Four Misconceptions about GPS Tracking

February 26, 2018

So you've decided to buy a GPS tracker for your vehicle, but a friend has questioned your decision because of their suspicions about the technology. Perhaps you've heard some of the statements below. OK, let's clear some common misconceptions about GPS tracking.

(Photo by Joi, via WikiMedia Commons. Alterations by MG)

 

1. “If you install a GPS tracker, your vehicle can be tracked by everyone”

 

Thankfully, we don’t live in George Orwell’s dystopian future as featured in 1984 where every citizen is tracked by the government.

The reality is quite the opposite, as laws are in place which prevent GPS trackers being monitored by law enforcement, government agencies or any third party. Only if a vehicle is reported as being stolen by its owner, and permission to track is granted, can law enforcement use your GPS tracker to retrieve your vehicle.

Some cases exist, however, where tracking data could be accessed more directly. Let’s say you opted in to a police-run program, such as Victoria Police’s current Stolen Vehicle Rapid Response Initiative (SVRRI). In return for a free tracking device, participants in these types of programs allow police pre-approved access to quickly track your vehicle - however law enforcement access is still contingent upon you first reporting your vehicle as being stolen.

Or in the instance where your vehicle is suspected of being involved in criminal activity, a GPS tracking company could potentially be served with a legal warrant requesting the release of tracking data. 

Other than the above examples (and tracking company admin staff) owners of tracking devices are the only ones able to view their tracking information. Ultimately, there’s comfort in knowing that GPS tracking is password-protected and only occurs on a device-to-device basis – the GPS tracker and your designated viewing device (smartphone, tablet or personal computer). It’s generally as secure as all other online activities.

 

2. “GPS trackers are too expensive”

 

Perhaps a decade ago when the technology was not as widespread. Nowadays, GPS trackers and connectivity costs are fairly inexpensive (often sold as low-cost bundled monthly plans) and available locally.

As GPS trackers become more widely understood, the peace of mind knowing they can get your prized vehicle back far outweighs the small monthly expense, and businesses are discovering that fleet tracking not only improves efficiency but is 100% claimable as an operational tax expense.

In addition, because GPS trackers are an anti-theft device, insurance companies will often offer a lower monthly premium - check your insurance provider for details.

 

3. “I know someone who tried a GPS tracker, and they do not work”

 

They have most likely purchased a cheap GPS tracker from an overseas company, which may have caused a poor first-time experience. Too often this can be a recipe for disaster.

International devices are often not compatible with local cellular networks, many will not include a SIM at all, the corresponding app may be confusing and in a foreign language, or the device hardware itself has just been cheaply made.

If it seems too good to be true, it usually is. So when purchasing a GPS tracker, choose a product from a local company and do some research: read reviews and testimonials by existing customers, check for hidden costs, and make sure you buy the right tracker for your needs.

 

The alternative scenario may be that they installed the tracker incorrectly which may have caused it to malfunction. It’s always recommended to have a certified technician, familiar with your vehicle and your chosen brand of tracking device, for a professionally and safely installed GPS tracker. 

4. “All GPS trackers are the same, so it doesn’t matter which one you buy”

 

While the basic concept of the technology may be the same for most GPS trackers (GPS module, antenna, cellular SIM, web mapping service, app, etc), the difference in quality is always stark. As with any product you should do some research. Compare the different brands, read customer reviews and check the specs and prices of each model.

A lot of GPS trackers boast a range of unnecessary bells, whistles, buttons and wires that promise to immobilise engines, cut your fuel or open your doors. Many vehicle brands do not permit tracking devices that can interrogate your on-board computer, and installing a device like this may void your warranty or insurance. Not to mention the severe hacking and safety implications if the ability to remotely disable an engine fell into the wrong hands. 

Have a think about what features are important to you.

  • Is it simple to install?

  • Can I track on my phone and receive alerts if it moves?

  • Is it accurate? Can it track in real time and log my basic travel data?

  • Is it independently tested?

  • Will my insurer and brand of vehicle support it?

A bit more clarity now? If you were having second thoughts about GPS tracking devices, we hope this has helped cleared the air. GPS trackers are not a malignant tool used to spy on people. They're an affordable and easy peace-of-mind solution to help you protect and track your vehicle. Should the worst happen, you can rest easy knowing it can be easily recovered. 

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