Tracking a car with GPS technology has become incredibly affordable and accessible. Modern standalone trackers like Tile and AirTag provide compact, long-lasting options starting under $30. Plug-in OBD port trackers are also budget-friendly, drawing power from your car’s battery. Read on to learn the cheapest and easiest ways to keep tabs on your vehicle’s location.
Overview: Cheap GPS Tracking Options for Cars
There are several budget-friendly options for GPS tracking a car or truck:
- Battery-powered trackers – Small standalone devices like Tile or AirTag use replaceable batteries and allow completely wireless tracking. Prices start around $25.
- Plug-in trackers – OBD port trackers plug into your car and draw power from the battery. No charging needed. Cost is typically $25-50 for the device plus a monthly fee.
- Hardwired trackers – Permanently installed on the vehicle and wired to the battery. More expensive but very secure. Cost varies.
- Smartphone apps – Some newer vehicles have built-in connectivity that enables GPS tracking via an app. Features and fees vary across automakers.
For most consumers, compact battery-powered or plug-in trackers provide the best balance of affordability, convenience, and capability. We’ll take a closer look at the options in this guide.
Benefits of GPS Tracking Your Vehicle
Before reviewing budget tracking solutions, let’s discuss why you may want to GPS track a car in the first place:
- Find lost or stolen vehicles – If your car is taken, tracking can help authorities locate and recover it quickly.
- Check on teens – Keep tabs on where adolescent drivers are going. Set up geofence alerts.
- Monitor employees – Fleet managers can ensure company vehicles remain on approved routes.
- Track assets – Know the location of trailers, equipment, and other assets.
- Optimize routes – Analyze vehicle movements to find faster, more efficient routes.
- Lower insurance – Some companies offer discounted rates for vehicles with GPS trackers.
- Peace of mind – Simply knowing you can check your car’s location provides comfort.
GPS tracking brings security and insight. Now let’s review the most affordable tracking solutions available today.
Battery-Powered GPS Trackers
Tiny standalone battery-powered devices offer an ultra-convenient way to monitor your car’s location. Here are top options:
Tile Mate and Tile Pro
Cost: Mate $25, Pro $35
Battery: Non-replaceable, 1-3 year life
Limitations: Bluetooth range only unless Tile network in range
Tile’s Bluetooth trackers help find lost keys and wallets, but they also work for keeping tabs on your parked vehicle’s location. The compact, lightweight Tile simply adheres to your car’s interior with the included adhesive. Use the Tile smartphone app to view location whenever the vehicle is within Bluetooth range (200-400 ft).
If your car goes missing, other Tile users may automatically detect its location when nearby. However, location updates rely entirely on proximity to Tile’s crowd-sourced network.
For basic proximity tracking, Tile is an affordable option. But lack of replacements for the non-rechargeable battery limits long-term use.Shop Tile Pro on Amazon
Cost: 1 for $29, 4 for $99
Battery: Replaceable CR2032 (lasts over 1 year)
Limitations: Bluetooth proximity only unless near iPhone
Like Tile, Apple’s AirTag is designed for tracking small personal items. But it can also be adhered to a car’s interior to monitor proximity.
AirTags similarly work only within Bluetooth range unless detected by nearby iPhone users. However, the user-replaceable CR2032 battery lasts over a year, allowing long-term use.
AirTag provides precise directional tracking when in range through Apple’s augmented reality Precision Finding feature.
Downsides include the lack of real GPS tracking and dependence on Apple’s Find My network for location outside of Bluetooth range. Overall, AirTag is another solid budget choice for basic proximity monitoring.Shop Apple AirTag on Amazon
Cost: 1 for $29.99
Battery: Replaceable CR2032 (lasts over 1 year)
Limitations: Bluetooth-only tracking
Samsung’s entry into the tracker market offers capabilities nearly identical to Tile and AirTag. SmartTag sticks to your car with adhesive and connects via Bluetooth to Samsung Galaxy devices.
You can view current location in the SmartThings Find app when in Bluetooth range. If your car goes missing, nearby Galaxy users may automatically detect its location to aid finding it.
The compact SmartTag uses a replaceable CR2032 coin battery for over a year of use. No real GPS tracking is available, only proximity via Bluetooth.
As an affordable option for keeping basic tabs on your parked car, SmartTag is a solid contender among battery-powered trackers.Shop Galaxy SmartTag+ on Amazon
Cost: $150 per tracker
Battery: Lithium polymer rechargeable (2 week life)
Limitations: Battery charging required
The LandAirSea 54 stands out as a battery-powered tracker with advanced capabilities. It provides real-time GPS tracking instead of only Bluetooth proximity location.
The 54’s built-in battery lasts around 2 weeks depending on usage. Tracking works across the US and Canada via 4G LTE cellular service.
This portable tracker is weatherproof and magnetized so you can affix it to the exterior of your car for concealed monitoring. It also offers geofence alerts when your vehicle enters or leaves set locations.
At $150 the LandAirSea 54 costs considerably more than Tile and AirTag. But for full-featured GPS tracking on the go, it’s a leading budget-friendly option.Shop LandAirSea 54 on Amazon
Other Battery Model Options
Numerous other battery-powered GPS trackers are available that may meet specific needs:
- Optimus 3.0 ($30) – Compact and magnetic tracker with 2 week battery life.
- Trakdot ($130) – Checks on location every 2 minutes within North America.
- Spytec STI GL300 ($50) – Real time tracking across the US.
- Mototrbo Smart Tracker ($170) – Rugged exterior and interior mounting.
- ATian Mini Finder ($25) – Affordable model with 1 week battery.
With all battery-powered trackers, you’ll need to recharge periodically. But the convenience of quick, wireless installation makes them a flexible tracking choice.
For tracking children, consider a device like AngelSense which is designed specifically for monitoring kids with special needs. And for pets, Fi and Whistle make reliable GPS collars to keep tabs on dogs.
Plug-In OBD Port Trackers
Instead of relying on batteries, OBD port trackers plug into your car’s onboard diagnostics connector. This provides reliable tracking that draws power from your car’s battery.
Cost: $70-100 for device, $10-15 monthly fee
Limitations: None beyond potential port compatibility issues
Vyncs provides real-time GPS tracking via 4G LTE cellular networks across the US and Canada. The compact device plugs into the OBD-II diagnostic port under the dash of most vehicles.
With continuous power supplied by your car battery, you get uninterrupted location monitoring without having to recharge a battery. Vyncs offers a smartphone app for viewing locations and geofence alerts.
Advanced features include driver scoring for teens and vehicle health monitoring. Monthly fees are competitive starting around $10 depending on features.
For set-and-forget GPS tracking powered by your car’s battery, Vyncs is a top choice. Installation is quick and easy for this plug-and-play system.Shop Vyncs on Amazon
Cost: $80 for device, $10 monthly fee
Limitations: None beyond potential OBD-II port compatibility issues
The Bouncie GPS tracker offers robust tracking powered right from your car’s OBD-II diagnostic port. It delivers regular location updates and geofence alerts via 4G LTE networks.
The Bouncie smartphone app provides current tracking info along with vehicle health insights like battery voltage and error codes. For travelers, it can track business vs. personal mileage for taxes.
At around $10 per month, Bouncie offers reliable live tracking with no batteries to worry about. Just plug in and track away.Shop Bouncie on Amazon
Other Plug-In Options
- Optimus 2.0 ($20) – Affordable model with driving analytics.
- Autobrain OBD ($70) – Checks engine faults and driving metrics.
- Trak4 OBD-II Tracker ($80) – Geofences and speed alerts.
- Amcrest AM-GL300 ($70) – Works on cars, trucks, fleets.
The plug-and-play functionality of OBD port trackers makes installation a breeze. Just be sure to research compatibility with your vehicle’s specific diagnostic port.
Hardwired GPS Trackers
For the most covert and secure tracking, hardwired GPS devices permanently install in your vehicle’s wiring.
GoldStar GPS Tracker
Cost: $200 for device, $25 monthly fee
Limitations: Professional installation required
GoldStar’s GPS tracker hardwires directly into your car’s electrical system, concealing covertly within the interior panels. Since it connects to the battery, constant power eliminates charging needs.
The benefit over plug-in models is the hidden, tamper-proof installation. Teens or employees won’t be removing this device!
Hardwiring does require professional installation. Monthly service fees start around $25 for real-time tracking via 4G LTE networks across North America.
If you want seamless, undetectable tracking, GoldStar presents a top option for cars and fleets.
Cost: $200 for device, $25 monthly fee
Limitations: Professional installation required
Similar to the GoldStar, LandAirSea’s SilverCloud covertly installs behind-the-scenes by directly connecting to your car’s battery and wiring.
It provides live location monitoring across the US and Canada with no batteries to change. The device housing is small enough to easily conceal within interior panels.
Expect around $200 for the hardware plus $25 monthly for real-time 4G LTE tracking features. While installation is specialized, the result is robust tracking only you are aware of.
Other Hardwire Options
- Optimus 1.0 ($150) – Compact and easily concealed device.
- Spy Tec STI-GL300 ($50) – Real time tracking across North America.
- Trimble RTX ($300) – Rugged housing and weatherproofing.
While pricier, hardwired GPS trackers offer reliable tracking while being impossible for unauthorized users to disable.
Smartphone Apps for GPS Tracking
Some newer vehicles now come equipped with connectivity that enables GPS tracking via a smartphone app. Examples include:
- FordPass – Compatible with newer Ford vehicles to view location, lock/unlock doors, start engine.
- Uconnect – Works with newer Fiat Chrysler vehicles. Locate on a map, lock/unlock, flash lights and more.
- HondaLink – Find address and parking spot for newer Honda vehicles. Send destinations to navigation.
- OnStar – Locate Chevrolet, Buick, GMC and Cadillac vehicles from 2015 and newer models.
These systems can be convenient for basic location monitoring if already equipped on your vehicle. However, most automakers charge subscription fees ranging from $15-30 per month to use the app features.
Third party services like Hum ($15/month) also provide smartphone tracking of certain makes and models. But standalone trackers offer more flexibility and affordability in most cases.
Some pet trackers like Wagz also offer accompanying apps to monitor your dog directly via the collar. For travel, Apple AirTags are a popular way to track luggage, but be sure to check airline policies as some restrict devices with batteries.
Key Factors When Choosing a GPS Tracker
With so many options, keep these key factors in mind when choosing a GPS tracking system:
- Upfront cost – Battery models like Tile are only $25-30, while OBD port trackers start around $70 and hardwired options are $200+.
- Ongoing fees – Most battery trackers have no monthly fee, just battery replacement. Cellular trackers incur monthly network fees typically $10-25.
- Power source – Battery, plug-in, and hardwired each have trade-offs. Make sure to consider convenience vs. reliability.
- Accuracy – Bluetooth provides only proximity tracking unless another device is in range. Cellular and hardwired GPS options give live locations.
- Installation – Battery trackers stick on, OBD plugs in, while hardwired requires professional help.
- Detection – Hardwired is most covert, while battery and plug-in are easier to find if an unauthorized user checks.
Other Ways to Protect Your Vehicle from Theft
While GPS tracking is useful for monitoring your car and aiding recovery if stolen, other security precautions also help deter theft:
- Steering wheel lock – A visible deterrent to prevent steering.
- Gear shift lock – Locks gear shift to prevent moving vehicle.
- Wheel clamp – Immobilizes vehicle by clamping wheel.
- Alarm system – Third party alarms can add noise and other deterrents.
- Catalytic converter protection – Guards prevent theft of this expensive part.
- Vehicle tracking window decals – Can deter some thieves just by reputation.
- Anti-theft nuts – Special lug nuts require a unique key/socket to remove.
- Interior cargo barriers – Prevent access from rear seats into trunk and cargo areas.
A multi-layered approach combining GPS tracking, deterrent devices, and common sense (like not leaving valuables in plain view) is best for protecting your vehicle investment.
GPS Tracker Key Features and Capabilities
Beyond just location monitoring, many GPS trackers offer additional useful features:
- Geofencing – Get alerts when car enters or leaves set geographic areas.
- Speed alerts – Notifications if vehicle exceeds set speed limit parameters.
- Tow alerts – Detects if car is being towed or transported.
- Impact detection – Triggers alarm if physical impact or accident occurs.
- Teen driver monitoring – Tracks acceleration, braking, cornering and other analytics.
- Vehicle diagnostics – Check battery, emissions, and related telematics.
- Parking location – Helps find where vehicle is parked and last parked position.
- Route tracking – Logs trips for analysis of efficiency and mileage reporting.
- Fuel levels – See current gas tank fuel status.
- SOS/Emergency button – Send alert to predetermined contacts if emergency.
- Driver ID – Recognizes registered drivers vs. unknown users via Bluetooth or geofencing.
The more features needed, the higher the monthly fee. But the core GPS location tracking tends to be fairly affordable across most providers.
Answers to Frequently Asked Questions
Are there any free GPS vehicle trackers?
Most GPS trackers incur some sort of ongoing cost, whether it’s a replaceable battery or required cellular network fees. However, some automakers include basic tracking services for newer vehicles at no charge or lower monthly rates. For example, Hyundai’s Blue Link starts at $99 per year for remote features like vehicle location monitoring and roadside assistance.
Can I hide a GPS tracker on someone else’s car legally?
In most states, it is illegal to hide a GPS tracking device on a vehicle without the owner’s consent. There may be grey areas if you share ownership of the car with a spouse or register it in a company name. But in general, unauthorized tracking of another’s property is not legal or recommended.
How long do GPS tracker batteries last?
Battery life varies tremendously based on the model and how frequently it transmits location updates. The most affordable trackers like Tile or AirTag have integrated non-replaceable batteries that last 1-5 years. Other battery models last anywhere from several days to several weeks on a charge depending on usage. Choosing update intervals wisely preserves battery life.
Can GPS trackers be detected?
Small battery powered trackers or OBD plug-ins can easily be found through visual inspection if someone knows to look for them. Hardwired professional installations are extremely difficult to detect through casual means. radio frequency detector can pick up any transmitting tracker signals. The best bet is keeping your tracking discrete if monitoring someone else’s driving or movements without their knowledge.
Do vehicle GPS trackers work outside the US?
Many GPS trackers rely on cellular networks for live location monitoring and only work within the United States and sometimes Canada and Mexico. Hardwired passive GPS receivers can work globally, but would need to pair with a cellular-enabled device to convey locations. For broader worldwide tracking, look for trackers advertising global compatibility. But performance and features may be limited abroad.
Can an AirTag be used to track a car?
Yes, by adhering it to the interior you can monitor the vehicle’s location through Apple’s Find My network when in Bluetooth range of iPhone users. However, for true live GPS tracking a dedicated automotive tracker is recommended. AirTag for car relies on proximity to Apple devices for real-time updates.
Installing a GPS tracker in your vehicle has never been simpler or more affordable. Compact Bluetooth trackers like Tile and AirTag provide basic location monitoring starting under $30. For more advanced live tracking across networks, OBD plug-ins like Vyncs and Bouncie offer convenience and connectivity.
Look for a tracker that fits both your budget and features needs. Keep in mind potential upfront hardware costs, monthly network fees, battery life, accuracy, and ease of use. And be sure to use any tracker only for legitimate purposes and with the consent of any vehicle owners.
With the right GPS tracking device installed, you can keep close tabs on your car’s location and security. Safe travels!