Like a lot of technology, the price of car tracking begins at nominal and ends with substantial. If your budget or needs make high-end system installation unrealistic, you can start with apps. That can mean the trouble of charging and hiding a cheap spare smartphone in your car when you park, but it’s a frugal means of security. Here are five apps to help you protect your wheels:
MyCarTracks. This app’s developers tout almost 11 million miles logged by over 80,000 user downloads. Its prime use is for business vehicles, and instead of an installed black box or GPS, your device does the work (again, this would be for discreetly stashing a dedicated phone and not your primary one in your parked car). It starts free and incremental paid plans allow greater reporting and tracking for multiple vehicles. For now it’s only compatible with Android devices but the developer indicates versions for Apple and even Windows phones are on the way.
LoJack. The popular car tracking system manufacturer also offers an app you can download from Google Play or iTunes. Before you rush over to add it, you should know a few things first. If you aren’t a current LoJack customer with their device in your car, there’s limited functionality. It does allow one-stop storage of vehicle info and its last known location in case of theft. Plus it can connect you with authorities, your car insurance, finance company and other interested parties. If you have LoJack active in your car, you can do the aforementioned but also alert the company to initiate tracking.
Linxup. Here’s one example of the app as an added feature rather than the main attraction. Because of its integration and simplicity, it makes the grade. Your Android or Apple product stays with you while a nondescript device plugs into your car’s OBDII port (a hardwired equivalent is also available) and reports back to you. If you spring for a two-year contract at $22.99 per month, the device is free, though other pricing plans are offered. Though fleets can make the most use of its logging ability, anybody can put it to use for car tracking without the bother of charging and hiding a phone.
OnStar. Strictly speaking, OnStar’s Family Link is not an app. It sneaks in here because of its app-like capabilities and functionality. For a $3.99 monthly charge on factory-equipped vehicles (excluding the aftermarket rearview mirror setups so far), OnStar will text or email location alerts on your vehicle. Better yet, you can log on at the website and get real-time location info. It’s all achieved without driver involvement or notification, which is handy if the driver is a thief.
FollowMee. This is another multipurpose app, but for a onetime $7.99 charge, your Apple device acts as a car tracker. A few features stand out on this, making the initial charge worth consideration. The developer offers insight on dedicating a device for car tracking, plus the app works on iOS all the way back to 4.3. What’s more, it can utilize cellular, GPS and WiFi for expanded reporting and fewer dead zones.