"GPS tracking systems and anti-theft devices are readily available to anyone who wants to protect their family, including pets, or monitor their motorized assets. But exactly which one to get might cause some troublesome concerns. Here are some guidelines for what you need to know before buying a GPS tracking device.

Some devices are strictly for theft protection. Some don’t work outside metropolitan areas. Still others only work in only half of the states or don’t work in rural areas at all. You need to know which one will deliver the right technology for your needs.

Good questions to ask before you buy are:

  • What are my needs? Staying connected with my children, family, pets? Anti-theft or motorized vehicle tracking? Monitoring my teen driver or fleet vehicles?
  • What is the reach of the system I’m thinking about buying?
  • Can it track my vehicle nationwide or does it have area limitations?
  • Does it utilize digital or analog signals and why is this important?
  • How does the cost of the device I’m looking at compare to other similar devices?
  • Is there a monitoring plan, and if so, how much does the plan cost?
  • Is there another device out there that does more than the one I’m considering?
  • What are the sellers of these devices not telling me about their limitations?

Many of today’s GPS tracking devices are designed strictly for anti-theft protection. In these cases, you may not have control of the receiver and must rely on your local police to follow through on a stolen vehicle report. While the police may be able and willing to take the lead in efforts to track and locate your stolen vehicle, they may lose the signal if the perpetrator manages to leave the area due to the use of radio (analog) signal failure. This may happen due to other obstructions as well like mountains or towers that cause signal interferences. Just take a drive out of your local area and notice how your car radio loses the signal from local stations – it’s the same with analog GPS systems.

Make sure the device you’re considering uses digital technology and satellite mapping to ensure consistent signals. Most of the devices that use these technologies as well as cellular technology put you in the driver’s seat and don’t require you to file a police report before your vehicle is tracked and found. In fact, you can call the police while you are locating your vehicle with online tracking and mapping. You can also give the police the reins if you so choose by giving them your online information. But this way, control is on your terms. There shouldn’t be ongoing fees for simple anti-theft devices, but you won’t get to monitor the vehicle anytime you wish without a monitoring plan. Then again, they are great for protecting any motorized asset from jet skis to MAC trucks so the nominal fee is worth it.

Some devices, despite the fact that they say they are nationwide, have pockets of rural areas that cannot get a signal. They also don’t work indoors as they are designed for outdoor use and satellite connectivity. However, while the device is in a vehicle or a backpack, you can monitor it from your computer. Only the device needs to be outside.

Some devices can be used for both anti-theft and monitoring. In cases beyond simple theft protection, you may want to consider a device that gives you the ability to monitor the whereabouts of your children, elderly parent, pet, or vehicles any time you wish. Again, a monthly monitoring fee may apply. These fees are worth the price for parents of teen drivers and fleet vehicle owners.

Imagine you wanted history reports to show where a vehicle has traveled on any given day or route reports to see if your fleet driver took the best route to get from here to there. Or maybe you’d like your vehicle to send you an email or text message if it is being driven above a set speed or out of a boundary you set. Fleet vehicle owners are among the top owners of GPS devices with monitoring capabilities for these reasons.

Drivers in the 16-22 year old age group are involved in more accidents and fatalities than all other age groups combined, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Commission. Parents of teen drivers can rest easier when they turn over the keys to the family vehicle to their teen driver without turning over control. They can get alerts from the device via email or text message if your teen drives too fast or out of a designated boundary. Better yet, if your teen knows you have this device installed, they will most likely be sure to curb undesirable behavior behind the wheel.

Is your child going away to college? When they take that long trip, wouldn’t it be great to know when he or she reaches certain points you designate along the way? A GPS tracking device can email you or send a text message to tell you each point they’ve reached when they’ve reached it. Nowadays, these devices come small enough to attach to a pet or place in your child’s backpack so you will know where they are at all times.

Many vehicle dealers offer GPS navigation systems but few offer tracking systems. While navigation systems are fine if you’re lost or need immediate help, tracking systems can utilize satellite, cellular, and digital technologies to allow you to access all the important information you need to know when others are behind the wheel. Protect your loved ones, your motorized assets, and in the case of fleet vehicles, reduce the cost of fuel consumption, with all the advantages of a GPS tracking system.

Be sure to check with your insurance company and ask if they offer discounts for installed anti-theft devices. Having a device like this could bring down your insurance rate as well."