According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), there were approximately 721,053 motor vehicle thefts in 2012. Of those thefts, nearly 74 percent involved cars, and trucks were the second most likely targets. The FBI estimated that drivers lost approximately $6,000 for each stolen vehicle in 2012, and financial loss across the country exceeded $4 million. When you compare rates over time, you see that vehicle theft has decreased more than 40 percent since 1993. That sounds good until you realize that theft has increased approximately 0.06 percent since 2011.
Whether that predicts a more substantial increase for years to come or not, it’s comforting to know that modern technology makes it easier than ever to locate a stolen vehicle. Most drivers now enjoy connected lifestyles, and that includes greater connections to our vehicles as well.
When you install a car security system, your vehicle will be at a much lower risk of being stolen, as many thieves will be deterred by the presence of a security system. As there are various security systems out there, many of which offer different options, we have prepared a handy guide that will introduce you to some of the best security systems currently available.
A Cheat Sheet of Terms
Once you start shopping for car security systems, you’ll run into some terms that aren’t always properly understood. This cheat sheet will ensure you understand what manufacturers mean when they refer to advanced features on their products. This is essential to selecting the best security system for your vehicle and your lifestyle. You won’t need every feature on the market, and you don’t want to overpay for a system that includes features you won’t use.
- Anti-Hijack: These remote systems are used to stop a vehicle from functioning in the case of hijacking or theft. When certain conditions aren’t met, such as the entry of a code or syncing with a transponder, the vehicle automatically shuts off. This can stop a thief or hijacker in their tracks.
- Keyless Entry/Start/Trunk Release: A remote control with buttons to lock and unlock the doors, start the engine, release the trunk, and/or sound a panic alarm. Lock and unlock remotes come standard with most new vehicles today, and you can often upgrade to automatic engine start. Keychain remotes are common, but some remote features are now built directly into the ignition key.
- Two-Way Communication: A remote control or smartphone app that allows the vehicle to communicate with the driver. The vehicle sends messages to the app or remote control when the alarm is activated. Some systems now allow more advanced messages, including warnings for potential mechanical problems and alerts that your vehicle is due for maintenance.
- Vehicle Locator: An alarm that sounds so that the driver can locate the vehicle easily. You press a button on your remote, and then follow the sound to find your car.
- Vehicle Tracking: Technology that allows a monitoring service to map a vehicle’s route or pinpoint its location if the vehicle is stolen. A tracker is incorporated in the security system to allow this type of monitoring.
- Window Roll-Up: A system that rolls the windows up when the vehicle is turned off.
- Immobilizer: A system that prevents a car from starting if a matching key or coordinating remote isn’t used. Anyone without the key is prevented from driving your vehicle.
- Noisemaker: The loud noise heard when a car alarm is sounded. The intention is to attract attention to your vehicle and potentially scare away a thief.
- Automatic Vehicle Location/Tracking: This is a more advanced system that monitors your car just as you may hire a security company to monitor your home security system. When the immobilizer or motion sensor is activated, the system registers the potential for danger and notifies a live monitoring bureau. The bureau will note the vehicle’s location and begin tracking so that it’s easy to recover the vehicle if a legitimate theft is occurring. Authorities can respond to the incident faster, increasing your chances of recovering your vehicle with minimal damage.
Six Recommended Security Systems
You can easily spend days or even weeks comparing vehicle security systems and determining which ones fit your needs without breaking your budget. To help you quickly identify some of the best systems with varying features and price tags, this list will introduce you to six of the highest ranked security systems for drivers and their various needs.
This WiFi-enabled, built-in security system makes driving more convenient and much safer by allowing you to place hands-free phone calls, offering directions to locations of interest, and connecting you with live agents to ask questions. It can help you diagnose mechanical problems and deliver alerts when you’re due for service. If you’re ever involved in an accident, agents can notify authorities for fast response. In the case of theft, the system may locate and track your vehicle in addition to slowing the car’s speed or locking the ignition.
Estimated Price: $20-$35 per month or $200-$350 per year, plus optional add-on services.
Performance: 4/5 stars for exceptional service most of the time. Many consumer complaints are related to the company’s automatic billing policy, so make sure you understand the terms of service.
Support & Help: Some insurance companies offer policy discounts for OnStar subscribers. Customer support is available through your vehicle, or you can reach customer support during standard banking hours from an unconnected phone line.
This tracking system boasts a 90-percent recovery rate. This success is probably due to the fact that the systems are connected to your vehicle’s VIN and will show up in the police department’s computer when you report unauthorized use or theft. Once your report is made, the tracking system is used to locate your vehicle. The tracker is strong enough to pick up signals even if your vehicle is in a parking garage or under a thick canopy of trees.
Estimated Price: $695.00 with optional upgrades, and installation charges may apply.
Performance: 4/5 stars because the 90-percent recovery rate is impressive, but some consumers find the price prohibitory. Consider the value of your vehicle when determining whether it’s worth the expense.
Support & Help: A two-year limited warranty is provided as long as you remain the owner of the vehicle. Customer service is available through an online form and a toll-free phone number.
Viper is one of the most respected brand names in the car security market. They offer a variety of car alarms with one-way or two-way communication, and many offer remote entry and remote start. You can even remotely check the cabin temperature inside your vehicle with some of the more advanced systems.
Estimated Price: $50-$300, depending on the system selected and customized options.
Performance: 5/5 stars for efficient services and a variety of price ranges to suit all consumers. The most common complaint is that the systems may not always work within the specified range.
Support & Help: Lifetime warranties are offered on most products, and the website walks you through the process of selecting the best system for your vehicle. Customer service is highly responsive and knowledgeable if you call them with questions.
Plug CarShield into your vehicle to receive real-time notifications of mechanical malfunction. If you’re involved in an accident, the system can alert your loved ones and make sure help is on the way as quickly as possible. It taps into your car’s computer system and delivers data through your mobile device. If you have a teenager on the road, you can even monitor their driving habits and track their driving routes to ensure they’re handling the vehicle responsibly. Tracking is also available if the unit remains plugged in after theft.
Estimated Price: $399-$895, depending on terms of service and warranty selected. An annual service plan fee of $159.99 also applies.
Performance: 5/5 stars for reliable functionality from a plug-in system. Every customer also receives one year of free service.
Support & Help: You can select either a one-year or three-year warranty. Customer service is prompt and knowledgeable when problems arise.
5. Avital Car Security System
This car alarm comes with a one-way remote and a two-way remote, and it remains functional within a radius of 1,500 feet. More advanced systems are also available with remote start and keyless entry.
Estimated Price: $100-$450, depending on system selected and labor charges.
Performance: 5/5 stars for offering a variety of systems that appeal to different consumers. These high-quality alarm systems are reliable and offer some advanced features, including starter kill in case of theft.
Support & Help: A limited warranty is offered on systems installed by an authorized service provider, and you will need your purchase receipt and RMA number to redeem the warranty. Customer service is offered online as well as over the phone, and agents are knowledgeable and highly responsive.
This is one of the most trusted brand names in the car alarm industry, and they offer a variety of systems that will fit most budgets and lifestyles. You can select from basic one-way systems that are easy on your budget or more advanced systems that offer remote start and two-way communication.
Estimated Price: $200-$500, depending on system chosen.
Performance: 4/5 stars for bringing variety and dependability to the market. The only thing missing is a mobile app.
Support & Help: Most Python products come with lifetime warranties, and the brand is known for offering exceptional product guides. Many of your questions are likely answered online, but phone service is available as well.
Think about the security features protecting your vehicle right now. Are you satisfied with their performance and the range of protection offered? If not, you may think about whether one of these security systems may give you greater peace of mind.