The 9 Best GPS Trackers
We spent 40 hours on research, videography, and editing, to review the top selections for this wiki. Isn't technology grand? Not only do we no longer need paper maps to find our way around but, thanks to the same satellites, these GPS trackers will let you monitor your teen's driving, safeguard your younger child, and recover lost or stolen property. We've ranked the best by price, convenience and high-tech features. When users buy our independently chosen editorial picks, we may earn commissions to support our work. Skip to the best gps tracker on Amazon.
GPS Trackers Versus Smart Phones
Keep in mind that despite their outrageous costs, the average lifespan of a smart phone is just under two years.
There are even units that connect to the car battery so you never have to worry about charging them.
You may wonder why people buy GPS trackers when you can go to your phone's app store and download dozens of free tracking apps. But a GPS tracker can be more functional and cost effective, especially for businesses and families with lots of little (and big) people to keep up with.
GPS trackers are a no-brainer for businesses that move around a lot of freight or expensive, specialized equipment that can be lost or stolen. It just makes more sense to track the machine and not the driver, who may vary on a day to day basis. In fact, tracking employees on their cell phones might open up employers to privacy lawsuits.
Families may be tempted to simply buy their tot a cell phone, knowing that nearly 70% of pre-teens will end up with a phone anyway. Keep in mind that despite their outrageous costs, the average lifespan of a smart phone is just under two years.
If you simply want to be sure your third-grader made it to elementary school and home again, you can save hundreds in upfront costs (not to mention cheaper monthly fees), by purchasing a small wearable unit or one that fits neatly in your child's backpack.
Installing a GPS tracker in the car your teen normally drives can also be a sound investment. Keeping tabs on a new driver is a lot easier if you are not relying on that teen to remember to activate the GPS app each time they get behind the wheel. There are even units that connect to the car battery so you never have to worry about charging them.
A Brief History Of GPS
The origins of the Global Positioning System date all the way back to the Sputnik era. At the height of the Cold War, Russia scored a major victory by launching the first artificial Earth satellite. Scientists at MIT turned that loss into an eventual win when they began studying the signals transmitted by the small satellite.
By 1983, President Reagan allowed commercial aircraft to use the system to improve air safety.
As scientists tracked the changes in the frequency of the radio signals caused by the Doppler Effect, it gave them the idea to track receivers on the ground based on their distance from multiple satellites.
The Navy built the first real system with six satellites. It was designed to monitor submarines, but was later expanded to ten satellites and kept tabs on vehicles and equipment in all branches of the military. By 1983, President Reagan allowed commercial aircraft to use the system to improve air safety.
The full twenty-four satellite system in use today was launched in 1993. The Department of Defense purposefully decreased the accuracy of the GPS in order to prevent enemy combatants from using it, until the year 2000. At this time GPS became ten times more accurate and civilian usage exploded into every industry, from the transportation of goods to fishing boats to cell phones.
How To Choose A GPS Tracker
Regardless of how you plan to use your GPS tracker, two of the most important things to keep in mind are cost and battery life.
For a versatile tracker that can be moved from car to car or even slipped into a backpack, smaller may seem better, but a tiny unit usually means a shorter battery life. Look for brands that offer an extended battery kit that can give you up to six months between charges.
Be sure to compare apples to apples when looking at monthly fees.
If you are considering a GPS tracker for exclusive use in your automobile, you might want to call your car insurance agency first. Most major carriers have rolled out incentive programs that can allow you to save hundreds off your insurance bill when you install their GPS tracker. This usage-based insurance is considered an invasion of privacy by some, but many responsible drivers who already want a GPS tracker in their car don't mind giving up a little privacy to save a few bucks.
When making your final selection, remember that monthly costs can vary widely from getting the first year free to $25 a month and up. A cheaper monthly fee could also be tied to a lengthy contract, so don't forget to read the fine print.
Be sure to compare apples to apples when looking at monthly fees. The information you can get from a GPS tracker depends on what type and brand you choose. For example, a kid-friendly device might offer a panic button, one-way calling, or even send parents an alert if the device leaves a predetermined area.
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