Do Cars Have Trackers? [Everything You Should Know!] – vehicleuniversity.com (2024)

Cars have come a long way since their inception. Many modern automobiles have navigation systems that give driving directions and help you find the quickest route from point A to point B. So, considering all the technology present in modern vehicles, can we assume that cars have trackers?

Many cars have trackers. It’s not uncommon for newer cars to use a GPS (Global Positioning System) to determine your location for navigational purposes. Some automobiles may be able to capture and store similar information, but you’ll need special tracking apps to monitor your vehicle remotely.

Keep reading if you’re concerned about your privacy or want to know where your vehicle is at any time. Aside from letting you know if cars have built-in trackers, this article will cover different tracking devices, how they work, and the information they provide.

Do Cars Have Built-In Trackers?

Many modern cars have built-in trackers in the sense that they have systems in place that monitor information that can be made available to people. However, tracking a vehicle remotely using its onboard electronics and GPS may require authorization from the manufacturer and owner.

It helps to examine the role computers and electronic systems play to better understand their “tracking” capabilities.

Onboard Computers and ECUs

These days, vehicles are highly computerized, as many of the car’s functions work using drive-by-wire technology. Mechanical parts like the throttle, gear shifter, suspension, and steering now rely heavily on electronics. Cars have onboard computers, sensors, and ECUs (Electronic Control Units) that monitor and control different systems.

The use of electronics provides the car with more features and gives the driver more convenience and control by making essential functions more configurable and easier to operate. A driver can steer the car and shift gears with much less effort, while the car can adapt better to different scenarios and road conditions with features like traction control and lane-keep assist.

One of the most used modern-day features in the car is the navigation system, which relies on its GPS to determine its location and provide the necessary driving directions. However, it’s important to differentiate that a vehicle’s sat nav uses location data to provide driving directions. In contrast, a GPS tracker uses it to inform the owner of the vehicle’s whereabouts.

Another attribute of having computers and electronics in vehicles is allowing service technicians to diagnose a car by plugging a laptop into the OBD (On-board Diagnostic) port of a vehicle. The vehicle sensors warn drivers of potential issues and help technicians isolate where the problem may be.

Event Data Recorders

An EDR (Event Data Recorder) is another onboard device that tracks vehicle information like a plane’s black box. Over 60% of vehicles produced after 2005 have EDRs.

The primary purpose of an EDR is to record technical information about the car and driver to assess how a vehicle’s safety systems perform in the event of a collision. Manufacturers or insurance companies typically use data captured by EDRs to study accident dynamics or assess the car.

Tracking Apps and Services

Given all this technology, we can conclude that many modern vehicles have tracking capabilities since they can monitor vast amounts of information.

However, you may need to download apps like FordPass or subscribe to services like OnStar to access tracking information for your vehicle. Automakers will have specific apps or software that are compatible with their brand.

Universal tracking apps like Google Maps allow you to find your vehicle, but you will need to save your vehicle’s location. These apps come in handy if you have trouble remembering where you parked.

Unauthorized Vehicle Tracking

If you’re wondering whether or not someone can track your vehicle without your authorization, the sad truth is that it is entirely possible. All they need to do is mount a tracking device on your car without you knowing. Some tracking devices are magnetic and relatively small so they can be mounted to your car discreetly.

Rest assured that built-in tracking systems require your permission or a security code for outsiders to access.

How To Tell if a Vehicle Has a GPS Tracker?

There are tools in the market that can detect GPS trackers, but the only other way to tell if your car has a GPS tracker is through a thorough visual inspection. However, some trackers will be hard to find, especially if they are hard-wired or built into your vehicle.

Aftermarket GPS Trackers

Do Cars Have Trackers? [Everything You Should Know!] – vehicleuniversity.com (1)

You can purchase an aftermarket GPS tracker if your car does not have a built-in tracker. Whether you want the piece of mind of recovering your car in case it gets stolen or simply need to monitor a fleet vehicle or a family member, an aftermarket GPS tracker is a perfect solution.

Keep in mind that aside from purchasing the tracking device, you may need to sign up for a subscription for cellular or coverage and to gain access to a GPS server. Other systems work with the software or app on your smartphone and don’t need a monthly subscription.

GPS data loggers also don’t require a subscription but do not give you the benefit of real-time reporting; you can only check where your vehicle has been after retrieving the tracking device.

Different Types of GPS Trackers for Vehicles

There’s a wide array of different GPS trackers to choose from, but they will perform the same primary function of letting you know where your vehicle is. The best GPS tracker for you depends on your application and needs.

Hard-Wired Trackers

A hard-wired tracker is the best option if you plan on tracking one vehicle. The vehicle’s electrical system powers hard-wired trackers, so they will not require external batteries to work.

Since hard-wired trackers are linked to your car’s onboard computer, they can provide you with additional information like speed, distance, fuel mileage, and maintenance reports. Another benefit is that they can be discreetly installed and remain undetected.

The disadvantage of hard-wired trackers is that they may require professional assistance to install if you’re not comfortable tinkering with your car’s electrical system. Another drawback is that you can’t quickly move the device from one car to another.

The O3 Optimus GB100M Hard-wired GPS tracker (Available on amazon.com) works with Android and iOS apps and refreshes every 30 seconds to provide accurate data. This tracker can send driving reports through email and text, aside from providing you alerts for entering or leaving specific areas and speed information.

Plug and Play Trackers

Plug-and-play GPS trackers also obtain power from your car’s electrical system. These trackers are slightly easier to install than hard-wired trackers since they plug into the car’s OBD port or a 12-volt outlet. The ease of installation allows you to move them from one car to another if the need arises.

Plug-in trackers that connect to the vehicle’s OBD port can also provide you with additional vehicle information, like hard-wired trackers. GPS trackers that connect to your car’s OBD will continue working even when the vehicle is switched off, but those that connect to the 12-volt outlet will not.

If you’re worried about draining your car’s battery, this article will shed light on how your car battery can drain overnight.

The Brickhouse Security TrackPort GPS Tracker (available on Amazon.com) does not require professional installation since it conveniently connects to your car’s OBD II port under the dashboard. This tracker lets you monitor your vehicle’s location each time it’s on the move.

You’ll be able to track driving behaviors since this tracker can report information like excessive speeding and harsh braking or acceleration.

Battery Operated Trackers

Battery-operated trackers are the best option if you move the device from one vehicle to another. Since these trackers are highly portable and require no installation, you can place them anywhere in the car or use them as tracking devices for your children.

The battery life for these trackers varies, but most will last one to two weeks between recharging. Some battery-operated trackers have motion sensors that minimize sending out signals when stationary to conserve battery power.

Aside from having to worry about power consumption, battery-operated GPS trackers will not be able to provide you with the vehicle’s technical information since they do not have a connection with the vehicle’s onboard computer.

The Brickhouse Security SparkNano 7 GPS Tracker (available on Amazon.com) is one of the smallest GPS trackers available, allowing you to conveniently place it anywhere in your vehicle or have your loved ones take it with them. This tracker provides you with geofencing capabilities and real-time and historical travel reports.

How GPS Trackers Work?

GPS trackers cater to more than just vehicles since they can be placed on almost any moving object. These trackers can coordinate with satellites to determine their location on (or near) the earth’s surface.

There are over thirty satellites orbiting the earth as part of the Global Positioning System. These satellites constantly send out radio signals, which contain their precise location. The GPS receiver uses a process called trilateration by sending a return signal to at least four satellites to determine its position.

Since radio signals travel at a constant speed, the GPS receiver can pinpoint its location by calculating the amount of time it takes for the radio signal to reach each satellite. The accuracy of the location can have a variance of 7 meters (22.96 ft) or 1 centimeter (0.03 ft) depending on the receiver.

Do Cars Have Trackers? [Everything You Should Know!] – vehicleuniversity.com (2024)

FAQs

Do all cars have trackers on them? ›

No, all cars do not have GPS tracking built in, though as advancement in technology has progressed, most modern vehicles have GPS capabilities, giving the driver the ability to navigate with their car's GPS as opposed to using a phone as a medium. Though a tracking feature may be exclusive to specific vehicles.

Can my car be tracked without me knowing? ›

The short answer is yes. You can certainly hide a GPS tracking device on a car without the driver knowing. In fact, there are many ways to do so. Why Do People Hide GPS Tracking Devices in Cars?

Does my vehicle have a tracker? ›

One way to find a GPS tracker is to use a bug detector that can scan both the inside and outside of a vehicle. It is also possible to physically detect a GPS tracker in known locations, such as in the OBD port, under the backseat or underneath the car.

Is there a hidden tracker on my car? ›

If you don't notice anything obvious, use your flashlight and mirror to check under the seats, under and behind the dash, inside and behind the glove compartment, and in the center console. Trackers can also be hidden in seat pockets, between seats, behind sun visors, and elsewhere.

What do hidden trackers on cars look like? ›

Compact Design: Wireless GPS trackers are small and discreet, often resembling matchboxes or decks of cards, making them easy to hide within a vehicle's interior. Magnetic Casing: Many trackers feature magnetic casings, allowing them to slide under the vehicle and attach to the frame securely.

What year did they start putting trackers in cars? ›

GPS navigation for vehicles began officially in 2001 from private companies due to the growing technology and shrinking receiver size, which in turn brought about personal navigation devices inside civilian vehicles such as Garvin and TomTom.

Can I sue someone for putting a tracker on my car? ›

The legality of using a GPS tracker on another person's vehicle without their permission is clear—it is illegal in all 50 states. Not only does this act violate legal standards, but it also exposes the individual to potential civil lawsuits for privacy infringements.

Is putting an airtag on someone's car illegal? ›

In six states (California, Florida, Hawaii, Louisiana, Minnesota, New Hampshire and Virginia) laws more broadly prohibit the use of electronic tracking devices, not just on vehicles, and not just in the context of stalking, but when they are used to determine the location or movement of a person without consent.

Can a cell phone detect a GPS tracker? ›

An unknown tracker alert is sent when someone else's tracker device is separated from them and if your Android phone detects the tracker is traveling with you and out of Bluetooth range from the owner. The notification alerts you to the tracker and tells you how to find it and what to do next.

What cars have trackers on them? ›

Luxury and high-end vehicles have often led the way in integrating sophisticated tracking technology, making GPS trackers a standard or optional feature in models from renowned brands like Mercedes-Benz, BMW, and Audi.

Is there an app to scan for trackers? ›

Tracker Detect looks for items that are separated from their owner and that are compatible with Apple's Find My network. These items include AirTag and compatible devices from others. If you think someone is using an AirTag or another item to track your location, you can scan to find it.

What does a dealership tracker look like? ›

The most common GPS tracking device used by car dealerships typically looks like a small, discreet module that can be easily installed in a vehicle without drawing much attention. These devices often have a compact design and can be placed inconspicuously within the vehicle's interior or engine compartment.

Can I take off a tracking device put on by a dealership? ›

They are very easy to remove, especially if you have automotive electrical experience. However, doing so would void the agreement you have with the lender, the lender would repossess the vehicle and you open yourself up to legal liability. How do I remove the GPS tracker off my car from a dealership?

Who can remove a tracker from a car? ›

If you want to remove a hardwired GPS tracker from a car, the best option is to ask your local auto repair mechanic to help you out. They will ensure that the tracker is uninstalled properly and is viable for further use.

Do all financed cars have trackers? ›

Car dealerships often install GPS trackers on financed cars to protect their financial interests. Since the dealership technically owns the vehicle until the buyer or lessee pays off the loan, they have the legal right to track the car's location.

What type of cars have trackers? ›

Luxury and high-end vehicles have often led the way in integrating sophisticated tracking technology, making GPS trackers a standard or optional feature in models from renowned brands like Mercedes-Benz, BMW, and Audi.

Do they put trackers on used cars? ›

Yes, many dealerships install GPS trackers on their cars. It helps in managing and protecting the inventory, enabling quick recovery in case of theft and offering valuable data on the vehicle's usage and condition.

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