What to Look For in a Car Alarm
Did you know that, on average, a car is stolen every six minutes in Canada? Also, people are injured or die every year as a result of auto theft. In the hands of a thief, a stolen car is like a loaded gun.
Automobile theft costs Canadians close to $1 billion per year, including $542 million for insurers to fix or replace stolen vehicles and $250 million in police, health care, and court system costs to bring criminals to justice.
One of the best ways you can protect your car is by fitting it with a car alarm system. These security systems not only protect your car from theft or a break-in, but they also save you some money on your insurance costs.
The problem is, however, that there are so many models on the market today, and they have so many features that it’s often difficult to know where to start looking. Often, you don’t even know which features are important and which are not.
Luckily, we’re here to help. With this guide, we’ll look at car alarm systems in more detail and show you some of the features you should look for when you’re deciding on the right alarm system for your car.
How a Typical Security System Works
A car alarm is an important deterrent for thieves and vandals, and it draws attention to anyone who tries to damage or take your car.
Typically, a car alarm consists of:
- The control module, often referred to as the “brain” of the device;
- The siren, which blares when it is triggered and draws attention as a result;
- The antenna, which receives remote signals;
- The remotes, which control the alarm system’s functions;
- Optional sensors to warn of impacts or collisions; and
- The wiring, which connects every part of the system.
The alarm system is connected to your car’s doors. When the doors are locked with the alarm remote, the alarm activates and becomes armed.
With many alarm systems, you’ll hear an audible chirp that tells you the alarm has been activated and your vehicle is protected. Should a door be left ajar, these systems also often alert you with a different sound.
Should someone tamper with your vehicle by, for instance, breaking a window and opening the door, the siren will sound.
If the alarm is triggered by mistake, it can be silenced, depending on the system, by pressing a button on the remote once. If the button is pressed another time, the system is deactivated.
As with the activation of the alarm, the alarm is deactivated when the car is unlocked using the alarm remote.
Aftermarket Alarms vs. Factory Systems
Now, you might think that you don’t need an alarm system because your vehicle already comes with an alarm. Although these factory keyless entry and alarm systems give you baseline protection, aftermarket car alarm systems are better. They’re simply more sophisticated and can do much more than your basic factory-installed car alarm.
An aftermarket car alarm system not only makes your car more difficult to steal, but it also makes it easier to live with. Its remote replaces your factory key fob and lets you arm and disarm the alarm, lock and unlock your doors, and open your trunk. Some systems even enable you to start your car remotely.
The big difference between the two is, however, the pricing. With a factory-fitted alarm system, you don’t have to pay anything. In contrast, with an aftermarket alarm system, there is a cost involved that you’ll have to consider when deciding on the right alarm system for your car.
When it comes to pricing, you have the following options:
- Under $100. There are many car alarm systems available for under $100. You should keep in mind, though, that these systems vary widely in terms of their quality, features, and performance, and, generally, they have more basic features than more advanced systems. Because of this, you’ll have to carefully consider which features are most important to you when you are deciding on a car alarm system.
- $100 to $199. This price range covers a huge assortment of car alarm systems on the market. When you buy in this price range, you’ll generally get a solid mix of reliability, performance, and features for your money. Typically, only when you’re after more advanced features will you have to pay more.
- $200 and up: These are typically high-end alarm systems and offer you exceptional performance, reliability, and high-end features that you won’t find in less expensive models.
Another difference between factory-fitted alarm systems and aftermarket alarm systems is their installation. Unlike a factory-fitted system that’s already there when you buy the car, an aftermarket alarm system needs to be fitted. It’s recommended that you use a professional to do this because wiring the alarm system into your vehicle can be quite complicated.
Car Alarm Features to Look For
Depending on the particular system, your car alarm might offer a variety of options that go beyond just locking and unlocking your car. It’s important to keep in mind that not all alarm systems offer the same features, and you’ll have to consider which features you really need when you’re deciding on a car alarm system.
Typically, alarm systems have some of the following features:
- Motion sensors that let you leave your vehicle’s top down or windows open and are also good for protecting the cargo areas in vans or trucks. These sensors work by picking up any movement in the car and will sound the siren if someone invades the space.
- Glass-break sensors, which sound the siren when they sense a window breaking. This protects you from criminals who believe they can bypass your system if they don’t open the door.
- Tilt sensors, which monitor the angle of your car and are triggered by an attempt to jack the car up or tow it away.
- Driver’s side priority, which lets you open or unlock the driver’s side door before or without unlocking the others. This means that you can safely get into your vehicle without the risk of a criminal using any of the other doors to get in.
- Auxiliary outputs that allow you to expand your alarm’s capabilities by adding other features. Most alarms on the market come with at least one auxiliary output, so you’ll have to consider whether that’s enough for your needs.
- GPS tracking, which makes it easy for you to find your car in a parking lot if it’s crowded or if you forgot where you parked. GPS tracking also allows you to track your car while it’s on the road and to see the speed at which it is travelling.
- Encrypted transmission, which means that the signals between your remote and the alarm system are encrypted. This means these signals can’t be intercepted or hacked, which ultimately improves the security of your car.
In addition to these, there are some essential features you should look for to ensure that your car is as safe as possible.
As the name suggests, this feature disables your car’s starter if someone attempts to turn on the vehicle while the alarm is activated. With this feature, the alarm ensures that your car can’t be hotwired and stolen.
In most cases, you’ll find that car alarm systems have a one-way remote. This means that communication occurs only from your remote to the alarm system and not vice versa. So, you’re able to arm and disarm the alarm system with your remote and to lock or unlock the car with your remote.
With a two-way remote system, however, the remote is able to send and receive signals. This means that you can lock and unlock the doors of your car or arm and disarm the alarm with the remote, but the alarm system will also be able to sync notifications to your remote.
A two-way remote system can, for instance, alert you when the doors are locked or unlocked or when the alarm has been switched off. Keep in mind, though, that this is its basic functionality, and you can get systems that give you visual feedback—you can even go with high-end systems that can show specific security alerts. Still other systems have an LCD screen for alerts.
Another way that you can protect your car is by adding a remote start system. This lets you start your car remotely, which is particularly helpful in cold climates because you can warm up your vehicle before you get in and drive off.
You’ll often hear people saying, “There’s an app for that,” and car alarm systems aren’t an exception. These days, many car alarm manufacturers are integrating smartphone apps into their alarm systems.
This gives you the convenience of being able to control your car from your smartphone. Basically, with a system like this, you turn your phone into an extra remote for your alarm system, and you’re able to monitor your car from a distance.
Some systems even come with features that allow you to get alerts through email or text when something happens with your car, and some have a GPS feature that allows you to track your car in the event that it gets stolen. You should keep in mind, though, that this feature can substantially increase the price of the alarm system.
Although you’ll probably have to spend money to fit an aftermarket car alarm system, remember that many car insurance companies offer discounts if you have a car alarm. Here, you can expect discounts to be anywhere between 2% and 10%of your policy, as insurance companies will consider your car to be a lower risk. This offsets the cost of the system.
Conclusion & Recommendations
Your car is one of your most valuable assets, so it makes sense that you’d want to protect it against theft. The best way to do this is to use a car alarm system.
There are many models available on the market today that you can consider when choosing the right car alarm system for your car. To make the choice a bit easier, here are some models that you can consider:
First up is the Viper 5706V 2-Way Car Security with Remote Start System, which features both door and trunk triggers plus five-button remote control transmitters that give you full control of all 24 functions of the system. This is a reliable, high-quality alarm system available at a cost that’s easy on your pocket.
Next up is the Pyle Car Alarm Security System. It comes with a variety of programmable features as well as an anti-carjack feature that allows you to monitor the doors of your car while the ignition is still on. It also features a multifunctional four-button remote and auxiliary outputs for accessories. The main drawback of this system is that the installation requires a professional.
Finally, you can look at the Python 5706P Responder LC3 SST 2-Way Security with Remote Start System, which comes with a shock sensor, four auxiliary outputs for any accessories you want to use, and compatibility with Viper’s SmartStart app. It gives you more functionality than other systems on the market and comes with a starter kill system that prevents your car from being shifted out of drive without the keys. With this system, you also have the benefit of GPS tracking.
Remember that these are just some of the systems available on the market, and there are many more that you can consider. Keep in mind, though, that not all alarm systems work in all vehicles, so it’s better to do proper research before you choose a system to make sure that the one you choose will work in your car.
If you want to know more about car alarm systems or why such a system is important to keeping your car safe, visit Car Digest.