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Five Best GPS Trackers

GPS Tracking Has Gone Mainstream With These Easy-to-Use Consumer Models


GPS trackers and tracking are very much in the news, as the courts decide legal issues, and as individuals consider what should and should not be done with tracking devices. There is no question there are legitimate and moral-issues-free reasons for using GPS tracking, including commercial fleet management, theft prevention, pet safety, safety of people - such as young children and alzheimer's patients - and much more. GPS tracking devices were once cobbled-together and difficult-to-use gadgets. But there are a number of well-designed, easy-to-use, consumer-friendly units now on the market. In this article, I've selected the top five user-friendly devices for you (click images to enlarge). All include online monitoring and geofence features.

Garmin GTU 10 GPS Tracker ($149 - $199)

Garmin GTU 10 GPS Tracker
I knew the GPS tracking market had arrived when Garmin jumped in with its GTU 10. This lightweight (1.7 oz) and waterproof device is very versatile, and can track just about anything. It has its own rechargeable lithium-ion battery, but it can also be connected to a vehicle by an optional power cable. Purchase of the GTU 10 includes a year of cellular (GSM wireless) service. To use the GTU 10 simply set up your online account at a "My Garmin" website, and place the GTU 10. Given its compact size and shape there are many mounting options, or it can simply be placed in a child's backpack pocket, for example. Once set up, the GTU 10 will send you location notices according to geofences you've set up, or, you can track it in near-real-time on the website.

Zoombak GPS Trackers ($130 - $160)

Zoombak GPS Tracker

Zoombak was one of the pioneers in making GPS tracking consumer-friendly, and its diverse line reflects its experience in the field. Offerings include a car & family package, a "universal" locator, and a Zoombak just for pets. The car device may be installed on a vehicle and connected to the car power, or kept separate/portable and run on battery power. The car package includes an AC/wall charger, portable car charger, and a car installation kit that taps into the car's 12V power. Like most other devices in this review, the car unit can do continuous tracking via a website, or send you alerts when it enters or leave geofences you set up.

Zoombak's pet version, the SpotLight, may be ordered with a pet collar, or mounted on an existing collar.

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Escort Entourage GPS Trackers ($279 - $299)

Escort Entourage GPS tracker

Escort, of radar-detector renown, has jumped into the GPS tracking market with its Entourage PS and Entourage CIS models. The CIS model comes with screw brackets, and is meant to be permanently installed on a vehicle in a secure and hidden location. It also comes with a key-fob that sends a wireless signal to the unit to disarm and arm it when you enter and leave the vehicle. If you take out a yearly subscription ($119) to a monitoring service, a tracking and recovery effort will automatically begin, and you will be notified if your vehicle moves when the device is armed.

The Entourage PS model is meant to be more portable, and does not have screw brackets, or a wireless key fob arm/disarm device. It has the same tracking features as the CIS, and may also be registered for the monitoring service subscription.

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PocketFinder Trackers for People, Pets, Vehicles ($149 - $189)

Pocketfinder GPS tracker

PocketFinder has introduced a line of GPS trackers for tracking people, pets, and vehicles. The vehicle tracker has screw mounts and a connector for car 12V for permanent installation. This tracker and its companion website let you set up geofences and speed alert notices. The PocketFinder pet finder is a small (about the size of an Oreo cookie) waterproof and shock-resistant device that is easily mounted on a collar. Real-time tracking online, and geofences and alerts sent to your mobile device are included.

If you have a smartphone, such as an iPhone, Android phone, or a Blackberry, you can download a free Pocketfinder app that will let you access all of the location and tracking features across any of the three Pocketfinder products. A nice touch.

SPOT Satellite GPS Messenger ($99 - $149)

SPOT Satellite Messenger

The SPOT GPS Satellite Messenger falls into a different category than other units in this review. It is intended more for outdoor sports and activities. SPOT also provides you with the unique ability to text using its satellite capability, when you are outside of cell phone range. SPOT can also provide your position to others when you are out of cell phone range, unlike other devices in this review. It even includes a shielded "SOS" button, which is to be used only in a life-threatening or very critical emergency situation. The SOS button notifies the global GEOS International Emergency Response Center an initiates a search-and-rescue operation.

You can permit others to track your adventure, or manually send a "check-in/OK" text that includes your current location. There is also a version of the SPOT (the Connect model) which connects to your smartphone via Bluetooth and lets you send short e-mail and text messages via satellite.

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