Best Car GPS Trackers Of 2024 (2024)

Where do you plug in the tracker?

All the GPS trackers in this review utilize a vehicle’s OBD-II (on-board diagnostics) port, which is typically located under the dash near the steering column. Location may vary depending on the vehicle so it’s typically best to refer to the owner’s manual. All passenger vehicles built since 1996 use OBD-II after federal regulatory agencies mandated automakers to standardize the system to monitor vehicle health and specifically, regulate emissions. When plugged in, the vehicle’s electrical system powers the tracker. While trackers will work on most cars with OBD-II ports, it’s best to refer to the tracker manufacturer’s website to confirm compatibility. Keep in mind that some devices cannot be used in battery-electric vehicles.

How does the data get back to me?

Most tracker devices use cellular data networks and the global positioning system to communicate information to their corresponding servers and apps. Because of this, updates may sometimes be delayed if the tracked vehicle enters a signal dead zone. Devices intended for use in the U.S., Canada and Mexico typically use the 4G LTE network, although devices used in other countries may require different cellular bands.

How often does a tracker update its data?

A tracker’s refresh rate or sample rate is how often the device receives new information from its transmitter and may vary depending on the model. While most trackers refresh every 30 to 60 seconds, parents or family members tracking an inexperienced teen or vulnerable senior driver may want a speedier unit or one that provides updates in real time. So, it’s important to research the refresh rate of the trackers if that’s a priority.

What is a geofence?

Geofences are preselectable areas or customizable zones on a digitized map—such as Google Maps or any map app—that can be designated at the touch of a finger. These zones act as sort of “perimeter fence,” which alert users if a vehicle leaves a designated area. Almost all the apps included with GPS trackers allow for the use of geofences. While most apps only let you configure circular zones, which have rough boundaries, some let you configure any shape for more precise area designation.

Can the tracker tell you why a check engine light came on?

Some vehicle trackers, like the ones featured here, offer real-time vehicle health monitoring. In addition to utilizing a car’s OBD-II port for power and telemetry (detecting speed and erratic behavior based on driver input), some trackers can also read “fault codes,” or code signatures that specify where the source of a problem or malfunction may be. This feature varies by model. But because it’s already plugged into the same port mechanics use to diagnose malfunctioning vehicles, most manufacturers of GPS trackers added this functionality as a courtesy since OBD-II reading technology is ubiquitous.

Is it legal to use a GPS tracker in a car?

According to the NCSL (National Conference of State Legislatures), several states prohibit installing a tracker in a car without the consent of the vehicle owner. Others generally prohibit tracking without the consent of the person being tracked. Exceptions do exist, particularly for a parental or guardian purposes of tracking minors. Though in general, most states allow the use of these GPS trackers. Ultimately however, laws vary by state, so it’s always good to check local regulations.

How does an alert get from the tracker to my phone or computer?

GPS trackers utilize the preexisting network of global positioning and communication satellites orbiting the planet to triangulate location data, similarly to how most new cars’ sat-nav systems use the same networks to direct you to a specific location anywhere in the world, as long as there are roads to take you there. Most GPS trackers use the previous 4G LTE wireless data band, with some older units still relying on the aging 3G network. That said, if you own an older unit, it’s important to make sure to stay up to date with the latest data transmission networks as the Federal Communications Commission implements new standards.

For example, Verizon announced that it will be shutting down its 3G network by 2023 with other carriers following suit, to make room for advancements in 5G. Once the 3G network disappears, if your unit depends solely on that cellular band, it will be rendered obsolete and unable to function.

Best Car GPS Trackers Of 2024 (2024)
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