GPS Trackers and Power Consumption - Myth Busted!

We've all seen the adds on Facebook and Instagram showing cheap trackers that you charge and put absolutely anywhere in your vehicle, stating that they will last from 3 to 6 months on only 1 charge!

These are also the same people advertising their devices as having a 4G SIM Card.. Yes, they do indeed come with a 4G sim card, but they are making a safe play on words to prevent contravening Australian Consumer Law for false advertising. You are actually being fleeced of your hard earned cash, as they are in-fact sending you a 3G Device with a 4G SIM card. What does that mean? Your device will in the not too distant future end up in the bin with 3G networks already being re-farmed and shut down for the incoming 5G frequencies.

But let's get back onto the real facts about tracking devices and power consumption..

The reality of GPS trackers is that they use constant power to maintain cellular network connections, and to compute and calculate all incoming GPS signals from any satellite visible to the unit, so any device that is reliant on an internal non-charged battery WILL soon go completely flat!

Think about your mobile phone, how often do you have to charge the battery on your mobile phone? Most people will charge their phone daily. But if you had your phone turned on and didn’t make a call or watch a video on the screen then how long would the battery actually last? Most likely not more than a handful of days. A GPS tracker has most of the functionality of a mobile phone with the main difference of course being that it has no keypad or viewing screen.

The problem here is that if you have bought a GPS Tracker that requires you to remove it to charge the internal battery in order to maintain tracking of your vehicle, and the tracker goes flat while it is missing or has been stolen, then the only chance you have at recovering your missing asset is to hope that the thief is stupid enough to charge it up for you… Likelihood of this happening is not in your favour..

Actual Current Consumption..

Powered Tracker- 

Any GPS tracker in working mode that is connected to a cellular network, computing live incoming GPS data and transmitting the data over a cellular network is going to be consuming between 60mA and 120mA of battery power depending on the tasks being performed by the CPU at the time. With no ignition on, engine running or movement detected the device will go into a low power ‘sleep mode’ state of usually below 6mA (0.006Amps) of current consumption for a device that hard wired into a power supply and ready to enter live working mode at an instant.

Unpowered Tracker-

This main working mode current consumption will be no different for any type of powered or unpowered GPS tracking device, but the difference here with an unpowered unit is that ‘sleep mode’ means that the device completely shuts down all active cellular and GPS connectivity, allowing the device to completely shut down into what's called ‘clock mode’, where all but an internal timer is active. Power consumption in this mode is just 15uA or 0.000015Amps

The question we are always asked is what happens if the battery is disconnected? 

Yes the battery in the Tracker will soon go dead, but if you or your installer has done a stellar job of hiding the unit properly in the first place, then they will give up thinking they're in the clear, eventually power the thing up and it's time to act in whatever capacity you choose to pursue. (Disclaimer! Um.. it's time to call the police on 000)

Just a thought, but lets look at a Caravan GPS Tracker here.. Even with a disconnected battery, any solar panel on the van is going to power up when any type of sunlight hits the panels. A 300w solar panel will produce around 16 Amps of available current on a 12Volt system. We only need 0.120Amps (120mA) and as little as 9Volts of supply voltage to power the tracker back up..


At the end of the day, you the client are the one who will make the decision on which company you decide to spend your hard earned cash with, It's really an issue of 'Trust'.. But be sure to take into consideration that any asset that has a cheap and nasty battery powered tracker in it, may get taken when the trackers battery is already low, and about to die.. 

Choose wisely, the panic and distress you and your family will feel if this happens is real..


Just a side note here - I have written this article as a qualified Auto-Electrician, with over 30 years of industry experience, so I might know a few things..

If In doubt about what your tracker, or a tracker you may be looking to purchase is actually capable of, simply get the 'stated' internal battery capacity (eg-5000mAh) of the device and play with 60mA of current draw for the device.. This 'stated battery life' of the device may be lower than you think!

Go to digikeys battery life calculator to get the real storey -


If you would like to know more, or have any further questions, then call us directly on 130095253.

Thankyou for your time!

Matt Penhall