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Car trackers: everything you need to know

If you live in an area with a high risk of car theft, or you're an employer who needs to keep track of your cars' locations, a car tracker might be for you.

In recent years, car theft has been on the rise. And with that, a tracker for your car has become more popular. Some car insurance providers might only offer insurance if you have a car tracker fitted.

We help tackle what types of car trackers are out there, and if you really need one.

Driver using a GPS car tracker on their mobile phone

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What is a car tracker?

Car trackers track the location of your car using global positioning system (GPS) technology. This helps them calculate your car's exact position, 24/7.

The types of people who may find car trackers useful include fleet managers, parents and car owners who are in areas with a high risk of car theft.

A car tracker can vary in size and price, depending on the types of features you want it to have.

GPS trackers are the most popular of car trackers. This is because it's inexpensive and effective to use.

There are many other types of trackers for cars out there, so make sure you do your research to decide what's best for you.


How does a car tracker work?

A GPS car tracker works by sending a signal to the satellites orbiting the Earth's atmosphere. Trilateration calculates the car's physical location based on its distance from 3 satellites. The satellites then broadcast this information back down to your car tracker.

You can get notified bout the car's location either through an app or a third-party control centre - depending on your car tracker.

Most GPS car trackers use the same technology as a car navigation system. The difference with a navigation system is that it provides you with your location to give you driving directions. A car tracker can keep records of your driving and give its location in real time.

Mobile phones used to make calls or connect to the internet also use the same technology. This can mean that some car trackers may also have a monthly subscription fee.


How do car trackers use VHF technology?

Other car trackers use very high frequency (VHF) technology, which refers to the radio waves used. VHF signals are used in a range of communication channels like TV or radio.

Unlike the GPS system, VHF can't be blocked by tunnels or large structures. Cars like Range Rovers are often stolen to order and then shipped in shipping containers.

A VHF tracker means your car can be tracked even if it's hidden in a shipping container, garage or underground car park and potentially recovered.

The UK police force relies on this technology so it can be seen as an attractive option for car tracking systems.

Vehicle tracking and recovery company, Tracker, use VHF technology in their devices. Tracker is the only tracking device company who are supported by the The UK police. So if your vehicle gets stolen it has a better chance of being recovered.


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What types of car tracker are there?

There's a variety of car trackers you can get, including:

  • Wired-in car tracker
  • Magnetic car tracker
  • Insurance approved car tracker
  • Subscription car tracker

Some of these trackers rely on GPS technology, others VHF and some with a hybrid. A GPS tracker monitors the location of your car at all times, whereas a VHF tracker only alerts you when the car is reported stolen. That's why the hybrid tracker is a good combination for people who want both.


Should I get a GPS tracker?

Adding a GPS tracker to your car could help improve the security of your car. This is because the car tracker should be able to notify you of its location, which in turn helps you get your car back.

Although there's no legal obligation to add a tracker to your car, as well as the extra security, it could also help you save money on your car insurance. This is because the likelihood of your car becoming damaged or written off is significantly reduced with a tracker. This makes its much more appealing for the insurer.

A car tracker may be particularly useful in certain situations. For example, in work you might want to check whether your employee made their service call and how far away they are from their next client. Or if you're a parent, you might want to check your kids made it to their school and back.

Another reason a GPS tracker may be beneficial is if you're living in an area where car theft is common. With technology improving, keyless car theft is on the rise and thieves can steal your car in less than 60 seconds.

You may also want to consider a tracker for a peace of mind if you know your car is vulnerable to theft and on the list of UK's top most stolen cars.


Does my car have a tracker?

Double check in case your car is already fitted with a GPS tracker. It's possible that the manufacturer has fitted the device in the factory, especially if it's a new car.

You can check this by looking at the user handbook or calling the car manufacturer. Although, factory fitted car trackers may not make your insurance cheaper. They're usually not insurance-approved and not as safe as if you were to get a dedicated car tracker.

Other ways your car may have some kind of tracker is through telematic devices. Many car insurers offer a chance to install a telematic or 'black box' device into your car. These trackers use GPS to relay data about your driving. Good driving habits are often rewarded with cheaper insurance at renewal.


How much does a car tracker cost?

As well as the initial price of buying car tracker devices, you may also need to pay for the labour of the tracker being installed. There's sometimes also a monthly or annual charge on top to be able to use the 24/7 tracking system.

The cost of a car tracker varies depending on its specifications. But costs can start from as little as £40, or you can buy a more advanced one from a specialist tracker company.

You should weigh up the consideration of the costs of a car tracker against the costs of having your car stolen to decide whether to buy a car tracker or not.


What’s the best car tracker without a subscription?

Paying monthly fees for a car tracker can end up becoming too much for some. That's why a one-off payment that covers you for the duration of owning your car may be a more affordable option.

Some of the best car trackers without a subscription are:

SinoTrack 4G GPS Tracker

This tracker has real time GPS tracking using their tracking app, with an accuracy of up to 10 meters. You need to buy a local SIM card with 4G network to insert it into the tracker.

SinoTrack GPS tracker has no monthly fees and you can play back and view your daily tracking history.

Zeerkeer GPS Tracker

With a battery lasting up to 5 months, this tracker requires a SIM card to track the location of your car. You need to call the SIM card phone number in the tracker which should send you a Google Maps link of its position.

Winnes GPS Tracker

The Winnes is a 4G real time sim card GPS tracker that works globally. You can get real time location of your car by SMS or by app or web, with an accuracy of up to 5 meters.

The tracker has a geo-fence feature. If our car moves out of the fence area you set, the app pushes an alarm notification. You also get up to 6-month tracking history of your cars route.


Can a tracker drain your car battery?

No, a car tracker shouldn't drain the battery of your car.

This is because most car trackers have their own built-in battery, which is used when the car is turned off.

Even car trackers that don't have their own battery, like an on-board diagnostics (OBD) tracker that plugs into the port of the car, still don't drain the car battery. This is because although they're relying on the car battery for power, they only uses a small amount when the car is turned off.


Do I need to install a vehicle tracking device for my car insurance?

It's not a legal obligation to have a tracker for your car. But recently it's becoming more common for car insurance providers to request that you install one.

Over the years, car thieves have become more tech-savvy and are more likely to override factory-fitted security. This includes keyless car theft, where they use 'relay technology' to access your car.

Insurance-approved tracking devices have advanced security. This is designed to both deter thieves and recover stolen cars.

Due to an increase of car theft, we suspect insurers asking to fit a car tracker might become standard in the future.

Check the T&Cs of your car insurance policy requires a car tracker so you can avoid any surprises later on.

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Which is the best vehicle tracking device for insurance?

Monitored Thatcham-approved car trackers, like the Meta S5 Deadlock, are among the best car tracking devices available.

The S5 GPS car tracker is Thatcham approved has immobilisation security, which is controlled by you. This means that nobody can drive your car without you knowing.

If you'd like a car tracker that doesn't use a detectable GPS signal, you could opt for the S7 Tracker Monitor. The S7 uses VHF technology, which can't be blocked by any large structures and can be found underground or in containers.

It's best to talk to your insurer to discuss what car tracker they recommend you using.


Will fitting an insurance-approved vehicle tracker reduce my insurance?

It's possible that your insurer reduces the cost of your car insurance policy if you add an insurance-approved tracker.

Insurance providers tend to reward customers who add more security to their car. This reduces the likelihood of your car being stolen or damaged and having to make a payout.

In cases where insurers ask that you fit a tracking device, they may not offer to insure your car at all unless the tracker is fitted.

For more information, check out our tips on how to reduce the cost of your car insurance.