Is It Worth Investing In A Self-Install Telematics Device?

Using vehicle tracking is a great way for businesses to manage their vehicle fleet more efficiently and monitor the productivity of each driver. Using a self-install telematics device can be a cost-effective way of doing it.

But it’s not as simple as saying fitting the system yourself is better, just because it might save you some money, or avoid having your vehicle off the road for a professional fitting. You need to evaluate how much information you really need from your telematics system. 

iCompario’s telematics experts have looked at these GPS trackers and this page gives you the information you need to decide if a self-install tracker is likely to meet your needs.

What can a self-install telematics device do?

A self-installed telematics device is a GPS tracker. You wire it onto the vehicle battery. 

It transmits a signal continuously to a cloud server, that then displays the vehicle location to you on a map. This means you can see where all your vehicles are, at any time. For some types of business, it’s useful to know who is the nearest driver to send to the next job. For some fleets, it’s important to double-check if drivers really are where they say they are.

The software also stores the journey history, so you can look back at your drivers’ stop times and see totals of all the breaks they’ve taken during each day or week. 

This means you can make sure your HGV drivers are being efficient and sticking to agreed break times, and check that the mileage they have clocked up was all legitimate work for your company.

A self install telematics device

Credit: Kinesisfleet


You can set up geofences in the software. 

Imagine a line drawn around an area on a map, such as your vehicle depot, or a warehouse where your drivers load up – this is a geofence. You can get app alerts or emails when any car, van or lorry driver enters or leaves a geofence area. This makes it easy to actively manage your fleet without being stuck to a screen all day. When a vehicle leaves a depot at a time it shouldn’t, you will get an alert. If the driver is doing a job on the side, you can work out how much of your diesel they’ve used. 

If the vehicle has been stolen, you can see where it is. Professional vehicle thieves know how to remove self-install vehicle-tracking devices but opportunistic amateurs are unlikely to know if a tracker is installed. If the tracker is removed from a vehicle, an alert will be sent to you immediately to let you know.

What can a self-install telematics device NOT do?

Self-install telematics devices show you journey histories, allow you to set up geofences, manage your fleets, and send you alerts if your vehicles have been stolen. 

So, if you can get all this with a self-installed telematics device, what else can you get with a mechanic-installed device? 

Professionally installed vehicle tracking devices are not just GPS trackers, but also have accelerometers. They are wired to the vehicle ignition and other components of the engine and braking system. You need a professional to do this job, because they have around twelve wires on average and if you connect them wrongly they will not work properly, or at all! 

In addition to all the vehicle tracking that a self-installed telematics device can do, professionally installed telematics devices can track, record and monitor driver behaviour — something like an aeroplane’s black box for cars, vans and lorries! 

Telematics devices record the four behaviours that inflict excessive wear and tear on vehicle components, make accidents much more likely and also waste significant amounts of fuel. This is called an in-vehicle monitoring system, or IVMS, as it evaluates the driver.

Risk table of driving habits measured by telematics


The data collected includes how fast your driver goes – including if he tips over the speed limit at any time. They also register if he brakes harshly, takes corners too speedily and if he accelerates too rapidly. 

Most systems will also tell you if the engine is left idling when the vehicle is stopped. Putting an end to this bad habit can save a small fortune on fuel. 

This type of system can improve driving standards and mean you make fewer insurance claims, so you pay less for your fleet insurance and have less time with your vehicles off the road for repairs. The savings can be huge, so for many companies these systems can easily pay for themselves many times over.

The downside for some businesses is that these systems only work if you use them! 

You have to tell your drivers their safety scores, incentivise them to drive more safely and achieve consistently better driving habits across the whole fleet. While this is great for some businesses, it may be unrealistic for others or just not relevant to businesses whose drivers aren’t on the road that much during a working day.

How much does it cost to install a telematics device?

Car speedometer on a dashboard

Credit: Piqsels


Telematics devices can be fitted by professionals or self-installed by vehicle owners. 

The cost of having your system installed by a professional is generally built into the total price you pay for the device, rather than as a standalone fee.

With some providers, the device remains the property of the provider and you pay for using it while you subscribe to their system. It will then be removed if you stop using their service. Make sure you are clear in this when comparing providers. 

To work out how much it costs to install a device, you must compare the price of buying the system with the fee built-in against purchasing it on the understanding you’ll install it. 

The headline is that it costs significantly more to get a telematics device that comes with professional fitting than it does to purchase one that you self-install. 

The other cost to check is the monthly or yearly subscription fee to the software. A vehicle tracker is useless without the software that it sends the data to, and the cost of using this interface is usually scaled depending on the amount of information the installed device can provide you.

How long will it take me to self install a telematics device?

Self-install telematics boxes can often be fitted to your vehicle in a matter of minutes. Indeed, the process requires few tools and technical knowledge, meaning that inexperienced drivers should be able to fit their GPS tracker pretty quickly.

Many providers supply a video showing you exactly how to do it, as well as written instructions.

How do I install a telematics device myself?

You can install a telematics device yourself in little time and with a minimal amount of mechanical experience. There are several wires to connect, and the device itself is mounted against the vehicle battery from which it takes its power. 

The provider will send you a set of instructions and usually provide a video tutorial as well.

When self-installing a telematics device is worthwhile

Save money

Self-installing a vehicle-tracker is worthwhile because it’s a quick job that can be carried out with minimal experience. This can save you a significant amount, as it won’t cost much of your time and the price of a professional installation is often considerably higher.

Avoid time off the road

You will also save the cost of having your van off the road for several hours while a mechanic comes to fit a device for you. 

See where your vehicles are in real time

You gain the benefit of seeing where your vehicles are in real-time, taking greater control of your fleet. You can keep a close eye on new drivers. You can also ensure your vehicles are more secure — for example, by seeing immediately if they’re leaving your depot when they shouldn’t.

Great for small companies or low-mileage fleets

Self-install van trackers and car trackers are ideal for smaller companies, for businesses whose drivers aren’t on the road all day, and for fleet managers who realistically don’t have the time or need to focus on reducing their insurance and vehicle maintenance costs. 

Perfect to try telematics for the first time

If you’ve never used telematics before, the self-fitted approach is the ideal way to give it a try without spending too much cash. Some systems cost just pennies a day to use.

When self-installing a telematics device isn’t worthwhile

Professionally installed devices give more information

A self-install vehicle tracking system isn’t worthwhile if you really need more detailed data, which includes driving standards metrics.

Self-install devices can’t help you reduce insurance costs

You can reduce your fleet insurance premium by as much as 30% if you can reduce your number of fault-claims. In this case, a self-install vehicle tracker will not help you – you will need the functionality of a professionally installed device. These devices measure three driving behaviours that affect insurance premiums. These are whether vehicles are driven by night, or only in the daytime; whether drivers mostly use motorways or often travel on small roads; and the driver’s safety score from the in-vehicle monitoring system (IVMS).


Table of vehicle insurance cost factors


Self-install vehicle trackers can’t help you save money on fuel

If your drivers are on the roads full time, or if you operate large vans that consume a lot of diesel, it makes sense to ensure they are driven economically. 

If you want to reduce fuel consumption by monitoring which drivers are wasteful and changing their habits, a self-install tracker will not help. 

You can save a whole tank of fuel every month or more if you train your drivers to turn off the engine when they stop instead of leaving it idling – anything longer than ten seconds stationary, and it saves fuel to turn off then restart. A self-installed tracker cannot give you the data to monitor this. 

Self-install vehicle trackers can’t help you save money on repairs and parts

You will need the full functionality of a professionally-installed telematics device with an accelerometer to get data on driving standards, which you can use to incentivise your drivers to drive carefully and eliminate habits that harm the working parts of your vehicles.

Try iCompario’s telematics self-installation comparison tool

We’ve given you all the information you need to make an informed decision about whether you wish to get a professionally fitted telematics device or a simpler self-install option.

To get an up-to-date price for the two options that are based on the requirements of your business, compare self install telematics devices using iCompario’s free tool.

You can enter the type of vehicles your fleet uses, the amount it operates, choose the tracking features you want (such as journey playback and integrated dash cams) and opt for self-installed trackers or professionally fitted devices. 

You’ll then get sent a quote by one of our expert team members.