Subscription free GPS trackers
Take a look at the complete guide to help you choose the best GPS tracker based on what you need.
Find out what you need to know before choosing which to buy. This guide will help you understand the different types of technology available and what they are each most suitable for. It has been compiled to provide you with the best combination of technical and practical information to help you make the right choice.
No-one likes paying a subscription. That's probably why most people, likely including you if you're reading this, look for a GPS tracker without a subscription. This is very often combined with a long battery life or the appeal of a mini GPS tracker. But be warned! A GPS tracker with no subscription will never be the best choice for tracking a cat or dog (or any other living thing), for several reasons relating to the technology used.
How you're going to use your GPS tracker will influence the type of product you should choose. There are several different technologies currently available both with and without subscriptions. It's worth pointing out that a particular type of technology might be completely unsuitable for one purpose, but absolutely perfect for another.
If you want a GPS tracker to help you find your keys or your car, then a GPS tracker with no subscription and no SIM card is the perfect choice. On the other hand, if you want to locate a person or animal, you should probably choose a technology with real time tracking and no distance limit.
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Click on the title of the chapter you’re interested in.
GPS trackers without SIM cards
What is a GPS tracker without a SIM card? What are the pros and cons? Find out all the answers here.
The smart keyring
There are lots of brands of smart keyrings. Our tips will help you choose the best product for you.
GPS vehicle tracker
Which technology should you choose to keep your car safe with a no subscription GPS tracker? We explain it all in this article.
GPS tracker for bikes
Which sort of subscription free product should you choose to tackle bicycle theft? Check out our buyer's guide here.
GPS trackers for cats and dogs
It's not easy to choose between all the different GPS solutions out there for cats and dogs. Read our recommendations here.
Using an Airtag for cats and dogs
Locating a pet isn’t as easy as it sounds. Find out why you should avoid using an Airtag for your pet.
To choose the best GPS tracker for you and decide whether you should opt for a solution with or without a subscription, you need to think about what you want to use it for. A particular type of technology may be completely unsuitable for one purpose, but absolutely perfect for another.
If your car is ever stolen, the right GPS tracker will let you know where it is, so you can alert the police. The purpose of a GPS vehicle tracker is to find out where it has been taken if it has been stolen, not to track it driving around in real time. Real time tracking, as provided by a GPS tracker with a subscription, is therefore not required. A tracker without a subscription, connected to the Sigfox or Lora low power networks, will do the job perfectly.
Low power trackers don't offer real-time GPS location, but they do operate over an unlimited distance.
They also have the advantage of a long-lasting battery, so you don't have to remove the tracker from your car or motorbike too often to recharge it. Lastly, the fact that they can be used with or without a subscription makes them an affordable option. In our opinion, this is the best option for locating a vehicle.
Owning a bike in the city can get very expensive very quickly, as theft is widespread. Without a secure storage area in your building, it can be impossible to avoid, which is why you should fit your bike with a GPS tracker.
GPS bike tracking is based on the same principle as tracking a car: there's no need for real time tracking, but you do need it to work over an unlimited distance. It's a good idea to get a discreet GPS tracker that doesn't need recharging every couple of days, while being small enough to hide somewhere on the bike. Again, the low power technology offered by Lora and Sigfox seems to be the best fit.
Sometimes you can spend hours looking for things. The remote control, your keys, wallet or even your phone, these are just some of the things that you can spend so much of your day looking for. The good news is there's a way to avoid this by using a no subscription GPS tracker. You usually need to find the tracker within a close distance and usually indoors, so you don't need an unlimited tracking distance. On the other hand, size is a decisive factor, so the best option is to choose a smart keyring.
You're probably already familiar with Apple Airtags. It's actually mini Bluetooth technology that you can attach to your keys so you never lose them again. There are other brands of key finders available including Tile Mate and Invoxia. You can even find your phone that's fallen behind the sofa, for example, by using the item tracker itself (it has a button that will make your phone ring). Bluetooth is perfect for finding objects.
When it comes to your loved ones, choosing a GPS tracker is a matter of buying for safety, not just for convenience like with your keys and other personal belongings. When it comes to looking after your nearest and dearest, it's only natural to want the absolute best to make sure you can locate them quickly. So real time GPS tracking is a must, but so is unlimited distance, so you can find your child wherever they are, for example.
There are no GPS trackers without a subscription that quite fit the bill. Some don't have real time tracking and others can't offer an unlimited distance, which means they can't provide complete peace of mind when it comes to the safety of your loved ones. Only GPS trackers with a subscription (operating on conventional mobile networks) will provide you with these two essential features.
Pet tracking is based on the same principle as tracking a loved one. Searching for a lost pet can cause a lot of distress and anxiety. Real-time GPS tracking over an unlimited distance is vital if your furry friend ever gets lost.
This is the most important factor to consider when it comes to buying a tracker. Animals are constantly on the move, especially if your dog or cat is lost or frightened, and you need to have up-to-date information at your fingertips to be able to find them as quickly as possible. Again, GPS animal trackers without a subscription don't seem to be a good match for this.
Read more about the main technologies currently available used by GPS trackers. From conventional networks, to Bluetooth, not forgetting low power networks and radio frequencies.
Conventional networks are the ones we use every day: 2G, 3G and 4G. These acronyms are part of your everyday life, but do you really know what they are?
To put it simply, 2G, or the second generation of mobile networks, allowed the first SMS and MMS to be sent. 3G made it possible to browse the Internet, watch videos, or download your favourite music and games on your mobile. 4G and LTE (Long Term Evolution) are the same thing; this network offers extremely high speeds and allows you to watch high definition videos on your smartphone at lightning speeds.
There are phone masts all over the UK. Telecommunications operators bid for tenders and pay to use these masts. It's basically an operational permit in exchange for a licence fee. When your mobile provider bills you each month, your monthly fee includes a subscription that allows you to use the network and therefore the masts, which in turn allows the provider to pay for the permit it has been granted.
Although you have to pay for these networks, they do allow real time tracking over an unlimited distance (because they have excellent nationwide coverage). There is no limit to the number of messages sent (being private, they are large enough to avoid becoming overloaded), nor are there any delays in sending messages (unlike the latency of sending a message via a low power network).
The Sigfox and Lora networks are two new networks that have been developed to support the rise of smart devices and the Internet of Things. They are also known as LPWAN, which stands for "Low Power Wide Area Network". They make a simple promise: low cost and significantly lower battery consumption than with conventional mobile networks.
These low power networks rely on private antennas that are connected to public frequencies, so there is no licence fee required to operate them. As these frequencies are public, they don't cost the network providers (Sigfox and Lora) any money to operate, apart from the equipment itself (installation of antennas for nationwide coverage). This is how manufacturers are able to offer GPS trackers with no subscription or with a subscription included for the first few years of use (like the French company Invoxia).
On the other hand, the number of messages per day is limited for each item connected to the networks (to avoid overloading the frequencies used), and bidirectionality (messages being sent AND received) is not adequately supported. There are also serious latency issues in message processing, which can lead to long delays in transmission and/or reception.
The Sigfox and Lora public networks do not allow lost animals to be tracked effectively because there is no real time GPS tracking. In fact, network saturation causes delays in processing messages (latency) sent by the tracker, so each location will be shown with a delay of at least 1 to 2 minutes.
On the other hand, this type of network is perfectly fine for finding a car or a motorbike. The aim there is not to track movements, but simply to identify the destination of the car or motorbike (they will eventually stop).
Bluetooth technology allows two technological devices to connect to each other. This connection only works at close range, up to about 50 metres outdoors (much less indoors, as the signal is weakened by walls in the house). It's the technology used to connect your smartphone to a wireless speaker, for example.
Bluetooth trackers are not actually GPS trackers. They allow locations to be found in two ways.
The first is based on the hot/cold game we all played as children; the closer your phone is to the smart keyring, the stronger the Bluetooth signal will be, giving you an idea of where it is. You’ll then be gradually guided to the place where you lost your phone (have you looked between the sofa cushions?).
But this first method only works within Bluetooth's maximum range, i.e. a few metres. Bluetooth keyring manufacturers have now come up with the concept of "crowd GPS" or "community GPS" to solve this problem. The idea is to tap into all the people who have the same Bluetooth GPS receiver as you.
If one of these people passes your Bluetooth tracker, providing their phone has GPS and Bluetooth both turned on, the position of your smart keyring will be updated based on the position of that person's phone.
As more and more people are switching off their phone's GPS and/or Bluetooth to save battery power, this lowers the chance of getting an updated position from your tracker via crowd GPS. The chances are even slimmer if your tracker is on the move, as you have to take into account the lack of real time in this type of product (once the community member has gone, you'll have to wait for another member to pass by to get a new location).
Also, the size of each community is a concern, as you will be entirely dependent on it to find your tracker from further than a few metres away. Where you live is also an important consideration, as the population density in a big city isn’t the same in the countryside...
RFID or "Radio Frequency Identification" is a technology that's all around us in our everyday lives: it's used in pet microchips, public transport passes (e.g. Oyster card), and credit cards. It involves memorising, storing and recording data on a medium like the ones mentioned above, and then reading them at close range using a compatible reader.
So, RFID can be used as a traceability system contained in a microchip that allows products to be followed throughout the production process, up to and including distribution, for example. But it's not a technology that allows for remote or real time tracking. Which means it's not an option you should be looking at, whatever you want to track.
Radio frequency operates using a transmitter and a receiver that communicate with each other via a radio frequency. This technology has a limited range of a couple of miles at most.
This type of system is generally very expensive and tends to be quite bulky. We don't recommend it apart from some specific situations like dense woodland where the telephone network is virtually non-existent. On the other hand, this system does have real time positioning, which is a huge advantage in locations with no network.
Garmin products, for example, make excellent use of this radio frequency technology. Garmin hunting collars allow you to track your hunting dog, for example, using a radio transmitter collar.
Explore the benefits of a GPS tracker with a subscription and find out when this type of product is the best choice.
Even though it's nice not paying a subscription fee for your tracker, it's not always a clever idea. Particularly when it comes to tracking a living being, whether that's a family member or a pet. The reason for this lies in two of the key features of subscription-based trackers.
The SIM card allows the tracker to be permanently connected to the manufacturer's server. In other words, it will be able to send its GPS position continuously and so allow you to track your pet in real time. This provides you with a location every 10 seconds: a real advantage when you lose your loved one in a crowd, or your pet in the park.
These regular location updates allow you to follow the tracker's movements on your own phone, in real time. This is the most important factor to consider when it comes to buying a tracker. Animals are constantly on the move, especially if your dog or cat is lost or frightened, and it’s vital to have frequent updates to be able to find them as quickly as possible.
A GPS tracker fitted with a SIM card has the advantage of being completely autonomous: it will be able to communicate its position no matter where it is, provided there is a GSM network.
It will also work with no distance limitation for the same reason. Your dog or cat could be miles away from you and you would still be able to track it. Most GPS trackers for dogs and cats with a subscription even allow tracking in around a hundred countries without any additional fees. The same logic applies to tracking an elderly person or a child.
Finally, it's worth knowing that GPS trackers with a subscription benefit from the full potential of the 2G network: an unlimited amount of data can be sent and of course phone calls can be made. So on top of real time tracking, this enables advanced features like ringing or vibrating, which can be extremely useful for training your dog or cat, for example.
To sum up, it's important to always bear in mind what you're planning to use it for. When it comes to the safety of a loved one or a treasured pet, paying a subscription fee for a GPS tracking system clearly offers the best possible quality of service.subscription.
For finding a set of keys, a car or a bike though, a GPS tracker with no subscription will do the job perfectly. Take some time to think about what it is you need so you can make the best possible choice.