Want to always know where your vehicle is? You need a car GPS tracker! This is not the same thing as a navigational GPS.
All GPS trackers share the common function of broadcasting your vehicle’s GPS coordinates periodically, usually to a web browser or smartphone app. While you can use a smartphone as a tracking device, standalone trackers have several benefits.
We’ll show you the best US GPS trackers for various use cases, plus an option for UK readers.
Note: We do not condone the abuse of this technology for non-consensual spying or tracking against someone’s will.
1. Best Overall Car Tracker
Optimus 2.0 Portable GPS Tracker
The Optimus 2.0 Portable GPS Tracker has been around for years. While several competitors have come to market, it still stands as the best all-round car GPS tracker you can buy.
At just 3 x 1.5 x 1 inches, and weighing 3.3 ounces, the tracking unit is small enough to place anywhere in your car inconspicuously. For external attachment, you can purchase a separate weatherproof magnetic case.
Optimus claims battery life of up to two weeks due to a built-in motion sensor that switches the unit between standby and operation modes to conserve power. The company requires a monthly subscription of $20, which puts it in the middle of the road regarding price. You can cancel the subscription any time, and the company’s promise of “no hidden fees” appears to check out based on customer reviews.
Updating every 60 seconds, the tracker works in conjunction with Google Maps. You can set up alerts via text message or email for unexpected motion, speeding, or leaving a geofenced area you define. Optimus also has an app for Android and iOS that provides all these functions in one place.
As an extra security bonus, an SOS button on the unit will alert chosen users of the its position and time of activation. For an all-round, mid-priced tracker, you’d be hard-pushed to find a better option than this.
2. Best Hidden GPS Tracker
SpyTec STI GL300 Mini
Long considered the best option in consumer GPS vehicle tracking, the SpyTec STI GL300 Mini is still among the most popular. It’s slightly cheaper than the Optimus 2.0, but comes with a more expensive subscription of $25 per month. However, the SpyTec model has a few distinct features that set it aside.
Anti-theft trackers are much like hidden home security cameras: they need to remain undetected to work to their full potential. At just 2 x 1 x 0.8 inches, this tiny tracker is perfect for hiding in a hard-to-find area of your vehicle.
SpyTec also provides a weatherproof magnetic case for hiding in the vehicle undercarriage. Motion sensor-based power saving provides battery life of up to two weeks.
The STI GL300 provides the same functionality as its competitors, including alerts, geofencing, and integration with Google Maps. For many years there were no native apps for this tracker, though a SpyTec iOS app is now available.
Alongside the base subscription, tiered monthly options at $35 and $45 increase the location updates from every 60 seconds to 30 seconds and 5 seconds, respectively.
If you are looking for a small tracker for multiple uses and don’t mind paying a higher monthly fee, the SpyTec STI GL300 Mini could be what you are looking for.
3. Best Free GPS Tracker
Automatic PRO AUT-350
The Automatic PRO AUT-350 tracking unit might just be the most high-tech on our list. While providing all the same functionality as the others, it attaches to the OBD port in your car and can give basic car diagnostics and smart home integration.
Surprisingly, Automatic’s service is free for the first five years of use, though the initial high cost of the unit may put some people off.
The real draw with Automatic comes not only from the lack of subscription fee, but the modern approach the company brings. The Automatic App links up with IFTTT, Google Home, Nest, and a whole host of other smart apps. One simple use case would be to trigger IFTTT-compatible Philips Hue bulbs to light your home before you arrive.
For a modern approach to the GPS tracker designed with automated lives in mind, Automatic Pro is worth a look.
4. Best GPS Tracker for Parents
MOTOsafety OBD GPS
The MOTOsafety OBD GPS has two motivations in mind. First, it’s a hands-off approach to teaching teen drivers. Second, it allows parents to keep tabs on where their child is driving and how fast. Available as an OBD attachment or a hardwired box, it can also track basic car maintenance and alert when something may need a review or replacement.
Along with providing updates every minute when the engine is on (hourly when off), the MOTOsafety tracker offers a variety of useful information for parents.
Route tracking is available through a browser or the MOTOsafety app for iOS. You can also use geofencing to alert when the vehicle enters or leaves specific areas, and the route replay function shows detailed analysis of trips.
Perhaps most crucially for parents is the option to set up alerts for telltale signs of dangerous driving. These include speeding, excessive braking, and rapid acceleration. With a cheap initial outlay and a monthly subscription of $20, the MOTOsafety ODB GPS can provide peace of mind to any worried parent.
5. Best Mileage Tracker
Mileage Ace Pro
While many GPS trackers have security in mind, those who travel a lot for work require something more specific. Accurate mileage records are essential for companies and employees alike, and the Mileage Ace Pro is still among the most trusted on the market.
The combined monthly subscription and daily cell cost of running the Mileage Ace Pro is under $20. This unit receives power via a provided USB adapter. With onboard buttons for designating when business trips start and end, it allows hands-on control for accurate readings.
All logging is automatic, easy to export from the web interface, and according to Mileage Ace, “IRS trusted.” If it matters to you, Mileage Ace is an entirely US company with US-based customer service. For a well-respected distance tracker known for reliability, this is your best option.
6. Best GPS Tracker for Business Fleets
Designed as a scaling solution for businesses of different sizes, the Geotab GO8 provides fleet security in several ways. Alongside detailed GPS tracking, the G08 attaches to the OBD port of vehicles. This provides further information ranging from car health to driver habits.
Geotab does not list pricing on itswebsite, opting instead for individual quotes by appointment. For a well-trusted modern solution for fleet management, Geotab does it right.
7. Best UK GPS Tracker
The majority of the tracking market lies in the US, but the UK has several similar systems in place. A good all-rounder for UK users is the TKSTAR Mini.
One of many similar designs, the TKSTAR has the added advantage of being rugged, weatherproof, magnetic, and capable of taking any UK sim card. This gives the user a variety of options for payment plans. The claimed battery life of 90 days is especially impressive.
Given the open nature of this tracker and its price, along with impressive reviews, it’s a good bet for our UK readers.
Get a Car GPS Tracker for Peace of Mind
In an age when you can track your every movement from your iPhone, dedicated GPS units may seem redundant.
But a dedicated GPS tracker is worth the investment thanks to its range of features and ability to help you recover your car. If you often travel by bicycle, check out the best bike trackers too. And if you’re looking for even more peace of mind, check out these tips on how to get the most out of a dashcam. Finally, if your vehicle is electric, also look into these electric car smartphone apps.