Do I Need a Vehicle Tracker in Case My Car Is Stolen?

By Ron Benvenisti. Unplanned, unfortunate things happen every day. That is the nature of the world we live in. We all have valuable items that we hold very dear to our hearts, some due to the cost, and others that are simply priceless. But regardless of the monetary value attached, nobody wants to have their property lost or stolen, no matter how small.

More people are getting vehicle trackers and hiding them in their vehicles, especially on high-end vehicles, due to the rise and auto thefts. Vehicles often wind up in “chop-shops” where the vehicle is “parted out” – the parts are stripped off the vehicle for resale for which there is a huge market. Alternatively, the vehicle is exported to another country.

The typical car thief is usually the lowest on the totem pole of a sophisticated organization when it comes to high end vehicles. The crook may get paid a couple of hundred bucks to steal a car, drop it off, and the masterminds can get tens of thousands of dollars for the car on export, or hundreds of thousands for the parts.

Just today we did story on a stolen Range Rover. Range Rovers are usually factory equipped with a tracking system, but they are notorious for glitches and failures. It’s also easy to duplicate a key fob if you have the VIN number. A crook can take a picture of the VIN number and have an unscrupulous partner make a duplicate key fob. The crook comes back later and just takes the car. Also, last month we reported on a Jackson resident who retrieved their vehicle thanks to an external tracker device. The small investment can make the difference of getting a car back or not.

Vehicle tracking allows monitoring and controlling of vehicles using gadgets like computers, smartphones, tablets, and other devices, on a 24×7 basis with the help of GPS satellites. Vehicle tracking systems (VTS) allow instantaneous tracking of vehicle speeds, monitoring routes they followed, checking stopping points and idling times, recording vehicle histories, and maintaining detailed reports

This is one of the reasons why tracking devices have become so popular.

Tracking devices are electronic devices that are able to track a vehicle’s position and/or movement in real-time. These devices have mostly relied on GPS points, but now tracking is also done by scanning for Wi-Fi routers and cell towers and satellites. Location data is usually viewed on an internet on an internet connected computer or smart phones using dedicated apps.

The best GPS tracking devices receive satellite signals and process their location either onboard or via the cloud . Newer devices scan for GPS, Wi-Fi routers, cell towers, and even Bluetooth tags at the same time. Trackers can determine their exact location, usually within a few meters, in addition to the speed of the vehicle as well as the exact time.

The GPS system is made up of 27 satellites that each orbit the earth. While there are 27 satellites, only 24 are active, with the remaining three serving as backup in case any of the 24 fail. These satellites orbit the earth at 12-hour intervals, sending signals that GPS receivers receive. Other providers have satellites performing similar functions.

The GPS network is controlled by several tracking stations that are located across the globe. These tracking stations capture the signals transmitted by the satellites, that the GPS receivers then convert to usable data like time, position, and velocity.

The GPS receivers that is installed on or in the vehicle captures the signals sent by the satellites and then uses them to determine the device’s position in space and time.

Trackers come in a variety configurations and installation options. Some trackers magnetically attach to the vehicle, some can screw in for more security and others can be hardwired into the vehicle and hidden from sight. There are trackers that plug directly into the vehicle’s OBD port, which is where your mechanic plugs in a diagnostic computer to read your vehicles codes to find problems.

The problem with standalone, magnetic, suction cup and OBD trackers is that they are easily found and removed. Some OBD trackers will notify you as soon as they are pulled from the port. Hard wired trackers are easily hidden anywhere out of sight and reach.

You can find these devices on Amazon and Walmart for prices starting at less than ten dollars. Generally speaking, you get what you pay for. If you have a high-end vehicle that does not already have this installed as an option, your best bet is to consult with a vehicle security specialist to see what the best solution is for your situation.

In any case you should pay attention to the battery life and charging times for the portable units. Some may last for a few days on a single charge but may take 12 hours to fully charge. (That could be a problem, as your car will not be protected during that time). Vehicle trackers generally require a subscription service in addition to the cost of the device which can bring the initial cost of the transmitter to anywhere from around $20 to $50 or more a month.

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    • Where in the vehicle is the tracker plugged in? If its connected to the OBD port on the vehicle, its pretty easy for a thief to discover and disconnect.

      Either way, even if the tracker is connected in a more discreet fashion which makes it harder to discover, if the thief uses a GPS Signal Jammer the tracker will be deemed useless even if the actual tracker is not discovered.

      As an idea for Range Rover owners, maybe as a precaution, they can cover the VIN number with a piece of paper from the inside of the windshield to make it more difficult to make a duplicate key fob.

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