As a driver, you face many dangers on the road. GPS vehicle trackers are the ideal solution to keep yourself and your loved ones safe from those hazards. They are not just niche devices used by intrepid spies—anyone can use them for extra protection. Below we’ve outlined the five best no-contract GPS vehicle trackers, what you can use them for, and how to install them.
#1. Spy Tec STI GL300 Mini Portable Real-Time GPS Tracker
Best all-around GPS tracker
The Spy Tec GL300 has the most and best reviews of any other vehicle GPS tracking system on Amazon. A compact tracker, the Spy Tec is roughly the size of a matchbox and can pinpoint the device’s location within fifteen feet of accuracy. Conveniently, the Spy Tec can attach to a car’s frame with magnets.
- An SOS Button: The device has an SOS button that sends an instant notification of its location when pressed.
- Great Customer Service: Spy Tec is incredibly responsive. Last year, when a user pointed out that the company’s online tracking portal was not HTTPS secure, Spy Tec added SSL secure login and password protection.
- Unreliable Battery Life: The device only turns on when its accelerometer detects motion to save battery life. The company claims a two-week battery life, but users report that actual battery life varies. An extended six-month battery can be purchased separately.
#2. MOTOsafety OBD Vehicle Monitoring System
Best for teenage drivers
Ideal for parents of teens, MOTOsafety helps monitor and coach drivers. Along with location, the unit tracks speed, harsh braking, and rapid acceleration. Parents are encouraged to review their teen’s daily driving habit “report card,” and customers report that they’ve saved up to 30% on their insurance rate for using MOTOsafety. MOTOsafety plugs into the diagnostic port under the car’s dashboard and costs $19.99 per month.
- Daily Report Cards: This is a feature unique to the MOTOsafety tracker. It generates report cards based on driving habits like speed, braking, and acceleration.
- A Fuel Reminder: MOTOsafety software tells you how much gas is in the tank.
- Curfew Alerts: Parents can set notifications to alert them if the vehicle is out past curfew.
- Inaccurate Speed Alerts: MOTOsafety’s subscription service uses Google Maps, which does not have accurate speed limits for every location. Parents can manually enter the speeds of streets and highways, but that is time-consuming and requires textbook knowledge of local streets. The software won’t remember these changes the next day, so daily report cards will be inaccurate if the user doesn’t fix speed limits daily.
- Sensitive Acceleration Rates: The acceleration function can also unfairly lower a daily report card grade. Users complain that the acceleration monitor is so sensitive that it alerts to acceleration when the driver enters a freeway.
- A Difficult Cancellation Policy: Customers report that canceling the monthly service can’t be done on the website. You must call the company on the phone.
- Potential to Be Uncomfortable: Depending on your car, MOTOsafety may hit your knees, so you may need to purchase an additional adaptor to tuck the cord and unit into the dashboard undercarriage.
#3. Vectu Portable Vehicle Tracker
Lowest monthly service fee
The Vectu works worldwide wherever there is 2G cellular reception—not including Japan, North Korea, and South Korea—with no roaming charges. Safewise reviewed a Vectu unit earlier this year and gave it rave reviews, praising its GPS accuracy and battery life. The portable device can be placed in your vehicle, costs under $100.00, and has a $50.00 annual subscription service.
- Cheap Service Fees: The Vectu has the cheapest annual service fee of any GPS tracker at an average of $4.00 per month.
- A Help Button: In an emergency, the help button sends an alert to the registered user, verifying the location of the tracker.
- Multi-User Capabilities: You can allow up to four additional phone numbers and email addresses to receive tracker notifications. This is an ideal feature if multiple people want to check in on the wearer.
- An Outdated System: The Vectu operates on a 2G network, but some phone providers, like AT&T, are discontinuing 2G services. And service on the Vectu is spotty in areas where 3G and 4G services are prominent.
- Poor Customer Service: Dozens of users complain that Vectu is unresponsive to customer questions and concerns.
#4. MasTrack OBD Real Time GPS Vehicle Tracker
Best for car maintenance
Consider MasTrack your personal auto technician. It connects to the diagnostic port under the dashboard and monitors location, tracks excessive idling, and sends reminders for maintenance, like oil changes. It costs close to $300.00, and its monthly service fees vary—but the first twelve months are included free.
- Multiple Service Levels: Automatic reporting with MasTrack is available at three different levels: The Basics is $9.08/month and updates location when the ignition is turned on or off, Just the Essentials is $15.83/month and updates location every five minutes, and Premium Reporting is $17.91 and updates location every minute.
- Comprehensive Car Stats: The maintenance reminders and check engine alerts are unique to the MOTOsafety tracker.
- Random Text Alerts: Each text alert comes from a different randomly generated number, so it’s impossible to group your texts under the same text chain.
#5. Optimus Real Time GPS Tracker
Perfect for discreetly tracking a car, the 2.7-inch Optimus tracker syncs with your personal account and even provides a routing feature for private investigators. The service coverage is available in many countries around the world, and service fees are $19.95–$35.00 per month. The unit, which is around $100.00, can be hidden anywhere in a car or placed on a car’s frame in a separately purchased magnetic case.
- Detailed Data: The website generates detailed charts of tracker location throughout the day, time spent at each location, parking time, and movement time. These tracking summaries are more comprehensive than most other GPS vehicle trackers.
- An SOS Button: If the driver is in a true emergency, they can press the SOS button to send a notification of their location.
- Unreliable Updates: Despite the advertised one-minute tracking updates, users complain Optimus updates only every few minutes.
GPS Vehicle Tracker Capabilities
Though GPS vehicle trackers have varied features, the real-time tracking ability makes them coveted safety devices. Along with this, most GPS vehicle trackers provide geofences—virtual boundaries around defined areas—and customizable alerts in the form of email or cell phone notifications.
You can place one on your car’s frame or inside your glove box to track your vehicle in case of theft or to monitor your teen’s driving habits. The most basic ones monitor the location of the car, while more advanced trackers give you detailed car statistics, like at what points harsh braking occurred and if the oil needs to be changed.
Parents may want to use GPS trackers to keep an eye on their teenage drivers. These drivers are some of the riskiest drivers on the road, and unfortunately, 6 teen drivers die every day from motor vehicle injuries. These young drivers are inexperienced and tend to take uncalculated risks, but a GPS tracker can help parents teach their children good driving habits.
GPS Vehicle Tracker Setup and Installation
GPS trackers are easy to set up. After creating a personal account on the device manufacturer’s website, you simply turn on the tracker and sync. You can now view your tracker’s live whereabouts on the web or through a mobile app with great accuracy.
Vehicle GPS trackers are generally not hard to install, but installation varies depending on which one you purchase. Some attach to your car frame with magnets, others slip inside your glove box, and advanced trackers plug into a car’s diagnostic system.
To help the people you love drive safely, invest in a GPS vehicle tracker. The five above are the best of the best and will help you sleep soundly knowing your vehicle is where it should be and your children are safe.
*SafeWise has conducted impartial research to recommend products. This is not a guarantee. Each individual’s unique needs should be considered when deciding on chosen products.