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Best personal GPS trackers 2021

Best personal GPS trackers
(Image credit: Spot)

The best personal GPS trackers a wireless transmitters which allow you to find whatever they are attached to. This can mean tracking your child or an elderly relative or it could be for tracking your car, bike or any other valuable object of yours that's on the move. The best personal GPS tracker will, ultimately, give you peace of mind by helping keep your valuables secure.

Most GPS trackers these days will come with 4G LTE connectivity meaning they are able to transmit a signal much like your cell phone does. This can then be tracked using your smartphone, showing you where the tracker is located on a map. 

As a result it's worth keeping in mind that the tracker itself isn't the only cost. You will likely have to pay for a data plan as well, ongoing, in order to keep that signal being sent so you can track it.

There are many personal GPS trackers, each designed for different purposes. So which is the best one for you? Read on to find out.

1. Spot Gen 4: Best personal GPS tracker overall

Spot Gen 4

(Image credit: Spot)

Spot Gen 4

For hikers this is the GPS to go for

GPS and 4G: Yes | SOS: Yes | Battery: 436 hours

SOS function
Share location to multiple contacts
Varied tracking intervals
Not the smallest

The Spot Gen 4 is designed for hikers that want to know they can be found when heading out into the most remote locations. Thanks to satellite GPS and messaging functionality this will keep you safe and others aware of your location with ease. The battery life is worth shouting about as it is good for a whopping 436 hours and with the inclusion of a battery pack in many buying options this can be extended even further.

The Spot Gen 4 is a little bulky but features a carabiner for easy attachment to a pack. It's also tough and built to withstand the great outdoors. The mapping functionality is custom so you can track the GPS from this locator using the dedicated app. This can be viewed live or in history mode with data stored for up to three years after it's recorded.

Pricing varies for the device itself as do the plans for data service. The longer you commit, like for an annual plan, the more savings can be made. 

2. Tile Mate: Best low budget GPS tracker for scatterbrains

Tile Mate

(Image credit: Tile)

Tile Mate

Ideal for scatterbrains on a budget that don't want to lost their keys

GPS and 4G: No, Bluetooth | SOS: No | Battery: One year

Easy to use
No GPS for live tracking
Replaceable batery only

The Tile Mate is an alternative option that is not technically a GPS device. Rather it uses Bluetooth and a connection to your smartphone to detect if it is lost. This works the other way too since the Tile has a button, double tap this and the app on your connected phone will emit a noise so you can find your phone.

The Tile Mate comes with a replaceable battery which is good for around a full year, depending on how much use it gets. This is super affordable to replace. All in all, when you consider this also doesn't require a subscription, this is a very affordable option. But this is more for keys, bags and items like that, rather than people. Since the idea is that this will let you know where the connection to your phone was lost, so if the items moves after that point it may no longer be there.

3. AngelSense Guardian: Best for vulnerable kids and the elderly

AngelSense Guardian

(Image credit: AngelSense)

AngelSense Guardian

Perfect for elderly and children that need to be tracked

GPS and 4G: Yes | SOS: Yes | Battery: 48 hours

Two-way talk function
Lock to clothes option
Share map with emergency services
Short battery life

The AngelSense Guardian is the ideal GPS tracker for children and the elderly. This is because it can be attached to the person and only removed using a key. It also offers a useful two-way talk mode, allowing a person to talk to the wearer in an emergency. The use of 3G and 4G combined with GPS means you can see the person's location on a map, which can easily be shared with emergency services if needed.

Auto alerts are useful, letting the guardian know if the wearer has left a boundaried location, is late, and for checking bus trip progress. This even has a step counter built in for health monitoring. While the price might be higher than some, with a regular payment commitment needed, this offers more services and in depth controls than most of the competition. 

The battery life, at 48 hours, isn't the longest but since this is rechargeable and offers so many connected features that does make sense. 

4. Samsung SmartThings Tracker: Best GPS tracker for valuables

Samsung SmartThings Tracker

(Image credit: Samsung)

Samsung SmartThings Tracker

Perfect for those who lose valuables and don't want to anymore

GPS and 4G: Yes | SOS: Yes | Battery: One week

Long battery life
One year of free 4G service
Geofencing option
App could be better

The Samsung SmartThings Tracker is a fantastic tracker that does it all in one small package. This offers 4G LTE and GPS for live tracking inside an IP68 case that's good for all weather and wet. While a parent can live track a child, for example, using the app with map, the child can also send a live location with the double tap of the device's button. Equally, this can be used to send an SOS if needed.

Geofencing can be setup with the app so that you are notified if the tracker leaves the designated area you've setup - ideal for parents that want to keep their child's school boundaries as limits during the day.

Battery life is up to an impressive week, but real world use will likely be less, but it depends on how regular you etup to device to ping you a location. he very rare offering that sets this apart from the competition is the include of a year's 4G LTE service with the frankly affordable purchase price.

5. BrickHouse Security Spark Nano 7: Best vehicle GPS tracker

BrickHouse Security Spark Nano 7

(Image credit: BrickHouse Security)

BrickHouse Security Spark Nano 7

For in car tracking, this is the unit built for the job

GPS and 4G: Yes | SOS: Yes | Battery: 15 days standby, 15 hours tracking

Full 4G coverage of the US and more
Speed and location alerts
Geofencing and texting
Battery life

The BrickHouse Security Spark Nano 7 is purpose built for tracking cars. This is a super compact unit that is battery powered so can be placed in the car glove box or attached to its underside as needed. the optional magnetic and waterproof case is useful here. 

The 4G connection means accurate and instant location on demand using the dedicated smartphone app. The Rapid Track mode is a nice feature that follows in even more rapid real-time for turn-by-turn clarity.

Battery life is good for 15 days in standby or continuous use for 15 hours at a time before needing a charge. Geofencing and custom alerts can be setup so you have peace of mind about the vehicle without the need to check up. A panic button is another useful feature, allowing it to be used by a person too.

Why Trust Us?

Since 2012, we’ve been testing and reviewing GPS trackers. Whether you’re keeping an eye on your child, your car, we know it’s important you have a GPS tracker that works unfailingly. 

This can be especially true if you’re using a GPS tracker with your child, and if that child has a disability or tends to wander.

Jeannie Callahan, a customer service representative for AngelSense, said she got involved with the company because her son has autism and she uses the product. She called the first time her son wandered off "the worst 15 minutes of my life."

"For me it literally it was for the safety only," she said. "I didn’t buy it for the features but they’re phenomenal. For example, I can do a wellness check when he is on the bus."

There were more than 464,000 reports of missing children in the United States alone according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation. A GPS tracker is one step parents can take to prevent that number from being any higher.

"If you take it in a car it will tell you the speed," Callahan said. "It will tell you where it is and where it has been. Once you have some history in your menu you can always tap on a previous location and it will show you the exact route taken there."

Whether it’s AngelSense or any other GPS tracker, accuracy and consistency are important.

How We Tested

And speaking of the woods, we also took these GPS trackers on a hike to see how they worked in the elements. This led us to the discovery that almost none of them worked in a particularly mountainous area, so we don’t recommend most of them for deep woods hiking. Battery life was also tested, along with each unit’s two-way communication abilities.

We weighted each unit, used its attachments and a few times we even talked with customer service representatives. If a tracker was advertised as waterproof, we dunked it for about 10 minutes to make sure. The Tile Mate, the only Bluetooth tracker we tested, was tested a bit differently because of its limited capabilities compared to the GPS trackers, but we still took it outside with the long measuring tape to see what its range really is.

How Much Does a GPS Tracker Cost?

Our research shows the average GPS tracker costs $123 for the device alone, but service plans vary. You can often pay less overall if you buy more months of service at a time as opposed to buying month-to-month. Some GPS trackers do come with some service included, which is a great deal.

How A GPS Tracker Works

GPS trackers work using cell phone, satellite and Wi-Fi signals and the best ones will show you in real time where the tracker is on your desktop and smartphone. Bluetooth trackers like the Tile Mate work by sending a signal between the tracker and your phone or computer, so the range is going to be much shorter. Some GPS trackers can even use different WiFi signals within a large building to triangulate what room someone is in. 

That being said, these little gadgets are handy but they’re not magic. If you live somewhere with poor cellphone reception, your GPS tracker reception will also most likely be poor. If that’s the case, you can opt for units that are better in the great wide open but know you’ll be sacrificing some of the detail and speed you get from trackers that perform well in urban areas.

For Your Business

GPS trackers can be incredibly useful if you own and operate a business. They can help you keep track of your products, property and staff, all from the comfort of your phone or computer screen. There are a variety of trackers available to suit your business needs. We suggest picking a company that allows you to use as many trackers as possible at once. For example, the BrickHouse tracker we tested shows you where several trackers are at one time. Many companies, including BrickHouse Security, also make trackers specifically for vehicles. 

These trackers let you know where your employees are, and you'll get an alert if the devices are uninstalled. The trackers tell you not only the vehicles' locations but also the speed at which the cars are traveling. However, our research indicates that these trackers are a little more difficult to install than regular GPS trackers. Trackers can also be useful for keeping an eye on valuable company assets or for making sure your employees have reached their destinations. 

Tracking Your Child

Using a GPS tracker with your child can put your mind at ease, but there are several things you should keep in mind. GPS trackers with two-way communication mean you can listen to your what your child is doing whenever they’re wearing the device, but we strongly encourage you not to abuse this feature and constantly check the app. Instead, we recommend setting up predetermined safe zones so you’ll receive alerts when your child leaves that area. That way you’re not checking the app every 5 seconds and the device’s battery will last longer. 

You can also work with your child’s teachers and school officials to come up with a plan for when it’s appropriate for the GPS device to be on at school. Just remember a GPS tracker is no substitute for good parenting. We encourage you to talk to your children about safety, avoiding strangers and when to dial 9-1-1.