Tracking devices explained

2007-05-16 07:36

According to the Crime Information Analysis Centre (CIAC) the number of car hijackings and theft of cars has increased from around 12 700 in 1996 to around 13 700 in 2004. Other data suggest this figure is closer to 17 000.

Tracking devices have become very popular over the years, one reason being the high success rate of cars being found once they have been stolen. Companies such as Tracker, Netstar and Matrix offer this sort of service.

Calling the Men in Blue

All of these companies work on the same principle. You get the device fitted to your car, if your car is stolen you phone them and they send out their recovery teams to obtain the stolen vehicle and hopefully arrest the offenders. In the case of Netstar, on average, they recover a stolen vehicle under an hour.

Some of the tracking companies have their own fleet of ground vehicles and airplanes that they use to recover a vehicle once it is stolen. Tracker, for instance, have their own recovery team as well as being the only company that has a formal relationship with the South African Police Service (SAPS). The SAPS support vehicles are equipped with Police Tracking Computers (PTC) in the highway patrol cars, vehicle theft units and the flying squad.

Netstar makes use of a private company to do their ground recoveries and also has aircraft that are at their disposal 24/7.

Matrix has its own recovery teams and will only make use of SAPS when necessary.


There are different options to pick from. Netstar's Sleuth entry-level product comprises the basic device and two free remote tests a year. The unit price and installation costs R795 and the monthly payment is R110 for a passenger car and R116 for a commercial vehicle.

Matrix offers its MX1 entry level system for R105 a month if you pay R1 700 for the fitment. Take it on a 36-month contract and there is no installation fee but only a R136 monthly fee, which is cheaper over a three-year period.

Tracker systems can be checked at around 100 BP stations nationally or one of the 160 authorised fitment centres.

For between R2 600 (Tracker) and R2 900 (Netstar) you can have the tracking company keeping an eye on your car. The monthly cost for these ranges between R168 for Netstar and R189 for Tracker.

In the case of Tracker the system will alert them if there is any unwarranted movement. With Netstar when the system is activated it will inform Netstar if any of the doors are opened, if the car is towed away or if the ignition is forced.


Handy in emergency situations is the panic button. Once pressed, it will be handled as a hijacking situation and an emergency response unit will be sent to your vehicle. With Tracker there is no panic button or external identification of the vehicle as according to them it could decrease the safety of the occupants. The need for a sticker on the exterior indicating tracking installation is still an ongoing debate though.

Tracking devices are installed in cars without telling even the customer the location of the device. This confidential information is kept away from the wrong eyes.

Netstar makes sure that only internal employees have access to this information, while Tracker does thorough security checks on all their employees. They also do random polygraph and voice stress analysis testing, monitor telephone calls and e-mails, and keep a close eye if there is any relation between the technician installing the device and incidents to that car.

For insurance sake

Having a tracking system in your car also has insurance benefits. Outsurance will not insure your car if it is not fitted with a tracking device and if the value of your car exceeds R200 000. Pick Outsurance and they cover the initial installation costs.

In the case of Mutual and Federal the barrier for a vehicle that needs a tracking device is R300 000. They work together with Tracker and will also pay for the installation with you paying a R120 monthly charge that is slightly less than the normal R126.

If you pick a different tracking company they will give you a discount between R70 and R80 on your insurance premium. It also depends a lot on the type of vehicle you own as certain cars are more prone to theft than others.

Insurance company Dial Direct evaluates your car and, as insurance companies do, takes into account the statistics and chances of your car being stolen or broke into. If they think you need a tracking device, they work with Tracker and will pay both the installation fee and the monthly costs.

Keep in mind that in the end it is best to get several quotes from different insurance companies. Although the one says they pay all, your final premium might be much higher.

Fleet owners welcome

For fleet owners there is the option to track their vehicles themselves. The Tracker Locate system allows an owner to use the internet or his cell phone to track a specific vehicle. With Netstar information such as speed, harsh breaking or acceleration figures can be acquired. More features include route control, vehicle productivity and if the vehicle enters no-go areas.

Netstar's system is called Fleet Management and starts at R4 320 for installation and fitment with a monthly fee of R250. Tracker's Locate System, which offer similar features, starts at R3990 with a monthly premium of R290.

When considering having a system installed in your car it is important to find out what network they use beforehand. This ranges from radio frequency networks to cell phone networks or their own networks. Netstar and Matrix make use of GSM cell phone network whereas Tracker has their own network. All systems have their own pros and cons.

If you sell your vehicle the new owner can take over your contract, or you can have it removed and re-installed in your new vehicle.

Tracker has devices installed in over 400 000 vehicles and Matrix around 130 000. Netstar has the most successful recovery rate of around 85% whereas Tracker has recovered the most vehicles.

All these systems can be fitted to both passenger cars and commercial vehicles and the base unit can even be fitted to motorcycles. There is also the option of renting, rather then buying, the tracking device.

Quick costs:

  • Fitment and installation from R795 - Netstar
  • Monthly fees from R105 - Matrix Contact numbers:

  • Matrix: 0800 33 99 88
  • Netstar: 011 207 5006
  • Tracker: 0860 60 50 40


    • Brian Trebble - 2007-05-16 08:12

      Firstly I do not work for or represent any tracing company. I believe however if you are going to start with a headline like yours "We investigate tracking devices", then I believe a proper job should be done. There are numerous other devices out there that are as good and possibly better than the 3 you have concentrated on.

    • Justin - 2007-05-16 08:57

      Why do I actually need my tracker? I pay insurance every month (they do not require a tracker, and the discount they give in negligable in relation to the tracker premium), if my car gets stolen, I dont want it back, some thief has driven off in my car. I may even get it back missing a few bits and pieces and possibly damaged in some way. I pay for my insurance to replace my vehicle, not bring it back. I suppose if you have a rare car, then tracker is for you.

    • Ron - 2007-05-16 09:08

      Hi I'm a Dial Direct customer and was informed that I had to have Tracker installed on both mine and my wife's cars, and they paid for the installation on both. Fair enough. However, I dispute the fact that Dial Direct pays the monthly subscriptions to Tracker. Perhaps they pay them over to Tracker, but I'm definitely the one who foots the bill - at least, as far as I am aware based on the information I have from the Dial Direct consultant who organised the installation!

    • BELLA - 2007-05-16 10:48

      I feel insurance companies must pay for the trecking divice If my car is stolen they must pay me to get another car THEY MUST INSTALL & PAY TO SAVE THEY MONEY

    • Chris - 2007-05-16 11:01

      The article reads like an advertisement for Tracker and Netstar. I have Matrix systems in both my cars and am very happy with the service and speed of the control room personnel.

    • MANDLA JACOB TSHABALALA - 2007-05-16 12:38

      I dont discourage those who are still to fit any device,but a friend of mine lost his minibus with a device fitted and the car was never revovered,and one lady i know lost her brand new golf 5.I really dont know what to believe.

    • Trevor Devitt - 2007-05-16 13:42

      The report incorrectly states that OUTsurance insist on tracking devices being installed in vehicles whose values exceed R200 000. The need for any tracking device is dependant on the make/model and area rather than its value.

    • dtr - 2007-05-16 14:29

      If there is a cost, you as the consumer will pay for it, directly or indirectly. Justin: If the insurance only covers 50% of the replacement value of your vehicle due to the vehicle being 3+ years old, would you not rather have your vehicle back and repaired than having to buy a new/second hand vehicle at a bigger monthly repayment?

    • MINIMEGP - 2007-05-16 14:42

      TRUTH BE TOLD!there's is no way in hell that an insurance comp pays for yo tracking installation.i've worked for both industries and started @ a tracking company.the insurences so called payment is just another word for free installation.just like a cel contract. free phone n u pay an X amount.if this is such good business y don't u get a free reinstallation when u change vehicles n if your car is a rightoff you have to pay to get it deinstalled from the wracked car n pay

    • P du Plessis - 2007-05-16 22:31

      Please do an article on how the various networks operate. I was under the impression that "satelite" tracking is used,only to find out that radio signals and radio beacons are used and that signals can be blocked by buildings etc. A friend of mine's car was stolen while they were in a convenient store.Even with imediate activation the car was never found and the tracking company kept looking "incase the vehicle is moved or surface again". How does it work?

    • D.S - 2007-05-17 07:35

      I disagree with Chris regarding Matrix.I own a meat distribution business and use Matrix,Netstar & Tracker on my fleet.Matrix by far have the worst service & do not seem to know how to resolve problems with their system.Will be replacing my existing Matrix units with either Netstar/Tracker shortly.Rather lose the money on those units than continue receiving bad service.Thanks for the article,good to compare the different costs.

    • Russell Johnstom - 2007-05-17 08:03

      I had a car stolen and it could not be picked up as if the vehicle is parked in a parking garage then the system can't pick up signal. What is the point then.!!!!!!!!!!!

    • Andrew - 2007-05-17 09:15

      When I bought my car, the insurance company offered me the option of installing a tracking device but said the lowering in premium costs wasn't that much and with the modern, factory fitted immobilisers, they felt a tracking device wasn't necessary.

    • Komp - 2007-05-17 11:48

      Has been many a report that you need to report your vehicle stolen within 1 hour.It takes thieves apprxmiately 1 hour strip the car and locate the tracking device.So whats the purpose if you fall short of reporting it withing the hour???

    • Pieter Claassen - 2007-05-17 12:02

      I had poor service with installation. After fighting they got it almost right. When asked to locate our one vehicle they managed to get within 300km. I will be going with Netstar or Tracker for our new vehicles

    • David Appleby - 2007-05-17 13:24

      Have just had the system fitted in new vehicle and it is a big saving on the insurance payment infact the saving on insurance is far in excess of the cost of installation and monthly subscription for the unit.

    • selwyn - 2007-05-17 15:29

      hi people this tracker thing doesn't help, i instaled one in my jetta3 and the insurance paid for it.they have this selftest where you have to do it at satain points and why are they doing that they know excatly where the car is then i put it on myself test. i called them and told them my car was stolen after an hour and they couldn't track it, so they are all useless.then i have this new device on my new car, i can track my car and it work, i was hijacked last week and i managed to track my car

    • Wynand - 2007-05-19 08:30

      AIM 911 markets a device that is used as portable unit (carried on your person or in handbag) it is GPS and GPRS based. While u travel in the car it acts the same way as other fixed units , only, it's SATELITE based. When you leave your car, you have it on your person. The upside is that you can use it away from the vehicle. The unit, when activated, is dialled from the call centre and the operator has full voice communication with the member.

    • Wynand - 2007-05-19 08:34

      The AIM 911 portable unit is tracked by the owner on free internet program, therefore the owner can manage vehiclemovement without intervention of others.

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