What Tracking Devices Are Available For My Car?

Teen driver - busy street- AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety

They say you don’t need to use turn signals in a small town, since everyone knows where you’re going.  For better or worse, there are practical needs for knowing where your car is going and has been—especially when you’re not using it.  Here are some types of tracking devices available for your car.

App-based.  These tracking devices are virtual.  By downloading them onto a smartphone, you can easily track your car’s whereabouts.  This format is helpful for households with young drivers, as many apps allow parents to keep an eye on things (including speed traveled) from their own device.

For a low-cost form of security, a few drivers take this approach and keep an old smartphone hidden in their cars.  While theoretically effective as long as there’s a charge and a would-be thief doesn’t discover it, tracking devices that cost just a little more can perform as well or better and alleviate the bother of constant recharging.

In-car.  A teen driver can shut off his or her phone, however farfetched the concept, and it spells the end of tracking for the night.  The next level of tracking devices available for your car are tangible pieces of equipment.  Depending on your car, you may only have to go online or make a phone call to get underway.

Cars equipped with OnStar from the factory can have a tracking program activated for a monthly charge.  Some can instantly plug into your car’s onboard diagnostic (OBDII) port and be easily removed as desired without permanent installation.  Other devices are battery-operated and magnetically-mounted for more discreet tracking.

In-car and hidden.  The costliest but also most effective tracking devices are those permanently installed in a hidden location in your car.  LoJack is probably the best-known name in this genre, though there are others.  Most devices of this kind splice into your car’s wiring during installation to run constantly without you having to remember to activate it.  One particular system marketed for collector vehicles doesn’t require disturbing the electrical system and is self-powered.

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