Any discussion about semi expensive products probably ought to involve a discussion of durability, warranty service, customer service, and other similar items. My experience with purchasing GPS receivers hasn't been extensive, so I can't say how reflective it is of the norm. Here it is for what it's worth though.
Magellan 2000, purchased late 1995, worked great till replaced. Customer service never contacted.
Basic eTrex, owned for about 3 years, contacted customer service via e-mail only to request a Satellite status screen be implemented into the software, which it eventually was. This unit has fallen off the cab of my truck when I drove off with it up there, it has tumbled down a 20 plus foot ledge when a wind gust caught a map it was resting on. It's also been dropped many times, beaten around in the glove box of my truck, and took a pretty good tumble when my daughters friend tried the straight route to a cache skidding down a rockslide for a fair distance. Other than scratches and a couple chips the thing works like a charm. I've also purchase and given away two basic etrex's as gifts, both of which are still working flawlessly.
eMap. Owned for about 6 weeks, sold during a trip to Southern Utah to a guy who fell in love with it, was willing to pay more than it cost me, and couldn't find one to buy in the area. Worked flawlessly, I never contacted customer service about it.
GIII+. Owned a couple years, contacted customer service once when the internal battery wasn't fully charged when I initially purchased it. They responded the first business day with the proper answers.
My legend I've owned for a little over half a year now. It's worked flawlessly. However, I purchased a Legend in July as a gift, and it had the serial port contacts recessed into the plastic far enough to prevent it from communicating with my computer. Trying to contact Garmin customer service by phone took me more than 40 minutes, with the customer service rep advising me to return it to place of purchase, which I did.
My sportrak, purchased in September 2002 has had me dealing with customer service the most. I dropped it within a week of purchasing it. It came with a two piece carrying case. One part clips to your belt, the other clips into the clip that hooks to the belt. Somehow on a geocache/hike, the case separated from the clip and the unit fell to the rocky trail. A distance of maybe 3 feet at walking speed. From what I can tell by looking, the unit hit on the top corner, which somehow resulted in the plexiglass display lens cracking.
If you look at the edge you can see where it looks like the receiver landed
Result was a cracked display window
I contacted customer service twice, talking two a real live person within 5 minutes both times. The broken window wasn't covered by warranty, so I had to send the unit in for repair, $45 to replace the top half of the case, $6 shipping and handling. I sent the unit priority mail Oct 2nd, got confirmation from magellan of receipt, repair, and shipment back to me on Oct 4th. I received the same s/n unit back via UPS ground transportation on Oct 9th, along with a carrying case like the one I dropped it with, and a canvas belt case. Unfortunately, I also received it with two cracks in the new top half of the case.
Cracked on the right side where the screw split it out
Cracked on the left side where the screw split it out
I then contacted Magellan customer service again around noon on the 9th, talking to a person in less than 5 minutes once again. The customer service representative told me he would ship me out a replacement unit immediately via overnight mail with instructions on how to return my damaged unit at no cost to me. I got a tracking number via e-mail later that evening, showing a package shipped via UPS ground transportation, not the overnight I had been promised. As of 13 Oct, I haven't received my new unit yet, so I'm not sure what the final outcome will be.
So far, my experience with Magellans customer service leaves me with mixed feelings. Very knowledgeable, helpful people, very quick turn around, but I am quite disappointed they would send the unit out the way it is. I would have thought the repair man would have at least given it a good look over to make sure the gasket had matted correctly. Surely he should have seen the cracks. Also, while it's not like I'm without a GPSR at the moment, it bothers me that the service rep didn't ship the unit express as he told me he would.
14 Oct 2002. Conclusion. A brand new sportrak map, in the retail store box arrived at my doorstep this morning. Time from when I sent in the initial sportrak to acceptable conclusion is still less than two weeks. Overall, the repair obviously could have been better, but it would seem the companies policy is to make things right, which they seem to do quite quickly. I talked to 3 separate customer service people, all who were helpful, friendly, and had good attitudes. While I still question what was going on with the serviceman on that particular day, the company did stand by their work, and made it right.