Car Tracker Buying Guide

While rolling up the windows and locking the car may be enough peace of mind for most of us, installing a few additional devices and deterrents on your set of wheels could help you avoid some heartbreak if your car is stolen. But what can you do to ensure that your car isn’t taken for a joyride, or at least keep an eye on it when you’re away? GPS car trackers have long been a way for fleet managers to keep on top of things, but are they available for Sunday drivers as well? Read on to find out.

What are car trackers?

A car tracker is a device installed into your car to keep track of it through GPS. Used primarily for theft recovery or fleet management, car trackers allow the owner to know exactly where their vehicle is at all times – just as long as there’s an internet connection.

How do car trackers work?

Car tracking on tablet

Working similar to a traditional GPS system, most car trackers use satellites to track the location of your vehicle and where it’s going, with the information then transmitted to a receiver unit, which is generally your smartphone or computer system. Depending on the model and brand, car trackers can be installed via the cigarette lighter or accessory socket, while others can be installed via the car battery.

Types of car trackers

Car trackers can be primarily broken into two categories – passive and active. But what’s the difference? Here’s a brief explanation of each type:

  • Passive vehicle tracking systems: also known as GPS loggers, a passive vehicle tracker records or ‘logs’ a vehicle’s location and stores it on the device’s hard drive. From there, you can hook up the tracker to your computer to download the log, giving you an outline of where the vehicle travelled. Passive trackers can be simply placed in or on the vehicle.
  • Active vehicle tracking system: instead of storing the GPS data on a hard drive, an active vehicle tracking system relays the information in real time to your computer via satellite or cell tower. Active trackers must be installed in the vehicle to maintain a strong and continuous connection.

How much do car trackers cost?

Depending on the brand and model, most car trackers can cost a few hundred dollars, with some also requiring a monthly or yearly subscription to use the computer software to help you track your vehicles. Active trackers will generally be more expensive as they relay the information in real time, with fleet or commercial models also differing in cost to trackers used privately.

Are car trackers legal in Australia?

Location on laptop

While the legality of car trackers will vary from state to state – with no national guidelines in place – car trackers are legal in Australia. However, if used in a business, employers must outline the specific use of car tracking devices to their employees, with some states also requiring vehicles to display a note on the vehicle informing drivers that the vehicle is installed with a tracker.

For private use, there doesn’t appear to be any laws in place with regards to how you use it, provided it isn’t used without a person’s consent. But as laws vary from state to state, it’s best to contact a lawyer or regulatory body before installing a car tracking device in your vehicle – or someone else’s!

Where can I buy a car tracker?

Car trackers can be purchased at vehicle accessory retailers, such as Supercheap Auto, and directly through brand websites. Select electronics retailers may also stock GPS trackers, which may also be suitable depending on your needs.

Can I install a car tracker myself?

Repairing car

Most car tracker models can simply be plugged into the cigarette lighter or USB socket (depending on how old your car is), making it easy to install a car tracker. But some car trackers can be hardwired to the battery, requiring a bit more know-how.

Hardwired car trackers will generally come with cords and wires in the box when you purchase it, meaning you’ll likely have what you need to install it. However, whether you can install it or not depends on how handy you are under the hood. So, if you can’t tell where the engine ends and the rest of the car starts, you should probably leave it to the experts and drop off your car to a mechanic.

Do I need a car tracker?

A car tracker can be an easy way to find peace of mind when it comes to your vehicle, especially if it’s a prized possession, or you’re worried about the area that you live in. But for the average motorist, it’s by no means an essential purchase and more so in the realm of freight or fleet management businesses. If you have your heart set on installing a car tracker, make sure to check your state guidelines to ensure you’re legally allowed to have a unit installed, and be sure to read the specifications of each brand and model to ensure that you purchase a model that’s compatible with your vehicle.

Picture credits: G-Stock Studio/, Estrada Anton/, Andrey_Popov/, Ohms1999/

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