Garmin inReach Messenger vs ZOLEO – Subscription Plan Value & Cost of Ownership

Estimated reading time: 4 minutes

One of things that we often forget when considering buying a satellite messaging device like the ZOLEO or recently released Garmin inReach Messenger is that there’s a subscription plan associated which might inflate your total investment into either device.

It is important then to find the best value in terms of subscription plan as these two devices are similar in many ways:

  • Both use Iridium Satellite Network
  • Both offer location tracking, Check-in, SOS and Weather
  • Both will send messages from either wifi, cellular or satellite
  • Both offer 3-tier service plans with device suspension

Cost Of Ownership

That’s why I think it is important when considering either a ZOLEO or Garmin inReach Messenger to factor in the price of the unit and 12 month cost of a subscription. That way, you can see more easily how much the device will cost you.

I did a quick Cost-Of-Ownership compare table to show the difference between the ZOLEO, Garmin inReach which are the main competitors in this space (at least in North America).

For service plan between the two, I selected the middle plan and plotted out 12 months. Prices are in CAD$ and updated as of Nov 2022.

Buy ZOLEO online via Roadpost here.

FeatureZOLEOGarmin inReach
Device Price$269.99
(IR Messenger) = $389.99
12 months of service subscription$25/month (Basic) = $300
$45/month (In Touch) = $540
$70/month (unlimited) = $840
Freedom
$19.95/month (Safety)= $239.40
$44.95/month (Recreation) = $539.40
$79.95/month (Expedition) = $959.40

Contract
$14.95/month (Safety) = $179.40
$34.95/month (Recreation)= 419.40
$64.95/month (Expedition) = $779.40
Activation fee$25.00Freedom ($49.95 / year)
Contract ($44.95)
1 Year Total Cost of Ownership (Device + 12 months of service)Safety = $594.99
In Touch = $834.99
Unlimited = $1134.99
Freedom
Safety = $629.39
Recreation = $929.39
Expedition = $1349.39

Contract
Safety = $614.34
Recreation = $854.34
Expedition = $1214.34
Suspend Service?✅($5/month)($0/month)
Check-in
SOS
Weather
Dedicated SMS & email address
NavigationMessenger
IP ratingIP68IPX7
Battery life200hrs28 days (messenger)
Message AllocationSafety – 25
In Touch – 250
Unlimited – unlimited
Safety – 10
Recreation – 40
Expedition – unlimited
Add-ons$7.50/month (Location share+)Mapshare tracking included

ZOLEO Cost Breakdown

From the table we see that ZOLEO offers the device at a lower cost along with your choice of a 3-tier subscription service plan called: Safety, In Touch and Unlimited. ZOLEO also offers Location Share+ add-on which is similar to the inReach Mapshare feature. You also have a one-time activation fee.

ZOLEO message allotments are focused on messaging and weather and we see that we have more messages available in our Safety (25) and In Touch (250) plan than the Garmin Safety (10) and Recreation (40) tiers.

Quickly, this bring our total cost (including the $25 Activation Fee) as such (CAD):

  • Safety = $594.99
  • In Touch = $834.99
  • Unlimited = $1134.99

Garmin inReach Messenger Cost Breakdown

It’s a little more complicated with the inReach since you have the monthly Consumer or Pro Freedom plan and the option to sign up for 12 months under Consumer or Pro Contract plan. Both plans have annual fees.

Consumer Freedom plan is the most similar to the ZOLEO plans so I’ll pay a bit more attention to this one. The only drawback with the Contract plan is that you are locked into it for 12 months. Both plans with offer you the same message allotment per tier: Safety (10), Recreation (40), just the monthly price varies based on Freedom or Contract.

Freedom
Safety = $629.39
Recreation = $929.39
Expedition = $1349.39

Contract
Safety = $614.34
Recreation = $854.34
Expedition = $1214.34

Conclusion – What Do You Consider Best Value?

From the quick breakdown above, we see that ZOLEO is the most cost effective option over a 12 month period including the cost of the device, but also provides more messages within their Safety & In Touch tiers.

Both ZOLEO and Garmin inReach Messenger Unlimited tier options offer the same all you can eat features, but the ZOLEO still comes in as best value for the overall lower price when compared to the Freedom plan.

For me and probably most of you, the safety plan will be what you are starting off with. In the past I recommended switching up a tier when going on that big trip, then switching back once done. Both ZOLEO and inReach can do this. However over the years, 10 monthly messages is not a lot. You burn that in the first month just by testing out the inReach Messenger.

On the flip side, 25 messages for the Safety plan by ZOLEO is already a lot, In Touch tier with 250 is even more.

Both will send messages over wifi, cellular or satellite, so it is only the messages and weather that goes over the satellite that will cost you.

Based on this and my historical usage, ZOLEO would be the best option for overall cost, best value when using the safety plan. Your individual usage may vary and you might prefer another tier or even choose Garmin.

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By Jim Cyr

Exploring Nova Scotia with a constellation of satellites to guide me along the way. Producing hiking, outdoors, local drink & food videos, you can find Jim's contributions on novascotiablogs.com and a few other places. Jim carries a ZOLEO Satellite Communicator for all of his outdoor adventures.

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