Microchips vs GPS trackers: What is The Difference

About Microchips vs. GPS trackers, In an ever-advancing technological world, questions often arise about how to keep track of your fleet or pets. Many organizations and even individuals are fast adopting these tracking technologies. And none more so than using microchips and trackers on their pets. 

But are they the same? Well, the answer is no. In today’s article, we’re going over the differences between microchips and GPS trackers. Additionally, we’ll examine their working principles and why they’re equally important. Let’s get rolling.  

Table of Contents

What Are Microchips and How Do Microchips Work

A veterinarian microchipping a beagle dog

(A veterinarian microchipping a beagle dog)

A microchip is a microscopic integrated circuitry that you can implant in between an animal’s shoulder blades for identification. In other words, a microchip is a rice grain-sized radio-frequency identification (RFID) transponder with a unique identification number. The unique ID is necessary as it carries specific information similar to a vehicle’s VIN. 

How microchips work is simple. Normally, a vet injects a microchip under the skin flap between your pet’s shoulder blades. Next, you’ll register the chip’s code and all relevant contact information with your local or national pet recovery database. 

Remember, the microchip is specific to your pet and serves as the ID regardless of location. If your pet disappears and you find it, take it to a vet or shelter. Once there, they’ll use microchip (RFID) scanners to read the chip and pick up your contact information. 

However, remember that the microchip is not a tracking device. It cannot determine nor tell you the location of your pet.

What are GPS Trackers and How Do GPS Trackers Work

Cat with blue GPS tracker

(Cat with blue GPS tracker)

Global Positioning System (GPS) trackers are tracking devices installed on an object or vehicle or worn by a person or pet. The device will then relay near real-time information about the exact location of the moving body or object. Most fleet managers use GPS trackers to locate part of the fleet, traffic conditions, and time spent on the road.  

The basic working principle of GPS trackers is simple and relies on receivers. GPS receivers use the process of trilateration with the help of the GNSS (Global Navigation Satellite System) network. At all times, a receiver in your GPS tracker receives microwave signals from all satellites in orbit

Therefore, a receiver will use the signals from a minimum of four GPS satellites to triangulate and determine its precise position. However, the tracker transmits the location data to a global server instead of displaying the information on the device. 

You can then access your device’s location, speed of movement, and even its path from the server. All this data is available via the Internet, and you can access it from a smartphone or desktop app.

Differences Between Microchips and GPS Trackers

(GPS pet tracking)


As we’ve seen, microchips are small, grain-sized RFID implants. They are usually in bio-glass packaging of about 11 to 14 mm in length and approximately 2 mm thick. On the other hand, GPS trackers are bigger, longer, and heavier than microchips. The reason is that they house an internal battery, a cellular communication device, and tracking hardware. 


Most microchips are minute devices injected into animals to help identify them when lost and found. On the other hand, GPS trackers are external, bigger, and often located on a pet’s collar.


A beautiful German Shepherd with a GPS tracker on a collar

(A beautiful German Shepherd with a GPS tracker on a collar)

Microchips and GPS units work in tandem to locate a missing pet in distinct ways; they are not a replacement for one another. While a GPS may be able to locate your dog, it cannot give your contact information to local authorities, which may assist in getting him back home. 

On the other hand, you cannot trace your pet’s location if it only has a microchip. You’ll have to wait until you’re contacted by an individual who gets your contact from the microchip. 


The microchip is a long-time identification device that lasts your pet’s lifetime or even beyond. It doesn’t require any charging, nor does it have a power source. On the contrary, all GPS trackers require charging after some days. 

Microchips vs. GPS trackers: Pros and Cons

A veterinarian checking a microchip implant under a dog’s skin

(A veterinarian checking a microchip implant under a dog’s skin)

MicrochipIt’s difficult to tamper with microchipsMicrochipping is painlessMicrochips don’t need power sources. Your personal information, including contact information, is safe.You cannot track your pet’s location if it doesn’t have a trackerThere’s a small inflammation risk to your pet due to microchipping.
GPS TrackerIt helps track your pet’s daily activities and can have a GPS that tracks several, gets easier to find a lost pet. You can use a GPS tracker to set up invisible boundaries. You’ll get an alert if your pet wanders off beyond the limits.Larger and heavier than microchipsMore costly. Most GPS trackers cost more than a few hundred dollars, usually including a monthly membership charge that typically lasts a few days before requiring a new charge for the batteries.

Microchip and GPS Tracker Use Cases

A veterinarian using a microchip reader

(A veterinarian using a microchip reader)


  • Permanent identification in animals
  • Provide an owner’s/parent’s contact information

GPS Tracker

  • Tracking and locating pets
  • Full-scale tracking for car rental companies
  • Monitoring and safeguarding logistics in remote areas
  • Mapping and surveying
  • Tracking lawbreakers by law enforcement


Are you able to track your pet’s microchip using a phone? Or Can you track Pet Microchips With GPS?

No. Microchips are not tracking devices but a way for a vet to reach you. In other words, microchips are more like your identity card or driver’s license. If you lose your pet and a good samaritan finds it, they will take it to a vet for RFID scanning. It’s from here that you’ll receive a call or message to retrieve it from the vet. 

Is a pet GPS tracker worth it?

Absolutely. Pets wander a lot, and you’re better off tracking them in real-time so that you don’t risk losing them. Additionally, some GPS tracking devices allow you to set virtual safe zones to stop your pets from straying and getting lost.

How long will your pet’s GPS tracker last?

Depending on the brand you choose, newer GPS trackers have an average battery life of 2-5 days or 2-3 weeks for the bigger ones. Generally, the lifetime of a GPS tracker depends on your pet’s activities. The more it wanders off, the more the GPS triangulates its position, thus draining the battery faster.   

Does a pet microchip have a GPS in it?

Pet microchips lack GPS technology. Instead, they employ Radio-frequency identification (RFID) tech, which you can use to scan for data, such as the contact details of the pet owner. As such, microchips can only pinpoint exactly where your pet is if they get lost if someone calls to inform you.


A microchip is a device that stores a 15-digit number. You’ll then have to register the number or code with your national pet recovery institutions. Failure to do so means your cat will have a chip but with no contact information. 

Additionally, you’ll need to install a GPS tracker on your pet to help locate it. With technological advancement, it won’t be long before we get better ways to maximize on both devices.  

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