The Complete Comprehensive Guide to GPS Tracking

Why Do You Need to Understand GPS Trackers?

GPS tracking is important to us. And we think it should be important to you too.

Or you should at least have a basic understanding of how GPS trackers work so you don’t get ripped-off.

During the early stages of our business, we were talking with a motorcycle shop owner—a street smart type of guy. He had been working on motorcycles for practically his entire life.

He said that he didn’t want to use GPS trackers to protect his vintage motorcycles because they weren’t to be trusted. With the stars of his collection being a 1962 BMW R69S and a 1974 Harley-Davidson, this came as a bit of a shock!

Since we design, develop and build GPS trackers for a living, the conversation with the shop owner made us realise one very important thing: the tech world does use a lot of specialised jargon, but there isn’t really anything mysterious about what those words mean.

That’s our mistake—and a big one at that. If people don’t understand GPS trackers and how they can be used, they aren’t likely to invest in one.

“Why does that matter?”.

If you don’t invest in suitable vehicle security, you will become an easy target for brazen thieves. Even if you were to look beyond your assets, being able to catch these criminals and put them behind bars is a service to your community.

There will be one less thug on the street looking to put your expensive motorcycle on the back of their van.

It’s one thing to recognise the importance of security… but it’s another to know where to start. We’ve decided the best place to begin is with the language of the industry that our friend the motorcycle shop owner didn’t understand.

You may find a lot of this explanation simple, but others might not be entirely clear. We’ll start from the very beginning, using the Solid GPS as an example to help you better understand all that GPS tracking has to offer. 

What is a GPS tracker?

Solid GPS Dashboard on a Computer

A GPS tracker is a small device that tracks its own movements. This data is then sent through the cellular networks on 3G/4G through the SIM card we place inside the Solid GPS tracker to our servers.

After reaching our servers, your data is unencrypted and able to be reached by your mobile phone where it will display the location of your GPS tracker.

Why should anyone use a GPS tracker?

to protect your vehicle.

Imagine completing a rebuild on that new Harley you just got, receiving a 1964 Mustang from your father, or even finally purchasing that dream Hayabusa you spent years saving up for. 

Would you just park it in your driveway, hoping and praying that any malicious opportunists will just walk on by? Of course not. You’d take any number of precautions to make sure your treasured vehicle doesn’t disappear overnight. 

Chances are that you’ve already got a lock or even an alarm. But what happens if criminals get past those deterrents and take your vehicle? Do you want them to get away with it? Would you feel safe sleeping in your own bed? Probably not. 

A GPS tracker lets you sleep better at night, knowing you’ve got an effective way to keep tabs on your vehicle and get notified if it moves.

How often does a tracker transmit its location?

The frequency at which a tracker transmits its location varies from one to another, and it’s also where a wired-in tracker takes a loss. If a thief never starts your bike and just throws it in the back of a van, a wired-in GPS tracker will never get the chance to go off.

Solid GPS activates every 2 – 4 minutes while moving, so in the above scenario, it won’t have any problems notifying you of the theft. To save power, however, Solid GPS slowly increases the time between transmissions until you park. (You can disable this on your dashboard).

If you only drive/ride once in a while, don’t worry! Solid GPS also sends its location every 24 hours when idle.

The difference between Wired in or Wireless?

The key difference between wireless and wired-in trackers are quite obvious from their names: one does not require a wired electrical source, while the other does. However, they have a few other differences resulting from this.

Wired in

  • Never have to be removed and charged.
  • Time-consuming to install.
  • Easy for a thief to find.
  • Short battery life if disconnected.
  • Drains your vehicle’s battery if left unchecked.
Wired In GPS Tracker

Wireless

  • Quick & Easy install.
  • Battery life that lasts 3 – 6 months on average.
  • Easy to hide and hard for a thief to find.
  • Easily recharge overnight.
  • Reminds you on low battery.
Wireless GPS Tracker

What are boundaries?

Boundaries are cordoned off areas that you can set for your tracker.

Should your vehicle enter or leave that area, you will receive a notification on your phone. This helps you identify if your vehicle has been stolen, as notifications appear instantly when your vehicle leaves an area.

2G, 3G, 4G or 5G? What SIM card do I get?

There are a lot of misconceptions when it comes to SIM cards.

You do not need to place the SIM card provided to you into your phone, it goes inside the GPS tracker.

(In Solid GPS case, it comes preinstalled on the tracker).

Many people wonder whether they should buy their own or use the one provided. Generally, it’s best to use the provided SIM card unless the monthly fee is over $15 (more on that later).

Using the SIM card that comes with the tracker means less time wasted shopping around as well as a guarantee that it’ll be compatible with the GPS tracker you’ve chosen. That said, it’s always best to use a 4G SIM card to ensure future technology won’t render your current tracker obsolete.

For example, when Australia transitioned away from the 2G network, a lot of GPS trackers that only operated on 2G were in trouble. Thousands of trackers had to be recalled and refitted it with a 3G SIM card, costing consumers and companies a considerable sum.

It is difficult to find out whether your inbuilt SIM card is future proof, but if it only operates on 3G and not both 3G and 4G, it will need to be upgraded by 2024.

Why? Because the 3G network in Australia is being shut off by June 2024. Companies that didn’t learn from their past mistakes will be in another world of hurt. 

 

Just so you know, our Solid GPS tracker can operate on 2G, 3G, 4G and 5G mobile networks.

If your concerned about being locked to a single mobile carrier with Solid GPS, don’t worry, because we have access to over 550 different mobile carriers. We also programmed our tracker to automatically switch to the best one available, ensuring you’ve always got the best connectivity.

 

Before we move on, if you do buy your own SIM card, make sure you’re able to use it for GPS tracking. Some, such as ALDI SIM cards, have clear limitations on their services that inhibit them from being used for location tracking.

ALDIs Terms of Service

Why is there a hardware cost and a monthly/yearly subscription?

The reason most GPS tracking companies charge a monthly fee is due to the SIM card data transmissions and hosting costs. They aren’t just looking to rip you off; there are ongoing costs that are incurred. 

Fortunately, you won’t have to pay a fortune. Most subscriptions cost less than $15 per month—worth the peace of mind that your vehicles will be protected!

If you received a quote higher than $15 or are being forced into a contract, watch out! There are only three explanations for this:

1. You’re looking at a tracker with a lot of telematics. This type of tracker would have to be wired into your vehicle so it can provide extra information. It might even cut the fuel injection if it’s stolen and do much more. The average person will not need these capabilities and shouldn’t be paying for them.

2. The company doesn’t charge a device cost and instead charges a higher monthly fee. This normally means locking you into a contract for at least a year and forcing you to pay half if you try and back out early.

3. They’re looking for a quick buck. Some companies just purchase trackers at a bulk discount, slap in their own SIM cards and charge a higher monthly fee, hoping you won’t notice.

If the company you order from doesn’t build their own trackers, they will have a tough time answering support questions. The reason there is a hardware cost on top of the monthly subscription is because the parts that go into GPS trackers aren’t cheap. 

In order to stay alive and continue providing excellent services, most companies must charge for both hardware and a monthly/yearly subscription.

The difference between $30 and $1,000

$1,000 compared to $30

GPS trackers range from $30 to $1,000. What are the actual differences?

At the four-digit price point, you should expect all the bells and whistles on a wired GPS tracker. There should be no wireless tracker as the main thing you’re buying at this price point is a lot of telematics.

The data that wired-in trackers offer can’t be done with a wireless GPS tracker because a connection to the vehicle is essential. This may be valuable for fleet management, but it isn’t something that the average person just looking to protect their vehicle may require. 

At the opposite end of the tracker spectrum are those that cost as much as brunch for two in Sydney. These have short battery lives and are smaller than many other trackers. Generally, you’ll have to buy your own SIM card and there will be little to no after-sales support to ensure you’re getting full use of your tracker. 

Where do you fall if you need more capabilities than small Bluetooth trackers but less than their wired-in counterparts? In our range, of course. For $100–$500, you gain reliable location data and discretion, but don’t have to pay for all the telematics that should be expected in the higher price range. 

The middle range is where Solid GPS lands at $147 – $180 (our monthly subscription is $6.99 or $69.99 a year).

Learn more about Solid GPS here.

 

How big is the typical tracker?

Most trackers are able to fit in the palm of your hand, the reason why they aren’t smaller is because of the size of the battery.

The smaller GPS trackers you can find on eBay or Amazon are good for tracking pets but they need to be recharged after a week.

Generally they also only use Bluetooth to avoid charging their clients a monthly fee. Later on we discuss the usefulness of Bluetooth for GPS tracking.

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What is up with Bluetooth tracking?

Some of the cheaper trackers operate on Bluetooth. If you’re just looking to keep track of a pet or a loved one who suffers from Alzheimer’s and keeps wandering off, this may do the trick. However, it isn’t suitable for most uses.

Why?

Because of the incredibly short range.

Just think about the connective range of your Bluetooth headphones. Can you listen to music from a kilometre away? Of course not! In the same way, a stolen vehicle will quickly fall out of the range of Bluetooth connectivity, rendering your tracking efforts useless.

That’s why instead of building in Bluetooth, your Solid GPS tracker contain GPS antennas that allows it to transmit location data. By doing away with features like Bluetooth tracking and hidden microphones which you probably won’t get much use of, we keep prices low and affordable for your use.

I rarely ride/drive will a GPS tracker suit me?

A wired in tracker will do you no good here. If you want periodic updates when your vehicle isn’t moving you’d have to invest in a wireless tracker.

For example, with Solid GPS, when your vehicle has been idle for a day it transmits its location, giving you that extra piece of mind.

If a wired in GPS tracker did this, it would eventually drain the battery of your vehicle. 

Man in garage looking at motorcycle

What Countries Does Solid GPS Operate In?

That depends on the tracker, most trackers can only operate within their country of origin.

With Solid GPS however we’ve done it a bit differently. Solid GPS works in all the countries highlighted blue.

The different zones Solid GPS works in

As a side note GPS trackers have a hard time sending GPS transmissions through metal so they have to find a way around it.

If a GPS tracker is inside a shipping container, underground garage, etc, the tracker will have a difficult time sending its location, although it’s not impossible.

With Solid GPS some of our clients track the contents of shipping containers and others park their vehicles in garages and Solid GPS works majority of the time.

As for rural areas GPS trackers only operate when there is at least 3G around. In Australia for instance, the 2G network has been turned off and 3G is leaving in 2024.

That’s why a lot of the $30 GPS trackers you find on eBay no longer work because they rely on the 2G network.

To combat this Solid GPS is future proof. We operate on the 2G, 3G, 4G and 5G network. You don’t have to do anything to upgrade because we’re already ready.

That also means we won’t contact you in 2024 when 3G goes offline asking for more money to upgrade your GPS tracker (Some tracking companies actually did this to their clients when 2G was switched off. Pictured below is one customer finding out about the price hike).

Another companies customer filing a complaint

What if my vehicle is stolen?

Other than using a GPS tracker, the main way people get their vehicles back is through word of mouth.
We recommend using Facebook.

Facebook is a massive platform and has already found thousands of stolen vehicles around the world. You just have to harness that power. This is how you do it:

  1. Join as many stolen vehicle groups as you can.
  2. Create a post with all the information someone would need to identify you vehicle.
  3. Remember to include photos.
  4. Post it in as many groups as possible.
  5. Wait for news that you’re vehicle has been found.
 
There is a more in depth version of how to recover your vehicle here.
Man dancing with motorcycle

What should I do if I want to know more?

At this point, you probably have most of your questions answered. But if you want to know more, we’d be happy to discuss any questions or concerns! 

You can learn more about Solid GPS plans on our site and view our Support page for answers to some common questions. Anything else? Get in touch by emailing support@solidgps.com or by clicking on the contact us button at the bottom of the page!

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Solid GPS is based in Melbourne, Victoria. All design, development and assembly is done in-house.

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