There are several reasons you might want to know the exact whereabouts and traveling conditions of your vehicle. Maybe you’re keeping very tidy maintenance records and you want to be able to reference the performance history.
If you live in an area where car theft is high, you might install one on the off chance your car is stolen, so you can track it to its exact location. Perhaps you manage a small fleet of vehicles as a landscaper, for example. If you’re a driver for Uber or Lyft, maybe you want to keep your own records of your fares.
Far and away the most popular reason for investing in a GPS car tracking device is that you are the parent of a freshly-minted driver. Teenagers, as new drivers, might report that they’re being safe at all times in your (or even their own) car, but we’ve all been that age once and we know it isn’t true.
I know I was very unkind to my first car and I’m sure my mother would be horrified to know the details. I survived without any major incidents, but that doesn’t make it okay. The modules can give you piece of mind when your child is driving without you.
These devices either attach somewhere in the car or connect to the sixteen-pin, OBDII diagnostic port we discussed in our post on car code readers. In one form or another, all require a monthly subscription to support the cellular network data that beams vital statistics to your smartphone, tablet, or computer so you have real-time data on where your car is being driven and how. Some feature maintenance reminders and engine trouble code readers, as well, expanding their use.
The point of these really isn’t to spy on your teenaged driver, but to help train them to be the best operators they can. Valuable insight can be gained from how they drove on a certain stretch of road that will make them into more aware, better prepared drivers, which will help them avoid accidents in the future. For fleet maintenance, this kind of logistics detail can mean big savings in terms of route planning, vehicle upkeep, and overall strategy. They can also be helpful in the event of a crash as proof of speed, among other things.
If you’re looking to record the exact whereabouts and condition of your car at all times, consider our list of the top ten best GPS trackers for cars.
1. Zubie GL500C12M 3G Consumer Connected Car Service with 3G Always-On GPS Tracking
First mentioned in our best gifts for car guys post, the Zubie is focused on new driver training. Safe driving monitoring includes alerts for excessive speed compared to posted limits, hard braking and acceleration, and, of course, real-time GPS tracking.
There’s also a featured called Fuel Finder that will locate the cheapest fuel near you. It will send you alerts for check engine lights, worn batteries, oil changes, and low fuel. You can also integrate it with Amazon Echo so you can ask it where your car is at any given time.
Price: $99.99; Subscription Price: $99.95 per year
- Easy setup
- Ability to set up alerts to and from common places
- Maintenance alerts
- Monthly driving reports
- User agreement may give them permission to share data with third parties (possibly a concern for any such device)
- Frequent app updates may be buggy
- No easy way to view data on a computer
- Delays in data updates can reach half an hour
Find more Zubie GL500C12M 3G Consumer Connected Car Service with 3G Always-On GPS Tracking information and reviews here.
2. Spy Tec STI_GL300 Mini Portable Real Time GPS Tracker
While we don’t condone spying of any kind, as long as you’re using these modules on your own car for the purposes of safety, the “spy” angle is really just a name. This mini module doesn’t require being plugged into the OBDII serial port in your car, so if you must hide it (from your teenager, for example), you can. The battery will last for up to two week and offers up-to-the minute tracking. The accelerometer inside detects motion and will only power the device on when moving. You can setup geo-fenced areas and receive alerts when your vehicle enters or exits that area. Up to one year’s worth of data is backed up to a cloud service.
Price: $39.95; Subscription Price: $25 per month
- Battery-powered — two-week life
- Tracking platform works on any device (website based)
- One year of data stored in the cloud
- Real-time tracking and accelerometer-based motion detection
- Somewhat expensive monthly subscription
- Accuracy limited to the accuracy of GPS generally
- Data updates are a little glitchy
- No dedicated mobile app
3. Optimus Real Time GPS Tracker
Utilizing a very similar GL300-style tracker from the option above, Optimus have created a dedicated app for managing the data the tracker creates. Unlike the one above, this one claims to be able to send alerts for speeding, in addition to geo-fencing, battery status, and panic. There’s a version of the app for both iPhone and Android, so you don’t need to worry too much about the device.
While you’re subscribed, your saved data history is unlimited so you can compare trends and rectify issues over time. They make a magnetic waterproof case for it, which is highly recommended.
Price: $69.95; Subscription Price: $19.95 per month
- Dedicated app
- Battery-powered — two-week life
- Unlimited historical data while subscribed
- Good customer service
- Some tracking delays
- Only transmits data in areas with cellular coverage
- Not ideal for constant fleet tracking
- May need to be reset regularly to work properly
4. MOTOsafety OBD Teen Driving Coach Vehicle Monitoring System
Taking the driver education approach over the spy route, this is a serial port tracker that gives you finite details over what’s happening to your car and when. There are report cards and a coaching program to help train new drivers and identify bad habits. It offers geo-fencing, of course, but also allows you to set up curfew hours that will alert you when the car is being driven at certain off-limits times. When you review the route taken, you’ll see spots where unsafe driving occurred, so you can review with your teen. Otherwise, it’s just a good GPS tracker with enhanced car information and is one of the cheaper options for that purpose.
Price: $48.12; Subscription Price: $19.99 per month
- Tracking for location, direction, speed, traffic, and others
- Relatively cheap
- Complete teen driving education course, including scores for hard braking and other bad habits
- Dedicated app
- Acceleration alerts are very sensitive
- Notifications sent via SMS
- Speed limit notifications are difficult to set correctly and make useful
- App may be relatively limited in function
5. Vectu Portable Vehicle Tracker
Another battery-powered unit, the strength of this one is the subscription cost. At only $15 per quarter or $50 prepaid per year, it’s significantly cheaper than a lot of options on the market. The price of the unit itself is somewhere in the middle of the range.
It utilizes the myApsenta app on both iOS and Android, and offers standard notifications, either in-app or via SMS for things like geo-fence and unauthorized movement. It also comes in three colors — blue, grey, and white — so you can color code which device is for which vehicle. You do still get a history report, though it’s limited to 90 days.
Price: $79.99; Subscription Price: $15 per quarter or $50 prepaid annually
- Cheaper subscription plan
- Works with myAspenta iOS and Android app
- Arm feature alerts you when vehicle moves from a specified area
- GPS & GSM enabled
- Works better when device has clear view to the sky, so hiding it may be tough
- If device stops working, you may need to update firmware without warning
- History limited to 90 days
- Takes six hours to recharge
6. The Mileage Ace GPS Mileage Tracker
This unit is aimed more at businesses whose accounting and logistics depend on accurate mileage logs. Those logs are usually generated by the driver by hand, and this replaces the need for such work, which will save time in the long run and eliminate human error. When a vehicle returns from a trip and is parked in range of a wifi network, it automatically uploads trip data without any further action.
It’s not a real-time tracker, so it may be less useful for keeping a constant eye on your vehicles and driver habits, but it could still prove useful for insurance, taxes, and other documentation. This is a reliable unit with access to powerful data-compiling software — as long as you can wait until the car returns to access it.
Price: $129.99 (7 percent off MSRP); Subscription Price: $5.99 per month
- Automatic wifi uploads when in range of networks
- Cheap subscription
- Tamper-proof logs with years of history stored in the cloud
- Made in the U.S.A.
- No real-time tracking
- No alerting or geo-fencing
- GPS may mislabel locations
- Stops are difficult to mark
7. Linxup OBD Vehicle Tracking Device
In addition to the standard features offered by just about all of these options, the Linxup gives you upgrade capability to expand your use of the tracker. The standard features include email and text alerts, integration with Google Maps, detailed reports, geo-fencing, and scheduled maintenance tracking.
For incremental monthly costs, you can add on dispatching from the app, optimal route monitoring to improve efficiency, and driver ratings and report cards which will rank your fleet. Unfortunately, those add-ons come on top of an already somewhat pricy $22.99 per month for the service. Great if you can use it as a business write-off, but could get steep for smaller operations and home use.
Price: $49.96; Subscription Price: $22.99 per month
- App integration
- Combines real-time tracking and robust reporting
- Easy setup
- Add-ons available for job dispatch, route monitoring, and driver report cards
- Subscription a little pricy
- Real-time tracking data may be delayed
- Some flawed devices
8. Automatic AUT-350C Pro Gold 3G Connected Car Adapter
Now in its third generation, this start-up created serial port module offers a slightly elevated service in comparison to some of the others. That’s certainly reflected in the price, but so is something else: a five year subscription. That makes this a comparatively cheap option next to some of the others on this list.
Coming from tech start-up land, this integrates with IFTTT, which means you can use it with a wide variety of apps in addition to Amazon Echo and Nest, which will let you do things like turn on lights or set the thermostat depending on what your car is doing. Unlike most GPS trackers, this one also includes a car code scanner in case of check engine lights or other troubles.
If you’re ever in an accident, the device will automatically contact Automatic’s customer assistance, which will call you and ask if you need emergency service or to call a personal contact. Given all those options, the price isn’t so bad at all.
Price: $129.95; Subscription Price: Free for five years
- Companion app with emergency response service
- Five year subscription included in price
- Built-in car code reader
- Compatible with IFTTT apps and products, like Amazon Echo
- Newer software may still be buggy
- Short stops may trigger new trips
- No ability to disable tracking or delete tracking reports
- Some missed notifications
9. BrickHouse Security TrackPort 2.0
The new version of the TrackPort from BrickHouse includes the release of an app — BrickHouse TrackView — which gives you a satellite or map view of your vehicle’s location. Using Verizon’s CDMA network, the OBD port-style tracker wirelessly beams information to both the app and the online platform every 30 seconds at the highest subscription rate of $29.99 per month. Otherwise, you can choose push-only for $9.99 per month, five minute intervals for $19.99 per month, or one minute intervals for $24.99 per month.
Speed alerts and geo-fencing are available, as are travel reports and a panic button. The first month of the subscription is free with purchase.
Price: $49.99; Subscription Price: $9.99 per month and up
- Flexible subscription rates
- Breadcrumb trail of movement and geo-fencing
- New dedicated app
- Easy setup
- Reviews from December 2016 suggest that it might not work in trucks (Note: BrickHouse Security clarified that vehicles lacking the necessary OBD connector should use the hardwired version.)
- U.S. use only due to CDMA network requirement (Note: BrickHouse offers international versions here.)
10. AlltrackUSA GPS Vehicle Tracking
While certainly not as robust as some of the other options geared toward new drivers, this module offers one feature not seen in those: speed comparison to posted limits according to the DOT. All track’s database includes 3.9 million miles of speed limit data, so many areas will be covered by this device. Otherwise, it offers real-time and breadcrumb updates, as well as curfew, geo-fence, and tamper alerts.
You can choose your subscription level and thus the level of data, but it’s pretty pricey compared to some other options. The speed comparison to actual posted limits is nice, and the reason to opt for this one.
Price: $54.95; Subscription Price: $20.95 per month and up
- Posted speed limit comparison
- Curfew and tamper alerts
- 90 day history
- Expensive monthly plan
- No companion app
Heavy, Inc. is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by linking to Amazon. Our product recommendations are guided solely by our editors. We have no relationship with manufacturers.
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