Fleet Tracking

Vehicle-installed GPS Tracking vs. Cell Phone-Based Tracking: Pros and Cons for Fleets

Two types of GPS tracking technology

If you’re a business owner with 2 or more vehicles, you’re likely already aware of the reasons why you should use a GPS vehicle tracking system

But what kind of technology is most appropriate? You have two options:

  1. Systems where you place a GPS tracking device in your vehicles — Once plugged into your vehicle, these devices work silently in the background to communicate their GPS coordinates over a 4G network. There’s no reliance on smartphones at all. Force by Mojio is one of these.
  2. Systems that track the driver’s smartphone (no GPS device in the vehicle) — With these products, each driver has to install an app on their smartphone. The cell phone’s data connection is used to communicate the GPS coordinates.

    These systems might be sold as standalone apps, or they might be bundled in with other software your business already uses, such as field service management software or time tracking programs.

Vehicle-installed GPS tracking vs. cell phone-based tracking: what’s the difference?

While the two systems may sound similar, the big difference is what you’re actually tracking.

With vehicle-installed GPS tracking systems, you are tracking the vehicle, which is a valuable piece of company-owned equipment. 

With cell phone-based tracking, you’re tracking the person, whether they’re inside the vehicle or not. No matter whether the phone is owned by your company or your employee, this method is likely to raise privacy concerns and may not be well-received with your drivers. There may also be legal barriers — see our summary of the laws around employee tracking in the USA. 

Which technology is better for your business? 

Check out the table below to learn about the difference between the two. 

ComparisonGPS Tracking with a Vehicle-Installed DeviceCell Phone-based Tracking
Hardware4G GPS devices that plug into the OBD-II port of your vehiclesNone (just employees’ cell phones)
What you’re trackingTracking the vehicleTracking the employee
PrivacyNo privacy concerns: you’re tracking the vehicle, a business asset that you own and operate.Employees could have privacy concerns about the employer tracking their personal phone. 
Ease of setupNo action required from employees. Business owner simply plugs GPS device into the vehicles OBD-II port.Requires each employee to opt in to tracking.
TamperingYou get an instant alert if the GPS device is tampered with or removed from the vehicle.Tracking can only occur when the employee’s phone is on and the app has GPS permissions. 
BatteryGPS devices are powered by the vehicle and include wireless connectivity — without depending on any cell phones.Tracking depends on the employee’s cell phone being charged. 
Driver safetyStrong driver safety features are available. For example, with Force by Mojio, each trip is given a RoadScore based on safe or unsafe driving behaviors.Depends on the service; features may not be as rich.
Vehicle healthGet a wide range of vehicle health information including engine codes, recalls, and critical battery or fuel level alerts.No vehicle health information.
Vehicle securityGet instant alerts if any of your vehicles are bumped, towed, stolen, etc.No vehicle security information.
Legal considerationsNo legal complications when tracking company-owned vehicles. Legal considerations depend on the state; may require written permission from the employee. 
CostForce by Mojio doesn’t charge extra for hardware — it’s just $15/month per vehicle, including everythingPricing depends on service.

Make an informed decision

Cell phone-based tracking is inexpensive, convenient, and easy to set up. It’s great for families, consumers or other types of applications where employee privacy is not a consideration. 

But as you can see in the chart above, cell phone-based tracking has some big drawbacks for business owners and their employees. 

Our strong recommendation for business owners who depend on their vehicles is to use a system with vehicle-installed GPS devices. Even if you’re getting smartphone-based GPS tracking for free as part of another product you’ve subscribed to, it’s still worth the upgrade to begin tracking your vehicles, not your people.

Force by Mojio is surprisingly affordable at just $15/month per vehicle — and those all-important GPS devices are included at no extra cost!