GPS Tracker vs. Personal Locator Beacon


There are quite a few big differences between a GPS Tracker and a Personal Locator Beacon.

Firstly, if you are on a recreational vessel and you are going to travel more than two nautical miles from shore, you MUST carry an approved 406 MHz EPIRB (Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon) device.  There is no alternative for you.

The next main difference is that a personal locator beacon (also commonly referred to as an EPIRB) and a personal GPS tracking device is that the EIPIRB will only send an SOS signal out  – there is no variation.  If you push that button, the emergency services are notified, and every required method to locate you in the shortest possible time is put into action.  This means helicopters … planes … search parties … anything goes to find that signal and save your life.

Personal Locator Beacon GPS Tracker

Personal Locator Beacon Australia

How a personal locator beacon works

This short video demonstrates how a personal locator beacon works.  A GPS Tracker works in very much the same way for a fraction of the price. An example of the low cost of the GPS Tracker can be viewed at

The GPS Tracker way more useful and versatile than the Personal Locator Beacon

Now, that is fantastic if you are in deep, deep trouble.

But what do you do if you are in a NON-life-threatening situation – yet you are still stuck and need help?  This includes those situations like being bogged up to your axel in a remote 4WD track … or any other situation that is not going to cause you damage, but might mean waiting a few days for a passer-by!  Would you want to activate your safety beacon, or personal emergency beacon and foot the bill for a helicopter ride that could equate to a years’ wage if it was not a life-threatening situation? 

That’s where the personal GPS tracker can make the world of difference over the humble personal locator beacon.


A personal GPS tracker can let you send a message (usually one that you pre-set) so you can let chosen people know what is going on for you … whether you are OK, or if you need help, or is it something more serious?  They are flexible enough to act as a graded personal GPS personal locator, or an emergency beacon, or just as a GPS tracking device.  But the point here is that there is a range of options for you, rather than just a single “push me in case of a life-threatening emergency” option.

Personal Locator Beacon and the Personal GPS Tracking Device

The other main function of the personal locator beacon I have mentioned so far is the tracking functions.  A personal GPS tracker will do that too — allow your movements to be tracked.  This is good for two reasons.  Firstly, your loved ones can see where you are at any time they need to.  They can log into a website or an app, and they can see your signal on a map.  Secondly, you can use the information to see where you have been … like a movement journal!

In addition, a GPS cell phone mobile phone tracker cannot get a signal if it is relying on normal mobile coverage, and you are not in range of a mobile phone tower… rendering standard GSM based systems useless if they cannot send your coordinates as a tracking system! 

A personal locator beacon EPIRB will not do anything like that … all they do is send a single signal to a single place for a single purpose … they are SOS only.  If that is all you need, then a personal EPIRB would be your best option. 

But if there situations where you might want the flexibility of a personal GSP tracker, or you want the tracking functions, and you travel outside normal mobile coverage, then there are many options you can choose that use satellite instead of normal mobile signal. 

Options range from personal GPS tracker devices to two way SMS communicators … so have a think about the function you want, how much you need to be in touch with others while you are out, and what level of tracking and communication you might need.  Always think of the worst-case scenario too … as that is when these units really shine!

It’s definitely something to think about!  And, Christmas and Birthdays are always never far away.  If you can think of someone who may benefit from a personal locator beacon, get them a personal GPS tracker instead, they do make a very good, affordable present too!

GPS Trackers and Personal Locator Beacons for Sale

Safecity Satellite Phones offers a wide range of GPS Personal Tracking Devices.  We will do our best to offer you the cheapest personal locator beacon (and recommend you purchase one of the latest GPS Trackers released).  So before you buy your tracker or locator, contact us for a price quotation.  Also please visit our sister site for details about our Asset GPS Tracking Devices such as the Spot Trace.

For personal locator beacon, hiking specialist products take a look at the superb range of satellite communicators.

Cheapest Personal Locator Beacon

We will be posting more GPS Trackers and personal locator beacon reviews on this site.  Subscribe to our Facebook Page and to our Tweets.

The Personal Locator Beacon GPS Tracker team uses the Webmasters Tools Blog resources.

Personal Locator Beacon GPS Tracker page updated on the 30th of August 2019.