Google Maps is a favorite for its geolocation services worldwide. Their expansive database of geographical features, small businesses, and street images across the globe are hard to beat — and that’s why the Google Maps API has for years been the go-to choice for developers.
However, in July of 2018, Google severely hiked the rates for their maps API. Previously, you could make up to 25,000 free map displays per day, with a charge of $0.50 for every subsequent 1,000. As of July 16, you’re allowed up to 28,000 free map displays per month, with the charge for every subsequent 1,000 amounting to $7.00 (a 14x increase in price!)
Those 28,000 free visits, by the way, represent the $200 monthly credit developers now receive to spend on their choice of Maps, Routes, and Places requests. Once that’s all used up, Google will default to charging your credit card for further calls — unless you set a daily limit for your app, which means users will see a wonderful blank screen.
The Google Maps API is Too Expensive, What Now?
For the vast majority of small developers, this pricing change pushes the beloved Google Maps API out of the affordable. So what now, do you give up, deny users service, or start drawing your own maps?
We think we’ve got a better option — in fact, precisely five better options — for your daily fix of geolocation data:
OpenLayers is a completely free solution for displaying dynamic maps in a web page or application. It draws tiles from a variety of sources, including OpenStreetMap, whose API is only good for raw geodata.
In addition to the basic maps, OpenLayers also allows you to render vector layers on your map and drop markers wherever you please. Not bad for a service that’s totally free!
- Price: Free
- Features: Tiled maps, vector maps, markers
Our next mapping solution is TomTom, and you can bet their maps are pretty good given their reputation for satellite navigation. Although this service is paid, they provide up to 2,500 free transactions per day — or 75,000 a month, as pitted against Google’s 28,000
Indeed, they offer significantly more functionality. Not only can you display maps, but you can also search for locations, see traffic density, and find the best routes from A to B.
- Price: Free for 2,500 requests daily, $0.42–$0.50 for each subsequent 1,000 (per discounts for larger orders)
- Features: Tiled maps, vector maps, markers, location search, traffic density, route finding
Mapbox is both Facebook and Snapchat’s choice for mapping needs. Drawing data from both open and proprietary sources, Mapbox offers maps, location searches, navigations, and custom map features. It’s these custom maps that make Mapbox extremely popular since that’s something very few competitors offer.
In terms of pricing, Mapbox stands somewhere in between TomTom and Google Maps. You’re allowed up to 50,000 free requests monthly, after which it’s half a dollar for every thousand more.
- Price: Free for 50,000 requests daily, $0.50 for each subsequent 1,000
- Features: Tiled maps, vector maps, markers, location search, route finding, custom maps
Counterpoint Research says “HERE is the undisputed leader in the location ecosystem,” and the quality of their mapping tools definitely lives up to that expectation. Their comprehensive coverage has impressive accuracy and is updated on a near-daily basis.
In addition to all the features other providers boast, HERE offers extensive map visualization functionality, as well as public transit data and more. Their pricing model differs a fair bit from our other suggestions, so take a look below to see if it suits you better.
- Price: Free for 250,000 requests monthly, $1 for each subsequent 1,000 OR $449 for 1,000,000 requests monthly
- Features: Tiled maps, vector maps, markers, location search, route finding, custom maps, map visualizations, public transit
Mapfit is our next choice for a mapping API. Unlike the other options on this list, Mapfit has a very particular goal: to create ultra-accurate maps, down to the doorway.
While they don’t offer much more than maps and directions, it’s hard to complain when doorways, loading docks, and garages are accounted for!
They offer a few flexible pricing options:
- Price: Free for 50,000 non-commercial requests monthly (Community) OR $49 for 250,000 requests monthly, $0.50 for each subsequent 1,000 (Growth) OR $1,449 for 5,000,000 requests monthly, $0.20 for each subsequent 1,000 (Scale)
- Features: Tiled maps, vector maps, markers, location search, route finding, building features (e.g. doorways)
That’s it for our top five alternatives to the Google Maps API. There are plenty more options out there (here are a few more of those compared), but each of these five options shines in its own way.
Need help deciding which to use? Here’s our instant rubric for doing so: