Last Updated on March, 2023
This may be controversial, but paying a monthly subscription for a dog tracker is a waste. Or is it?
My point is that when I wanted a GPS tracker, the first 20 options I came across NEEDED a monthly subscription.
But I found out that a dog tracker with NO monthly subscription might do the trick.
After reviewing 10+ subscription-free dog trackers, I chopped the list down to a top 5. If you’re a dog owner seeing if you could own a tracker for a one-time, flat fee… you’re in the right place.
Table of Contents
- My Evaluation Process
- Best 5 Subscription-Free Dog Trackers
- How Are These Collars Subscription Free?
- No Subscription-Based GPS Trackers Vs. Subscription-Based GPS Trackers
- Benefits and Downsides of a No Subscription Tracker
- Top Factors to Consider When Buying a No Monthly Subscription Dog Tracker
- Is Buying a Dog Tracker Without Subscription Worth it?
- In Conclusion
My Evaluation Process
I had to buy all of these for the sole purpose of checking them on my own. Some parameters I considered were the battery life, location updating rate, waterproof characteristics, and dimensions.
Eventually, I chose the best and sold the rest.
Choosing what I chose might not be the best for YOU. That’s why I’m inviting you to read to the end. That should help you to make a firm decision.
Best 5 Subscription-Free Dog Trackers
1. Fi Series 2 GPS Tracker (Editor’s Choice)
Fi series 2 is a well-recognized dog tracker in the USA. Since the company’s inception in 2017, it is only the Fi series collar that they have produced.
The collar works best with GPS, which requires a subscription but is optional.
It works fine without a subscription with limited access to the collar’s signature features.
So, let’s start with evaluating the design, communication range, location updating rate, and accuracy.
The Fi collar comes in 4 sizes. Because of that, it’s safe to say that as long as the neck circumference fits, the tracker can be worn by almost every single dog breed.
Maybe not werewolves.
Here are the four sizes,
- Small: (11.5 – 13.5 inches of dog’s neck)
- Medium: (13 – 16.5 inches)
- Large: (16 – 22.5 inches)
- Extra Large: (22 – 34.5 inches)
The collar is made out of polyester and synthetic fabric. The end-to-end durable metal hardware frame can resist a pull force of over 300lbs.
On top of that, you get to pick the collar in 4 colors; pink, blue, gray, and yellow. I went with both blue and gray because you can easily replace the collar strap.
You can use the collar without a subscription. However, the range is not as long as with the subscription added.
The range depends on the Fi base (should be purchased separately) and the signals of your smartphone. When I checked it, the range was around 60-70 feet.
The accuracy is up to 7 feet, but this can change when not aided with GPS signals.
The location updating rate varies from 1 to 15 minutes.
Now, let’s look at the battery life, resistance capacities, special features, and the mobile app/locator.
The Fi battery will last up to 3 months at most. However, since you’ll be using it without GPS, this duration can fall somewhere between 2 and 3 months.
The tracker comes with the IPX8 waterproof rating, which means the tracker will be waterproof for 30 minutes under a 1.5-meter depth.
Some functional features, such as past health activity, GPS location, geofencing alerts, and even lost dog mode, will be absent without the GPS connection.
However, here’s what you get when you use the Fi collar without the subscription,
- Today’s health activity
With the tracking feature, you can view the number of steps and the distance in miles on the app. You can also set daily goals. But the data refresh after 24 hours.
You can also track sleep patterns, the number of hours of sleep, and naps.
- Location with Wi-Fi when connected to the Fi Base
All these operations are done by a free designated app compatible with iOS and Android.
Overall, even with limited features, the Fi series 2 has many useful features in the no-subscription mode.
See why I recommend Fi series 2.
2. Garmin Astro 430 Tracker (#2nd Best Choice)
Garmin is a company that specializes in GPS devices across several industries. Some of them are aviation, automobile, and even sports.
The Astro 430 is significant in their dog tracker product line.
It comes with the T 5X collar and the Astro 430 handheld locator.
All Garmin trackers have no subscription plans whatsoever.
Their tracking technology is based on GPS, GLONASS, and radio frequency for signal transmission.
Let’s start the evaluation by looking at the design, communication range, location updating rate, and accuracy.
The T 5X locator’s dimensions are such as a height of 1.75, a width of 3.5, and a depth of 1.85; every unit is in inches. The weight is around 6.6 oz with a one-inch collar strap and antenna.
The T5X fits larger dogs with a neck circumference of 9.5 inches and above.
The handheld locator’s dimensions are 6.3 x 2.4 x 1.4 (height x width x depth) in inches. It weighs around 9.2 oz., and that’s with the batteries included.
The Garmin 430 handheld has a transflective 65-K color TFT display. Its dimensions are 1.43″ x 2.15″ (width x height); 2.6″ diagonal length.
You get 9 miles of range with 2.5 seconds location update rate — that’s as accurate and fast as a GPS tracker can get.
The tracker has a mean accuracy of 12 feet, but I noticed that it could be as close as 9-10 feet as long as the signal strength is strong.
Now, let’s move to battery life, resistance capacities, special features, and the mobile app/locator.
I observed the maximum battery life of the Astro 430 handheld to be around 18-19 hours.
This checks out with the maximum battery life in the specs, which is 20 hours.
The T 5X collar, on the other hand, has an impressive 80 hours of battery life.
The T 5X collar has a 1 ATM waterproof rating in terms of resistance capacities. That means it’s submersible up to 10 meters.
The handheld locator has the standard IPX7 waterproof rating.
So, the product is entirely waterproof.
When we look at the special features, preloaded TOPO maps bring a lot of value to the device. You can also store data on a microSD card for up to 4GB (not provided).
It also has geofencing with an alert system. If you’re unfamiliar with how geofencing works, let me explain.
You can draw a boundary on the map shown in your designated app; this could be a geofence or a virtual fence.
What makes the difference? A geofence ALERTS the mobile phone when your dog crosses the boundary, informing you.
A virtual fence, on the other hand, VIBRATES the collar, or emits a sound. It is your job to train your dog to respond accordingly.
There’s automatic rerouting with optimal mapping for detailed roads as well. Finally, hunt metrics let you share details of your dog’s speed, location, etc., with others if you wish to.
The locator is pretty straightforward and has no connection to mobile phones.
The tracker is best for hunting dog tracking. But it doesn’t mean that you can’t use it for typical dog tracking purposes at all.
Learn more about Garmin Astro 430.
3. Petfon 2 Tracker (#3rd Best Choice)
Petfon brings three distinctive products under the Petfon 2 product line; one for one dog, two dogs, and three dogs.
I had only one dog, so I went with the Petfon 2 for one dog.
How do you think it went?
Let’s start off with the design, communication range, location updating rate, and accuracy.
The all-new Petfon 2 has a design made of glossy material. Coming in two colors such as glossy dark blue or white, the tracker also has an ABS cover. The trackers’ dimensions are 1.7 x 1.7 x 0.6 inches; 5.28 oz in weight.
So, it fits all sizes and breeds comfortably.
The communication range depends on the environment since it uses a combination of GPS and LoPoWan technology (low-power WAN).
This technology connects devices that run on low-battery and low bandwidth with low bit rates over long ranges.
For example, the range is about 0.65 miles in congested urban areas. But the range increases to 3.5 miles in outdoor and suburban environments.
Although Petfon claims real-time tracking, I experienced the actual location updating rate being between 8-10 seconds. However, the accuracy is pretty impressive, coming close to around 5-10 feet in my experience.
Now, let’s move to the battery life, resistance capacities, special features, and the mobile app/locator.
Their lowest battery life is 9 hours, and the maximum is 17 hours. It checked out because mine ran for about 14 hours.
The tracker is IP65 rated; it’s both dustproof and waterproof. However, Pefton advises their customers not to wear the collar when the dog is swimming.
Like the Garmin Astro 430, the Petfon 2 also has a geofencing system termed the E-fence. To increase the efficiency, there’s both sound AND light integrated.
You can also view the activity tracking of your pet in terms of the distance covered, the time taken, resting time, and also the number of paws (similar to number of steps).
All of these operations are centralized on the Petfon app. It’s a free app that can be found in both the App Store and the Play store.
Overall, the Petfon 2 also qualifies as one of the best non-subscription trackers with many features.
Read more about PetFON Pet GPS Tracker.
4. Marco Polo Tracker
The Marco Polo tracker is somewhat similar to the Garmin dog trackers. One main reason is the requirement for a handheld locator to use it.
The tracking technology is based on the Marco Polo game we all know and love.
Instead of calling out “Marco” and “Polo,” the collar or tag uses radio signals for tracking.
That’s why it’s free from subscription-based GPS tracking.
So, let’s start by talking about the design, communication range, location updating rate, and accuracy.
The Marco Polo handheld has a lot of comfortably placed buttons. The surface is smooth and made of a rigid polymer.
These are the dimensions of the handheld:
- Height: 6 in. (152 mm)
- Width: 3.5 in. (90 mm)
- Depth: 1.75 in. (44 mm)
- Weight: 7.8 oz. (221 g)
Made out of velcro and synthetic fiber, the tag is also protected by a durable nylon holder. Here are the dimensions of a tracking tag.
- Height: 1.0 in. (25.4 mm)
- Width: 5.0 in. (127 mm)
- Depth: 0.5 in. (12.7 mm)
- Weight: 0.8 oz. (22.7 g)
The tracker is recommended for both small and large dogs as long as the neck size is 7 inches or more.
The communication range of the Marco Polo tracker directly depends on the surrounding area. The maximum range is up to 2 miles, with an accuracy of 10-15 feet.
Here’s how the range differs,
- Open terrain with few obstacles: up to 2 miles
- Open terrain but in rolling hills with few obstructions: 1 mile
- Urban areas: 2000ft
As per my observation, the location update rate is 5 seconds on average.
But the problem is that you do not get to see the exact location, only the direction, and the distance.
Now, let’s look at the battery life, resistance capacities, special features, and the mobile app/locator.
The battery life depends on which mode the tracker is running in.
In monitor mode, the battery life will be around six weeks. In the monitor mode, your dog should not leave the house. Which means there is no location tracking being done.
That’s because there isn’t any movement picked up strong enough to track.
However, the battery will last up to 3 days in active tracking mode (which I think is self-explanatory).
The Marco Polo tracking device has the IP67 waterproof rating.
Amongst the special features, geofencing and alerts take a significant place. However, you cannot draw a boundary on a map.
The boundary is the radial zone, the circle, making the locator the center. The smaller radius you can choose is 50 ft. When you move, the boundary moves.
You also can add up to 3 pets to one Marco Polo locator.
All things considered, Marco Polo is definitely a reliable solution if the requirements are satisfied.
Here you can read more about Marco Polo Pet Tracker.
5. Garmin Alpha 200i
Most Garmin trackers are made for tracking hunting dogs. But what’s advantageous is how those features directly apply to everyday dog tracking.
Their Alpha 200i is one such product.
This locator is recommended to be bought with either the TT 15X, the T 5X, or the T 5 mini.
Since I already had the T 5X, I chose the TT 15X to test the Alpha 200i.
Now, you know we start with the design, communication range, location updating rate, and accuracy.
Weighing 9.9 oz with the standard antenna and battery, the Alpha 200i is not too big. Its dimensions are such as 2.7″ (width) x 6.4″ (length) x 1.3″ (depth).
The minimum recommended neck size of your dog to wear the tracker is 9.5”.
Since the communication mostly depends on the collar, the maximum tracking range of the Alpha 200i is 9 miles. The location update rate is 2.5 seconds.
Like all Garmin dog tracking devices, the surrounding obstacles are irrelevant to the Alpha 200i.
The accuracy is up to about 5 feet, and you can track up to 20 dogs at once.
I am moving on to the battery life, resistance capacities, special features, and mobile app/locator.
The battery life of the Alpha 200i is around 20 hours. The battery life of the TT 15X is between 20-40 hours.
In my experience, my Alpha 200i was on for around 16-17 hours, and the TT 15X was on for about 30-34 hours.
So, the numbers are accurate.
The TT 15X collar has a water rating of 1 ATM (submersible up to 10m). On the flip side, the Alpha 200i is IPX7 rated.
The tracker lets you store data with a microSD card whose maximum storage shouldn’t exceed 16 GB. With this storage, you can add multiple maps to the Alpha 200i device.
The special features are pretty loaded on the Garmin Alpha 200i.
For a start, you get preloaded TopoActive maps along with BirdsEye satellite imagery. These maps include all the public land boundaries well indicated.
You’ll also see the “hunt metrics” of your dogs, such as their daily distance and speed. You also get 18 levels of stimulation, which is designed to train your dog faster and more efficiently.
Did I tell you about the barometric altimeter that helps you accurately monitor ascent and descent?
Finally, the Alpha 200i locator has a TFT color touchscreen with a 282 x 470 pixel resolution. The display size is 1.8″ in width and 3″ in height with 3.5 inches of diagonal distance.
This tracker is compatible with the Garmin Explore app. So you don’t have to worry about carrying the locator everywhere. You can view all the data on your smartphone itself.
Overall, like other Garmin trackers in the list, the Alpha 200i meets and exceeds the expected features of a non-subscription tracker.
How Are These Collars Subscription Free?
GPS is not a necessity to facilitate location tracking. But you can’t do much with Bluetooth tracking as well.
These trackers work without subscription because they do not directly depend on GPS satellites. Because when that happens, you should pay for the service.
Instead, the trackers use their own localized signaling and receiving system. So, some of these trackers can function without cell service anywhere in the world.
For example, all the trackers that come with their own handheld locator are what enable this localized signal system.
Since Fi Series doesn’t have a locator, it uses the Fi base.
So, in conclusion, there are no hidden fees; these trackers work as they are described here with no monthly subscription.
However, it’s your choice to experience the optional features.
No Subscription-Based GPS Trackers Vs. Subscription-Based GPS Trackers
One could say that subscription-based GPS trackers have more features than non-subscription ones.
That’s a partially true statement.
There are trackers that are designed to work with a subscription. But these can be used without the subscription, which takes away so many features.
In situations like that, yes, it might be better to have a subscription.
But some pet trackers do not require a monthly subscription by design. The available subscriptions are optional.
So, no subscription GPS trackers can be as amazing. They can be even better than subscription-based GPS trackers.
All you need to do is ensure that their operational features cater to your needs.
Benefits and Downsides of a No Subscription Tracker
Top Factors to Consider When Buying a No Monthly Subscription Dog Tracker
Size of Your Dog
Not all dog collars are of the same size or weight. They differ in terms of the lowest and maximum circumference too.
So, it’s essential to check whether the collar fits your dog. In order to check that, you should know the size of your dog in terms of length parameters and weight.
You’re buying a dog tracker to track your dog. So, its location tracking capacity must be checked. You must check the specs such as the location updating rate, location accuracy, and whether you can choose the location updating rate.
Build Quality and Durability
The build quality and durability are like the two sides of the same coin. But some branded trackers use premium materials to enhance the durability and convenience of use. On the other hand, durability against impact, dust, and water is guaranteed via standardization.
For example, the IP67 waterproof rating ensures complete resistance against water and dust. But the company must separately mention the drop height to ensure impact resistance, such as 1m, 1.5m or 2m.
The device is electronic since the collars run with GPS technology. So, there’s a battery life to each collar.
You need to check the maximum battery life and whether there are different operational modes, because the battery life tends to differ in each mode.
Some trackers, like the Garmin products, come with a separate handheld. You must check for its battery life too.
Is it enough as long as you’ve checked the above features? No. You should also see what extra features there are.
For example, there can be geofencing, activity tracking, or maybe you could store AND share location and activity data. But remember to double check how relevant those extra features are to your needs.
Is Buying a Dog Tracker Without Subscription Worth it?
The short answer; is YES.
Why would you want to pay a monthly fee when you don’t have one while getting the job done?
After all, almost all of these trackers are resilient in design. They’ll stay with you for a very long time. On top of that, there will be days and weeks when you don’t use the tracker at all.
Why should you pay for a service that you don’t use?
No-subscription trackers save you a little fortune in time. But most importantly, they let you fulfill your primary requirements.
You are tracking your dog.
No-subscription GPS trackers can do wonders when you pick the right one. That’s what most people struggle with.
It’s apparent how the best no-subscription trackers deliver valuable features. The Fi Series 2 has conquered the top place of the list because of its features.
If you didn’t guess already, I chose to go with the Garmin Alpha 200i.
But now that you’ve read this article clearly, choosing on your own should not be that much of a challenge.
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