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Howdy all,

The purpose of this post is to provide a general, quality review of anti-theft GPS trackers and my device of choice, without getting too “techy”. Although there are some discussions on this topic I don’t see thorough write ups. I might have missed it though as I’m a total newb here. The info below may be useful if you’re considering applying a security feature to your rig or adding an additional or complimentary security measures. I hope this post assists you to make an informed decision and possibly helps the entire community by reducing theft.

After recently buying a rig (99 TJ) and reading through the excellent support for repairs and mods in this forum it occurs to me that our prized Wranglers are at incredible risk for theft. Since I live in a high-risk theft area and I keep my rig topless to enjoy the San Diego sun I began considering theft deterrent systems. First, I’ll describe my thought process for choosing the GPS tracker instead of other options. Second, I’ll provide some info on selecting a GPS tracker. I’ll review the tracker I deploy from purchase to install to application. Last, I’ll drop in some final suggestions and tips.

To avoid advertising for the GPS tracker I deploy, in my review below I’ll fall short of providing the exact manufacturer. If you’re interested in more specific information don’t hesitate to reach out by PM.

1. Security system selection:

Of course, there are many after-market security features available to provide some peace of mind or compliment security features you may have already. The steering wheel lock, clutch/brake lock, hood lock, hood latch lock, ignition kill switch, impact alarm, proximity alarm, etc., etc., etc. are all great features each with unique merits.

As unique as each option above may be, they all have one thing in common; they’re all preventative security measures. As I’m sure many of you are already aware either from your neighbor’s horror story or first-hand experience of your own tragic loss, a motivated thief may not be slowed down by preventative security features. Yes, preventative security features increase the likelihood of thwarting a theft. No denying it. But don’t under estimate the craft of the meager few with ill intent and lack of admirable substance. They will get your jeep if they want it bad enough.

Preventative security is only half of an effective security effort. The compliment to preventative security is detective security. Due to the high risk of theft in my area and the fact that I roll topless all day every day, my security pick is a GPS tracker which is a detective measure. GPS tracking is a detective security measure because your tracker can be configured to notify you if your rig moves unexpectedly.

The risk of course with the GPS tracker option is that the perpetrator may discover and remove the tracker. After considering this risk and weighing it against other preventative security features I chose the GPS tracker because I figure that even with a steering wheel lock, hood lock, ignition kill switch, etc. it would be pretty easy for someone to tow the thing away to a safe place to be worked and lost forever.

But with GPS tracking I can see where my Wrangler sits and moves at all times. And, good luck finding where the GPS tracker is hidden before you’re tracked and have a fleet of undesireables, ********, policia, republicans, and other local Gestapo reign upon your hideout to wreck your universe. How would I find you? Keep reading!

2. Selecting a GPS tracker:

Today there are a dozen or so options from a number of well-established manufacturers and service providers as well as a number of DIY hacks to customize your own tracking solution. My search began with a Google search, plus I scoured some forums for some information. Here are some useful links from some tech reviewers and are meant for your information to get you started, there are a number of other web resources in addition to these:

The Best GPS Trackers of 2017 | Top Ten Reviews
Ultimate Guide to the Best Car Tracker
https://nerdtechy.com/reviews-best-real-time-gps-trackers

Each GPS tracker out there has similar and unique features. There are a number of features not listed below, but these are some main things to consider:

Service Subscription – This varies from device to device. There are some tracker solutions out there with no monthly subscription. Many charge a monthly subscription for the GPS tracking service. The device I deploy has a monthly subscription fee. I find the service valuable because my TJ is rad and well worth it, and because the monthly fee won’t be missed. For those wishing to avoid a monthly service fee there are solutions out there including some DIY solutions; however this may require sacrifice on some other valuable features.

Battery Life – This can range from as little as a few hours, to as much as several months for the more costly units. Battery life is affected by update frequency and standby mode so seek the features that work best for you. See “Update Frequency” and “Standby Mode” below for additional info.

Update Frequency – This is the frequency that your tracker is logged by the service provider’s GPS tracking system. Generally, to conserve battery most manufacturers default to about 10 minute update intervals which may be configured by the user to report with more or less frequency. The more frequent your device updates, the faster the battery is depleted and vice versa. The tracker I deploy is configurable such that if I receive a notification that my jeep was unexpectedly moved I can change the update interval to minute-by-minute tracking, or I can ping it for a real-time location.

Standby Mode – Devices with this feature include a gyroscopic sensor to sense if the vehicle is moving or still. While the vehicle is still the devices with this feature go to a power save mode to preserve battery life.

Network – Different devices work on different networks. During your search learn on which network the devices you are considering operate and ensure that the network is available in your area. Some devices work on familiar cellular networks, these likely require a monthly subscriptions. Other devices operate by other methods. Perform your diligence to find the option that’s right for you.

Geo-Fencing – This feature allows you to draw a perimeter around a map area and then the device can be configured to notify you by text or email if the device leaves or enters the area. Some devices provide the flexibility of many geo-fences, some devices don’t offer this feature. This feature was a major selling point for the device I deploy. If you’re considering GPS tracking as a security feature make sure you compare this function among manufacturers.

Mobile-App – Some devices are supported by mobile-applications for your tablet or smartphone, some are only supported by web-browsers, some are only supported by proprietary tracking devices. The mobile-app feature was important to me so the device I deploy is trackable on my smartphone.

3. My GPS Tracker:

So after deciding that the detective security measure in the GPS tracking option is right for my comfort and application and after I decided on the features important to me I made my order from an online retail giant familiar to everyone. In addition to the device I purchased a weather proof case. The cost for the device and case was just under $110. Shipping was incredibly fast from the well-known online retail giant and even arrived a day earlier than expected. Out of the box the device was packaged similar to a cell phone and even had a cellular network card, a charger, and a small information booklet.

After unpackaging the device and powering it up I subscribed to the monthly service on the vendor’s website which was a pretty easy process requiring the IMEI number from the device, some general personal information, and a credit card. The monthly service cost for my device of choice is $20/mo which is a comfortable cost for me at $240 annually for the comfort and peace of mind it provides. By default the subscription is set to auto-pay each month from the credit card entered at the time of subscription. My device and monthly service requires no annual contract, I can cancel at any time and re-start service at any time. Again, the purpose of my post isn’t to suggest that we should all be on a monthly plan at this cost, there are other options with no monthly fee.

My device of choice includes mobile-app support so my next step was to download the mobile app and sign in using the credentials entered when subscribing to the monthly service. After signing in, BOOM!, there’s the device appearing exactly where I was standing on the planet. Amazing. I played around with the features in the mobile app including geo-fencing, update frequency, etc. Geo-fencing is a huge selling point for me so I configured some perimeters and alert settings to my liking which was pretty much intuitive for me.

Next, where to hide this thing. Well that will remain a mystery for the purpose of this post. But the weather-proof case purchased with the device came in incredible handy here because the case is equipped with 2 strong magnets exponentially increasing the number of hiding places available. Let me tell you, the magnets on this case are strong. Although not yet trail tested, I can reasonably predict that if placed on the undercarriage somewhere this case will remain fixed during normal road use and maybe even trail use.

After driving around with this thing for a while I’m satisfied with my purchase and the service. The tracker appears to accurately follow my jeep around and alert me when the geo-fencing perimeters are crossed. Battery life isn’t the best out there, manufacturer says up to 2 weeks and I wonder if that’s if it’s in standby the whole time. Not a big deal, looks like battery will last several days or a week at least.

4. Final Suggestions/Tips:
Here are some notes/tips/suggestions I’ll add to as I learn more:

1. Geofencing –
•I’m close to Mexico so this is an important feature to me. Although I’m confident that this device will help me or law enforcement recover the vehicle in the event my jeep is stolen and remains in the US, I’m also confident that once it crosses the border south it’s gone forever. So, I’ve leveraged the flexibility of the geo-fencing feature to provide peace of mind by configuring several geo-fences going south such that if my jeep were to head for the border my cell phone would alert me numerous times as the device travels south. So many times in fact that I’m confident it will get my attention while I sleep or if I’m in a meeting so I can wipe the crusty’s from my eyes and get on its trail or call authorities.
•Set a geo-fence around your house, around your place of business. Each time your rig leaves home or work you’ll be notified by text or email. This means that each time you leave your house or leave work you’ll receive an alert, which may be slightly annoying. But probably not as annoying as learning your jeep was stolen from your home or work several hours ago leaving you with a long trail to follow. Those text alerts are easily ignored if you’re the one driving.

2. Other uses –
•Geo-fencing can be configured to alert you when the device enters a specified area. Useful if you’re a control freak and don’t trust your kids to stay away from Tijuana, or stay away from the back woods party hole. Don’t be a creep and use this to spy on people though. You're a Jeeper, not a creeper.
•Ever wake up at an unfamiliar house in Pacific Beach with little recollection of the night before, the person next to you, or where you left your rig? Open your tracking app and navigate your sorry self to the bar or street median where you left it so you can clean out the empty beer bottles and fast-food trash gifted by passers-by before you begin your path to mental and physical recovery!

3. DIY Options – Have a de-activated and/or unused smartphone laying around? With the right app installed you can use it as a tracking device. In standby mode your unused device may last for a few days before needing a charge. If you wake up and your rig isn’t where you left it you may be able to use the smartphone in your pocket to track the unused smartphone hidden in your rig. This idea is limited of course to wifi availability among other things but if you're a DIYer you're crafty and I'm sure you'll figure it out

Thanks for reading!
That’s it for now, I hope this was helpful. Maybe more to come later. Your feedback/comments are welcome, particularly alternatives for paid subscription GPS tracking to embrace the DIY community here.
 

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Thanks for the write-up, very detailed.

There really is no reason why you couldn't have listed the specific units you considered, and the one that you ultimately purchased. Most of the reviews that you'll find here detail the specific product. (I know the ones that I've posted do)

Personally, I was just searching here on this very subject this morning, as I am strongly considering this option. Had your write up included the specific item you've reviewed, I feel the review would have been much more valuable to me, and perhaps given me a direction to look at next.

But again, thank you for the review.
 
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Thanks for the excellent write-up. I have also done endless research on this subject. The unit I purchased was an Aspenta Installed Vehicle Tracker - External Antenna. It can be accessed via PC or the app. At the time I paid $50 for a one year subscription to the cellular network. I have been around Southern Arizona with it quite a bit in the last 10 months, and for the most part it does work very well. No issues in the city at all. However, there have been tracking anomalies in areas I would not expect and some minor network issues over that 10 months. Not a lot, but enough that I am going to try something different when my subscription expires in August. Next up I will be testing the Trackmate DASH 2.1 3G.

As you correctly stated any of these devices can be detected and disabled pretty easily by a professional thief. The GPS receiver oscillator emits a RF signal that can be detected and located by a "bug" detector that are readily available at "spy" shops.

But, the way I look at it, it's better than doing nothing.

Installed Vehicle Tracker - External Antennas | Aspenta

https://trackmategps.com
 
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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
There really is no reason why you couldn't have listed the specific units you considered, and the one that you ultimately purchased. Most of the reviews that you'll find here detail the specific product. (I know the ones that I've posted do)

Personally, I was just searching here on this very subject this morning, as I am strongly considering this option. Had your write up included the specific item you've reviewed, I feel the review would have been much more valuable to me, and perhaps given me a direction to look at next.
Thanks Markrak for your feedback. I'm new to this forum and unfamiliar with the etiquette for name dropping/advertising/etc. Makes sense that listing specifics is ok, plenty of detailed write ups include item specifics.

My GPS tracker of choice is the Optimus 2.0 Real Time GPS Tracker.

Maybe if there's some additional interest I'll update my write up with greater detail on this device and some photos/screenshots.

Don't hesitate to reach out here or PM if you have questions on this specific item before buying.
 

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Next up I will be testing the Trackmate DASH 2.1 3G.
I have a Trackmate Mini H 3G waiting for install on my Cutlass. The monthly cost isn't too bad and the functionality they provide is impressive. I also think they operate on both the T-Mobile and AT&T networks and they switch between the two depending on which is stronger which is pretty cool.
 

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I have a question:

I believe you said there was some units that come with no monthly subscription fees. Why did you choose on of those units??
 

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I was "required" to purchase SkyLINK by Sperion at $800 before the dealer would close the deal on. Used 2012 jk. At first I balked, but now, I live the service but contend it is a racket. (I Live in San Diego, 30 minutes from the border) it is only sold by dealers and not available to the retail market.

I pay the $119 annual fee to be able to monitor on my mobile app, set get- fences and up to three zone alerts, speed alerts, email and texts. If you purchase more years the price goes drastically down. If you choose not to pay you are still covered, however you must call if you discover the vehicle is missing, which could be several hours-and too late.
 

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I have a question:

I believe you said there was some units that come with no monthly subscription fees. Why did you choose on of those units??
In my research the ones with monthly fees give you more useful features that will help to track down a stolen vehicle.

Like I said, I haven't installed my Trackmate Mini H 3G yet, but the functionality is impressive. You can do the usual geo-fence things and what not but the device will also:

- Set its own geo-fence every time you park so if it is moved out of that zone without the ignition starting it will notify you.
- Notify you if the vehicle is started.
- Allow you to monitor the vehicle's battery (as the unit is hardwired to the car's power). I find this a big plus as the stand-alone units will only last a few days if they are updating often. It also has a 6 hour battery backup so if your car is stolen and they disconnect the battery you still have some time to track it down.
- If the car is started and stolen, depending on the way you wire the system you can remotely kill the ignition. This is a great feature!

I am sure there is more in there but that is the gist of it.
 
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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
I have a question:

I believe you said there was some units that come with no monthly subscription fees. Why did you choose on of those units??
Howdy Lloyd,

It appears many GPS tracking devices without a monthly subscription are "passive" monitoring devices meaning that they don't provide real-time data. Passive devices and other DIY solutions sacrifice some features that are valuable if your concern is theft and efficient recovery. Moreover, many of the no-subscription models require the device to be plugged into a USB to view the tracking data which defeats the purpose of the device if your concern is theft.

Subscription based tracking devices provides "active" tracking meaning you can track the device's movement in real time (or near real time) as movement occurs. I acknowledge that the total cost plus monthly subscription is pretty steep but as I mentioned I personally find it valuable.

I hope this helps.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
I was "required" to purchase SkyLINK by Sperion at $800 before the dealer would close the deal on. Used 2012 jk. At first I balked, but now, I live the service but contend it is a racket. (I Live in San Diego, 30 minutes from the border) it is only sold by dealers and not available to the retail market.

I pay the $119 annual fee to be able to monitor on my mobile app, set get- fences and up to three zone alerts, speed alerts, email and texts. If you purchase more years the price goes drastically down. If you choose not to pay you are still covered, however you must call if you discover the vehicle is missing, which could be several hours-and too late.
Hey Mccaf,

If you're 30 miles from the border you must be in north county near me.

Interesting financing scheme you described. I recall a similar experience when I bought a Challenger (yes, the R/T). I negotiated the price with sales as usual and when I got back to the finance office to sign the papers they told me I had to pay for window etching to drive off the lot. So I stood up and said "thank you for your time" and walked out. Before I reached my truck in the parking lot the salesman called my cell phone and begged me to come back to sign without window etching fee. It's a play on emotions, the finance office knows that by the time you reach them you're emotionally attached to the vehicle and ready to go home. And they are ready with a whole slew of crap to sell you at the time of signing including 3rd party warranties, security features, etc. Many times you can contact the vendor for a refund after you've signed.

Anyways, $800 for the device is hefty but the annual fee seems reasonable considering the features you described. Right on, glad you like it.
 

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thank you for the feedback.

One more question: Did you consider the Mopar EVTS? Why didnt you go that route??
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
thank you for the feedback.

One more question: Did you consider the Mopar EVTS? Why didnt you go that route??
I had considered it, this is great solution. I went the semi-DIY route because I thought the EVTS option to be a bit much for my rusty old 99 TJ. I would consider this option for a new truck.

The EVTS unit apparently costs approx. $460 from the dealer (can be found on Amazon for $312), plus dealer installation may run $200+ and then annual subscription to the Gold plan is $250.

EVTS option totals approx. $760 for the first year. In contrast the DIY option costs $350 for the first year including the device, case, and subscription. Break even for the two options is near the end of the 4th year.

In 4 years we'll be swinging battle axes out our jeep doors for survival in some weird dystopian alternate universe anyways so the lower cost first year option made more sense for me so I can use the difference to hoard more silver to prepare for when bitcoin and all world currencies explode to worthlessness and chaos.

:atomic:
 

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GPS trackers / LoJack are not anti thief devices. They do not prevent your vehicle from being stolen. They just help you get it back.
 

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Being in the industry myself, working for a manufacturer of the units, I agree with Sparky, they're not preventative, but intended for recovery & piece of mind (think teenage driver, you want to know where they are).

Our units are even used on bait-cars for local PD's. They let the thieves take the car and just follow them back to the "hive" lol It's fun to watch.

Also, I'd highly advise against the use of an OBDII unit. Use a hard-wired unit that's hidden well inside the dash/trunk/headliner area.

Monthly Fees are a joke, don't go with a product that utilizes that business model. Yearly subscriptions are more reasonable and the industry standard. More than $60/year and you're getting ripped off (*Spireon*)

Also check the networks they communicate on. A LOT of the lower-cost units are on 2G, which is sunsetting Jan 1, 2019. The higher end units are on Verizon/Sprint 3G & LTE.

All that being said, I would HIGHLY recommend you look into installing a unit like this if you're worried about theft or just want to know where your Jeep is at all times. They're expensive, but worth it. And WAY better than LoJack.

I have one on my Harley (heat/water proof, senses motion and alerts me if someone bumps my bike, or leaves the Geofences I have set up, or starts the motor...all while drawing less than 2mAh at rest) and one on my Jeep that functions the same plus the ability for live/real-time locates all from an app on my phone, that pulls less than 20mAh at rest.
 

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I got suckered into the Milwaukee "tick" GPS tracker and am less than pleased with the software and actual tracking. then again, I got them on sale for $10 each and there is no monthly fee. just hope the app gets better at finding the tracker and adds a real time map view.
 

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Being in the industry myself, working for a manufacturer of the units, I agree with Sparky, they're not preventative, but intended for recovery & piece of mind (think teenage driver, you want to know where they are).

Monthly Fees are a joke, don't go with a product that utilizes that business model. Yearly subscriptions are more reasonable and the industry standard. More than $60/year and you're getting ripped off (*Spireon*)
I don't think that I have found any that had yearly plans... The one that I have has either a $16 or $23 plan that I will utilize. What company do you work for/do you recommend for a cheaper price?

I got suckered into the Milwaukee "tick" GPS tracker and am less than pleased with the software and actual tracking. then again, I got them on sale for $10 each and there is no monthly fee. just hope the app gets better at finding the tracker and adds a real time map view.
The Tick is a bluetooth thing I am pretty sure. Won't help you locate the car unless you're within like 50ft of it...
 

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Our units are even used on bait-cars for local PD's. They let the thieves take the car and just follow them back to the "hive" lol It's fun to watch.

Also check the networks they communicate on. A LOT of the lower-cost units are on 2G, which is sunsetting Jan 1, 2019. The higher end units are on Verizon/Sprint 3G & LTE.
Could you please send me a PM with more info (don't want to break any 4M rules). Do these units work in Mexico. Very important for those of us that live by the border.
 
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