Global Positioning System technology – or GPS, as it’s commonly known – has become a big part of everyday travel in the UK. While plenty of drivers make use of GPS for satellite navigation systems (or SatNavs), for businesses that run vehicle fleets, GPS’ vehicle tracking capabilities are crucial.
However, anyone who’s used a SatNav can probably recall a time when the technology was not entirely accurate, had no signal, or could not locate an address. So, can the same be said about GPS when it’s used for vehicle tracking? Let’s examine the facts.
Is GPS accurate?
GPS technology is the foundation of vehicle tracking. At any moment in time, there are at least four satellites orbiting the earth, which each transmit a constant time and location signal. A vehicle tracking device picks up this signal, and is able to calculate its exact latitude and longitude using it.
This information is then sent, via a mobile phone network, to a secure remote location or user (that’s you, if you’re the fleet manager), where the location of the vehicle is displayed on a mapping system. The whole process only takes a few seconds and multiple vehicles can be displayed on one system.
How Accurate Is GPS?
So, is GPS accurate? The answer is yes – but just how accurate is it? Well, the vast majority of vehicle trackers can pinpoint the location of a car or van to a three-metre radius. That’s impressive enough, though some systems are even more accurate and can track a vehicle to within a one-metre radius. Yes, GPS vehicle tracking is about as accurate as it’s possible to get.
What Can Affect GPS Accuracy?
The accuracy of GPS tracking can be affected by various factors. The quality of your GPS receiver is a big one – so if high-accuracy GPS is important to you, you'll want to invest in the right device. Take a look at our list of the most accurate GPS tracking units for vehicles below for inspiration!
Other factors that can affect accuracy include the position of the satellites at the time the recording was made, the weather, and the characteristics of the landscape in which the vehicle’s travelling. GPS tracking data can be compromised by:
- High buildings
- Heavy tree cover
- Being in a valley or surrounded by hills
- Being in a tunnel or garage
Fortunately, GPS tracking technology is becoming more sophisticated, with both the satellites and the receivers creating stronger connections that are less susceptible to disruptions.
The most accurate GPS tracking units for vehicles
According to our research, the most accurate GPS tracking units for vehicles are:
The Samsara GPS tracking unit
Most accurate car GPS
Samsara’s GPS tracking unit, which comes as part of its vehicle tracking system package, provides incredibly accurate location reporting. Using what it calls “Helicopter View”, you can literally watch as your vehicle moves along a satellite map in real-time – a bit like 007 tracking a crime boss from an overhead chopper. Why is that so impressive? Well, many other devices only provide static location data that refreshes at regular intervals. Plus, while this unit is chunkier than some of its peers, it’s also easier to install, with Samsara claiming it takes less than 15 minutes.
- Real-time location tracking with Helicopter View
- Quick and easy to install
- Can work with any vehicle
- Variety of other fleet management features with Samsara software
- Larger than many other units
- Unclear pricing – only available on request
The Quartix GPS tracking unit
Best for additional features
Quartix provides a GPS tracking unit that complements its wider fleet management software. This unit is small but powerful, providing accurate vehicle tracking, with its map refreshing every 30 seconds and the tracking data is every one to two minutes, depending on the package you subscribe to. Besides that, this clever device also supports tamper detection measures. Compatible with 12V and 24V vehicles, the unit can be bought as part of a Quartix package, which range in price from £9.90 to £16.90 per vehicle, per month.
- The live tracking map refreshes every 30 seconds, and the tracking data is every one to two minutes, depending on the package you subscribe to
- Free installation with warranty included
- Self-installation options are available
- Most basic package doesn’t include the key fleet management features and geofence alerts available on higher tier plans
Webfleet Solutions LINK 510
Best for integrations
Provided by Webfleet Solutions (formerly TomTom Telematics) as part of its vehicle tracking system, the LINK 510 tracks vehicles in real-time, displaying their exact location on a digital map and giving ETA updates as it goes. Plus, this device can integrate with third party hardware such as temperature sensors, tyre pressure meters, barcode scanners, and RFID tags. Keep in mind, though, that the LINK 510 is Webfleet Solutions' most advanced device – if you’re looking for something simpler (and cheaper), the basic LINK 201 or the middling LINK 410 might be better.
- Real-time location tracking
- Live ETA updates
- Extensive fleet management reporting available with Webfleet Solutions
- Free trial available
- Costs more than other units (around £350 to £400), though it’s not as expensive as some
Best for theft protection
ScorpionTrack’s fleet management system – which incorporates the ScorpionTrack ST70 tracking unit – is unique in that it integrates with Google Maps. Thanks to this, it provides accurate GPS tracking on maps that are always up-to-date, with Google Traffic and Street View supported for added visibility. Alongside a vehicle’s real-time location, live mapping sets out info such as the vehicle’s state (is it idling or speeding?), who the driver is, and auxiliary information. But what really makes ScorpionTrack stand out is its advanced theft prevention measures, available when you upgrade to its ‘24/7/365 Theft Monitoring’ subscription.
- Integrated with Google Maps
- Variety of other fleet management features with ScorpionTrack software
- Focus on vehicle theft protection
- 30-day free trial available
- Unclear pricing – only available on request
Best for user-friendliness
A compact device, Masternaut Pulse is to simplicity what Pavarotti is to opera. Any driver can install the unit in a matter of seconds by plugging it into the cigarette lighter of his or her vehicle – yep, that’s really all it needs. As you might expect from this, though, the Pulse is rather a basic, entry-level unit – but, fortunately, it doesn’t skimp on GPS accuracy. Available with Masternaut Go, the company’s cheapest fleet management package (just £5.99 per vehicle, per month), Pulse offers live position data, as well as mileage reports, historical journey data and speeding info.
- Live location reporting
- Very easy to install – simply plug into the cigarette lighter
- Cheap – £5.99 per vehicle, per month
- Features are quite basic compared to other vehicle tracking offerings
The business benefits of accurate GPS tracking
Vehicle tracking can bring about many benefits for a business – two of which are:
As a fleet manager or business owner, knowing exactly where your vehicles are brings peace of mind. But for some businesses, the advantages of real time fleet pinpointing go beyond this.
Taxi companies and courier services, for example, are able to dispatch the nearest driver when a call comes in, while delivery services can tell their customers exactly when their parcel is due for delivery. Plus, they can update customers in real-time when changes come up, such as if the driver is stuck in traffic.
Solving claims disputes
Being able to track a vehicle accurately with GPS lets you know if a vehicle was involved in any unauthorised activities.
By analysing high-accuracy GPS tracking data, you can solve disputes – like whether or not a vehicle was speeding, or whether or not a vehicle used the assigned route. This can help determine who’s responsible for traffic violations.
▶ Read more: Fleet management systems for vans
How GPS technology is used in vehicle tracking devices
Vehicle tracking systems work using GPS signals that are emitted from a receiver (or tracking device) that’s been installed in a vehicle. This receiver then locates the GPS satellite network, and uses it to calculate its own position.
The location of the receiver (and so the vehicle) is then displayed on a computer, which can be accessed remotely.
For example, a courier company that has installed GPS tracking units in its delivery vans could, from the main office, locate their exact positions around the country, at any time they need to.
The best GPS vehicle tracking systems are extremely reliable and accurate, but businesses must be careful in selecting those systems that will work best with their fleet operations.
The future of vehicle tracking
Over the past few years, we’ve become almost reliant on high-accuracy GPS to track vehicles and navigate. This unwavering demand for the technology means the future is likely to bring even more technological advancements.
For example, it’s likely we’ll see more GPS satellites orbiting the Earth to make pinpointing the location of a vehicle even more accurate, and areas where the signal is weak or intermittent are also likely to be improved.
Of course, vehicle tracking devices are already accurate to an impressive degree. Most users would agree that the ability to track a vehicle to within three metres from a remote location is more than adequate!
We at Expert Market can help you find the best vehicle tracking system for your business. Simply tell us about your fleet using the form at the top of this page, and you’ll receive personalised quotes from approved suppliers who can provide systems tailored to what you need. This process is quick, free and easy, so why not give it a try?
You can also check out our guide to the top vehicle tracking system suppliers for inspiration.