Sunday, March 18, 2012

Tips for Buying a GPS Tracker

lightbug-on-dog

If you read GPS Tracklog at all, then you probably know that there are literally dozens (if not hundreds) of different GPS trackers out there designed to track everything from your belongings to your pets, and even your loved ones. Depending on your situation, it can bring great peace of mind to not have to worry where Fido is, or to know that your child is exactly where they said they would be. But, as the market becomes more and more crowded, it can be hard to sort through and see which tracker is the best choice for you and your family.

While it might seem like all GPS trackers are the same thing (and there definitely are similarities) they can be vastly different and picking the right one is important. So, here we’ll go over some things to consider when you’re buying a GPS tracker.

Purpose

While technically a GPS tracker can track basically anything you attach it to, there are some differences between a tracker designed for tracking the daily romp of your pooch, and a tracker designed to keep your valuables safe on a flight. Consider what you want the GPS for, and search in those areas first.

When considering purpose, also look at size. For example, if you have a large dog, then a bigger GPS pet tracker will be just fine. If you’re looking for something for a cat or a yorkie, then you’ll want to be sure that the GPS is small and lightweight and won’t interfere with their daily activities.

Method of Tracking

This is a tricky one because about half of the GPS trackers that I read about don’t actually use GPS satellites at all—they use Bluetooth signals or Wifi signals, which work but are more limited. For marketing purposes, basically all trackers are called GPS trackers, so make sure that you read carefully and make sure that it actually uses GPS. Some of the best units I’ve come across use a combination of GPS signals and cell towers.

As a clue, generally anything that requires a subscription doesn’t actually use GPS signals. GPS is free, which means that most of those subscription services are paying for cell phone tower use. Now, there are a couple that have a dedicated monitoring center and those will have subscriptions even though they use GPS. Again, you’ll have to read the details to make sure.

Now, depending on what you’re using it for there’s nothing wrong with Bluetooth, cell signal or wifi tracking… just be aware that it will be more limited and not allow for tracking in the middle of nowhere. If it does, it will cost you.

Battery and ruggedness

Considering how the unit is charged and its ruggedness is more important if you’re looking at a tracker for a pet or small child. Can it withstand your pooch playing in puddles or your child walking in the rain? Does it have to be completely removed to be recharged, or are the batteries replaceable? How long will it last on a single charge? Make sure that it works with your intended purpose.

Features

GPS trackers always come with a bevy of features, and figuring out which ones you need can be difficult. Here are a few features I always look for:

  • Real time tracking – Can you track it as it’s moving? How long are the intervals? How long will the battery last in this mode?
  • Geofencing/Perimeters – Can you set a virtual fencing around an area and be notified if the tracker leaves that area?
  • Speed alerts (if it’s a personal tracker) – Will it notify you if the tracker exceeds a certain speed limit?
  • Low battery alert – How do you know that it needs to be recharged?
  • SOS signal (for personal trackers) – Is there a way for someone to call for help with the device?
  • App functionality – What features does the app provide? Is it easy to use? What platforms is it available for?

There are plenty of other features as well for the various trackers, but those are the ones I look for the most. Many pet trackers also come with some kind of activity monitoring as well, but I’m personally kind of neutral on that.

Unlike other kinds of GPS, there isn’t really a GPS tracker that is the “best” as they’re all very different and geared towards different situations. The trick is to read all of the details (not just the highlights and the reviews) and make sure you know exactly what you’re getting.

Do you use a GPS tracker for something? Tell me about your experience below!

Comments

  1. Justin meyers says:

    hey, I’m about to buy a Garmin Nuvi from BestBuy to bring to costa rica for navigation. I am mostly looking for something that can record my track log (*i’ll be there for 12 days). There will be a lot of driving – anything you can recommend that will have sufficient space for that, or memory card expandable capabilities?
    Thanks!

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