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Understanding GPS Car Trackers

Fleet management and GPS tracking are often associated with truck fleets. However, GPS car trackers have rapidly gained in popularity as managers of car fleets of various types have come to understand the benefits offered by car trackers and the applications that go with them. GPS-driven fleet management has grown exponentially in recent years; this primer is intended to provide an overview of the types of GPS tracking devices, tracking software and applications, and benefits of car fleet management.

Industries Served

Several industries and agencies make use of GPS car trackers in their fleets. Law enforcement leverages tracking devices to hold officers accountable and to ensure their safety. Taxi and limo fleets use GPS tracking for dispatch and navigation, as well as using geofencing to prevent fare gouging.

Rental fleets deploy GPS car tracker devices to prevent misuse and ensure proper maintenance. Car dealerships often use GPS tracking to assist in recovery in case a vehicle needs to be repossessed. Whether you run a visiting nurse service, a courier, home inspection service, or outside sales, and whether your fleet consists of two hundred cars or only two of them, your business can benefit from GPS tracking.

Benefits of a gps tracker for a car

There are many benefits to GPS for cars:
1.Tracking: Know the whereabouts of your whole fleet, or keep tabs on individual cars and drivers
2.Diagnostics/Maintenance: Use cars' diagnostic ports to receive information on small issues before they become big problems
3.Moonlighting and Fraud: Eliminate off-hours or unauthorized use of company cars
4.Training: Leverage driver behavior data to limit accidents and improve performance
5.Customer Satisfaction: Use departure and arrival data for a more proactive approach to customer service
6.Efficiency: Streamline dispatch, avoid traffic and re-route on the fly to put your fleet to its best use
7.Compliance: Whether it's DOT regulations or company policy, make sure your drivers stay within the lines
8.Safety: Whether it's covert tracking, accident prevention, or incident reporting, protect your cars and their drivers
9.Insurance: You can slash insurance premiums with several fleet management programs
10.Fuel Consumption: Reduce fuel consumption and costs
11.Profit: Put it all together and you have a solution that gives your bottom line a shot in the arm

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Major Players

Several companies offer GPS hardware and software for cars; the options available are equally varied.

  • Leasing/Acquisition: Nearly every major manufacturer offers leasing and acquisition services for car fleets, and offers telematics/GPS packages to manage those fleets, typically in tandem with carefully vetted technology partners. This includes each of the major manufacturers, via GM Fleet (GMC and Chrysler), FCA Fleet (Fiat/Chrysler), and Ford Fleet.

  • End To End/Full Lifecycle: These are companies that offer lease and purchase options, hardware, and software that are tailored to the unique needs of the fleet in question. ARI, Element, Merchants, Caldwell Leasing, Donlen, Enterprise and GE Capital Services have each established a firm footing in this segment.

  • Hardware-Centered: Some companies that started in consumer GPS for cars, including TomTom, Garmin, and LiveViewGPS and I.D. Systems have adapted to the needs of the fleet management sector. Here, a powerful feature set is typically wedded to easy-to-use hardware and software.

  • Application Centered: Rather than relying on additional hardware, some companies allow car fleets to be managed and monitored using mobile phones or tablets, eliminating the need for additional hardware. Contigo and MyCarTracks are standouts in this area. Find out more about mobile apps on our navigation apps page.

Popular GPS Car Fleet Tracking Hardware

GPS tracking devices can be either hard-wired or portable, and some can take advantage of a vehicle's diagnostic port (typically on post-1996 vehicles) to provide diagnostics data in addition to the usual fleet management metrics. This feature alone can lead to tremendous cost savings, especially on cars that log high mileage.

Some devices, like the Garmin nuvi, require only an added diagnostic cable to go from GPS navigation system to fleet management tool, while other companies like ARI and Lytx's DriveCam system and VehiclePath's VP2500 Series use purpose-built hardware to get the job done (with an assist from added backend software, of course).

Popular Auto Fleet Tracking Software

As mentioned above, some companies, like Contigo, base their services around Android and iOS apps that require nothing more than a mobile phone to work. Some of these applications have been built with specific industries in mind, such as Limo Anywhere, which leverages driver and customer mobile applications to keep taxi and limo fleets running smoothly. Android-based MyCarTracks similarly leaves GPS hardware behind in favor of smartphone and tablets.

In other cases, GPS car trackers are coupled with powerful desktop or mobile applications to give fleet managers access to hundreds of data points that can encompass an entire fleet or its individual components. Telenav, LiveViewGPS, Element, Merchant, and dozens of other companies take this approach because the combined approach gives more useful information -- and more ways to use it -- than either the hardware or the app could provide.

Case Studies

GPS Tracking Helps When Time Matters

Triad logo

Triad Isotopes Inc. isn't your ordinary CVS or RiteAid. The company is one of the United States' largest nuclear pharmacies, delivering isotope-based radiopharmaceuticals to doctors and hospitals treating cancer and cardiac issues. The company's fleet of 423 delivery vehicles is tasked with delivering products whose expiration is measured in a matter of hours. Because of this, Triad's fleet management needs were unique.

The installation of a GPS tracking and telematics system helped Triad to migrate several functions that had previously been paper-based -- directions, dispatch, delivery instructions, and the tracking of vehicles and drivers -- to a centralized and computerized system. The company was able to eliminate wasted time and fuel and maximize the time each vehicle and its driver spent on the road.

The intelligence delivered by the system enabled the company to take 17 vehicles off the road, further cutting costs while not cutting into the quality of service. The company estimated a million-dollar savings in fleet costs after the implementation of the system.

Car Tracker Improves Delivery Service's Safety

Oasis logo

The Oasis Restaurant already had a delivery fleet, and each car was emblazoned with the company logo. It wasn't quite enough. The company found that its drivers weren't always driving safely, deliveries were taking longer than they should have, and operating costs were rising.

In response, the company installed a Verizon Networkfleet telematics system that included engine diagnostics. Managers were alerted when a driver exceeded the speed limit. Idle time -- and with it, fuel waste -- dropped. Delivery routing improved. Oasis even found that its insurance premiums dropped due to their drivers' improved driving habits. The savings paid for the system, and still added to the restaurant's bottom line.


Truck fleet managers have known the benefits of GPS tracking hardware and applications for years. Some, like Wheels Fleet Management, can trace their lineage to a time when logging and fleet management involved paper log books and when the data involved was gathered by hand.

As truck fleets have evolved, managers of car fleets have come to realize that the many benefits of fleet management aren't reserved only for large vehicles. Whether it's used for transportation, law enforcement, rental, or any other purpose you can imagine, your car fleet can be run more efficiently and profitably by intelligent use of the right GPS car trackers.