What does a car tracking device look like?


Last updated on March 7th, 2023

We are supported by our readers. We receive a commission if you purchase something through our links with no extra cost to you.

Car tracking devices come in several shapes and sizes. While they can allow for real time monitoring of the vehicle’s location and offer invaluable peace of mind to their proprietary, car tracking devices can also be used for nefarious purposes. For that reason, it is important to know what does a car tracking device looks like.

If you are installing your own tracker in your vehicle, then chances are you already know what it looks like. However, how can you know if someone is keeping track of your vehicle’s every move?

In this article, we are going to explain what the appearance of the most commonly used car tracking devices is, how you can know whether you are being tracked, and how to find a GPS tracker that has been installed on your vehicle.

What does a car tracking device look like_featured

What are car tracking devices?

Car tracking devices are portable devices that allow for monitoring of a vehicle’s location and other data. These devices rely on GPS satellites to accurately display a vehicle’s route, often in real time.

Car tracking devices can also record a vehicle’s speed, direction, and distance from a particular route or location.

While most of them do offer real-time location tracking, some more inexpensive units do not. These cheaper units often need to be retrieved from the vehicle to display the tracked information.

What are car tracking devices used for?

GPS trackers are used for several legitimate reasons. A vehicle’s proprietary can use it to possibly retrieve the car in the case of a car theft, while a logistics company owner can use it to keep track of its fleet.

This latter use is more commonly associated with productivity metrics than theft prevention. Car tracking devices are used by delivery companies to monitor their drivers’ performance and optimize delivery routes, while also being a deterrent for speeding or wandering off the delivery route.

Law enforcement agencies also use car tracking devices to monitor people of interest and their whereabouts.

What type of information does a car tracking device keep track of?

The main data point that car tracking devices keep track of is the GPS location of the vehicle. This data also includes the vehicle’s speed and direction.

While some GPS tracking units offer all this information in real time, cheaper car trackers need to be retrieved and plugged into a computer to display this information.

What do car tracking devices look like?

In the past, car tracking devices were bulky black boxes that were relatively easy to spot if you knew what you were looking for. Nowadays, however, they come in a variety of shapes and sizes.

In this article you can find a few examples.

The most common car tracking device

Commercial-grade GPS units usually connect to the ODB port of the car, which is normally located somewhere underneath the dashboard.

These GPS units also come in different shapes and sizes, but they usually look like small plastic boxes, similar to a printer’s ink cartridges.

What does a car tracking device look like_ODB Port
Car ODB port. Source: Wikipedia

The hardwired car tracking devices

There are also hardwired options. These units connect directly to the car’s battery and can be hidden anywhere on the inside of the vehicle, assuming the cables can reach the battery.

These car tracking devices are usually hidden underneath the hood, behind the steering column, or behind the stereo.

The hardwired car tracking units look like black boxes with one or more wires coming out of them.

The portable options

Portable car tracking devices are usually used by law enforcement, private investigators, or people with less-than-legitimate intentions. These units come in several shapes and sizes, and they are usually magnetic, which means that they can stick to any part of your vehicle’s frame.

There are also portable options that owners can put on their vehicle’s dashboard. These trackers usually use a SIM card for data purposes.

How do I know if my car is being tracked by a GPS tracker?

It might be difficult to know whether your location is being monitored by someone. If you know you might be a person of interest in a police case, then it is possible for you to have a reasonable suspicion that you are being tracked. However, unless you find the actual tracker, it might be hard to know for sure.

If someone suddenly knows about your whereabouts or asks questions about places you have visited but haven’t told anyone, then it might be possible that you are being tracked. However, do not get paranoid – it might also just be a coincidence.

In either case, if you want to be sure that nobody is tracking you, the best thing you can do is to sweep your car for a possible tracking device. Which brings us to…

How do I find a car tracking device in my vehicle?

While it might be difficult to find a car tracking device if the person hiding it knows what they are doing, it helps to know the most commonly used hiding locations. If you are performing a sweep for possible bugs, then you should definitely check all these places in your vehicle:

  • ODB ports
  • Any suspicious wire connected to the battery (see where it leads)
  • Glove box
  • Front and rear bumpers (both in the bumpers and around them)
  • Underneath the car
  • Wheel well
  • Trunk (near the spare tire)

If your car hasn’t been broken into, you should probably restrict your search to the external hiding spots. However, if you still think you are being tracked, checking the interior hiding locations is also a good bet.

Alternatively, you can use a GPS bug detector. These devices reliably help you detect any unwanted tracking devices.

Photo of author


Thomas S.

With a background in government supply and a keen interest in emerging technologies, I have developed a passion for the realm of stealth technology. My expertise lies in analyzing the latest advancements in spy gadgets and high-tech products, with a particular focus on those available to the public that offer a modern-day James Bond experience. Through my work, I strive to uncover the most cutting-edge innovations in the field and provide valuable insights to fellow enthusiasts and industry professionals alike.