If you just start to google for the cheapest GPS tracker, you’ll likely find a plenty of “no name” GPS tracking devices. Sometimes they even look good in the ad, but actually often don’t provide accurate positioning, let alone extra features. Low sensitivity of fusty GPS modules and buggy are the main reasons that drive users to discouraging experience and disappointing about the GPS tracking technology itself. Even if price is a matter, we’d recommend to keep out of such devices.
Budget GPS trackers
Hopefully cheap device does not always mean bad quality. Quite the contrary, if you buy a low-cost device from a well known brand, you likely to get a reliable device, though with the limited functionality. These devices are expressly designed for mass applications, where users rarely ask for special requirements: information about real-time location and trips history are everything they want. DIY-installation adds one more benefit for decision of buying a budget GPS tracker. Common applications are tracking of private vehicles and small fleets.
How do budget GPS trackers differ from each other?
Now, if you understood your needs and avoided frustration by wisely choosing a manufacturer, there are still certain aspects you should take into consideration. To slash the prices without affecting the quality manufacturers of GPS trackers have to remove some of the features that are peculiar to more expensive devices. Let’s point them out.
- Backup battery. It is used to work while the ignition is switched off. A tracker keeps working and locates its position for a vehicle owner.
- Accelerometer. A G-sensor is often used for detecting the movement state. When the vehicle stops for parking the GPS tracker don’t update its location to the tracking server too frequently, thus avoiding redundant GPRS traffic consumption and unwanted dispersion of the coordinates on stop. If there is no built-in accelerometer, most likely it is substituted with a special wire which user has to connect to ACC: this is bit different (worse) and also means more wires to connect during the installation.
- External antennas. A low-sensitive GPS receiver often needs an external device to catch satellite signal. External antenna may increase a signal level.
- Tracking modes. This is not exactly about the hardware side, but about the firmware – also relates to the device. Try to figure out how flexible the settings for desired tracking modes are. It’s better to have wider options in tracking: by time interval, by distance and by direction change. It will help to get clear tracks, which are very close to actual vehicle movements.
- Cell ID (LBS) location. It is a backup method of navigation when there is no GPS signal or this signal is very low. For example, it can be when a vehicle is on an underground parking or long tunnel.
- Non-volatile memory. Is used for data logging when a device loses a GPS signal or move outside the GSM coverage area. After the reestablishing connection, collected data will be transmitted to a server. Some devices don’t have built-in memory, but allow to install a SD card (means extra spendings).
There are some examples of popular budget-class AVL trackers:
The best and most expensive AVL terminals are usually used for vehicles that has special purpose. Сutting edge GPS trackers must provide maximum of the functionality and reliability.
The most demanded purposes of these devices are using it in major fleet or specialty vehicles where control of digital on-board data (fuel temperature and etc) and computerized trouble control system are necessary. It is also needed when vehicles are exploited in special conditions or security and safety application field.
The features of high-end devices are:
- OBDII and CAN data reading allows to keep your fleet green and healthy without spending money on additional sensors. It’s based on reading rich data from vehicle self-diagnostic system, for example, short and long term fuel trim, intake manifold pressure, air flow rate, calculated load value also with check engine (MIL) and DTC error codes.
- Digital interfaces. Digital interfaces (most common are RS232, RS485 and 1-Wire) with noise-immunity signals provide the most accurate data reading for fuel, temperature, humidity, etc. Also such interfaces allow to connect, for example, cameras or Garmin navigation devices.
- Highest durability. GPS device has to work in hard conditions, for example, when it works in severe conditions, like humidity climate, significant temperature drops or in dusty areas. It requires a highly waterproof and dustproof class together with solid housing.
- Dual SIMs. They are necessary for using in areas with poor cellular coverage or in roaming. When one operator failed to provide a good quality signal, another one can do it.
- Sabotage preventing. Most high-end GPS trackers should have seals on sockets, monitoring battery and SIM card slot opening, antenna cut.
There are some examples of high-end AVL trackers:
Most expensive GPS trackers
Fleet managers who look for features that help to reduce expenses should pay more attention to mid-class AVL devices. Such devices offer better and reliable GPS tracking, interfaces to monitor vehicle sensors and control external equipment, advanced safety options.
- Accurate tracking. A-GPS, multiple GNSS (+GLONASS), higher sensitivity, ability to connect external devices. Advanced settings for configuration of tracking and sleeping modes depending on given parameters peculiar to the applications or vehicle type.
- Inputs. A mid-level device is supposed to have multiple discrete and analog inputs. Discrete inputs allow to monitor on/off state of the vehicle’s systems, such as ACC/Ignition status or door opening sensors, as well as to connect buttons (i.e. SOS, machinery control). With analog ones you can connect variable sensors reflecting essential values, for example, fuel level or temperature in a cargo hold.
- Outputs. These mid-class devices also can be connected with some simple external devices like a remotely blocker of the engine or starter for an engine pre-heater.
- Safety features. Backup battery and external power monitoring, driver identification by e-key, tow and shake alert, or, for example, automatic siren activation when some safety related events occurred.
- Audio communication. These devices may be equipped with one- or bi-directional sound communication system. It can be used for calling to (or from) a driver or for passive sound monitoring for security purposes.
- Driving behavior. A special harsh-driving system allows to promote greener driving, vehicle maintenance and other positive factors. It is based on built-in accelerometer that detects speeding, hard braking and changing of driving direction.
Examples of such GPS trackers are: