GPS trackers & dash cams for your van

Rapid technological progress has made it practical and fairly inexpensive to equip your van with electronic devices that boost safety and security. We’ve put together this article to explain the basics of two of these tools, namely GPS trackers and dash cams.

What is a vehicle GPS tracker?

A vehicle GPS tracker is a small device that’s installed, attached to, or simply placed in a vehicle, and uses the Global Positioning System to locate it. Vehicle GPS trackers can be used for a range of purposes, from finding a stolen van to monitoring a fleet of trucks for efficiency purposes.

Tracker, the best-known provider of these devices, actually uses both VHF radio and GPS technology to locate vehicles. This enables them to find vehicles under cover (GPS signals are relatively weak and easily jammed).

If the location data is transmitted in real time, viewed for example on an digital map, then a tracking device can be used to track and predict a vehicle’s movements. In other cases, less suited to security purposes, the GPS device stores data rather than constantly transmitting it.

Tracking your vehicle if it gets stolen

The most useful GPS vehicle trackers for the purpose of recovering your van after a theft are those that can locate vehicles in real time. The best systems also involve proactive input from the supplier in exchange for a subscription fee. They’ll monitor any notifications from the device and take action if something is amiss, usually giving you a call first to check the situation.

Some tracking devices are portable and others are hardwired. In the main, they’re built to be small and discreet, the idea being that you don’t want thieves to realise the tracker is there and then remove or destroy it. Some will trigger notifications to the owner if the power supply to the unit is disturbed, providing an extra layer of security.

The downside of keeping the tracker hidden is that you miss out on any deterrent effect. For obvious reasons, it’s inadvisable to advertise its presence (certainly if it’s a portable device), so it’s better seen as a tool for recovering your vehicle, or perhaps stopping a crime in progress, than preventing criminals from targeting your van in the first place.

Companies that produce GPS trackers put forward impressive figures as to the percentage of vehicles equipped with their devices that are quickly recovered. If you don’t want to take these claims at face value, look for a Thatcham-approved system, which needs to be installed by a Thatcham-approved engineer. You may find that sticking to Thatcham-approved modifications will have a positive effect on your insurance premiums, whereas installing devices without this approval is unlikely to save you money.

What is a van dash cam?

Van dash cams are video cameras that are placed on the dashboard of your vehicle. More sophisticated than simply mounting a camcorder in your cabin, these devices tend to record video in chunks of time, overwriting the oldest data with new footage unless there’s some reason to store it permanently.

Some van dash cams will respond to a sudden change of speed or other sign of an accident and keep the relevant video data automatically, while others rely on the push of a button. The more expensive systems involve multiple cameras placed inside and outside the vehicle. Some will assist you with parking and other maneuvres as well as boosting security. Others are straightforward single-camera setups.

Things to look out for when buying a dash cam

When buying a dash cam for your van, you’ll be faced with an at-first bewildering number of options. Quality and functionality tend to improve roughly in line with the price band, with plenty of systems priced under £100 (some as low as £20), a good number in the £100 to £200 range and some as high as £300.

Here are several things to look out for when making your choice:

●      Is a memory card included? if so, does it have enough storage capacity for your needs?

●      Is there an inbuilt screen? (If there is, don’t leave it on while driving unless it’s fully out of your sight)

●      Is there an inbuilt GPS system? These can record useful information like your speed and location

●      Does it have a sat-nav function? How about driver-assist? Having an all-in-one system can save time, not to mention space on your windscreen

●      Does it have an auto-on function? Many will begin recording as soon as the power source is connected. This is very useful for those who make lots of short trips throughout their day.

Other things to look out for concern the quality rather than the functionality of the device. Read plenty of customer reviews to ensure there aren’t any recurrent problems with recording lags, memory fails, poor resolution and so on. These could render the dash cam useless in the event you need its footage for evidence after an accident.

Effects of a dash cam on insurance

Having a dash cam in your van (especially one that’s been professionally installed) may make a difference to your premiums in the long run. Firstly, if you’re involved in an accident and there were no witnesses, having a camera could help you prove it wasn’t your fault. When it’s time to renew, preserving your no claims discount in this way may help you avoid a rise in the cost of your cover.

Secondly, there may be direct savings you can make simply by having an approved dash cam installed, but please note that any falls in the cost of your premiums will not necessarily outweigh the cost of buying the device. Besides, it’s better to invest in a reliable system with the functionality you need than to opt for a cheap device in the hope of making the money back on your premiums.

Give us a call on 0800 051 4199 before making security modifications to your van, as we’ll be able to advise you on any insurance implications.

This is one of many informative articles we’ve published to help make your life as a van driver easier. Read our tips and advice for van drivers here .

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