So you’ve decided to install a GPS car tracker. Well, you’ll be relieved to know that you’ve undoubtedly made the right decision. With car crime rates on the increase (and some areas seeing two or three times the national average), if the worst comes to the worst, a tracking device will significantly improve the chances that your car is recovered. But, how on earth can you decide which features are worth having, and which are gimmicks that just push your installation and purchase costs up without offering any real benefit?

GPS car tracker

Let’s have a look at the features you really need.

1. The Brand

We’re not talking about fashion here – we’re talking about going for a company that is well-established and trustworthy. For example, a Vodafone car tracker offers you the peace of mind of a company that made its first mobile phone call in 1985 and offers unrivalled European tracking coverage in 49 countries due to its extensive communications network. With a well-known, reputable tracker manufacturer, quality is usually assured.

2. The Tracking Tech

For the best coverage, most systems use GSM and GPS technology. GPS (Global Positioning System) tells the car where it is (down to 10m accuracy if conditions are right) whilst GSM (Global System for Mobile) allows the car to broadcast the data back to the monitoring centre, where an app on your phone or a web portal on your desktop can access the data – or where monitoring staff can deal with alerts and liaise with local police if needed.

More advanced systems include anti-jamming technology and use of VHF frequencies to ensure the car cannot be “hidden” in an underground car park or somewhere similar (think about places where you might lose phone signal).

3. The Monitoring Service

If you are looking for an anti-theft tracking system, then you need to pay attention to the monitoring services provided. Most systems offer 24/7 centralised monitoring for a period of time which can be anything from a few months to the point that you sell the car – after that you’ll need to pay a subscription to continue the service so consider the ongoing costs too.

Whilst the tracker should work anywhere in the world that has mobile phone coverage, you might find your monitoring service can only liaise with the British police. If you travel abroad a lot, you’ll probably want to ensure that your monitoring covers the countries you visit most often.

Look out also for systems that offer you the opportunity to do your own monitoring. Using an app on your phone (check compatibility but they usually cover Android and Apple) you can see where the car is at any time and be alerted if any suspicious activity occurs; which can be useful if you’ve forgotten where you parked or you’ve decided or want to keep a watchful eye on an inexperienced teen driver.

4. Sensors and Alerts

Most systems can detect if anything untoward is happening to the car. An alert is then issued and, if the alert is a genuine cause for alarm, the police can be notified. Motion sensors tell the car if it is moving when the ignition is switched off, thus warning you if it is being towed away. However, these advanced features are typically only available with Thatcham-approved Cat 5 or Cat 6 trackers.

ADR (Automatic Driver Recognition) uses a two-piece system to detect if a driver is authorised to move the car. If the ADR card is not present, then an alert is issued. By keeping the card and keys apart, you can lose your keys (or have them stolen) and know if someone has used them to steal the car.

Important!

Battery disconnect sensors tell the car if someone has tried to remove the main battery. Check how long the inbuilt tracker battery will last, as once that’s dead, it can’t relay the tracking information; ultimately leaving you much more susceptible to theft.

So you’ve decided to install a GPS car tracker. Well, you’ll be relieved to know that you’ve undoubtedly made the right decision. With car crime rates on the increase (and some areas seeing two or three times the national average), if the worst comes to the worst, a tracking device will significantly improve the chances that your car is recovered. But, how on earth can you decide which features are worth having, and which are gimmicks that just push your installation and purchase costs up without offering any real benefit?