I'll try to answer your questions to the best of my ability. Can't say if it works the same way in America as in Finland, but it should. As a truck driver I'm always going to new places and the GPS has helped me out quite a bit. (have had mine for about a year now.) I use a HP iPAQ rz1710
with TOMTOM incase you are wondering.
1. Is there such a thing as a decent unit under $400? I know they exist, but are they worth it? I saw some models with Bluetooth and mp3 players, etc. I don't need any of that. I just need the basics.
I'm sure there are. If you are just looking for the basic features at least. I paid €395 (or was it €495
) for mine about a year ago and I'm sure prices has gone down. Check out www.tomtom.com
for some good info.
2. Is it a service that i have to pay a monthly charge for? Or is everything loaded into the system and I just have to activate it so the satellite knows where i am?
The good thing with the GPS is that after you bought the hardware (or software) it will not cost you any more money. Wonder how long that is going to last? So, free to use as much as you want.
4. Where does the power come from? I know they say 'rechargeable batteries', but can i run it off the cig lighter?
I'd say that pretty much all GPS come with a adapter that you can put in the cig lighter, and if not, it is not worth buying.
It will run on batteries too of course.
5. I have a fancy PDA phone (Cingular 8125) that runs Windows Mobile 5.0 - can i use the phone as a GPS device if i load it with the proper software instead of buying a unit?
I'm sure you can. My GPS is basically a Hewlett Packard PDA with TOMTOM GPS software in it. So I can't see why it would not work.
Hope the info helped at least a little bit.