Best GPS Trackers of 2018

Suzanne Humphries ·
Electronics & Software Writer
Updated
We maintain strict editorial integrity when we evaluate products and services; however, Top Ten Reviews may earn money when you click on links.

We’ve researched and tested 10 GPS trackers to discover the best for all needs and budgets. Our overall winner is the Amber Alert GPS. It can operate roughly 2 days on a single charge, provide on-demand location updates and log recent tracking history. Its design is simple and sturdy featuring a panic button your child can press in an emergency. The device also allows for two-way calling, geofencing and lets you set up customizable notification alerts based on location, speed and low battery. Additionally, the monthly subscription is inexpensive.    

Best Overall

Amber Alert GPS

The Amber Alert GPS tracker is feature-rich and has more tools, like two-way calling and a panic button, to keep your child safe than any other tracker in our comparison.
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Best Value

AngelSense

Though its battery life leaves something to be desired, AngelSense is a powerful GPS tracker that allows for real-time tracking within a variety of customizable parameters and automatic alert notifications.
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Best Live Tracking

Spot Gen3

With its high-quality construction, impressive battery life capacity and live GPS tracking option, the Spot Gen3 offers powerful, live location tracking and emergency functions for the most rugged adventurers.
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Product
Price
Check Price
$79.99Amazon
$99.99Amazon
Check Price
$49.95Amazon
$85.00Amazon
$132.00Amazon
$129.00Amazon
$32.99Amazon
Overall Rating
9.6
9.4
9.2
8.4
8.3
8.1
7.5
6.4
5.9
Tracking
10
9
8.5
7.5
8.8
7.5
5
4.8
3.3
Design
10
10
10
10
7.3
7.3
8.5
5.8
5.8
Monitoring
9.5
10
9
8.5
9
9.8
10
9
9.3
Support & Costs
7
7.8
10
7.5
8.3
9.3
9
9.5
10
Web Portal Access
N/A
N/A
N/A
Tracking History
Low Battery Alert
Android & iOS Apps
N/A
Speed Limit Alert
N/A
N/A
N/A
Two-Way Calling
N/A
N/A
N/A
N/A
N/A
N/A
N/A
N/A
Panic Button
N/A
N/A
Tracking Source
GPS, GSM
GPS, CDMA
GPS, GSM
GPS, GSM, CDMA
GPS, GSM
GPS, GSM
GPS
GPS, GSM, Bluetooth
Bluetooth
Minimum Update Interval
5 Minutes
10 Seconds
1 Minute
10 Seconds
5 Seconds
15 Seconds
2.5 Minutes
10 Seconds
Not Specified
On-Demand Location Update
N/A
N/A
N/A
Maximum Update Interval
5 Minutes
6 Hours
2 Hours
Not Specified
1 Minute
10 Minutes
1 Hour
6 Hours
Not Specified
Geofencing Zones
N/A
N/A
Water Resistant
N/A
N/A
Battery Life
2 Days
14 Days
4 Days
.5 Day
14 Days
3 Days
6 Months
14 Days
1 Year
App/Portal Ease of Use
A-
A-
A
B
A
A
B+
A-
B-
Hardware Quality
A
A
B-
A
A
A
A
C-
B
Tracker Ease of Use
A-
A
B+
A-
A-
A-
A-
A
B-
International
N/A
N/A
Basic Monthly Subscription Total
$15.00
$9.99
$5.00
$39.99
$24.95
$4.00
$14.99
$4.95
N/A
Warranty
1 Year
Lifetime
1 Year
Lifetime
1 Year
1 Year
1 Year
2 Years
1 Year
Compatible Network Providers
AT&T
Verizon
N/A
T-Mobile, AT&T, Verizon, Rogers
N/A
T-Mobile
N/A
T-Mobile, AT&T
N/A
Direct Support
Phone, Email
Phone, Email
Chat, Phone, Email
Chat, Phone, Email
Chat, Phone, Email
Email
Phone, Email
Email
Phone, Email
Best Overall

Amber Alert GPS

In case its name doesn’t make it clear, the Amber Alert GPS is a GPS tracker that’s specifically designed to help you keep an eye on your child’s whereabouts. Along with its tracking capabilities, the device also has a built-in panic button that your child can press in an emergency situation, thus alerting you or anyone you choose to receive a notification.
Instead of binding you to a preset configuration, the tracker’s myriad customizable settings give you control over its functionality. The Amber Alert GPS also earns its title as the best tracker, as it comes with all of the standard and premium features, allowing real-time tracking, geofencing, two-way calling and a panic button. With these features, you’ll always know exactly where your child is, and they’ll always have a way to alert you, should there ever be an emergency. The two-way calling feature also allows you to listen in to your child’s surroundings silently, helping ensure they’re in a safe environment. Additional functions include the predator alert and speed limit alert. These functions tell you if the tracker is near the residence of a registered sex offender, or is going faster than a certain rate you can choose and set, respectively. The device is lightweight, and has an intuitive design. It’s roughly the size of a garage door opener, and has two volume keys, a panic button and covered ports for micro-USB charging, a SIM card and the power button.
Pros
  • It allows for two-way calling.
  • It is water resistant.
  • You can set up geofence perimeters.
Cons
  • It doesn't have customizable update intervals.
  • It has an extremely short battery life.
  • It doesn't work internationally.
$135.00ShareASale
Best Value

AngelSense

The AngelSense GPS tracker packs a punch for its low price point. You’ll get on-demand location updates, allowing you to manually ping the device from the companion app whenever you want and bypass any preset update intervals.
You can also customize those intervals, which will automatically notify you of the device’s location, to as frequently as once every 10 seconds. The tracker has a panic button for your child to press in an emergency, but it lacks two-way calling. You can set up and activate custom geofencing zones, then receive notifications any time your child enters or leaves the zone. This can help assure you that your child is, in fact, at school, sports practice or at their friend’s house, and not anywhere they’re not allowed to be. However, the device’s greatest downside is its lackluster battery, which only lasts up to half a day on a single charge. Most other units can last for a couple of days, or even weeks, on a single charge. Though the AngelSense is one of the most affordable child GPS trackers available, making its upfront cost quite approachable, it does have the most expensive monthly subscription plan. However, it is the tracker that’s compatible with the most network providers, and is backed by a lifetime warranty – a value most other units don’t even come close to. It even works internationally.
Pros
  • It’s compatible with the most cellular carriers.
  • You can receive updates as frequently as every 10 seconds.
  • It ships with a lifetime manufacturer warranty.
Cons
  • It has the shortest battery life on our comparison.
  • It is not water resistant.
  • It has the most expensive monthly subscription cost.
$44.99AngelSense
Best Live Tracking

Spot Gen3

With its rugged, waterproof design and live GPS tracking ability, the Spot Gen3 is worth your consideration for keeping tabs on your active child, or even for you, if you like to mountain bike or do similar types of activities.
It has a durable design, with edges wrapped in rubber for protection against impacts and shocks. It relies only on GPS satellites for its reception, not cellular networks, so you can have coverage while biking, hiking, camping or boating. The live tracking feature allows you to see the device from the web app, and the device’s location appears as a moving dot, just like in the movies. You can customize update intervals, and receive automatic location updates every 10, 30 or 60 minutes. If there’s a minor emergency, the tracker user can send a text message or email to as many as 10 contacts simply by pressing a button. There’s a check-in button that sends a message that says the user needs help and is in a non-life-threatening situation. For serious emergencies, the SOS button directly messages the GEOS International Emergency Response Center, who will then notify local emergency personnel and send them to the location of the tracker. This button, while handy, can result in fees. The Spot Gen3 isn’t perfect, and lacks common features. For example, it relies on four AA batteries, rather than a rechargeable battery, and doesn’t let you set up geofences for precise tracking.
Pros
  • It can last for months on a single charge.
  • You can enable live GPS tracking.
  • It relies on a satellite phone system, not cellular.
Cons
  • There is no geofence option.
  • It uses four AA batteries, not a rechargeable battery.
  • It can’t make or receive calls.
$132.00Amazon

Why Trust Us? 

Our in-house GPS tracker evaluations took over 30 hours in Purch Labs and out on the roads. We’ve tested GPS trackers rigorously for over five years. The GPS trackers were thoroughly tested and researched, with all of the specs logged and features and functionality studied and compared. We considered each device’s overall design, tracking abilities, features, battery life and overall ease of use, all while examining how effective each would be for users of all ages. We investigated each company’s technical support departments and informational resources available in the box or on the company’s website. We also reviewed the accompanying warranty.

Our reviewer and Purch Labs test assistants worked together throughout the evaluation process. This helps us make certain that the widest possible variety of features and use cases are taken into consideration, ensuring that we produce the most accurate results and product recommendations across a variety of personalities and technological experience levels.

How We Tested

We thoroughly evaluated each GPS tracker’s features, design, monitoring options and abilities, performance, subscription costs, customer support and overall ease of use. We tested battery life in real time, and evaluated the tracking accuracy and responsiveness on either the companion mobile app or online web portal. We programmed in multiple geofences to the devices that allowed for that and checked how rapidly an alert can be received when the device enters or leaves the area. From our testing, we determined that the most useful features for users of any budget and requirement set includes an easy to use device and mobile app, sturdy design, on-demand location updates, customizable options and low monthly subscription costs.

We found that, when it comes to GPS trackers, price is not an indicator of what you’ll get, especially since most of these devices also require a monthly or annual subscription cost in order to keep it working. Some devices are inexpensive but have costly subscriptions, while others are the opposite. If you are indecisive about which device to choose or don’t care much about features one way or the other, consider your budget.

We found that, when it comes to GPS trackers, price is not a reliable indicator of quality. Additionally, the most useful features that a GPS tracking device can have include on-demand location updates, a panic button, device and app ease of use, hardware quality, carrier compatibility and subscription cost.

What Key Features to Look for When Buying a GPS Tracker? 

Tracking
All of these GPS tracking devices rely on GPS for location updates. However, a few also use cellular networks for more precise tracking and to boost coverage when your child is indoors. A few units even support Wi-Fi or Bluetooth. We found that devices with multiple connection options are more powerful and precise, giving you a more accurate location update, especially if the child is indoors.

Update intervals are another critical factor to consider when buying a GPS tracker for your children. Each device on our lineup has a different minimum and maximum update interval, so consider how frequently or infrequently you’ll want location updates. Some trackers can notify you as often as every five seconds, while others can be set to update once every six hours. Most of the units let you customize the minimum and maximum intervals whenever you want. Only about half of the units we featured can give you an on-demand location update.

One of the best features of a kid GPS tracker is the ability to set up a geofence, which is a digital perimeter you can set up around specific zones, such as your home, their school or an approved friend’s house. Typically, once you set up a geofence, the app can then alert you whenever your child enters or exits the area.

Monitoring
You can monitor your child’s whereabouts either by logging into a user portal on the device manufacturer’s website or by downloading a free companion app onto your Android or IOS smartphone. Some products offer both options. The best apps let you view your child’s current location as well as a recent history of where they’ve been. You can also set up one or more geofences and receive notifications whenever your child enters or exists a zone. Each app has alerts you can opt to receive, such as a speed limit alert or low battery alert.


Battery life differs for each tracker and is dependent upon several variables. The figures in our side-by-side comparison reflect the optimal battery life expectancy for trackers used on the least-frequent update interval, with minimum usage, without making calls or using other functions. Some units must be recharged every 2-5 days, which can become a hassle if you have a busy schedule, while others can last up to two weeks, making them a bit easier to manage. If you know you’re the forgetful type, consider My Buddy Tag, which lasts for a year – you simply have to replace the tracker tag once a year for a low cost, and it’s hands-off from there.

Design
Because these trackers are meant to be used by kids, it’s important to choose a model that is simple enough for them to use. All of these units can easily be used by teenagers or older kids, but units with too many buttons or a confusing interface may quickly overwhelm younger kids.

The devices are generally flexible in how they can be worn or stored. Some of the ones we tested can be worn as a watch and have adjustable bands that grow as your children do. One comes with a lanyard and can be worn like a necklace. The others are small devices, fitting in the palm of your hand, and can easily be stored in a backpack or in the pocket of your child’s jacket or pants – whichever is more convenient.

Most of the trackers we tested are capable of surviving everyday wear and tear. Some have super high-quality, rugged designs that are water resistant and capable of surviving drops, making them a good option if you have active or athletic kids. Few devices are fully waterproof, but being water resistant allows for the occasional splash without frying their circuits. Good devices have rubber seals over all charging ports, ensuring that water can’t get in and protecting them from damage. The best devices in our lineup felt well-made and sturdy, not cheap.

Beyond checking to see if these devices are well-made and easy enough for your kids to use, we also checked the ease of use of the accompanying app or online portal. This is where the person monitoring the child logs in to get location updates, adjust settings and view alerts. Apps that scored the highest in our tests were those with a simple, intuitive layout, with every option being clearly labeled and easy to find. It also gives you full control over all settings.

Voice-to-Voice Calling & Panic Buttons
Some GPS trackers include two-way voice-to-voice calling. This enables the device user to call one or more preset numbers by pressing a button on the device. Other trackers have panic buttons that trigger a text message or email alert to be sent to a predetermined number or email address. These features are especially useful if the person with the tracker does not have a cell phone or can’t access their phone.

Support & Costs
Since a GPS tracker could be the only lifeline between you and your child in an emergency, it’s important to buy a quality product backed by capable customer service from the manufacturer. By choosing a unit that comes with a lengthy warranty and multiple customer support resources, you give yourself the best chance of keeping your GPS tracker up and running.

Look for manufacturers that offer at least one direct contact method, such as live chat, phone or email. Also, manufacturers that host a wealth of informational resources on their website – such as tutorials, manuals, a FAQs section, a knowledgebase or a community user forum – make it easy to stay up to date with the product or troubleshoot an issue without talking to a customer support representative. All of the products in our comparison come with at least a one-year manufacturer warranty.

All but one of the devices in our lineup require a monthly service subscription in order to work; thankfully, most of those subscriptions only cost about $10 per month, or less, though some cost as much as $25 per month. Consider the initial purchase price of a GPS tracker as well as the monthly subscription cost alongside its features before making a purchase. For some units, part of this monthly charge is for connecting the device to a compatible cellular network provider. All devices use GPS satellites for tracking but many also rely on cellular networks, especially for indoor tracking. If you and your children travel frequently, be sure to choose a device that works internationally.

International Use
A tracking device’s most important function is, of course, tracking your love ones and valued belongings. One of the easiest places for that to happen is an unfamiliar country. Only a few trackers allow for international use, so consider one of those units if you know you’ll be travelling abroad frequently with your kids.

Should You Buy a GPS Tracker? 


Having a GPS tracker for your children – or even your pets or valuables – isn’t a necessity, but it can provide you with peace of mind regarding their whereabouts. They’re especially helpful if you as a parent work while your children are at school or a friend’s house, or for your kid while they’re away at summer camp or travelling internationally. For the most part, these trackers are relatively inexpensive and low-maintenance, and are absolutely worthwhile if you need to keep an eye on where your kids are.

Some of the biggest benefits to using a tracker – besides customizing location update intervals, viewing recent history and setting up geofences – are that you can choose a device that allows two-way calling, has a panic button and that can work internationally. It’s a great way to keep you connected to your children wherever they are.

If your child has a smartphone, you can technically also use that as a way to track their location, but there are downsides to doing so. Typically, location tracking requires GPS, which can quickly drain a smartphone’s battery, meaning that you won’t get the all-day usage out of it that you can with a dedicated tracker. Additionally, tracking can, at times, need to rely on cellular coverage, so it can eat up your data from your monthly plan. Both options will ultimately cost you upfront and monthly, but a dedicated GPS device is the optimal choice.

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