Your Guide to GPS Trackers

15 minute read

"Taxi! Follow that car!" [taxi drives off without him] "Keeps 'em on their toes!" - Daffy Duck, The Great Piggy Bank Robbery

What Are GPS Tracking Devices?

In a nutshell, a GPS tracking device is a piece of equipment used for tracking down an object's movement by pinpointing its real-time location. Of course, its effectiveness and precision depend on the actual quality of the equipment.

GPS stands for Global Positioning System, and GPS devices use this modern navigation system via satellites. The device records the object’s location data that can be stored in the tracking unit or transmitted to a server via satellite so you can track it directly on your phone, laptop, or any other internet-connected device.

How and Why Are GPS Tracking Devices Used?

Using GPS is more common and more affordable than ever before.

For example, using GPS software for directions while driving is pretty standard nowadays - we’re so used to it on our car’s dashboard that we barely notice that it’s there. Whether you’re driving around looking for restaurants on a Friday, or navigating your way through a new city, GPS is always at the ready to assist and show you the way.

The difference between GPS software and GPS trackers is that the tracker records information about the movement of a specific vehicle or asset and it either logs the data internally or transmits it for remote viewing. Usually, the trackers that log internal data need to be retrieved from the car and connected to a computer to view the data.

But nowadays, the main uses of GPS technology go far beyond simple road navigation.

Today, GPS trackers give people the opportunity to monitor their pets, vehicles, and other assets. Depending on your need or urgency, using a GPS tracking device is a very efficient and affordable way to monitor an object’s (or a person’s) location, and it can even save your life in some situations.

You can monitor someone’s location with a simple display map - where they are, where they’re heading, and how fast they’re going.

It’s also a nice alternative for concerned parents who want to know that their children arrived safely at school, and can even be used to keep watch on your elderly parents if they have a tendency to get lost.

Some business owners use GPS to track their company trucks, and many people use these devices to track their cars in order to prevent car theft.

How Do You Track Something With a GPS Tracker?

To track your car, a GPS tracking device can be either hardwired to the vehicle or placed inside or outside it, usually with magnets. After activation, it transmits your car’s exact location, usually on a display map that comes along with the software.

If you’re using a real-time GPS tracker, the map backdrop displays your car’s location live and if you’re using a passive GPS device, the device is to be retrieved in order for the analyzed data to be transferred from the device onto a PC or a smartphone.

So with that out of the way, let’s answer the most important questions about GPS trackers, and then go over the different types of GPS devices, along with the pros and cons of using them.

We’ll wrap up this GPS tracking guide by recommending some of our products, as well as our bestselling GPS tracker, to give you an idea of what most people use.

This way, we hope you can make your own choice and buy the best possible GPS tracking device for your needs.

What Are the Most Popular GPS Tracking Devices?

When it comes to GPS devices, there are lots of different models and customizations available on the spy equipment market - and you can see there’s a lot of clutter if you just give it a search.

But essentially, there are just two different types of GPS tracking devices that you need to know about - passive GPS trackers and real-time GPS trackers.

Let’s take a look at the differences between the two.

Passive GPS Tracking Devices

Passive GPS trackers are data loggers, meaning they store info via internal memory, and the recorded data report contains information such as locations, travel distance, date and time, speed, and other activity.

Unlike an active real-time tracker that updates the exact location with only seconds of delay, the passive tracker is used for recording travel data that can only be analyzed upon retrieving the device.

Who Can Use Passive GPS Tracking Devices?

Basically, anyone who doesn’t feel that it’s a hassle to retrieve them every time they want to overview the database.

For example, concerned parents can use it to monitor their children’s driving patterns, but for professionals, such as managers and company owners who want to monitor their employees’ vehicles, it’s pretty much essential.

Fitness enthusiasts and mountaineers can also benefit the most from passive GPS trackers. For example, outdoorsy types of people can freely use the passive tracker’s data log to calculate running distance and such.

Most passive trackers don’t have monthly fees, and this is why the passive GPS devices are more economical than active trackers.

Real-Time GPS Tracking Devices

These active GPS trackers are able to process and transmit data in real-time, meaning the monitors are given a bird’s-eye view of the tracker and are notified of the tracker’s position with just a couple of seconds of delay. 

Although more costly than passive trackers, the active GPS trackers’ software application offers maximum convenience and allows you to access real-time data at all times.

Additionally, real-time GPS trackers keep history tabs on movement which allows you to keep tabs on where your vehicles and assets have been in the past months, depending on the device.

Who Can Use Active GPS Trackers? 


Parents whose children have miscommunicated or misunderstood directions on where to drive, pet owners whose dogs have run away (our worst nightmare), those with elderly parents or grandparents whose safety they fear, drone enthusiasts whose drones malfunction, and the list goes on and on.

Basically, the ones who benefit most with an active GPS technology are caregivers who fear for their families’ and pets’ safety.

Real-Time GPS Trackers Are the Way to Go

While these trackers are pricey when compared to tracking devices that don’t operate in real-time, active GPS trackers are the best option for tracking family members and company assets. This is simply because they offer brilliant monitoring options and tracking information with pinpoint accuracy and instant location display with a timestamp, among other information.

There are several advantages associated with choosing a quality active real-time GPS tracker. The main reasons for its popularity are security and convenience.

Instead of waiting to download the data to a computer (as is the case with passive trackers), a real-time GPS tracker provides information at a moment’s notice.

To summarize, passive GPS trackers focus more on recording and storing tracking information, which can be downloaded from a computer at a later time, while active GPS trackers transmit the same tracking information, but in real-time.

GPS Tracker Recommendations

So, you’re interested in purchasing a tracker but you don’t exactly know where to start?

Choosing the right GPS tracker depends on the nature of your problem. Still, these GPS tracking devices work like a charm, and you’ll find them all highly handy and beneficial.

The Outlander

Outlander 4G Real-Time GPS Tracker w/ 1 Month of Free Service

Outlander 4G Real-Time GPS Tracker w/ 1 Month of Free Service

$ 119.99

• See where a car currently is & everywhere it’s been • View instantly from your iPhone, Android, & computer • Get notified by text or email about car activity • 10 second updates - watch it move in real… read more

Let’s start off with the Outlander Real-Time GPS Tracker. The Outlander is the best GPS tracker we’ve ever seen, without question. It’s motion-activated, has a great battery life, and it just works.

It’s simple to use and tells you everything you could possibly want to know about your vehicle’s location and speed. It takes less than 5 minutes to learn how to use it, and you probably won’t even need to read the manual.

It’s very straightforward - the tracker goes in the car. You have several different options for where to put it. Good places inside the car include the glove box, center console, back pockets, & under a passenger seat. We also offer a weatherproof magnetic case which you can use to attach the GPS underneath the vehicle on the frame and not worry about rain or mud. A trunk is also okay if you have a crossover, van or SUV.

Additionally, you’ll need to charge the GPS’s battery using the accessories provided. You can check the battery in the mapping system online when you’re monitoring the location of the vehicle.

The Recon

The Recon 4G LTE Real-Time GPS Tracker has the best coverage in the USA. The real-time updates are every 10 seconds, and its compact size with built-in magnets, long battery life, and waterproof walls ensure safety and durability. It’s also Google Maps powered.

A built-in, weatherproof magnet makes sure that it stays on the car, and it can be placed outside the vehicle just like the Outlander.

The Commuter

There’s one more device that really stands out from the rest, and that’s the Commuter Hardwired GPS Tracker. It’s perfect for fleet tracking and lets you see where a vehicle is at any time using your iPhone, Android, or PC.

It hooks up to your car or boat’s battery, meaning you don’t have to worry about recharging it. This also makes it great for managing a fleet of vehicles if your business is of that type.

It also has a battery backup. What this means is that, in the unlikely event that someone stealing the vehicle finds the tracker or cuts the wires, you still have a few hours of battery from the backup which can really be the difference between letting the thief slip past and catching them in the act.

The Commuter Hardwired GPS Tracker isn’t battery-operated, but rather a hardwired tracker that actually needs to be connected to your car power. This means it can be hidden practically anywhere in the car, although the most common places are the trunk and dashboard.

It’s very important to note that installing the device requires electrical knowledge. Consult with your mechanic or electrician for the installation process.

The Spyguy Data Plan for GPS Trackers

All that data your GPS tracker uses isn’t stored in thin air. It needs a carefully modeled data plan to work! The SpyGuy Data Plan has you covered.

Almost every GPS tracker retailer has data plan schedules. It’s the cornerstone of real-time GPS tracking devices. Real-time trackers like the Commuter need a data plan to stay connected and transmit the movement data in real-time.

Most companies require you to sign a 6-12 months contract, but not us. Feel free to contact us and give us a call for any inquiries and to get the latest pricing on our data plans. You are free to cancel it and activate it anytime you want. Our data plan is $29.99/month 


What Is the Best GPS Device?

There is no certain best GPS device. But, we would definitely recommend the LTE GPS Tracker and its fantastic coverage. The Outlander is also a fantastic real-time tracker as well, with text and email notification system for a complete monitoring experience.

It really depends on your use and requirements. These are very reliable GPS devices with features that are suitable for vehicle monitoring or for frequent travelers. Though, if you’re wondering which device is our top seller[s], we provided a detailed description further in this article.

Is There a GPS With Google Maps?

Using Google Maps with GPS Units is essential. Today, a great number of devices are either connected or use Google Maps for better navigation. All of our GPS Tracking devices use Google Maps.

Is Using a GPS Tracker Illegal?

It's generally legal to use a GPS tracking device on a vehicle but only on the condition that you own the asset or vehicle that’s being tracked. You also have the legal freedom to track the vehicle of your children (under the age of 18) drive.

However, using a GPS tracking device on someone else's property is generally illegal and it requires that you first research the current federal, state, and local laws on GPS tracking before proceeding.

How to Spot a Hidden GPS Tracker on Your Car?

Perform an exterior inspection: use a flashlight and mirror to check areas like the wheel wells and under the vehicle. Perform an interior inspection: Check the OBD-II port first. Sweep the vehicle with a bug detector. Those are the main points, but we also have a more detailed guide on this matter.

Can You Disable a Car Tracking Device?

The only way to disable a GPS tracking device is by turning it off yourself. Any other method like jamming the signal or other tampering is completely illegal and can get you convicted or fined.

For more information, please read this Federal Communications Commission guide.

Legal Issues

When it comes to GPS tracking, the do’s and don'ts might seem complex and confusing.

But, no worries. We did the research, and it all boils down to this - it’s legal to place GPS trackers on an asset and vehicle which you own. It’s illegal to track a vehicle or asset that’s owned by another person.

As a citizen, you have the right to know that GPS tracking is generally legal under these circumstances and conditions:

  • The person or company placed the GPS tracking device on their own asset or vehicle.
  • You use the GPS tracking device on the vehicle that your children (under the age of 18) own
  • You place the GPS device on the outside of the car
  • You use the GPS tracking device for legal repossession (default on a loan, etc.)
  • The vehicle or asset is visible/accessible in a public place (street, parking lot, etc.)
  • The information from the GPS device can be obtained by physically following the vehicle (this law requires evaluation and is unclear in some states)
  • The vehicle or asset is not on the private property of another person when the GPS was placed

However, depending on state laws, it's generally illegal to use a GPS tracking device when:

  • You are not the owner of the vehicle or asset
  • Placing the GPS tracking device requires damaging or breaking into the car
  • You need to hardwire the GPS tracking device into the vehicle
  • Trespassing to install the GPS tracking device (disregarding the owner’s reasonable expectation of privacy in locations such as the garage, private property, etc.)

Please be aware that this is a general outline for the state laws regarding GPS tracking on other people’s vehicles. Invading the privacy of another person to install a GPS tracking device on their vehicle or asset is trespassing, and is a criminal offense.

For more on the legal issues and laws regarding GPS Tracking devices, please refer to our guide here.

Our Top Seller

Our top seller is, without a doubt, the Outlander Real-Time GPS Tracker. It offers exact monitoring of your vehicle or asset, and the location can be viewed from your iPhone, Android, or PC. You can be notified via email or text on the activity with 10 seconds of delay. 

It’s very versatile and can be used by anyone for any logistical purpose.

The Outlander has a long, 18-hour battery life which depends on the vehicle movement. For example, if you’re using the tracker on a vehicle that drives 1 hour a day, the Outlander will last 18 days of monitoring that shows you the exact locations of your asset with perfect accuracy. Although more costly than your regular passive GPS tracker, the Outlander is a state-of-the-art tracker that is accessible and easy to use.

Why Choose SpyGuy?

We assume that you’ve never used a GPS tracking device before, which is why we’re here to answer all your questions - so that your first-time experience buying a tracker is as hassle-free as possible.

For that purpose we: a) go all the way to help our customers with their problems and make the equipment more accessible since many don’t know what they want or need, and b) you can order the tracker you want completely in private.

All our spy equipment comes with a 1-year warranty, free ground shipping, & free lifetime tech support - just get in touch with us if you have any questions.

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