Children, cars, animals and bicycles in view
GPS trackers can be of great help in various situations: They can locate vulnerable people, find lost pets, and protect cars and valuables against theft. To meet these requirements, GPS trackers come in different sizes and shapes, with specific functions. We have selected our top recommendations from the offer and present them to you below. You will then find out everything you need to know about GPS trackers.
Vehicles can be monitored most effectively with the autoscope, as an alternative the Blaupunkt BPT1500 Basic is suitable. We see the best solution for everyday use in the PAJ GPS Allround Finder. The waterproof Tractive GPS Classic is especially suitable for tracking pets, but also for other purposes - it is also our price-performance recommendation. If you are looking for a simple solution to find smaller everyday objects more easily, there is also a key finder with a Bluetooth connection. Here, too, we will give you a recommendation.
Autoskope V2 starter set: Our recommendations for GPS trackers
The GPS tracker from Autoskope impresses with excellent GPS positioning and cell phone transmission. This makes it ideal for protecting against theft in vehicles, where it is important that the device can report its position even under adverse circumstances. In the expert test (auto lifestyle, auto image) the autoscope copes with sources of interference and customers on Amazon confirm the excellent GPS location. The installed SIM card is activated for the Deutsche Telekom network, but can also be used abroad, so that the best network coverage is given. Data transfer costs are only incurred from the second year onwards, and operation is then around 4 euros per month.
The autoscope is connected to the on-board electronics, thanks to a long cable connection, the GPS and GSM antenna can be placed at a suitable location. The GSP-Tracker also has an internal battery in case the battery is disconnected. The battery only has 1,000 mAh and can therefore only be seen as an emergency power supply in the event of theft. If the battery voltage is too low or disconnected, the device sends you an alarm. In addition, sensors detect vibrations or speed violations and also report a loss of the GPS signal. The app and online portal for live tracking and settings have been rated as very user-friendly.
The high reliability of the GPS tracker has its price: around 290 euros (Amazon) for the starter set. This makes the autoscope one of the most expensive devices on the market. Since the power supply comes only from the car battery, it is only suitable for use in vehicles. In the Amazon user reports, the sensitivity of the sensors was criticized, which can lead to false alarms.
- Excellent GPS location
- Good cell phone coverage
- User-friendly operation
- High selling price
- Low capacity battery
- Partly sensitive sensors
All-round GPS: Weenect Kids
The manufacturer Weenect offers GPS trackers for various areas of application, but the Weenect Kids model is particularly well-known and popular. Parents who want to know where their children are on the way to school or in crowds will find the device a reliable helper with practical additional functions. Not only can the route be followed live via GPS positioning. The Weenect Kids also has an alarm button that not only sends a push message to the parents' smartphone, there is even a built-in phone function that the child can use to call in an emergency. This purposely does not work in the other direction, so that the GPS tracker is not considered a cell phone.
The deliberately playful design of the GPS tracker is intended to appeal to children. The palm-sized device is not waterproof itself, but comes with a waterproof protective cover that can be attached to the backpack. The associated app offers practical functions such as setting up a geo-fence, but also intensive localization in which the location is updated every 10 seconds. Normally, the GPS tracker sends the coordinates every minute. A subscription with running costs is required for use; these range from 3.75 to 7.90 euros per month, depending on the selected term. The built-in SIM card automatically selects the best cellular network, even abroad.
Many customers on Amazon also share the good impression of the GPS positioning and reliability that we had of the device in our own test. If the reception is good, the location is determined with a deviation of around 5 meters. However, some users criticized the sometimes somewhat delayed notification when the child leaves the geo-fence area, for example. The runtime of the 1,700 mAh battery did not convince everyone either, as the manufacturer's stated runtime of up to 5 days is rarely achieved. In our test, the charging time of the Weenect Kids was less than an hour, and the GPS tracker is quickly ready for use again. There is no dedicated German-speaking customer service, inquiries are answered in English or, alternatively, French. Some parents also want other colors than blue in order to appeal to young users more.
- Reliable GPS location
- SOS button with call function
- Child-friendly presentation
- Battery life could be better
- Partly delayed alarm message
- No German customer service
Alternative for vehicles: Blaupunkt BPT1500 Basic
In expert tests, the Blaupunkt BPT1500 Basic shows no weaknesses in GPS positioning. The GPS tracker for vehicles can reliably determine the location in almost all cases and send it to the receiver. The manufacturer itself promises an accuracy of less than 5 meters. The basic model is intended purely as protection against theft and offers extensive alarm functions: There are messages in the event of vibrations, speeding, leaving the geo-fence area and other events. Live location and route tracking are not provided, however; Blaupunkt only offers this in its fleet tariff, which is aimed at traders with a fleet of vehicles.
Overall, the device is of high quality and compact; it can be installed well hidden in the vehicle if necessary. With the help of the cable connection, you can effectively place the combined GPS / GSM antenna at a suitable location. Blaupunkt provides instructions for connecting the GPS tracker to the on-board electronics, but recommends going to a workshop. The built-in device has a "backup battery" in case the battery is disconnected. However, Blaupunkt does not provide any precise information on capacity and runtime. Localization in other European countries is possible.
The price is rather questionable: the basic tariff is intended for occasional calls to the location, the location is displayed in the app, alarm messages are sent by SMS or email. To do this, users have to buy “credits” from Blaupunkt, at least 50 per year for 25 euros. A manual query of the location costs 2 credits, i.e. 1 euro, an alarm message 1 credit. Those who manage with 50 credits, i.e. only want to send a request to the GPS tracker every two weeks, get away with it cheaper than with a monthly fee. However, more intensive use of the BPT1500 quickly costs money. The device currently costs around 180 euros. Thus, the annual running costs amount to 205 euros.
- Excellent GPS location
- Good cell phone coverage
- Lots of sensors for alarm messages
- High cost of data retrieval
- Live location not possible
- Low capacity battery
Price tip: Tractive GPS Classic
The manufacturer Tractive makes different models of GPS trackers for pets. The Tractive GPS Classic is the cheapest device and comes with fastening clips for the dog collar. In principle, however, the GPS tracker can also be used for other purposes, so the Tractive GPS Classic is not only our recommendation for pets, but also our general price-performance tip. For around 30 euros, you can get a robust and waterproof (IPX7) device with GPS tracking with an accuracy of around five meters if reception is good.
We had the Tractive GPS Classic in the CHIP test laboratory and were satisfied with its performance. Since the device is not intended for monitoring vehicles, there are no sensors for motion and speed alarms. There is also no SOS button. You can also easily locate bags or other objects with the pet tracker. With the dimensions of a matchbox, there is space for the GPS tracker almost anywhere. Depending on the use of GPS tracking, the battery lasts 2 to 5 days in operation; it was recharged after a brisk 1:55 hours in the test.
The SIM card is permanently installed by the manufacturer and uses all available cellular networks, which should ensure good reception. To use the tracker, you have to choose between the basic and premium tariff. You can only use the Tractive GPS Classic abroad and allow other users to access it with the premium tariff. Depending on the tariff and payment, the monthly costs are between EUR 3.75 (Premium, 5-year subscription) and EUR 7.99 (Basic, monthly subscription). To do this, you can have unlimited access to the live tracking in the app and set a geo-fence alarm.
The customer reviews on Amazon are mostly positive. Above all, water protection and the generally high accuracy of GPS positioning are praised. However, there was criticism of the often unreliable fastening clips with which the GPS tracker is placed on the animal collar. Alternatively, Tractive offers complete devices, i.e. animal collars with an integrated GPS tracker. The charger with special clip contacts was also mentioned negatively by buyers.
- IPX7 water protection against submersion
- Good GPS accuracy
- Reliable cellular coverage
- No motion alarm sensors
- Without alarm button
- Unreliable mounting brackets
Key finder alternative: Musegear Finder 2
If you are regularly looking for smaller objects in the immediate vicinity, you do not need a GPS tracker straight away. A key finder is not only suitable for finding the lost key, but can also be attached to bags or purses. The device itself has no GPS, but connects to the smartphone via Bluetooth and uses its GPS function to determine its own location and display it in the app. Because Bluetooth is more energy efficient, a button cell battery is sufficient. The key finder is therefore only the size of a coin.
The Musegear Finder 2 is one of the most popular key finders. Testers confirm that the device has a long range despite the older Bluetooth 4.0 standard. The tiny thing can transmit up to 50 meters in good conditions. If the key finder is activated in the free app, you can locate it with the GPS of your smartphone or you can be guided to it via the activated sound signal - and that is surprisingly loud. It works the other way around: You can make your smartphone sound at the push of a button on the Finder 2. A replaceable button cell battery provides enough power for a few months of operation, according to the manufacturer even up to a year.
The Musegear Finder 2 is not waterproof, but protected against splashing water. It can also be used as a camera shutter release for the smartphone. If the key finder disappears completely and can no longer be found even with the last location, you can mark it as "lost" in the app. If the Musegear app on another user's smartphone accidentally picks up the device's Bluetooth signal, you will receive a message. The reviews of customers on Amazon are generally positive, there is criticism of the rather mediocre workmanship, because the device could be more robust. The app is also lacking in user-friendliness.
- Good Bluetooth range
- Loud beep
- Replaceable battery
- Device could be more robust
- Mediocre smartphone app
- Partial disconnections
Facts about our GPS tracker comparison
When comparing the GPS trackers, we rely on several pillars. We put some of the devices under the microscope in our CHIP test laboratory. If this is not the case, we consult the device tests of other experts - in this case Auto-Lifestyle, Autobild. Ultimately, the user reviews of users on Amazon are also included in the assessment. Based on this information and a fundamental analysis of the technical data of current branded products, we select our top recommendations.
What is a GPS tracker?
A GPS tracker is a mobile device used to determine and transmit the coordinates of the wearer. For this purpose, the tracker is equipped with a GPS module for satellite communication and a mobile radio transmitter. You can have the location of the GPS tracker and its wearer communicated via SMS or app, which can be used to protect people, animals or objects. Since most of the components of the tracker are quite small, some of the device is no bigger than a USB stick.
What does a GPS tracker cost?
If you buy a GPS tracker, first and foremost you pay for the device itself. Simple models are available for less than 30 euros. You have limitations here in terms of battery life and the accuracy of GPS positioning. For around 60 euros you get a solid GPS tracker with basic functions, the best devices with lots of accessories for private use are priced between 100 and 150 euros.
With the device alone it is not enough, because GPS tracking not only includes the determination, but also the transmission of the coordinates and this happens via the cellular network. There is a SIM card in the GPS tracker for this. Depending on the type of device, you pay for each SMS sent or a fixed monthly fee. The additional costs are around 3 to 5 euros per month.
What is geo-tracking?
Geo-tracking encompasses all methods of determining the location of a transmitter in the global coordinate system. In the case of a GPS tracker and its carrier, the location is carried out by the GPS satellites stationed in space, which determine the location of the tracker in relation to longitude and latitude. All devices with a GPS transmitter enable geo-tracking; in the case of smartphone apps and navigation systems, the function is primarily used for route planning. In addition to GPS, geo-tracking is also possible via the GSM cellular network or, when using the Internet, via the IP address.
How does the GPS location work?
As the name suggests, GPS trackers use the Global Positioning System (GPS). The devices connect to the global navigation satellite system in order to determine their own position and to transmit the coordinates to a receiver. Therefore, you can use a GPS tracker to track exactly where people, pets or vehicles are. This works not only in the neighborhood, but worldwide. The GPS tracker needs contact with at least four of the 24 satellites that are active at all times in order to calculate its own position - the more the better.
In the open air, the location can be determined fairly well, usually with an accuracy of a few meters. If the carrier of the GPS tracker is inside a building or underground, for example in the subway, the position determination is naturally worse - if not even impossible. Nevertheless, this method is simple and relatively cheap, with a mostly unlimited range. The location can also be determined using the GSM cellular network: the radio cells determine the area in which the transmitter is currently located. However, the accuracy varies.
What are the uses of GPS trackers?
Since the GPS tracker always sends its position, you can use the device in a variety of ways: for your own protection, to protect other people, to check pets or to protect against theft. Although the location alone is not sufficient for complete security, the information can be of great help. Of course, not only technical, but also legal restrictions must be observed, which we explain to you in separate sections. In principle, however, you can:
- Locating vehicles and objects: Due to the compact size of many GPS trackers, they can be used as protection against theft. Vehicles such as cars or bicycles often offer the option of hiding the devices.GPS trackers can also be attached to electrical devices, suitcases or packages. This allows you to provide valuable information about the location to the police in the event of an actual theft. The GPS tracker can also have a purely practical function if you have simply forgotten where you have parked or where an object you are looking for is.
- Finding the whereabouts of pets: Pets can be located with a GPS tracker that is mostly limited to basic functions and fits into a collar. If you want to know where dogs, cats or farm animals are at the moment or if they are even missing, this is very practical. Make sure that the GPS tracker does not interfere with the pet. In addition, the device should be robust and waterproof. Manufacturers offer special animal trackers.
- Track the path of children and others: If you want to monitor a person with the GPS tracker, there are a few things to consider. The person has to agree, of course. As a parent, you can control your children without their consent, but this abuse of trust can quickly backfire. For people in need and with dementia, consent to GPS tracking is sometimes not possible or helpful. Usually, however, the GPS tracker is there so that parents can follow their children's way to school, for example. This also gives the children more security should they get into an emergency situation. GPS trackers for children and seniors usually have an SOS button with which they can give an alarm.
What should you watch out for with GPS trackers?
- Height and weight: Depending on the intended use, you can get GPS trackers in different sizes and weight classes. If the GPS tracker is to be hidden in the wallet or attached to valuables, you will find appropriate devices in a compact design: about five centimeters long and two centimeters thick and weighing less than 30 grams. Due to the tiny GPS module, however, you have to be less precise calculate. GPS trackers for pets are available either as a complete collar or as a device the size of a matchbox and weighing less than 50 grams. GPS trackers for children and seniors or as a companion when hiking are palm-sized or the size of a mini smartphone. Because the larger battery also has more weight, the devices weigh 100 to 150 grams. Finally, there are also "bulky" devices for installation in vehicles weighing over 300 grams.
- Battery life: The battery is usually the largest part of a GPS tracker. The more capacity the battery has, the more bulky it is - this has to be weighed up. In normal-sized GPS trackers, the battery capacity has leveled off at around 5,000 milliampere hours (mAH). Depending on how often you query the location and the GPS tracker is actively transmitting, the battery lasts for a week to a month. In small GPS trackers, for example for the dog collar, there is usually a battery with around 500 mAH. If size does not matter because the GPS tracker is permanently placed in a vehicle, you can also get devices with a 10,000 mAH battery and more. GPS radio is very power-hungry, the manufacturer's run time information is therefore usually a guide and is based on occasional use and no hours of live tracking in the app.
- Power supply: The battery of the GPS tracker is usually charged using the mains or USB cable supplied. For smaller models, the charging time is usually around two hours, devices with a larger battery have to be charged overnight if in doubt. In the case of GPS trackers for use in vehicles, a connection to the vehicle battery is often possible. The appropriate cable is either included or available as an accessory. In this way, the GPS tracker is permanently supplied with power. You also have the option of integrating the GPS tracker into the vehicle's on-board electronics using the on-board diagnostic system (OBD).
- Water and dust protection: With GPS trackers for pets, water protection is essential, but it is also practical with other models for outdoor use or theft protection. Unfortunately, many manufacturers do not provide precise information here. The ideal case is a certified water protection according to IPX8, so that the device is also protected against permanent immersion. Very few GPS trackers are so generously equipped, however, it is common that there is still sufficient protection against water jets (IPX5) or splash water (IPX4). Some GPS trackers come with a suitable protective cover in their accessories instead. This is enough for devices for your pocket or backpack. A dust cover prevents dirt from entering the device and affecting the GPS module. IP6X, ie “dust-tight”, is the ideal case here. Corresponding markings are rare, however.
- GPS accuracy: Manufacturers seldom give exact information on the accuracy of GPS positioning; they usually only talk about “excellent” or “exact” positioning. By default, GPS has a possible deviation of around eight meters, but this can be reduced using various technical methods so that the location can be determined with an accuracy of two meters. Even more precise location is possible, but mostly too complex for private use. Especially with ultra-compact GPS trackers with a small antenna, the deviation can be significantly higher; according to the manufacturer, the accuracy is sometimes limited to 15 meters. Ordinary GPS trackers the size of the palm of your hand promise an accuracy of around 5 meters in the absence of sources of interference.