Best GPS Trackers of 2018

Anna Burleson ·
Entertainment Writer
Updated
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We spent 30 hours driving around, hiking, getting lost and then finding ourselves again to figure out which GPS trackers are the best you can buy. Bluetooth tracking tags for finding lost objects in your home are becoming more commonplace, so we tested one of those as well, but GPS trackers are even better because they have virtually unlimited range as long as you have cell phone service or Wi-Fi. Taking accuracy, effectiveness and range of features into account, the Veriot Venture is the best overall GPS tracker because it’s easy to use, extremely accurate and rather affordable.         

Best Overall
Veriot Venture
The Veriot Venture is a sleek, easy to use and accurate GPS tracker that would work well in almost any situation where you need to keep an eye on something important.
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Best Value
Trax Play
The Trax Play tracker and subscription package doesn’t cost a lot but still gives you accurate tracking and some useful high-tech features.
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Best for Parents
AngelSense
AngelSense GPS trackers are ideal for keeping track of children.
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Product
Price
OVERALL RATING
Price
Tracking
Access
Design
Subscription Required
Service Included With Purchase
Discovery Range (feet)
Tracking Delay Driving Test
Battery Life Test
Geofencing
Two-Way Communication
App
Desktop Tracker
Durablity
Weight (ounces)
Attaches
$49.99 Amazon
3.4 4.9 5 3.8
6 months
~150
30 seconds
2+ days
Splashproof
3.1 Ounces
Carabiner
$135 Amberalertgps
2.3 4.7 5 4.2
N/A
~100
30 seconds
21 hours
Splashproof
2.5 Ounces
Necklace
$99 Angelsense
2.8 5 0.3 3.9
N/A
~100
30 seconds
23 hours
Splashproof
3 Ounces
Pouch/Belt
$99 Amazon Warehouse
2.7 4.4 2.5 5
N/A
~125
30 seconds
21
Splashproof
0.8 Ounces
Clip
$49.99 Amazon Marketplace
2.8 4.9 5 0.7
N/A
~20
1 minute
2+ days
N/A
3 Ounces
N/A
$129 Amazon Marketplace
1.9 3.8 3.8 4.8
N/A
~50
1 minute
12 hours
Water Resistant
1.3 Ounces
Key Ring
$1 Amazon Marketplace
5 1.5 3.8 3.3
N/A
~3
N/A
1 year
Splashproof
0.1 Ounces
N/A
$199 Newegg
2.9 4.3 1.3 4.7
6 Months
~100
30 Seconds
10 Hours
Splashproof
1.4 Ounces
Watch
$132 Amazon
1.9 2.7 5 4.3
N/A
~100
2.5 minutes+
2+ days
Waterproof
4.1 Ounces
Carabiner
$73.99 ElectroParts
2.4 2.8 2.5 2.5
N/A
~100
2.5 minutes+
2+ days
Waterproof
3.5 Ounces
N/A
Best Overall
This GPS tracker is our favorite because it’s extremely accurate and easy to use.
It’s even impressive before you turn it on: the sleek packaging includes a screen which automatically plays an informational video about how the device works. The Veriot Venture works anywhere you get a cell phone signal or Wi-Fi connection. You simply download the free app on your phone or login online and you can start tracking immediately because it comes with six months of service preloaded. In our tests, there was a delay of about 30 seconds or less from where the location pin was on the map and where the tracker actually was, when being driven around. This makes it ideal for tracking a car, your child, your purse or anything of value to you. You can also set boundaries to receive alerts when the device crosses them. The tracker also goes to “sleep” if it’s not moving, drastically improving battery life. It kept working for more than two days before we had to cease testing and the website says it will keep running for as many as five, so there’s no need to worry about recharging all the time. It’s splash proof and comes with a small carabiner so you could attach this tracker to a bag or piece of clothing easily. One of the only downsides is its square shape is a little too big for the average pants pocket. The Veriot Venture’s effortless accuracy and affordability make it our best overall pick.
Pros
  • It comes with 6 months of service
  • Battery life is phenomenal
  • The packaging is modern and unique
Cons
  • The discovery range is about 150 feet
  • A monthly subscription is required
  • The cube design doesn’t fit in your pocket
$69.99Amazon
Read the full review
Best Value
This little tracker would work well with a pet, children, or even a car.
Weighing less than 1 ounce, you can use the little silicone case it comes with to clip it to a garment, bag or dog collar for Fido if he likes to chase squirrels. The Trax Play works through a free smart phone app or you can also login through the website and track on your desktop computer. You must pay for a monthly subscription to track, but it’s relatively affordable compared to a lot of other subscription packages we looked at. Once you’re signed up, you can personalize the account with a photo and description of who or what you’re tracking, which is a nice touch. We took this tracker on the road and discovered it was extremely accurate, with only about 30 seconds of lag time between where the tracker is and the ping on the map. It’s discovery range is about 125 feet and while that’s not the most accurate of the trackers we tested, it’s still relatively good. You’re most likely going to be able to find the bag, person, pet or car you’re looking for in that range. In our tests, the Trax Play’s battery lasted 21 hours, which is midrange and reasonable. It would definitely last for an entire 8-hour work day and even more if you used it, for instance, to track a fleet of vehicles. It’s splash-proof but not waterproof, so don’t use it to track any submarines. It does lack two-way communication, but it has a cool augmented reality feature. When opened, it will show you your surroundings through your smart phone’s camera with the overlay of a pin showing you which way the tracker is. This is useful for finding the tag if it’s hidden once you’re close to it. And frankly, it’s a lot of fun.
Pros
  • It’s lightweight
  • It’s very accurate
  • The augmented reality feature is unique and useful
Cons
  • It isn’t waterproof
  • The silicone case gets dirty easily
  • Battery life is decent but not the best
Amazon
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Best for Parents
AngelSense makes trackers specifically designed for parents with children who have autism, though it’s useful in a variety of circumstances.
The company makes two models, the original AngelSense and a newer one with more features, and while we tested both the newer AngelSense 2018 is our preferred unit. What makes this tracker great for parents is its two-way communication. You can call the device to listen in on your kid’s surroundings or Angel Call, which essentially turns the unit into a phone allowing you to speak to the people around your child and for them to speak with you. If you notice Little Johnny has been on his bus route for too long you can simply call him through the device to see what’s happening. This is ideal for parents of children with sensory problems who might not otherwise answer a cell phone. If this seems like an overreach for your style of parenting, it’s still a very accurate tracker. In our tests, the location pin was only delayed by less than 30 seconds and its discovery radius was about 100 feet. The AngelSense battery was also one of the longest-lasting we tested, working for about 23 hours. This tracker requires a subscription, but the app to use it on your smartphone is free. It’s also splash proof, so it will survive a little abuse as long as it doesn’t accidentally end up in a swimming pool. If your child is very young or prone to losing things, AngelSense comes with a belt and pouch you can affix to clothing or a backpack with a pin system that only comes undone with a magnetic key. There’s a learning curve to using them but they’re really quite effective; there’s no way the GPS could fall out of a pocket or bag. You can use the app’s geofencing capabilities to pin common locations your child visits and receive alerts when they arrive or leave, among a lot of other great features.
Pros
  • The device is affordable
  • the battery will last almost an entire day
  • Two-way calling
Cons
  • It’s bulky
  • The attachment pins take some getting used to
  • It could be used unethically
$99.99AngelSense
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Best for Survival
The SPOT Gen3 didn’t fare very well in our ranking because it’s not suited for every situation.
It is, however, very well suited for use where there is no phone service and safety is your main concern. This rugged piece of equipment is waterproof and easily attaches to your clothing or a bag so you don’t have to worry about it while you’re off-roading it. You can program it to send preset messages to your loved ones letting them know you’re safe, or even sending them your exact coordinates if you find yourself in need of assistance. An SOS button will also signal emergency services to begin searching for you based on your last known location and the battery life will last days depending on how often you program it to ping your location. Used through the free app or your browser, you’ll never have to worry about getting lost.
Pros
  • It’s waterproof
Cons
  • No real-time tracking
Amazon
Read the full review
Least Expensive
The Tile Mate is a very inexpensive tracking option for finding things in your home.
It’s a Bluetooth tracker, which means its range is short, but it works well in that small space. There is no monthly subscription required and all you have to do is download the app to get started. The tag will sound the alarm when you press a button on the app but if you’re like most of us and are constantly misplacing your phone you can also press the button on the tag to make your phone ring. It’s really a very convenient thing to have for when you can’t find y our car keys, purse or other small personal items. The battery should last you a full year and even though you can’t recharge it or replace it, the cost of getting another Tile is so minimal it’s not going to be a problem.
Pros
  • It's lightweight and durable
Cons
  • The range isn't impressive
Amazon
Read the full review

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

After unboxing and setting up all of these GPS trackers, we took them on the road. One tester drove them around the city and beyond while another monitored them from our lab and while in constant communication with the driver, we gathered data on how current each tracker’s location ping actually was. We also used a really, really long measuring tape to see how close each tracker’s location pin was to its actual location. In short, we wanted to see which trackers we could find within a few feet and which ones might take some searching for if, for instance, a beloved pet got lost in the woods.

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.

More About GPS Trackers

How It 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 smart phone. 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 Wi-Fi 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.



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.