Cars on the road

Vehicle Tracking: How to legally track a vehicle

Cars on the road
Vehicle Tracking: How to legally track a vehicle
When most people think of vehicle tracking, what comes to mind is something like having a private investigator following a car for hours or days, tracking someone’s movements and visited places. You might visualize long hours of car stake-outs, lots of coffee, and pre-packaged sandwiches. These days, technology in this industry has given us the opportunity to effortlessly track a vehicle in real-time and even to record audio inside the vehicle using a GPS tracking device. Using a tracking device like this means that you can track a vehicle remotely, making it a lot easier to discreetly accumulate surveillance data for an investigation.

What is vehicle tracking?

Vehicle tracking typically refers to tracking a vehicle discreetly or covertly, implying that the driver is unaware that they are being tracked. This method is quite different from the vehicle tracking used for fleet management systems, where companies will monitor their leased cars using GPS trackers which can also monitor driver behaviour such as the use of force on acceleration and braking for insurance purposes. Investigators will usually offer a discreet or covert vehicle tracking service, to monitor vehicles’ movements, or to assist investigators in pursuing a vehicle without the person who is being surveilled noticing.

Is it Legal?

In Australia, there is different surveillance legislation across each state. For most states, it is an offense to install GPS vehicle tracking systems on someone’s vehicle without their knowledge and expressed or implied consent. For the safety of you and others, this is important to note. However, for a licensed private investigator, there is a legal framework for these kinds of surveillance practices like vehicle tracking systems.

When it comes to the legality of vehicle tracking there are a few points of reference to follow:

  • You should not cause any damage or force entry in order to fit the device
  • You should not use a vehicle tracking system as a personal independent solution to surveil somebody’s movements
  • You should not have any legal reason that prevents you from being in contact with the owner or any of the drivers of the vehicle
  • You should conduct a risk assessment and consider if there are alternative options before deciding that vehicle tracking is necessary
  • You should take reasonable care to handle the vehicle tracking data responsibly
  • You should contact a professional with experience using vehicle tracking systems for your safety and the safety of others.

What is a Vehicle Tracking System?

A vehicle tracking system is a small device that discreetly attaches to a vehicle either on the inside or outside. They are usually attached magnetically, which allows them to be fitted to the outside of the car or vehicle easily. Attaching the GPS trackers to the outside of the vehicle makes it easy for an investigator, as no internal access is required, making it simple for one to be attached discreetly. As for the internal GPS trackers, they can usually be attached to the metallic areas underneath the console. As well as GPS tracking software, tracking devices can also come with audio recording capabilities, meaning that you can record conversations that happen from inside the vehicle.

Different Ways to Track a Vehicle

The most efficient way to track a vehicle is with a GPS tracking device. The tracking technology insides the tracking devices work the same way that your smartphone does to track your location. All GPS tracking devices use the same network of satellites to calculate the location of your vehicle and then send the data to your smartphone application or a web browser using the cellular network.

What is Your Purpose for Vehicle Tracking?

There are a number of different reasons that people look to vehicle tracking systems as a solution for safety or for covertly collecting data, like keeping track of driver behaviour for business fleets. Here are a few of the reasons why someone might want to install a vehicle tracking system on their vehicle:
  1. Monitoring your spouse or loved ones.
You may suspect that your spouse is cheating or is sneaking about doing something they shouldn’t be. Installing vehicle tracking systems means that you can see where they go and even listen to conversations that happen inside the vehicle, quelling your suspicions and getting to the truth of the matter. Or, perhaps one of your children has just got their license. Keep track of their movements in real-time and even monitor the driver behaviour with a vehicle tracking unit and give you peace of mind that they are safe and driving responsibly.
  1. Keeping an eye on your new car.
You may have just purchased your dream car – good for you! Vehicle tracking systems mean that you don’t have to worry about theft as your tracking unit will keep you informed in real-time of its whereabouts. It will give you added security and all the information you need to take to the authorities if something goes awry. Plus, if you install a unit like the ones we sell with audio capabilities, you can place a call to the SIM card inside the unit and listen to the conversations inside the vehicle. The thief may give themselves up by accident and you will have all the information you need to seek justice.
  1. Keep track of your fleet.
If you are a business and have a fleet of vehicles for your employees, installing tracking devices on your vehicles means that you can keep track of their whereabouts in real-time. You can also monitor their driver behaviour such as sudden braking, acceleration and such, so if there are any insurance claims against the vehicle you will know what their driver behaviour is like without having to rely on your employee’s version of events.
  1. Personal insurance savings.
Some companies will offer you reduced insurance premiums depending on how much you drive your vehicle. With GPS monitoring and recording your driving habits in real-time, you will be able to show your insurance company exactly how much you use your vehicle and your driver behaviour, potentially saving you money on insurance.
  1. Legal disputes.
If you receive a speeding fine by a camera that is reading falsely, you can dispute the matter in court easily with the recorded information from your GPS vehicle tracking system.
  1. Delivery services.
If you are a delivery driver for people or for packages, you can install a vehicle tracking system so that clients can see in real-time where their tracked item is, or how far away their transportation is. Units like ours show the location in real-time to give the most accurate tracking information.
  1. Asset tracking.
Keep an eye on your assets with a vehicle tracking system.

Where to buy a GPS tracker?

When you start researching tracking devices, you’ll see that there are a number of online stores that sell them on the internet. With prices ranging from around $50 to well over $1000, you can see that quality and reliability are bound to be different too. The higher-end vehicle tracking systems are more reliable because they have higher quality antennas which give them a stronger and better quality signal strength. This means they will still be able to relay the position of the vehicle even in areas with low reception. Another feature provided by the higher quality vehicle tracking systems is the ability to record locations visited onto the unit. This way you can look at the history of the visited locations and map patterns and visited places. A good example of the benefits of using a higher-end vehicle tracking system would be when the vehicle is traveling through cities between tall buildings-the device will struggle to maintain signal amongst the cityscape, so a cheaper vehicle tracking device with a smaller antenna would not be able to transmit any data until it regained clearance and coverage. To the person who is monitoring driver behaviour and travel, this would show as a large blank spot in the collected GPS data, and this could be the crucial moment when the subject being monitored has parked the vehicle and left on foot. The vehicle tracking system with the better quality antenna would continue to transmit in real-time even in a built-up area and if it couldn’t connect it would store the data onto the device to load later. Here at Sydney PI, we sell top-quality vehicle tracking devices. We sell a two-in-one GPS tracker and listening bug, which can be placed inside the vehicle to listen to its’ surroundings as well as track the movements of the unit in real-time. It comes with the GPS tracking device unit, SIM card, SIM card data credit and online tracking software. It will also arrive fully charged with one charge lasting an entire month. What really sets our vehicle tracking unit apart is that our GPS for tracker unit tells you its location right now, in real-time. It will tell you the exact location of the unit, within a couple of metres. Many other cheaper models will tell you where the unit has been previously, not giving you a live feed in real-time. Also, our unit records all data of its previous locations so you can easily go back and look at the history or pattern of movements. To listen in to the surroundings of the unit, all you need to do is place a call to the SIM card that is installed, and you can listen live to what is happening around the tracking device. There is also a special SOS feature in this unit for special circumstances where the user has openly given the tracking device to a person who is being monitored. When that person has an emergency or requires immediate assistance, this feature can be activated by pressing and holding an “SOS” button on the back of the tracking device. This feature will then send an SMS with the GPS location of the unit and place a call to the user via the installed SIM card so that they can listen to the surroundings of the unit.

How to install a GPS tracker in the car

Installing a GPS tracking device is super quick and easy. The units are magnetic and easily attach to the metal framework around your vehicle. There are, however, various things to consider regarding the placement of vehicle tracking devices depending on the purposes of GPS tracking and also on the signal strength of the GPS cellular signal. Most GPS signals have the capability to travel through foam, wood, plastic, fiberglass, and glass, but not all solid materials. Placing the unit in a clear line of sight to the satellites above like on the vehicle’s roof, dashboard, or windscreen are obvious choices. These spots will be visible to the driver though, so these placements are only suitable for a vehicle that is not being covertly tracked.

Covert Places to Install GPS Tracker

  1. Under the car.
Surely you’ve seen espionage movies where there is a small device placed underneath a car to monitor and track its’ movements. This is actually one of the best places to install vehicle tracking devices (provided you do not wish to hear what is happening inside the vehicle). The GPS signal is able to bounce off the road and give clear data to the tracking software of the person who is monitoring the vehicle, and if you have a good unit like ours, it will show the vehicles’ movements in real-time.
  1. Inside the dashboard.
If you have legal access to the inside of the vehicle, you can install vehicle tracking devices inside the dash, which is probably the most undiscoverable place for one to be installed. This also gives clearance for the audio capabilities of vehicle tracking systems if your unit has this feature (like ours) so that you can listen in at any time by calling the SIM card that is installed into the unit.
  1. Under the bumper.
If you don’t have access to the inside of the vehicle, you can place the GPS tracking unit on the underside of the rear bumper. Most vehicles these days have a plastic or fiberglass covering over the bumper, making this a great spot to place your unit undetected.
  1. Under the front seats.
Another spot inside the vehicle that is ideal for covert vehicles is under the passenger or driver’s seats. You would need to be mindful that there is a lot of mechanics that happen under the seats for adjusting the distance to the front and height, and for the driver’s side sometimes even opening the boot or fuel cap, so you would need to place the unit away from these functionalities to keep it undetected.

Placing Vehicle Tracking Devices That Don’t Need to be Hidden.

Installation can be more straightforward if you are not trying to hide your vehicle tracking system. This gives you a few simpler options for where to place the vehicle tracking device.
  1. Sunvisor.
Placing your tracking unit on the sunvisor gives a direct line of sight to satellites for the best data reads to your tracking software on your personal devices.
  1. On the front dashboard or rear shelf.
Again, this placement gives great signal strength for your GPS tracking and data collection. You will just need to make sure that it is secure and won’t tumble away with rigorous driver behaviour.
  1. The roof.
This placement will obviously give you the best signal strength for GPS with tracking, although this is probably the least attractive option being that it is the most clearly visible. Being so clearly visible to anyone standing outside your vehicle, it also is at higher risk of theft and for the safety of keeping your unit, we don’t really advise placing vehicle tracking systems on the roof of your vehicle. Contact us today to find out more about vehicle tracking options and our professional PI services.