Motorhomes and campervans are valuable bits of kit and thieves know it. I’ve been adding extra security to my Ford Transit Leisuredrive campervan following a recent spate of Transit motorhomes being stolen. The Ford Transits security is famously poor, it takes just a few minutes for an experienced car thief to gain entry and start the engine.
Visual deterrents are always a good thing in my mind. Adding a steering wheel ‘Disclok’ and additional external door locks maybe enough to put a thief off. Whilst in the swing of things I also plan to add some internal security for whilst we’re sleeping.
In case an ambitious thief should beat these new security measures I started looking at GPS tracking devices for a chance of vehicle recovery.
Which GPS Tracker for a Motorhome or Campervan?
There’s an array of units available, all differing in price and spec. I was instantly put off the idea when I realised a lot of trackers require a subscription. I’m always trying to keep our monthly outgoings to a minimum but some subscription based tracking systems may work for you. It’s worth checking with your insurer if they offer a reduction for fitting a particular tracking system. You could possibly save money, even with the cost of tracker installation and subscription.
These subscription based trackers are undoubtedly more accurate and will give the user much more detail. But how much detail do you need? If you were installing a tracker to monitor an employee in a work vehicle then you may need detailed reports. My reason for adding a tracker is to track my vans whereabouts should it ever get stolen. I don’t really need detailed reports of speed and real time tracking.
Introducing the Streetwize GPS Tracker
The Streetwize GPS Tracker is a compact device supplied with all the necessary kit to wire to your motorhomes battery. The only additional purchase you’ll need to make is for a ‘pay as you go’ sim card, these can be picked up in a supermarket or corner shop for £1. You need to activate the sim card so buy a sim card that can be used in your mobile phone.
The Streetwize Tracker is really easy to use. Activate your new sim, add credit and place it in the tracker. Save the sim cards number to your mobile phone and you’re ready to go. Simply text your trackers code (G123456#) from your mobile to your tracker. Your tracker will usually reply to you in less than a minute with details including battery state, if your vehicle is stationery or moving and its current speed. It will also send a google maps link for you to see the location of your motorhome.
Sim Cards & Costs
I purchased an ‘EE’ pay as you go sim card, each text the tracker sends out costs 12p. Your top up amount will remain until you use it, it won’t be swallowed up by the provider at the end of the month. The sim service provider checks every six months or so to make sure the number is being used, so you’ll need to send the odd text.
The amount of detail provided by text is perfect for my requirements but I then discovered the Streetwize tracker was capable of even more. Streetwize market this tracker as easy to install, easy to use and it really is. But, as if not to confuse things, they don’t advertise it’s capable of much more.
Streetwize Tracker Live Tracking
If the text system info is enough for you, leave it at this point. Be reassured that should your van not be where you parked it, you’re only a text away from locating it. However, if you want to monitor the live tracking of your vehicle, you can. I’ve set this up on my tracker so I can report back for this article, but, be aware the instructions state that live tracking may require a data plan and occur additional charges. I’ve used this feature quite heavily over the last day as an experiment.
I have been keeping a check on the sim charges via the ‘My EE’ phone app. I can see the top up credit reduce by 12p each time the tracker sends a text message but there doesn’t seem to be any charge for using the live tracking. My data allowance remains at 50mb and has not changed. I’ll keep an eye on this and report back.
Streetwize Tracker and TK Star GPS App
To use live tracking you need to send a series of commands to your tracker via text message from your phone. You’ll need some additional info for this. You need to set up the APN settings for the device and this differs depending on your network. Your sim card service provider can give you these details, or see this article here. With this information at hand follow the instructions provided to send text commands to your tracker.
You’ll also need to download the TK Star GPS App from your IOS or android app store. It’s free to download and provides some useful tools to get the best from your Streetwize GPS Tracker. As well as the live tracking feature, you can view historical routes from a custom date, issue commands to the tracker and receive information and alerts back from it. You can set alarms so you’re notified when your van leaves or enters a particular area, when the battery is low or the device is out of signal.
Performance and Price
I looked at lots of different options before I went for the Streetwise tracker. The more professional units and systems range between £180 and £300 for the unit followed by a fee for the software averaging £15 per month. I bought the Streetwize Tracker from my local Maplins store for £52. I purchased a pay as you go sim ‘EE’ from the Co-Op for 99p and texts cost 12p each. The TKStar GPS app is free to download and use and I’ve not yet incurred any data charges.
As you can see the Streetwize Tracker is definitely a cost effective tracking option and so far I’ve been impressed by its performance. I’ve tested the text system with well over 20 texts and have always had a quick response from the unit showing me a fairly accurate position of my campervan. When using the live tracking via the app, the unit often shows as ‘offline’. By sending a text and then referring back to the app, the live tracking then reports the tracker as ‘online’ and shows its correct position.
I currently have the tracker positioned just below the dashboards surface and close to the windscreen. The instructions recommend that unit is positioned under the bonnet and as near to the front of the van as possible for optimum performance. I may try moving the tracker to this position sometime soon to see if this improves the signal performance from good to excellent. With the Transit’s battery beneath the drivers seat this will mean extending the power cables.
In summary, a really reasonably priced unit with good build quality that’s easy and cost efficient to use. So far this tracker has been very reliable. I’ll experiment with the position and report back soon.