Cheap GPS Tracking

I’m seeing a lot of searches on "cheap GPS Tracking" lately.  I suspect most of them are business-related.  There’s nothing wrong with looking for the best bargain, indeed that’s the responsibility of a business owner or government administrator.  But here are a few thoughts on what is smart in regards to "cheap" versus "best value".

First of all, I just posted a pretty comprehensive post on this under the heading of GPS for Teens.  everything in that article is basically applicable to business.



here are some specific pointers you want to consider … before you search by price:

  • If you have vehicles on the road, GPS tracking will not only pay for itself, it will return more than you spend.  Basically in three ways:
    • Fuel Savings, by controlling idling, excess speed and wasted miles
    • Labor Savings, by highlighting late starts, long lunches and early quitting times.
    • Customer Relationships, by insuring appointments are met and by finding time for more service or sales calls per day or week.
  • There are the basic types of GPS tracking, passive and live (sometimes erroneously called "real time".
    • Passive Pros:
      • High resolution
      • Simplest installations
      • No monthly fees and no monitoring labor
    • Passive Cons:
      • Can’t "reach out and find" a vehicle … no good for theft prevention.
      • Can’t be used for near real-time dispatch .., finding the closest vehicle immediately
      • Can’t be used to show your fleet and collaborate with customers.
    • Live Pros:
      • You see your fleet in near real time, active control
      • You get near-immediate knowledge of dangerous driving/traffic holdups.
      • You can show it to customers as a sales/service advantage.
    • Live Cons:
      • In general more costly to buy and to install.
      • There is always a communication cost, usually paid per month.  Some shady operators "hide" the communication cost but you will pay it, one way or another.
      • Requires participation on your part .. if no one is being paid to watch the screen, where is your business value.
  • OK, there’s a snapshot to help you decide what you might want.  Here’s what some typical systems will run you:
    • Passive: 
      • TravelEyes (and many re-brands of the same box) .. under $300.  Tracking performance is adequate to nil (no permanent antenna, the box won’t track on the floor under the seat.  Maps: so-so. No bushiness map applications aside from a picture of the roads.  Update path unknown. Reports, adequate.  Single vehicle only, no integration into fleet management statistics.  Convenience: poor, must carry box to computer to read out data.
      • Shadow Tracker: … under $600.  Tracking performance good.  Maps: so-so. No bushiness map applications aside from a picture of the roads.  Update path unknown. Reports: good, made to consolidate fleets.  Convenience:  Good.  As an option can automatically upload data when truck returns.
      • GeoTab GO … under $600.  tracking performance excellent … second by second. Maps: excellent, uses latest version of Microsoft MapPoint which is a business tool on it’s own.  regular updates.  Reports, good.  All are delivered in Microsoft Excel format and are fleet oriented.  Convenience, good, can automatically upload information at no charge.
    • Live
      • Nextel (or other cell phone offerings).  undeniably cheap … often a slow as $10 per month.  tracking performance:  Abysmal in some cases.  Track points far apart and not accurate as reported to me by many users.  Maps:  Rudimentary web-based maps.  Frequently updates by commercial provider.  Not really available to user.  Reports: Limited to non-existent.  Provides dots on a map only.  Convenience:  Great, just turn on the phone … remember, though, it tracks the phone not your truck.
      • GeoTab GO Live … under $500.  tracking performance, excellent as in the passive version.  Costs for live data in the $35 a month range for very frequent updates.  updates vary with what the vehicle is doing to give the highest resolution at the lowest cost.  Limited by the coverage area of the cellular network … great in major metro areas, nearly non-existent in wide open spaces.  Maps: excellent, uses latest version of Microsoft MapPoint which is a business tool on it’s own.  regular updates.  Reports, good.  All are delivered in Microsoft Excel format and are fleet oriented.  Convenience, good.  requires permanent installation, all data saved for later review when no one is watching the screen.
      • FMS MLT-300 … under $1200.  A good example of mid-range satellite communications-based systems.  Tracking performance, good.  Monthly costs about $30 to $40, depending on resolution selected.   Coverage is continental or better, works as good in Wyoming as in Westchester.  Track points are spaced by time intervals, in other words a "snap shot" of your fleet every 5, 10, 15 minutes.  maps"  Adequate.  Web-based so user doesn’t have to upgrade but detail dependent on commercial vendor.  Reports: Adequate.  Canned, on-line reports that cover the basics of most business needs.   Value decreases substantially when not being "watched" full-time.

There’s a little info to answer a few questions and whet your appetitive.  Any of these systems can pay for itself in less than a year.  If you’re not confident in what you need, contact a competent independent dealer who can find the solution best for you, rather than just the one he sells.

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