A GPS system comprises three basic components:
- A GPS tracking device that's installed in the vehicle. In addition to reporting geographic location, the tracking device can also record and transmit various conditions such as fuel consumption, engine temperature, altitude, tire pressure, key and door status, battery status, cumulative idling time, throttle time and engine RPM. Another option is an emergency status indicator the operator can trigger to call for help. While the majority of systems employ a dedicated box installed in the vehicle, some newer systems adapt their geographic tracking technologies to common smartphone and tablet platforms that are assigned to the operator as opposed to the vehicle.
- A server that receives and securely stores data sent from the tracking.
- A user interface that provides a means for someone to view and analyze tracking information, and aggregate this data to generate reports.
Some questions to ask regarding costs include:
- Outright equipment purchase or lease?
- What are the installation/removal fees?
- Are costs of wireless service included?
- Are future upgrades covered; or are they separate, optional purchases?
- How long is the warranty, and is after-sale care included as part of the warranty? What is the cost, if any, of after-sale support?
Of course, the cost will depend on how many vehicles you have (multiply the device type by the number of vehicles), plus any monthly fees (again, times the number of vehicles), plus the sophistication of the management software you require. Roughly, you can expect to pay anywhere between $199 and $499 per GPS device. Monthly service fees per device can range from $30 to $70, depending on the level of support and the range of services. Installation fees average anywhere from $35 to $65 per device.
Should you purchase or lease? Leasing helps you avoid high start-up costs, but will wind up costing you more over the long term. Generally, the more vehicles in the fleet, the higher costs over time with a lease.
Automotive Fleet Magazine reports that the ROI of GPS tracking systems surveyed "increased from $80-$150 per month per unit in 2008 to $185-$225 per month per unit in 2011."
Biggest Brother/Fleetblogs calculates the ROI as high as 734 percent, which holds true whether the solutions are high-end or low-end. Independent research by the Aberdeen Group calculated a 28 percent improvement in overall fleet utilization, a 23 percent reduction in vehicle maintenance costs, a 13 percent reduction in fuel costs and over $1,000 in annual fuel savings per vehicle.
Questions to Consider When Evaluating a GPS System
- Can the GPS device be upgraded, reprogrammed, and remotely tested?
- Where is it installed? Is it visible? Is it tamper-resistant?
- Has the vendor explained exactly how the system works?
- Does the software run on your PC or server or the vendor's? Is it Web-based or a client-based proprietary program that must be installed on your system?
- Are reports customizable? Can it produce the reports you want; and can the reports be sent to other computers, smartphones, tablets, or devices?
- Are upgrades included in the cost?
- Are there licensing restrictions on the number of users/devices/systems?
- What is the level of technical support? Do you have to pay for it?