Car trackers: as good as a bloodhound?

What security does today's offering of vehicle trackers provide? CAR finds out.

Best car trackers

by Chris Williams |
Updated on

There are plenty of tools that act as a deterrent or defender against car thieves, such as steering wheel locks, RFID key fob pouches, a locked garage, or perhaps a king cobra on the dashboard. But in the unfortunate event where said thieves succeed in making off with your hard-earned Range Rover Sport, what then? And it would likely be a Range Rover Sport because the posh, expensive thing has consistently featured in the UK’s top five stolen car awards for some time.

A car tracker could be the saviour in recovering your stolen car. But first, a question:

Why is car theft so prevalent?

People have PlayStations these days, why don’t thieves just stick to Grand Theft Auto? The fact remains that during the course of the 2019/2020 year, there were over 100,000 vehicle thefts in England and Wales.

Part of the reason would surely be that the conviction rate for car thieves is so low, which could suggest the police don’t consider car thefts as much of a priority as other crimes. Lots of people will have first-hand experience of this when investigations on their stolen cars could be seen as almost comical. But in fairness, the police can only do so much and have limited resources. And going hand in hand with this is sometimes the lack of care from the victim’s end too. Because who actually buys a car anymore? Everyone gets cars on PCP, or hire purchase, or on leases. So if their wheels are stolen the insurance companies have them sorted with a clone car on the driveway pronto. The financial and emotional ties aren’t there anymore. For most, a car is a disposable good.

There is a lot of money in car theft, in exporting stolen vehicles and selling parts. If there wasn’t, car theft wouldn’t be such an issue. The huge profiteering is indicative of large-scale organised crime. Nor does it help that the devices thieves use to undertake keyless thefts are available to buy online.

Will a car tracker help?

The sooner your car can be tracked and traced, the more likely it is of getting it back. As time passes, you’re less likely to get your car returned. Therefore, yes, a tracker certainly helps.

Trackers explained

You'll find two types of vehicle trackers (and two price brackets to match).

GPS trackers

You will be familiar with these; a device that is tracked using GPS signals – it's what your phone uses. GPS has global coverage but the signal can be jammed deliberately or lost if the device is hidden underground, for example.

There are basic units from reputable companies, such as the DB2, from UK company, Rewire Security. It’s a hardwired unit you install yourself and pay a £5 monthly subscription for. In return, the DB2 will report on real-time location, speed, and route history, among other things via the GPSLive app. The DB2 also comes with a SIM that will automatically connect to the strongest available signal in 120 countries and is accurate to roughly two metres. Ah, the perks of international GPS coverage.

Best budget tracker

More sophisticated GPS units (and VHF units which we will discuss in a moment) are approved and categorised by the insurance group research centre, Thatcham. These insurance-approved trackers are more sophisticated because, amongst other things, they are monitored by a control room 24/7. If your car is stolen, the staff are in contact with the police directly to guide them. Thatcham-approved devices can also take a big chunk out of your insurance premiums. Up to 20%.

Thatcham S7

Rewire Security offers an S7 GPS unit that is professionally installed, and in addition to the 24/7 monitoring and GPSLive app, also includes a tow alert that is sent out if a vehicle is being moved while the ignition is off.

Price includes one year's subscription.

Thatcham S5

In addition to the features of the S7, the S5 category includes an unauthorised driver alert. Anyone who attempts to drive the car without one of the Driver ID Tags supplied will trigger an alert.

Professionally installed. Price includes one year's subscription.

Thatcham S5+

This top-level version adds a remote immobilisation feature, where the vehicle can be prevented from starting.

Professionally installed. Price includes one year's subscription.

VHF trackers

Very High Frequency (VHF) is a better tracking technology than GPS. It will still provide a signal underground or in a metal container and is indifferent to GPS signal jammers. VHF technology is also operated by all UK police forces.

Tracker uses this patented, effective technology and provides a number of Thatcham-approved product options. Here are our picks:

Tracker Monitor
Price: £189.00 (plus subscription)

Using VHF, you get coverage all over the UK as well as in France, Spain, Poland, Italy, Hungary, and Luxembourg. Your car will be monitored 24/7 by Trackeru2019s Operating Centre and the tracker has a movement alert that will trigger if the car is moved without the ignition on. This needs to be professionally fitted.

Tracker S5 Plus
Price: £579.00 (plus subscription)

A comprehensive unit that uses GPS as well as VHF to track. You get full European coverage, and in addition to the monitoru2019s features, an unauthorised driver alert. You also get access to the Tracker app, which feeds you live information. This needs to be professionally fitted.

Read next:

The best budget dash cams

The best wheel clamps

CAR's guide to home EV chargers

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