possible route.

Google Maps – Google Maps is a full navigation solution that operates like the other map apps that users are accustomed to. They are baking more community-based features into the app, but it focuses more on Google’s huge domination of mapping.

Waze screenshot and Google Maps screenshot to show Waze vs Google Maps showdown

While these two navigation apps are heavy contenders, it’s worth noting that they share the same parent company: Google. Google actually acquired Waze for more than a billion dollars back in 2013, but since then the apps have continued to operate independently.

They service similar functions in getting you around, but they offer two different methods of doing so.

The Main Differences Between Google Maps and Waze

While both apps offer turn by turn directions, there are a few key differences between Google Maps and Waze:

  • Waze is community-based, Google Maps is more data-based.
  • Waze is pretty much just for cars, Google Maps offers walking, driving, biking, and public transportation directions. They also have built-in “Explore” features that allow users to see events, reviews, photos, points of interest, etc. There’s even the “street view” mode to see things at street level.
  • Waze requires a data connection, Google Maps is available offline.
  • Google Maps includes business data such as menus, hours, and phone numbers, while Waze does not.
  • Waze offers real-time info such as road closures, road hazards, traffic alerts and real-time traffic conditions based on driver data. Google Maps has only started to include some of these features recently.
  • Google Maps uses a traditional navigation interface, while Waze offers a sleek and minimal interface using the latest in design language.
  • Google Maps is fairly basic, Waze offers a high level of customization (including celebrity voices!)

In short, Google Maps is a simple but powerful navigation tool that selects the quickest and most efficient route.

Waze collects data from a bunch of different users and leverages that data to tailor your trip experience, giving you the most efficient route that’s free of obstacles and other nuisances.

Comparing Interfaces

The Waze app interface goes for style without giving up minimalism (which I’m a huge fan of). It has all the details you need and uses 3D graphics to grab your attention.

Waze initially targeted early adopters of tech who opted for a sleek and well-designed interface to bring them on board. And it’s been a successful approach. Waze now has a Spotify integration and can even quickly identify the nearest gas station (Google Maps can do this to, but it takes a little bit more work).

Google Maps, on the other hand, has a pretty dated interface. The downside to this is that it resembles Mapquest, a massive throwback to the late 90s/early 2000s. The upside is that while simple and dated, there’s not a lot of fluff to get lost in, and minimal distractions to the user when driving around.

In terms of operation, Waze moves around a lot. The app changes locations, shifts, rotates, and pans when you change directions. There are very bold, brash directions at the top of the app, which make missing a direction incredibly difficult. As you drive, there are “pins” like potholes, speed traps, and traffic jams that pop up, and they are very easy to avoid.

Using Google Maps is similar to Waze, but very user-friendly. The Google Maps app also moves around, but only when necessary. Google Maps also displays directions at the top of the app, and gives you plenty of notice when you need to take an action.

Winner: Waze

We perfect the Waze interface because it provides much more actionable information. You can quickly see the cause of a traffic jam or see if they are reports of police cars coming ahead.

Data Usage

User interface and features are great, but what about data usage? This factor plays a large role in determining the winner of the Waze vs Google Maps saga.

If you’re on a strict data plan, you’re already sucking down massive amounts of data from using Uber and Lyft. If you don’t watch out for the data usage, you’ll start to pick up unwanted overages and extra charges.

Let’s take a look at how much data each app uses.

How much data does Waze use?

The amount of data that Waze uses is dependent on a number of factors, including the amount of time you use it, trip distance, etc.. But let’s take a look at a quick real-world example from our favorite source, Reddit.

My data: About 15MB average a month driving about one hour a day on average. So about 0.5 MB a day. Multiply that by 5 and that’s 2.5 MB a day if you drive for 5 hours. This is 35 MB for the two weeks you suggested.

This seems a bit low, but other drivers also seem to agree that they’re using something similar.

How much data does Google Maps use?

Like Waze, the amount of data used by Google Maps depends on the factors listed above.

For this example, we’ll take a look at a recent post on the Andoid Apps section of Reddit:

I also checked the logs after the fact on my provider’s website. I saw that the data download occurred in bulk at the approximate time I left before the trip. There was very little data used while I was actually driving. The majority of the data downloaded all at once when I set the trip.

It looks like Google Maps might be a bit more efficient at managing the data used by the navigation app. One of the reasons for this is because Google Maps offers the ability to download a location, switch data off, and still get to where you need to go. This is a great feature if you’re traveling abroad and don’t have an international data plan.

Winner: Google Maps

Google Maps is the winner here because the ability to download maps while your connected to Wifi is a huge advantage.

Our Winner: Waze

When we drive for Uber or Lyft, Waze is the go-to GPS. Of all the mapping apps and GPS apps out there, no app is better at providing alternate routes to save time (and money).

It’s more useful based on the sheer amount of data it collects through its massive user base; which is not only extremely valuable, but presented in a visual and actionable manner.

Because of the social features, Waze offers better routes to avoid traffic and potholes (or have their time wasted because you get pulled over for a ticket).

There are so many other new features that come standard, all of which provide a huge upside to you and the rider.

However, Google Maps is still very reliable. If you aren’t too concerned about avoiding traffic or shaving a minute or two off your drive time, Google Maps works perfectly fine. Google Maps is our navigation app of choice when traveling long distances or overseas because of the offline maps feature. We also like the public transit direction on Google Maps, but most people won’t need that feature.

In closing, it depends what you’re looking for. If you want to just get to your destination, Google Maps is good enough. But, if you’re looking to supercharge your navigation, give Waze a try.

Over to you: What is your go-to navigation app? Are you a loyal Google Maps user, or do you prefer the suite of real-time feedback that Waze offers drivers? Let us know below!