How to Track a Stolen Vintage Trailer or Motorhome?


This is a frequent question that is posted in the Tin Can Tourists Facebook group. People see a lot of posts on Facebook about trailers being stolen and feel they want to be notified quickly if their vintage trailer is stolen and would like to be able to recover it by knowing where it is.

A couple things before we get into the tracking discussion.

  • The best way to protect your trailer is to insure it appropriately. Read this article to get our advice on how to insure your vintage trailer.
  • There isn’t one security measure you can take that will prevent your trailer from being stolen but you can take multiple steps to make it harder. The best way to secure a trailer from theft is to use a combination of security systems like a putting it in a secure storage area, taking the wheels off, chaining the frame to a post, using trailer wheel lock, a hitch, and a coupler lock, and locking lug nuts.

If your trailer is stolen, knowing that as soon as possible and being able to track it would be beneficial to recovering it. That is why we get the question about tracking a trailer.

To know if a trailer is moving and where it is, requires a GPS device.

Without a doubt, people think they can use something like a Tile device to track the trailer.

They’d love this to work because these are inexpensive and easy to just store in a trailer. These don’t use a GPS but rather rely on being able to be discovered by other people’s cell phones when they are nearby. This might work for finding keys but they are not effective for tracking vehicles. The reality is Tile devices can’t track items as they move in real time. Therefore, you may find it hard to track a moving object with a Tile GPS tracker. That’s why it’s not recommended to use Tile devices for tracking children, pets, and other fast-moving objects. Additionally, the passive tracker does not transmit data to satellites or cell towers so you couldn’t locate your car if it were stolen or if you were trying to locate your spouse. There are better ways to do this. On the other hand, you’ll be able to track an item successfully if it’s located within Tile device’s Bluetooth range. That means that if you would like to track a moving object, then a phone with the app should travel together with a Tile device. So, there is only one way you can use a Tile GPS device for tracking a car. For example, you can attach it to car keys and put your phone inside a car. In this case, your car keys and phone with the app will travel together. This will make it possible for you to use a GPS device for tracking a car.

Another option that is considered is to put an old phone in the trailer and then be able to use an app like “Find my Phone” to track the phone. The challenge with this is that the phone has to remained charged, the phones needs to have cellular service, and the service can be limited by being inside the trailer. You need to hide it so it can’t be turned off but that can be to the detriment of the cellular service.

The only way to do this right is to use a GPS tracker that:

  • has a long battery life
  • uses true GPS technology
  • has a paid monitoring service that can notify you if the trailer is moving from a location
  • is easy enough to hide but still communicate to GPS and monitoring service
  • be reasonable in terms of cost of the device and monitoring system

This perfect system doesn’t exist but things improve every year. The best one we’ve seen recently is the Optimus AT GPS Tracker

The device costs $100 and the battery can last a year but the downside is it only reports it’s location 4 times a day. You won’t be able to see the location in real time but once a trailer stops, you’ll know where it is. The monitoring service is $13/month.

We’d love to know if you have better solutions or have any additional information to share. Please use the comments below!

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