The opening image is just a handful of stolen RVs we’ve posted here on RVtravel.com in our Sunday newsletter. For every one we write about, there are probably dozens more that we don’t hear about. Suffice it to say, crooks want to steal your RV. The question is, if they do, how can you get it back? One way that can increase the odds of finding a stolen RV is by installing and using a GPS tracker. They’re inexpensive. Service fees are relatively low. And nearly any “RV handyperson” can install one in just a few minutes.
Bad guys got your rig? Tracker rats them out!
What’s a GPS tracker? Put simply, it’s an electronic device that uses the Global Positioning System to “know where it is.” Using cellular networks, it then can report its location to authorized people. Why would you want one? Install a GPS tracker in your RV, and if the bad guys take off with your rig, the GPS tracker will report where the rig is. Using something as simple as a smartphone or personal computer, you can “see” in real-time just where your RV is. Report the information to the police, and your chances of recovering your RV before serious damage can occur are increased.
There are different types of GPS trackers. There are some that, once you discover your RV is stolen, you’ll be able to access the information as to where it is. This “track by request system” will help you find your RV—but of course, you need to know it’s gone missing. Another type of GPS tracker works in real-time. You can set up the system with a “digital fence” that immediately sends a message to your cell phone, warning that your RV isn’t where it should be. Park your RV at a storage lot? Set up a “digital fence” around the storage yard. If the RV moves outside the storage yard, you’ll know it right away and can immediately see where it is.
And the cost?
How much does a GPS tracker cost? Prices can start at less than $20; typically they range a bit higher, up into the $60 dollar range. Sounds good, eh? You’ll also typically pay a monthly monitoring fee. We’ve seen fees of around $6 a month, and up into the $12 range. When talking about monitoring fees, it’s often a “get whatcha pay for” situation. The less expensive monitoring fees (or those included “free” with the purchase of the tracker) usually go with monitors that report where the tracker is every few minutes. Spend more money on monitoring, the tracker may report location every few seconds. If your rig is stolen, more frequent reports will likely make it easier to find a “rolling RV.”
Unlike some equipment, most GPS trackers and monitoring services are tied together. It’s not like buying an alarm system for your “sticks-and-bricks” house, then shopping for the lowest price monitoring team. Buy a vehicle tracker, and be ready to be stuck with the seller until death do you part.
Tiny with battery?
While the major differences between types of GPS trackers come down to “track by request” versus real-time trackers, there are other considerations when it comes to the choice of devices. All GPS trackers require electricity to operate. Some come with batteries built-in. It makes it easy to switch them back and forth between vehicles and to discreetly hide them in the RV. It wouldn’t do you much good if the bad guys found your GPS tracker and squished it like an unwelcome bug. Or worse, tossed it in some unsuspecting fellow’s car—leading police on a wild goose chase.
Plug and play?
But battery convenience comes with a price. Batteries only last so long—and it varies between brands and models. You may be happy with a battery-powered tracker, particularly if you don’t leave your RV stored somewhere for months on end. Other GPS trackers connect to the RV power system using the OBD-II “computer port.” That may work for you in your motorhome, provided your computer port is indeed an OBD-II variety. Of course, crooks might just take a peek under your dashboard, spot your tracker, and unplug it before they play. Or if you use your OBD-II port for other purposes, it’s a no-go. And towables, of course, don’t have an OBD-II port to plug into.
You may find a 12-volt “hardwire” GPS tracker makes more sense. It will take a bit more to get your tracker set up. You’ll need to find a suitable, hidden location (back of a cabinet, etc.) within reach of 12-volt electrical wiring you can tap into. And, yes, the wiring will need to be “hot” 24/7. An ideal spot might just be in a cabinet near your rig’s 12-volt fuse box. Make sure you’re competent with fiddling around with the electrics. If you’re unsure, spend a few bucks to have a technician install it for you.
Where can you track down a GPS tracker? Here’s a link to Amazon, which carries a wide variety of trackers. And, yes, if you make a purchase from Amazon, RVtravel.com gets a bird-dog fee. Thanks in advance!