11 Factors that Affect GPS Accuracy – A Family1st Insight

factors affecting gps accuracy

Did you know that various landscape settings significantly impact the accuracy of consumer GPS? A study demonstrates that closed canopies achieve an accuracy of up to 10 meters, while open-sky settings achieve 5 meters of accuracy. This leads us to our primary point of discussion: what influences GPS accuracy? Is it the environment, climate, or something else entirely?

At Family1st, we always emphasize the significance of considering specific factors when analyzing GPS accuracy. We all use GPS nearly every day for our essential needs. Therefore, it’s essential to delve deeper into understanding this small device.

In this blog, we will explore the factors that affect GPS accuracy. Often, we may perceive these inaccuracies as insignificant, but they warrant more attention than they typically receive.

Factors That Affect the Accuracy of GPS

To understand how GPS accuracy is influenced, let us first see how GPS tracking works.

GPS tracking relies on satellites that emit signals used by GPS receivers to calculate the device’s position on Earth. By measuring the distance between itself and four or more satellites, a GPS device can pinpoint its location. This feature is useful for vehicle owners, hikers, courier companies, and everyday people using smartphones for navigation.

Now that we know how GPS tracking devices work, let’s see what factors affect their accuracy. To begin with, we can broadly divide the factors into categories of satellites, environmental, location-based, and climate.


As mentioned above, GPS tracking devices determine their location via satellites. A GPS tracker ideally needs at least four satellites to determine its correct location. If fewer satellites are in the line of sight, an error message will be generated. This is why we often receive inaccurate GPS results in areas and locations with poor network connectivity. Some other factors related to satellites are listed below.

Satellite Geometry

The ideal scenario is when the satellites are spread out across the sky, as opposed to being clustered in one area. Better geometry leads to more accurate location fixes. So, along with the number of satellites, the actual position of the satellite is also an essential factor.

Satellite image quality

Clear and detailed satellite images help GPS tracking devices work better. When the satellite pictures are sharp and taken at the right time, GPS devices can find your location more accurately. However, if the images are unclear, it can make GPS less accurate and may give you the wrong location and inaccurate results.

Environmental Factors

Apart from the satellite, factors like tall buildings, thick, dense forests, and natural terrains like valleys significantly affect the line-of-sight visibility of the GPS reference points.


Remember how inaccurate GPS results hampered your hiking experience? Well, physical obstructions like tall buildings, dense forests, or mountains deeply affect GPS accuracy. The signals are blocked, and they bounce off the surface. When signals bounce, the GPS might misinterpret these reflected signals as coming from a different satellite or at a different time, resulting in errors during the calculations.


Thick tree cover attenuates GPS signals as they pass through leaves and branches. The GPS receives less signal strength as a result of this. Hence, its ability to determine an accurate position is affected.

Location-Based Factors

The geometry of satellites in the sky changes based on your location on Earth. The arrangement of satellites affects the accuracy of position, and therefore some positions have better satellite visibility than others.


The satellites are in high Earth orbits and produce better results near the equator. So, if we try at higher latitudes, it generates inaccurate results as the satellite gets closer to the horizon.

Proximity to the Equator

Being closer to the equator means you have a better view of the entire sky, allowing the GPS receiver to receive signals from a larger portion of the satellite constellation. This leads to improved accuracy.

Climatic Factors

A detailed study by NCBI examines several factors that affect the accuracy of GPS, including the time of day. This happens because of temperature and humidity variations throughout the day.

Weather and seasonal variations

Adverse weather, such as heavy rain, fog, or snow, can scatter or absorb GPS signals, reducing accuracy as water droplets in the atmosphere bend the signals. Solar flares and ionospheric disturbances disrupt the Earth’s ionosphere, causing signal delays due to ionospheric refraction and affecting GPS accuracy. Changes in temperature and humidity in the Earth’s troposphere also lead to signal delays, as signals take longer paths through the atmosphere. Additionally, seasonal changes affect vegetation, which varies the strength of signals and affects GPS accuracy due to changing atmospheric conditions.

How do I avoid GPS inaccuracy?

  • Prioritize open-sky environments and avoid areas with obstructions, like densely forested regions.
  • Use GPS receivers with higher sensitivity and multi-satellite support to strengthen signal acquisition.
  • Regularly update receiver firmware and apply software enhancements for optimal performance.
  • Analyze the atmospheric conditions, schedule GPS activities during clear weather, and apply correction techniques.
  • Try to choose a suitable time of day when atmospheric conditions are stable, such as late afternoon.
  • Be aware of seasonal variations and how they influence the strength of the GPS signal and its accuracy.
  • Opt for a GPS device with a long battery life to ensure uninterrupted tracking and accuracy during your travels.

Choosing the most accurate GPS Tracking Device

It is essential to ensure maximum accuracy with GPS tracking devices, as we entrust our lives to that little device. We at Family1st reviewed all the possible factors that cause inaccurate results to present this helpful guide for you. Now, what you need is a portable GPS tracker for your car. And the best option with maximum accuracy is Family1st.

The Family1st Portable GPS Tracker is one of the best trackers available in the market, and the reason lies in this device’s features. It comes with 4G connectivity and offers travel history as well. The best part? It offers 24/7 email support so that your concerns never have to wait. Other key features are listed below for your reference:

Key Features

  • Create up to 10 Geofencing Safe Zones
  • Compatible with Alexa
  • Extended Battery Life
  • Real-time tracking is Available on The App to Always Stay Updated
  • Quick Installation and Easy to Use


Hopefully, we were able to clarify your viewpoint on the factors that affect GPS accuracy. We saw how various environmental, climatic, and location factors affect the accuracy and how these issues can be resolved. 

Apart from these factors, there is one more thing we need to ensure: the best places to install the GPS tracking device. Why? Because as much as the distance from the satellite matters, the position of the GPS tracking device also plays a vital role. 

Congratulations! Now you have become a GPS tracking expert. Follow these techniques to have peaceful and stress-free journeys with your family.

Book a call to learn more about the Family1st Portable GPS Tracker and safeguard your journeys with us.


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