GPS trackers for cars are the ideal way to keep tabs on a driver’s location, making them an invaluable tool for parents who want to keep track of their teen driver or business owners who have a fleet to manage.
These trackers are small enough to hide undetected inside a car. Some even have powerful magnets that allow you to attach them to a vehicle's underside. In addition to broadcasting a car's location, these devices can track how fast a car is traveling or alert you when they enter or exit preset geofenced zones. GPS trackers that plug into your car's OBD-II port can even read diagnostic codes and notify you via text or email if your car requires maintenance. Below, find out more about the features you should look for in the best car-tracking device and check out our list of some of the best GPS trackers on the market.
How We Chose the Best GPS Trackers for Cars
In researching more than a dozen GPS trackers for cars, we considered a variety of factors. The primary function of a tracker is to allow the user to locate a vehicle. With that in mind, we chose models that have a good track record for reliability in both their ability to connect with satellites and transmit their location. We also favored trackers that broadcast their location at least once a minute versus those that only send their location once every three minutes or longer. For portable models, battery life is key. We chose portable units with rechargeable batteries that would last for at least several days when contacting the server at least once a minute. Other functions were also important in our selection processing, including the ability to set geofences and set push alerts for such events as speeding or accidents.
Best GPS Trackers for Cars: Reviews and Recommendations
Best Overall: Bouncie GPS
Why It Made The Cut: The amount of information that Bouncie is able to collect, coupled with a short updating time, makes it the best all-around GPS tracker on the market.
— Refresh Rate: 15 seconds
— Size: 1.75 inches L x 1.9 inches W by 1 inch H
— Battery Life: N/A
— Affordable subscription fee
— Has crash notifications and roadside assistance
— Refreshes every 15 seconds
— Steeper upfront cost
Excellent tracking ability coupled with an affordable monthly fee and a host of safety features make Bouncie the best all-around GPS tracker on the market. Bouncie is a superior tracker, thanks to its ability to update your car's location once every 15 seconds, allowing you to track in nearly real-time. It also includes nice features other trackers offer, including the ability to set geofencing that alerts you when the car leaves or enters the zone. That said, Bouncie limits those geofences to a circular shape.
Bouncie also has features you won’t find on most geo trackers, including crash notifications and access to roadside assistance directly through its app. Since Bouncie plugs into your car’s OBD-II port, it can perform diagnostic checks and alert you when your car is in need of maintenance.
There are also other nice-to-have features that Bouncie packs into its app, including a summary of trip events based on location and speed and the ability to manage car maintenance and set alerts for registration and insurance renewals.
Bouncie’s upfront cost may be steeper than other GPS trackers, but it makes up for it with a low monthly subscription fee of just $8, far less than the $20 to $25 per month that other trackers charge.
Best Budget: LandAirSea Sync GPS Tracker
Why It Made The Cut: Its low upfront cost and affordable subscription fee make it one of the most affordable ways to add GPS tracking to a vehicle.
— Refresh Rate: 3 seconds
— Size: 1.7 inches L x 1 inch W x 2.2 inches H
— Battery Life: 100 hours
— Affordable price and subscription fee
— Refreshed location every 3 seconds
— Equipped with a rechargeable lithium-ion battery
— Lacks safety features and won’t read engine codes for you
If the main point of purchasing a GPS tracker for your car is to track its location and speed, then LandAirSea may be your best bet. With a monthly subscription fee of just $9, it's one of the best cheap GPS car trackers on the market. What's more, it also gives you one of the most accurate pictures of how fast a vehicle is going and where exactly it is, thanks to a refresh rate of once every 3 seconds.
Despite its low cost, it offers much of the same functionality you’ll find on higher-priced GPS car trackers. You can set up geofencing with LandAirSea and choose to receive push alerts every time the vehicle enters and exits the area.
While it lacks the safety alerts and ability to read car maintenance codes that higher-end OBD-II GPS units have, it does allow you to review trip summaries and speed history, a key feature for those looking to use this device to monitor a new driver in the family. It’s also a great stealth option if you don’t want the driver to know you’re monitoring them. A built-in lithium battery keeps it running for up to 10 hours even when it’s not plugged in, so you can place it in a location that’s less noticeable than the OBD-II port. You can even mute its LED lights to make it less visible.
Best OBD: Vyncs Pro 4G+
Why It Made The Cut: Its ability to produce detailed driving data and driver reports makes it the ideal choice for those with young drivers.
— Refresh Rate: As little as 15 seconds
— Size: 2.4 inches L x 1.9 inches W x 0.9 inches H
— Battery Life: N/A
— Produces driver report cards
— Sends push alerts for aggressive driving
— Reads engine codes and monitors vehicle performance
— Must pay an annual subscription fee in advance
With its robust features for tracking driving habits and behaviors, the Vyncs Pro 4G+ is an ideal choice for parents who want to keep a close eye on their teen driver or business owners who need to track their fleet of drivers. In addition to the basic tracking capabilities you'll find on other GPS trackers, it also creates driver cards that allow you to see a performance score and safety ratings, a great tool for teaching teens safe driving habits. It collects data constantly to build its driving reports and uploads that data to the server once every 3 minutes. You can also pay for upgrades to increase the rate of uploads to as much as once every 15 seconds. The VYNCS Pro also allows you to set push alerts for speeding, hard braking, and rapid acceleration that are delivered via email or text. The Vyncs unit will even let you know if someone is attempting to tamper with it.
Similar to other GPS trackers, the Vyncs Pro also allows you to set detailed geofence zones. Since the Vync plugs into your car's OBD-II port, the GPS is also capable of taking diagnostics by reading fault codes, checking battery voltage, and even calculating fuel efficiency. All of those advanced features don't come cheap. It has a high upfront cost; however, its subscription fees are affordable at $75 each additional year for a refresh rate of once every 3 minutes and $110 for a faster refresh rate of once a minute.
Best Magnetic: Tracki Mini GPS Magnetic Tracker
Why It Made The Cut: Its small size, powerful magnet, and long battery life make it ideally suited for functioning as a magnet-style GPS tracker.
— Refresh Rate: 1 minute
— Size: 1.8 inches L x 1.5 inches W x 0.6 inches H
— Battery Life: 5 days
— Small size and powerful magnet
— Long battery life, especially when set to longer refresh times
— Affordable upfront cost
— Higher $19.95 per month subscription fee than other services.
For those times when you need to surreptitiously track a vehicle and don’t have access to its interior, this model from Tracki is ideal. At 1.8 inches long by 1.5 inches wide, it’s small enough to attach to a car’s steel frame. It features a strong magnet that will hold tight to metal surfaces even over rougher terrain. And, if it does happen to come loose, the tracker’s low cost makes it less of a loss than some of the higher-end GPS car trackers on the market. Before you purchase one to keep tabs on somebody, just keep in mind that it’s illegal to track someone else’s vehicle without their permission in most states.
While it won't provide updates to location as often as others, its one-minute refresh rate is suitable for most needs. The battery lasts for up to 5 days when tracking in real time. You can dramatically increase that battery life to more than a month if you set the tracker to refresh just once a day.
You can also set this geo tracker to deliver real-time alerts every time it crosses a preset geofenced area, starts moving, or is speeding. And, when you're done tracking a vehicle, you can use it to track other belongings. The Tracki comes with various attachments that allow you to attach it to a belt clip, dog collar, keychain, or lanyard.
Best Hidden: Spytec GPS GL300 Real-Time GPS Tracker
Why It Made The Cut: Its compact size makes it ideal for tracking vehicles and a wide variety of other items.
— Refresh Rate: 1 minute
— Size: 5 inches L x 3 inches W x 4 inches H
— Battery Life: 10 days
— Requires no contracts
— Designed to fit into small spaces
— Very customizable geofencing
— Higher $25 a month subscription fee
With its ability to set very specific geofencing zones and deliver push alerts, Spytec's GL300 is perhaps the best GPS tracker for keeping tabs on someone. Unlike other services that have GEO fencing that's limited to a circular shape, Spytec allows you to draw specific lines, making it ideal for setting up alerts for when the tracked vehicle enters and exits specific locations. You can view the tracker's location with various map types, and the tracker features a follow mode that allows you to watch it move across the map, ideal when tailing your mark.
Spytrac will only update once every minute to preserve battery life, limiting its ability to function as a real-time tracker. However, you can get more frequent location updates if you’re willing to pay for faster tracking.
For those who like to work in a team, Spytec allows you to grant multiple people access to the tracker’s location. When combined with Spytec’s compatible magnetic waterproof case, sold separately, you can stick this tracker to the underside of a vehicle (though doing so without informing the driver is illegal in most states). With its rechargeable battery, it will last up to two weeks on a single charge.
Spytec is among the more expensive GPS trackers on the market with its subscription fee of $25 a month.
Things to Consider Before Buying a GPS Tracker for Cars
GPS car trackers come in portable, plug-in, and hardwired models. Portable GPS trackers do not need to be installed in the car. They are small enough to fit inside a bag or even a coat pocket. Some even have magnets that allow you to attach them to the underside of a car. These small tracking devices for cars are battery-powered and therefore must be recharged periodically.
Plug-in trackers, which are shaped like a small box with a plug socket on one end, fit into the OBD-11 port located on your car's dashboard. This is the same port your mechanic uses to collect diagnostic information about your car when the check engine light is on. In addition to providing location information, this type of GPS tracker can gather data about the car's performance. Some plug-in trackers can even access diagnostic information, alerting you to maintenance needs.
Per their name, hardwired GPS trackers are permanently wired to the car's electrical system, so you don't need to worry about charging them. This type of tracker is typically installed in a hidden location, making it difficult for a car thief to locate and disable it in the event your car is stolen.
Type of Data Collections
GPS trackers include both real-time and delayed-time data collection types. Delayed-time data collection functions like a black box on an airplane. It stores data that you can't view while you're driving that you can download for analysis later. This is useful for a business owner who wants to review the driving habits of his drivers.
Real-time GPS trackers gather data and allow you to view it in real-time from a smartphone or desktop computer. These units update their location at intervals that range from a few seconds to up to 3 minutes, depending on how often the GPS unit communicates with the server. Trackers that transmit location more often allow the user to track the vehicle's movement with a real-time feel.
A real-time GPS tracker uses cellular technology to transmit that information to your smart device and requires you to pay a subscription fee. These fees are charged monthly or annually and range from as little as $8 a month up to $25 a month. Trackers that broadcast their location in shorter intervals of a few seconds typically cost more than those that have longer intervals of a minute or more.
Q: Which GPS tracker is best for a car?
The GPS tracker that is best for a car is the plug-in Bouncie GPS car tracker. Not only does this tracker provide tracking information, but it will also alert you if the car is in an accident or leaves a defined geofenced area. Since these trackers interface with the car's computer, they can also provide you with useful diagnostic information about the car and alert you if there are any maintenance issues you need to address.
Q: How do you secretly GPS track a car?
The best way to secretly track a car is to use a GPS tracker with a magnet that will stick to the underside of the car. This eliminates the need for you to get inside the car to place the tracker. Just keep in mind that most states prohibit the use of an electronic device to track someone without their consent.
Q: Is there a GPS tracker that doesn't need charging?
While portable GPS trackers use a rechargeable battery, there are GPS trackers that don't require charging. These trackers plug into a car's OBD-II port, are hardwired to a car, or plug into an accessory power outlet. Most mobile GPS trackers use rechargeable batteries that last for several days or even weeks, depending on how often they transmit their location.
Q: How much does a GPS tracker cost?
GPS trackers vary in price from as little as $17 to as much as $75 for the device. In addition to the cost of the tracker, you also need to pay for a subscription to a service that allows you to monitor the tracker remotely. These subscriptions range from $8 to $25 a month.
Q: Do GPS trackers for cars have magnets?
Some GPS trackers have magnets that allow you to attach them to the underside of a car. This type of tracker is ideal if you don’t want the tracker to be seen.
Q: What GPS tracker has the longest battery life?
The Tracki Mini GPS Magnetic Tracker, which can get more than a month of battery life when set to upload its position to the server just once a day, has the longest battery life of any GPS tracker. Keep in mind that a GPS tracker’s battery life depends largely on how often it communicates its location. The more often it uploads its position, the shorter the battery life.
Q: How long will a GPS tracker last?
Most GPS trackers have a lifespan of between 5 and 6 years before they wear out and begin losing their ability to reliably contact satellites and transmit their location. If you decide to upgrade from a current model, here's how to how to recycle electronics.
With its low monthly subscription price and its ability to do much more than simply track a car’s location, the Bouncie GPS is the best all-around car tracker. It can deliver car diagnostic reports, provide crash alerts, and can refresh its location every 15 seconds. Those looking for a more affordable option should consider the LandAirSea Sync GPS Tracker, which comes with a low upfront cost and affordable monthly subscription fee.
This post was created by a non-news editorial team at Recurrent Media, Futurism’s owner. Futurism may receive a portion of sales on products linked within this post.