Hardwired vs Portable GPS Car Trackers - Which Is Right For You?

Person driving car using a GPS Car Tracker for Personal Vehicles

If you’re considering adding a GPS car tracker to a personal vehicle, you may have already come across the two main device types – hardwired vehicle tracking devices that require a three-wire connection, and magnetic or portable devices (also referred to as plug-n-play devices).

But how do you know what you need… Hardwired vs Portable GPS Car Trackers - Which Is Right For You?

Depending on whether you’re looking for a GPS car tracker for business or personal vehicles, your budget, your vehicle type, and a variety of other factors, one of these options will be a better fit for your tracking needs. 

To help you decide which, here is a breakdown for both options to help you better understand which device is more suitable for your scenario, so you can compare Hardwired GPS Car Trackers and Portable GPS Car Trackers side-by-side

Hardwired GPS Car Trackers

A hardwired GPS tracker is exactly that – wired into your vehicle. The wires from the tracker need to be connected to the car’s electrical system for the device to work.

Hardwired GPS car trackers are very secure

As the tracker derives its power directly from your vehicle’s engine, a hardwired GPS car tracker needs to be professionally installed. This is usually a quick process that takes under an hour, but the vehicle downtime required to install the device is something that you should keep in mind if choosing a hardwired GPS option.

Hardwired vehicle tracking devices require a three-wire installation process of ground, power, and ignition. This means that the GPS tracking device is positioned up underneath the car's bonnet, out of sight and undetectable - making it a great option for tracking business fleet vehicles. 

The security of a hardwired device is also increased by your installer adding a tamper seal to give you peace of mind that the device has not attempted to be pried off or uninstalled. 

Give you access to vehicle data

A hardwired GPS car tracker comes equipped with a wide variety of data options to enhance your vehicle tracking experience - depending on your tracking needs. Add-on options include the ability to optimise route planning and remotely track fleet drives. This feature can be invaluable for fleet vehicle managers. 

More reliable power connection and greater security features than portable options

As the device is hardwired into your vehicle's engine, you don't need to worry about portable batteries or charging. This means that you'll never be caught in a situation of needing to track a vehicle only to realise that the GPS battery has run out of charge!

If it's security that you're after - a hardwired GPS car tracker can be connected to the car's alarm system as well as the vehicle ignition, which allows you to use such features as remote ignition disabling, monitoring the fuel system and automatically locking doors, to name just a few features.

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Here are some questions to consider if a hardwired GPS car tracker is right for you:

⦁ Would you like to use movement alerts/vehicle anti-theft functions? 

⦁ Would you like to be able to remotely disable the vehicle?  

⦁ Is theft recovery a big concern?

⦁ Are you using this as a long-term solution for a fleet of vehicles? 

⦁ Do you require long battery life and data storage capability? 

If you answered yes to any of these questions, then you should choose a hardwired GPS tracker model.

GPS Vehicle Tracking Options - person driving car on open road

Portable GPS Car trackers

Unlike their hardwired counterparts, portable GPS car trackers easily plug in and out of your vehicle and are usually attached using super-strong, industrial strength magnets that have been manufacturer tested and proven to withstand vehicle usage impacts such as hitting potholes, running over objects on the road and 4WD-ing, so you can rest assured that your device won’t fall off! 

Easily self-installed

A portable or magnetic GPS car tracker doesn't require any hardwired connections, instead relying on its own internal battery. This makes it very easy to install into almost any vehicle, and is typically installed underneath the dashboard inside the cab of the vehicle. 

Just 'plug and play' to start receiving tracking data from your vehicles! A portable option is a great way to go if you plan to only track a vehicle for a short amount of time, will be7 frequently switching the device between vehicles or if you simply want to test if GPS car tracking is right for you.

It's important to keep in mind that because the device is easily installed it means it can be easily removed. If you're looking for greater security or a discrete installation that won't be detected or tampered with, you may be better off looking at a hardwired option.

You'll also save money by not having to factor in installation costs.

Easy to move between vehicles

If you've got multiple vehicles that you'd like to track, but don't necessarily need to track them at the same time, using one portable GPS vehicle tracker and simply switching it between vehicles may be a great option for you. As it's a self-install, there's no need to plan for vehicle downtime to remove or re-install the device, simply plug and unplug.

Because this GPS vehicle tracking device is so easily installed, it also means that it’s easy to move between vehicles. This becomes extremely convenient when it’s time to replace an existing vehicle within your fleet. There’s no need to plan for vehicle downtime to remove the vehicle tracking device from one vehicle and install it into the next. Simply unplug from the old and plug into the new.

This makes it a superb option for hire cars or short term use vehicles.

Equipped with lots of high-tech security features, without the installation cost or long-term planning of a hardwired model

A portable GPS car tracker still has plenty of the security features that you would expect from any of the hardwired trackers - so you can rest assured that although you’re not hardwiring it to your vehicle’s engine, you’re not missing out.

Our portable models still come equipped with geofencing, overspeed, dropped and shaking notifications, fantastic connectivity options and of course, are rugged, waterproof and designed to withstand whatever your vehicle throws at it!

Some questions to consider if a portable GPS car tracker is right for you:

⦁ Will you be moving the tracker between vehicles (e.g. between family members or at a car sales yard)? 

⦁ Will you be using the tracker only for a short term, or to test out GPS tracking, or do you need a cost effective option that will save on installation costs? 

⦁ Do you only require a tracker for certain circumstances, and won't be using it all the time (e.g. for OH&S protection of staff on occasional field work)? 

⦁ Do you need your tracker to be streamlined and able to attach to unconventional vehicles such as cargo trailers, horse floats or boats? 

If you answered yes to any of these questions, then it’s recommended to choose a portable GPS tracker.

Making the right choice for your needs

Vehicle tracking and car asset protection has become an ever-increasing concern for families and business owners alike, and thankfully tracking devices have become available and affordable for every vehicle owner.

Both hardwired GPS car trackers and portable/magnetic GPS car trackers come with some great features for your privacy and security, so it's important to carefully weigh the options of your situation so you can make the best choice for your vehicles, needs and budget - particularly if you have multiple vehicles or a fleet of vehicles if you're looking to fit out, as you don't want to deal with the hassle of re-installing new devices later down the track.


Not sure which GPS Car Tracking option is right for your needs and budget? Give our knowledgeable staff a call now, and we’ll be happy to help you find the right option!