Compare Plug-in vs Wired GPS tracking devices

There are many different GPS trackers that you can choose from when deciding how to best track your fleet, but ultimately one question is the first you need to answer: Do I choose plug-in devices or wired devices? Plug-in devices plug into the OBD II port of most light- and medium-duty vehicles built after 1996, while wired devices will need to be wired to the vehicle’s steering column and installed inside the vehicle’s dashboard. Both have their own strengths and weaknesses, so let’s go over each to help guide your decision.

Plug-In Devices

OBD Plug-in GPS Tracking Device


Plug-in GPS tracking devices, which plug into the OBD II port in your vehicle, are great when you’re looking to quickly get tracking started. Because of the simplicity of installation, you can easily start tracking your vehicles the day you receive the devices, even if you have 10, 20, 50 or 100 vehicles or more. Additionally, if the device is damaged or on the rare occasion that there is a defect in the device, it is very easy to quickly replace with a new device.

Using plug-in devices also gives you flexibility to move devices from vehicle to vehicle. That means if you’d rather assign each device to a driver rather than a vehicle, you will have that option. It also means that if you upgrade or replace any vehicles in your fleet, or simply want to only track a select few of your vehicles, you can move the device with ease.


The ease of removal comes with an obvious drawback: the device can be removed by someone wanting to disrupt your tracking. Plug-in devices come with anti-tampering programming standard, meaning you will receive a notification immediately upon the device becoming unplugged, but that is the extent of your protection. Should a thief know to unplug the device before driving off with the vehicle, authorities will face a more difficult task of tracking down the vehicle; they will know where the device was removed, but nothing more.

The other primary drawback of plug-in devices is their visibility. For an observant thief, this means they can see that the vehicle is equipped with a GPS tracker and can remove it. On the other hand, said thief may see the tracker and decide that the vehicle is too risky to steal and leave it be.

The tracker’s visibility also will alert your drivers to its presence. Some of our customers choose to install trackers because they are looking to identify misbehaving employees, and a visible tracker, while it may discourage poor behavior, will also be easily noticed by the driver. Typically, this will have a positive outcome as employees will know not to misuse their vehicle because it is now being tracked, but occasionally it will lead to honest workers feeling betrayed. This is why we strongly encourage speaking with your employees about tracking before ever putting trackers in place.

Wired Devices

GNX-3 VTI Wired GPS Tracking Device


Wired tracking devices are wired to the steering column of your vehicles and concealed within the vehicle’s dashboard. The benefit of this is clear: discretion. If you are looking to install tracking in your fleet without drawing attention to it from your employees, wired devices are very much the way to go.

In addition to keeping the trackers out of the sight of your employees, you are also keeping the trackers out of sight from potential thieves. This means that your trackers can be used to provide location data to the authorities so that you can assist with stolen vehicle recovery. If vehicle theft is a significant concern of yours, then wired devices are a powerful tool to defend your fleet. You may even be able to receive discounted insurance rates upon device installation.


The greatest drawback to installing wired devices is the difficulty of installation itself. While this can be done relatively quickly and efficiently by a trained professional, you may need to hire a professional to do the installation for you. This increases your cost to get started and can delay getting started while you wait for availability and installation to complete. But don’t be discouraged, we can help you find a qualified installer in your area to make the process as smooth as possible.

The other primary drawback to wired devices is that once the device is installed, it is not going to be easy to move or remove. If you want the device to stay with the driver because your drivers move from vehicle to vehicle often, we recommend sticking with plug-in devices for those vehicles.

If you’re ready to make the plunge and start tracking now, you can purchase plug-in and wired vehicle tracking devices directly through our website today!

Still not sure what device is right for you? Looking to track equipment, heavy machinery or other assets? Give us a call at 800-293-0420 and we’ll be happy to assist you!