A GPS tracker is an electronic device that utilizes the Global Positioning System, which are often used to track and record precise locations. Portable GPS trackers are commonly used to keep track of children, various vehicles (e.g. cars, trucks, motorcycles, boats), and other valuable possessions. They are often used in tandem with dedicated mobile apps or computer software that display in real-time (updated in intervals, some are updated more frequently than others), a precise location of the GPS tracker (along with the object or person it is with) with a map as a backdrop. GPS units found in cars (those that offer turn-by-turn directions while driving) is the prototypical response one might give if asked about GPS. GPS devices come in all shapes and sizes, and are used for different things. The GPS trackers reviewed in this guide are those that can be worn, are durable enough for hiking or other outdoor activities, or can be easily positioned in a pocket or small space of a car.
The recorded location of the tracking unit may be stored within the unit’s own hardware and can be accessed later, though some of the best GPS trackers are equipped with a cellular GPRS, cellular SMS, radio, or a satellite modem and can transmit location data wirelessly to a central hub, which can then be accessed via an internet-connected device. GPS data tracking software is often included with the purchase of any top-rated GPS tracking unit. Most of the trackers in this guide are composed of a built-in GPS receiver, along with a cellular radio transmitter (a SIM card is often needed and cellular service often requires a monthly subscription – something to keep in mind). Some GPS trackers can be found with the cost of service included in initial price, though most now require a service plan from AT&T or T-Mobile for example (costing anywhere from $10-$50 per month).
Pretty much any modern smart phone (iOS and Android devices) you an find are equipped with GPS receivers, and can therefore be tracked with free or purchased apps. While this is convenient if you ever need to track your phone if lost or stolen, it can’t really be used to track an item or vehicle as you’re probably going to keep your phone by your side. Despite the fact that there will likely be a monthly subscription for any GPS tracker, it is still usually cheaper than going out and buying your child a brand new phone. Not only is the phone more expensive, but the data plans are more expensive than even the priciest GPS tracker data plans out there. So, if you’re here trying to figure out how to keep tabs on a child that isn’t yet old enough for their own phone, GPS trackers are a reliable, and affordable alternative. Additionally, battery life is typically much better than a phone’s and so GPS tracking is much more dependable.
Best GPS Tracker Complete Guide
Amber Alert GPS Locator (AT&T)
Trackimo TRK-100-3G Universal Personal GPS Tracker
PocketFinder GPS Child Tracker, Compatible with iOS & Android for Locating and Monitoring Children
Trax T140004 Personal GPS Tracker
FiLIP 2 Smart Locator with Voice for Kids
Spot Satellite SPOT Gen3 Satellite GPS Messenger
Caref GPS Phone Watch
Our Top Choices: What We Considered
All of the top-rated GPS trackers found in this guide automatically track the movement and precise location of the device and then send out that information, which can then be accessed through your phone. One of the first things did was compare just how easy it is to set up and use the device. Each tracker was used in various locations, in different scenarios, and for those that were able we set zones (geofences; some GPS trackers allow you to set pre-defined boundaries that when breached will trigger an alert), and checked GPS history for accuracy. The setup process including activation and whether or not there was a learning curve, tracking accuracy and frequency of updated intervals, and how easy it was to set zones were all considered.
The quality of the materials that were used to build the device is another important factor that we considered in our GPS tracker comparison. The ability to withstand every day wear-and-tear and other unexpected damage that may result from hard-impact falls or rough-and-tumble play is heavily reliant on the durability and overall design of the device. Portability is also something to consider, depending on what you will be using your GPS device for. The overall design characteristics, including the quality of buttons, the quality of the charging port and the charger itself, and whether or not there was a port cover were other features that were considered.
Battery life is one of the most important things to consider, especially since GPS tracking requires the device to be powered on. Many of the trackers in our reviews have motion-activated tracking intervals, while others can be set to update automatically every few minutes. What we found was that motion-activated trackers tended to last much longer than those with set update intervals (not surprising because more updates mean more battery consumption – and this doesn’t interfere with performance because there is no need to update GPS coordinates if the device is in the same location). While all of the devices on this list were able to last for at least 24 hours between charges, battery life overall varied tremendously with some lasting for multiple days while others barely reaching 30 hours before a charge was needed.
Some GPS trackers include access to the voice-to-voice calling feature, which allows the individual holding the device to call a pre-specified phone number by pressing a button located somewhere on the device. This can be useful, especially if the tracker is to be used for children, as they will be able to make “calls” to you if needed (some of the functionality of a cell phone but for less money) and this should ease your mind.
An alternative to the above is a panic button on the tracker. This can be pressed, which will then send an alert through text message or email to pre-specified contact information. If cell phone access or voice-to-voice functionality is not available, a panic button is the next best thing for children.
Some GPS trackers can be set to alert if the device exceeds a pre-set speed. This functionality is especially useful if you plan to equip your teenage driver’s car with a GPS tracker. If your child does not own a car, this can be used to determine whether they were the passengers of someone else’s vehicle. Keeping kids accountable for their driving habits is important to not only keep them safe but to teach them to be better, and responsible drivers.
A GPS tracker is only as good as how far from home it can be used. Some GPS trackers can be used internationally (some come with free international use), and these should be considered if family traveling is frequent, or the item you choose to track will be going across borders. Consider what and where you will be tracking, because international GPS tracking is a powerful feature for many.
Keeping Tabs on Your Kids
If your future GPS tracking device will be mainly used to keep track of your kids, be sure to consider one of the best kid-friendly trackers, as they tend to be better overall for this specific use. GPS trackers geared toward children are not only usually more durable and smaller in size (greater portability), but they may come equipped with some additional features like SOS panic buttons, voice-to-voice calling, geofencing capabilities, or speed-limit alerts that might otherwise not be included or needed for a general-use GPS tracker.
Best GPS Trackers Reviews
1. Amber Alert Review
While the Amber Alert GPS tracker is heavily geared towards kid, it has a great battery life (lasted over 40 hours with updates every 5 minutes) and comes packed with some of the best features of any GPS tracker in our reviews (e.g. voice-to-voice two-way calling, panic button alerts, live-tracking, geofencing), making it the best GPS tracker for kids, vehicles, or for keeping tabs on pretty much any valuable possession. Real-time GPS tracking allows for the precise locating of the device on a map displayed on your tablet app, mobile phone app, or any device that can gain access to Amber Alert’s web portal. The device weights roughly 2 ounces total, and is equipped with two volume buttons and an SOS key. The micro-USB port is conveniently located in an easy accessible area for charging. The power and SIM card ports are protected with firm covers for protection. Colorful nameplates, sleeves with hooks for connecting to a child’s backpack or belt, and other accessories can be purchased to go along with it.
The Amber Alert GPS is set to update in 5-minute intervals, which we found to be a great combination of accuracy and battery life preservation. While there are some other products that allow manual adjustments of the interval, or are motion-based interval trackers, 5-minutes is relatively frequent and the fact that you can always manually ping the GPS tracker between updates for a location addresses any issues one may have with this.
Two-way calling allows you to contact your child or vice versa (granting them access to a single phone number of your choice). Simply call the device from the chosen number whenever you’d like to check up on them, making it a great choice for covert and known surveillance (the Amber Alert GPS won’t ring, so if you choose not to speak they will be unaware that you are listening). While we aren’t saying to spy on your child, this is useful in case you want to verify the device is still with your child, without interrupting whatever it is they may be doing. In addition to two-way calling is the SOS button, which immediately call you and sends text alerts (up to 10 devices total) with information regarding the precise location (street address).
Geofencing allows you to designate certain areas as zones, which when left will result in alert being sent to you. Simply specify the areas on the online map (for example your neighborhood, a school, or even the entire county), and the tracker will notify you whenever the tracker leaves or enters one of these zones. While zones cannot be made directly from the app, the web interface is easy to use and it takes only a few minutes. Predator alert is a feature unique to the Amber Alert GPS, which can be set to notify you whenever the tracker is within close proximity to a registered sex offender’s house.
For those with teens just beginning to drive on their own, speed-alerts can be set so you are alerted whenever a specified maximum speed threshold is crossed. Whenever the device goes faster than this speed you will be notified. This can be used to not only keep track of how your child is driving, but you will also know if they are the passenger of someone else’s vehicle without permission.
The free GPS tracking app is compatible on both Android and Apple iOS devices. The map can also be accessed via the Amber Alert web portal. While the graphics of the map and the pointer (representing the GPS tracker’s location) seem a little bit outdated aesthetically, we found it to be reliable and accurate during testing. Next to every 5-minute interval location update you are presented with the battery level of the tracker to help you plan for future tracking battery life, or to give you an idea as to where the device was before it ran out of battery.
The GPS technology utilized by the Amber Alert tracker requires a monthly service plan from the AT&T network (around $15 per month to use; at the time of writing a one-year contract is required for this pricing) – this is in addition to the cost of the GPS unit and an activate fee. This is reasonable considering the features you have access to that other trackers are not equipped with (e.g. two-way calling, SOS, predator alert). If you do not need access to the plethora of features that the Amber Alert GPS tracker provides, you could check out one of the other GPS-trackers that have free-use or no-contract pricing if you’re on a tight budget. Otherwise, the Amber Alert is the best GPS tracker you can buy that can be used to keep an eye on small children, novice teen drivers, or anything in between. The app and web interface are intuitive and should be easy to use for even the most technology-challenged individuals.
2. Trackimo TRK-100 Review
The Trackimo TRK-100 utilizes motion-activated tracking updates which helps extend battery life to around 50 hours of constant use in our tests (which is quite a bit longer than some other trackers we tested of similar caliber). The TRK-100 is an affordable alternative to other feature-packed GPS trackers on the market. The Global Positioning System data is transmitted through AT&T’s wireless cellular network, and location data can be accessed via the Android and Apple compatible app. Setup is simple and no direct contact with AT&T is required (Trackimo handles activation and the entire setup process for you). The device is free to use for a year, and thereafter it is $5 per month (one of the cheapest subscription fees of its competitors). Perhaps its most notable feature is the ability to use the device internationally at no additional cost to you.
The Trackimo can be manually adjusted to record location data in intervals ranging from one minute to every two hours, though you are not limited to this alone. If the TRK-100 notices movement has not occurred, it will not waste its battery sending out useless location data, and instead goes to sleep until it is again moved and in need of a location update. Not only does this make the Trackimo highly efficient with battery life with fluctuations of movement, but it is also capable of receiving manual pings in between updates for in case real-time location data is needed. Forty-eight days of GPS location data is stored for easy access in the app or on the computer through the secure website. Zone setting (geofence) can also be set so you are automatically notified when the device has entered or left the area.
The TRK-100 comes in black, roughly 1.7 ounces, and is one of the smallest GPS trackers in this guide (2.7 [width] x 1.7 [height] inches). A waterproof case, a lanyard for easy wearing around the neck, and a charging cable are included with purchase of the device. The Trackimo TRK-100 is equipped with a panic button, which sends an alert with pertinent information to designated phone numbers or email addresses when it is pressed and held down for four seconds.
3. PocketFinder Personal Review
You wont find tons of features on the PocketFinder Personal GPS tracker, but it is highly efficient, had excellent battery life, and is easy to track and use. Overall, this minimalistic device is reliable and accurate (you can favor one or the other depending on what you need), allowing adjustments to be made to further prolong the battery life or increase accuracy (set intervals to 2 minutes, 10 minutes, 4 x per day, 2 x per day, or 1 x per day). In addition, the sleep feature ensures battery won’t be wasted sending out useless updates if the device remains in the same location. You can also manually ping the device at any time to check its location in real-time between updates.
A basic version of geofencing can be used to create a circular zone around a specified area for notifications when the device has entered or left the area. Instant zone is a unique feature that can be utilized to create a zone around the location of the tracker itself. This can be used to ensure the bearer remains in their current location. Speed-limit alerts can also be set (useful if to be used as to track a car). A total of 60 days of data can be checked over in the history panel of the iPhone and Android compatible app, or password-protected web interface. The PocketFinder Personal GPS tracker’s speed, direction, precise street address, and estimated battery life are displayed in the app or through your web browser. The entire process from setting up zone and speed-limits, browsing the history, to utilizing the app and web portal, is relatively easy and intuitive to use.
The PocketFinder Personal is dustproof, waterproof, and shockproof – durable for just about any occasion. The silicone sleeve can be used to attach to their school bag, a belt loop, or anywhere else that may be convenient. There are no charging ports on this tracker, instead you simply place the device into the included charging cradle (no charging cable to mess with). In our tests (set to update every 10 minutes), the PocketFinder Personal lasted over 100 hours, which is greater (substantially in some cases) than many of the other trackers in our comparison. AT&T’s cellular data network is needed, and the monthly service charge of $12.95 (at the time of writing) is reasonable considering there is no activation fee or contract required.
The PocketFinder Personal is one of the easiest GPS trackers to set up and use, and despite the fact that it lacks many of the more advanced features that can be found in some of its competitors, the features it does have function very well – top that with some impressive battery life and you have yourself one of the best GPS trackers.
4. Trax Personal Review
Its small, portable frame, a highly-functional app, and its reasonable price put the Trax ahead of many of its competition. Weighing less than 1 ounces, the Trax is one of the lighted GPS tracking units we’ve encountered, making it easy to position in just about any vehicle, or hide in any item or bag. The companion app is basic by design, and looks eerily similar to an Apple Maps interface with a few additional Trax features placed on top (e.g. location data). Augmented reality is a feature unique to the Trax, which graphically indicates (if access is granted to your camera) the direction in which the track is located and how far away it is, in real-time. We found this works best when used in distances greater than 80 feet, and should be especially useful when utilized in scenarios with crowds (like at a kid’s amusement park with strollers and a vast number of people in all directions).
Geofencing zones can be done by simply drawing with your finger. Where the Trax seems to fall short is its battery life (with claims of 24 hours by the manufacturer) though constant use seemed to bring it down closer to 20 hours or less. The Trax is strictly for GPS locating, and so there are no built-in speakers or displays – or the features that go along with this hardware (e.g. two-way calling) that can be found on some of the higher-rated GPS tracking units. Despite this, Trax has all the basic functionalities you’d need on a tracker, and then some.
5. FiLIP 2 GPS Watch Review
The FiLIP 2 is geared toward kids, and is packed with many impressive features that can be fun to wear (it looks like a smart-watch). Weighing roughly 2 ounces, the FiLIP 2 can be worn by even the smallest kids, regardless of wrist size (the included band extenders can be used over time as their wrist continues to grow). The GPS location is usually very accurate. The FiLIP 2 is equipped with two buttons that are used for two-way calling (multiple numbers can be pre-programmed). When held for 4 seconds, the red emergency button will begin automatically calling contacts and will send notifications via SMS to your phone, until someone answers the call. Activation of the FiLIP 2 can be done through AT&T’s website, which takes only a few minutes and you’re ready to go. Through the app, you can set up SafeZones (geofencing) as well as a dedicated home zone – an street address is needed for any area you plan to zone for. This kid-friendly wearable GPS tracker can fit on just about any sized wrist, has two-way calling and geofencing capabilities, and all for a reasonable price.
6. Spot Gen3 Review
Geared towards outdoor enthusiasts, the waterproof Spot Gen3 combines portability, durability, and many must have-features including SOS and real-time tracking, into a reasonably priced GPS tracker. The Spot Gen3 really shines when you compare its durability and overall build-quality to the other trackers in this lineup. The rubber edge that is wrapped around the plastic exterior resembles what you might find if you were to make an OtterBox for a GPS tracker, and looks as if it can withstand just about any shock or hard impact that comes its way. The buttons are also composed of the same rubber material, and the device in its entirety feels tough and solid for just about any adventure. Google maps powers the smartphone app and web portal that can be used to track the device in real-time. Update intervals can be set to every 10, 30, or 60 minutes (if you upgrade you can set it to 2½ or 5 minutes as well).
There are two buttons (check-in button & custom button) that when pressed, send text and email notifications that included an “I’m OK” message or a prewritten message along with precise GPS coordinates, that can be then viewed on Google Maps. There are also two panic buttons. The help button sends an alert to pre-set contacts to notify that they need help (non-life-threatening circumstances). The SOS button sends an emergency distress signal to the GEOS International Emergency Response Center, which then notifies those emergency personnel closest in proximity to the Spot Gen3’s current location.
GPS satellites send data to commercial communication satellites, which then forward that information to a network, which then further disperses the emails or text messages when needed. In other words, usage of the Spot Gen3 is not restricted to areas that have cellular coverage. The batteries are not rechargeable, so be prepared to change them (4 x AA) out every couple weeks. Changing settings on the Spot Gen3 requires you to plug the device into the computer via USB.
Overall, the Spot Gen3 is a durable, reliable, and accurate GPS tracker that does not rely on cellular service to function. The tracker itself is bulky, and is not packed with many features you might need if its intended use is to keep track of children. If you reside or travel in remote areas, frequently go mountain climbing or on hikes (our choice for the best gps tracker for hiking) or venture out in forests and other uninhabited wilderness territories, the Spot Gen3 is one of the best GPS trackers for you.
7. Caref GPS Phone Watch Review
The Caref GPS Phone Watch used a combination of GPS and cellular data service (via cell-tower triangulation) to pinpoint exact locations. We found the setup process to be a little but confusing (namely the way the apps were named – MyCaref app is what you need, not the Caref app!) But once you get passed this part, the app itself is useful and grants you access to a number of features, including notification settings, location history, data usage, and to configure geofenced zones. Unfortunately, the 10-minute update interval is set and cannot be changed. The watch is water-resistant (not waterproof so don’t jump into a pool with it or anything like that). The Caref’s digital readout of information is relatively basic but easy to figure out, and the two-way voice calls (thought we should point out that sound quality in both directions is pretty great) and text features are easy to utilize within a few seconds. The SOS button is a nice feature to have on a kid-friendly tracker. Battery life is very good, and lasted around a day and a half during our tests, though frequent use of two-way calling or other features may bring this closer to 24 hours between charges needed.