Car GPS trackers are commonly used as an anti-theft measure, as well as a way to keep tabs on elderly relatives and newly-licensed teenagers. Regardless of your reason for using one, these small devices can be extremely helpful.
The basic approach is simple: just place it inside a vehicle or attach it somewhere inconspicuous, and you’ll be able to track the vehicle’s location via a website or mobile app.
GPS trackers for cars are all relatively similar in what they offer. Most are quite compact, making them easy to hide out of sight. Some attach to the outside of the car via magnets, while others are designed to be stashed away inside. Some are battery powered and need to be recharged, while others are installed to draw power from your vehicle’s OBD port.
These little devices send automated signals out every few seconds (generally every 5-30 seconds, depending on the model) that alert the owner of the vehicle’s whereabouts.
GPS trackers come with SIM cards and the technology needed to broadcast their location. In a way they are like a very basic cell phone, and just like a cell phone, they require a monthly subscription in order to use. Most cost between $5 and $25 per month, depending on the features you want.
If you’re looking for the best car GPS tracker with no monthly fee, unfortunately, they don’t really exist. Some advertise “no monthly fee,” but simply force you to buy 12-month subscriptions ahead of time instead. Because of the cell data requirements, you’re unlikely to find a quality GPS tracker that truly doesn’t have any monthly costs.
There are many competing models on the market, which can make the search for the perfect tracker feel intimidating. Fortunately, we’ve spent the time evaluating the top models on the market, and come up with a comprehensive buying guide for the best car GPS trackers available today.
- Dimensions: 1.8 x 1.9 x 1.0 inches
- Battery Life: n/a (powered from car ignition)
- Monthly subscription: $8/month
- Dimensions: 2.7 x 1.5 x 0.9 inches
- Battery Life: up to two weeks depending on settings
- Monthly subscription: $19-25/month
- Dimensions: 3 x 1 x 1.5 inches
- Battery Life: up to 2.5 weeks depending on settings
- Monthly subscription: $20-25/month
- Dimensions: 2.6 x 2.0 x 4.7 inches
- Battery Life: up to two months
- Monthly subscription: $18-24/month
- Dimensions: 1.7 x 1.0 x 2.2 inches
- Battery Life: n/a (powered from car ignition)
- Monthly subscription: $8.95/month
Best GPS Tracker for Cars: Bouncie 4G LTE GPS Car Tracker
The Bouncie 4G LTE GPS Car Tracker is one of the most popular car GPS trackers on the market. Its location-tracking features are excellent, offering real-time location tracking (at 15-second intervals), as well as vehicle speed tracking, detailed trip history, and alerts when a vehicle enters or exits a predetermined “geo-zone.”
It’s also compatible with Google Maps, so you can track vehicle location in real-time via either satellite or street view. Data can be accessed via the website, or through the Bouncie app on iOS and Android.
The Bouncie also has valuable safety features that many competing devices don’t offer. For instance, there is an accident detection feature that will send an alert if the vehicle is involved in a collision. For nervous parents, this is an extremely useful feature. In the United States, there’s even a roadside assistance service available from Bouncie.
Best of all, it’s pretty affordable. The device itself is competitively priced, while the subscription fee is a very reasonable $8/month. There are no activation costs, and no contract, so you can cancel at any time.
This model plugs into a vehicle’s OBD port, and draws power from there. This also allows the Bouncie to alert you to certain car error codes, such as a low battery or a check engine light. The device draws power from the vehicle and doesn’t need to be charged. This also means it only works when the car’s ignition is on, however, which is the only real downside of this device.Buy on Amazon
The AMERICALOC GL300 is an accurate tracker that is also very compact and easy to conceal, measuring just 2.7 x 1.5 x 0.9 inches. It’s battery powered, which means you can tuck it anywhere out of sight: in the glove box, under the seat, or even attached to the bottom of a car with a magnetic case (sold separately).
This model uses CAT M1 technology, which provides longer battery life and greater coverage than competing approaches. It can be set to send updates every 10, 30, or 60 seconds, although the more frequent the updates, the faster the battery will drain. Expect 1-2 weeks between charges on the longer settings.
There’s an app you can use for tracking, or you can do so on the website, and history is stored for a full year. There are customizable alerts that you can set up, including movement, speeding, entering or leaving specified zones, low battery, and so on.
The only real downside to this model is cost. The device itself is above-average in price, and the monthly cost is $19-25 depending on how long you sign up for. If you’ve got the money and are looking for a quality GPS tracker that’s easy to hide in or on your vehicle, however, this is an excellent option.Buy on Amazon
Best Mini Car GPS Tracker: Spytec GPS GL300
The Spytec GL300 is a simple, compact tracker that’s easy to use and easy to hide. The small size of this device (under two inches wide and an inch thick) makes it well suited for hiding in vehicles.
It’s also a good option for safety tracking of your children or loved ones, for instance in a school backpack or purse. The Spytec is battery-powered, with a charge lasting up to two weeks or more depending on use patterns. An extended battery that lasts up to six months is also available.
The device itself is budget-friendly, although the monthly cost is higher than average. You don’t get all of the bells and whistles of some of the higher-end versions, but can still see when the tracker leaves or enters a predefined zone, and track its location in real time.
The GL300 comes with a lifetime warranty, assuming you keep an active subscription. The monthly cost for a subscription is $24.95, dropping to $19.95/month if you pay for a year upfront. Fleet discounts are also available.Buy on Amazon
The Global-View Magnetic GPS Tracker is a powerful tracker that can attach to any metallic surface using a built-in magnet. Unlike other devices, it doesn’t need an external case or magnet, as it’s all integrated.
The device is powered by a lithium-ion battery, which can last for up to two months depending on usage patterns. The design is compact and versatile, and a good choice for vehicles, construction equipment, trailers, and more. The tracker (including the cellular connectivity) also works in 140+ countries, making it a valuable tool for international businesses and travelers.
Users can track data via the website, or through a mobile app. Uniquely, you can also set up automatic weekly reports to be sent via email. This allows you to keep tabs on equipment, for instance, without actively monitoring it. Automated alerts can also be set up, although by default these come in via email. It’s also possible to receive SMS alerts if you’d prefer.
The monthly rate is a bit steep, however, at $23.99. If you prepay for a year, you’ll pay $219.99, bringing the monthly cost down to a more-reasonable $18.33.Buy on Amazon
Best Cheap GPS Tracker for Cars: LandAirSea Sync GPS Tracker
The LandAirSea Sync is a budget GPS tracker for vehicles and other equipment. The device itself is great value, and the monthly cost ($8.95) is also very reasonable. If you’re on a budget, this is likely the best car GPS tracker for you. Surprisingly, given the low price, this model is made in the USA.
This device plugs into your vehicle’s OBD port, drawing power from there. But uniquely, there’s also an internal battery, so this model can work for several hours even when the car is powered off. This offers the best of both worlds, as you won’t need to charge manually, but also don’t need to worry about your vehicle being towed or stolen and the tracker not activating.
The only real downside is accuracy. The LandAirSea GPS tends to sometimes track movement that doesn’t actually happen — for instance, small movements when the car is parked. If you can handle this minor flaw, this tracker provides impressive value both when you purchase it and ongoing.Buy on Amazon
Main image via Shutterstock, product images via Amazon