Want to know something snazzy? The first basic car alarm system was invented in 1913. Vehicle security systems have come a long way since. If anything, car alarms are too sensitive. Folks are more likely to complain about the noise of an alarm, than run to check if a car is being broken into. And in a big parking lot it’s impossible to tell if it’s your car that’s going off, or someone else’s.
It raises the question: are car security systems even worth the money? Let’s take a look under the hood.
The cost of an aftermarket car security system depends on what sort of alarm you opt for. A one way system will set off a siren and lights, while a two way system will also alert you via your key fob, and likely include other tech-y extras like GPS tracking and smartphone connectivity.
A security system will usually cost around $150-250. You can get basic systems, like this Viper One-Way, for $80. Or you could ball out $360 on a two-way remote like this Python system. A popular all-rounder is the Compustar CS7-900, which is a couple of hundred bucks and rated as a best buy by Forbes and Safewise.
Well…the stats don’t look great. Research in the 90s suggests that 95-99% of car alarms you hear are false alarms. Another study in 1997 looked at 73m insurance claims and found that alarms make no overall difference in theft losses. Fans of car alarms say they still act as a good deterrent but most pro car thieves should know how to disable an alarm pretty quickly.
If you don’t want to spend the cash (or contribute to the blaring noise in your neighborhood) then you might want to look at some alternatives to a car alarm. Most cars should have an engine immobilizer fitted, which means you can’t start it without the correct key or fob. This alone can act as a pretty strong deterrent to theft.
For a cheaper, lo-fi option you could invest in a wheel lock, which you clamp on the steering wheel to prevent someone taking off, or a pedal jack, which locks your brake pedal into place and makes it impossible to drive off without removing it.
When it comes to car theft, it’s often older models, with dated security systems, that get targeted the most. And even if your car has a decent alarm system, thieves might come for your vehicle’s catalytic converter.
Cars that are sitting around unused are most likely to attract attention from criminals, so if you’ve got an old junker in the drive you might want to cash in on it before someone else does.
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