How to Choose Car Alarm Systems

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A car is a big investment, and in order to protect that investment — as well as your belongings and passengers — installing a car alarm system is a smart thing to do. What’s more, insurance companies will usually offer discounts on insurance rates for cars with safety features like a car alarm.
In this article, we’ll walk you through choosing an alarm, talk about the different features your alarm could have, and give tips for comparison shopping on price and brands.

Part 1: How to Determine the Kind of Alarm You Want

Step 1: Decide between an active or passive alarm. While a passive alarm automatically arms after you turn off the car’s ignition, an active alarm will require the press of a button in order to arm it.
Step 2: Decide between a one-way or two-way system. One-way car alarms only send communications to the car, while two-way systems can transmit messages back and forth between the remote and the car.
The choice between these two types is a little more complex, with multiple factors to consider:
  • Do you routinely keep valuables in your car? If so, or even in the case of a pricey stereo system, you may want to consider a two-way system for additional monitoring of your car’s security status.
  • For what purpose are you purchasing an alarm? If you want an alarm for some added security just in case, and you don’t believe there’s a significant threat of it actually being targeted by criminals, a one-way system should be enough for you. However, if you typically park where car theft is not uncommon, you should consider a two-way system for added safety.
  • Do you want or need a smartphone component? Some two-way alarms have the benefit of being able to communicate with your smartphone and send it updates on your car. If you ever have to remotely arm or disarm your system, this feature would be very handy. Keep in mind, though, that this service usually comes with a monthly fee.
Note that two-way car alarms are likely going to be more expensive than one-way alarms. However, depending on your answers to the questions above, the added expense may be worth it.

Part 2: How to Choose the Alarm Features You Want

Some Examples of Car Alarm Features
Car Alarm Feature What it Does Use
Remote starter Allows you to start your car remotely When it's cold out, you can warm up your car before even going outside.
Automatic ream Re-locks your doors when you don't open them soon after pressing disarm or unlock on your remote This is helpful if you have forgotten that you unlocked the car or did so accidentally.
Trunk open Releases the trunk if you press the trunk button If your hands are full, you can open the trunk without setting anything down.
Motion sensor Sounds a warning or alarm if someone or something is too close to your car This helps discourage approaching criminals and also allows you to better navigate tight spaces.
Impact sensor Sounds a warning or alarm if someone or something bumps or hits your car This can alert you to a potential theft or impact in progress.
Starter kill Prevents hot-wiring If someone tries to hot-wire your car, this will kill the starter and keep the person from taking it.
Tilt sensor Monitors the tilt of your car If your car is being lifted by a tow truck or jack, this alert will let you know.
Glass break sensor Sounds a warning or alarm when breaking glass is heard In the event that someone thinks he or she can bypass the alarm system by going through a window, this will discourage the criminal and alert you to the crime.
Step 1: Consider what you want your system to do. There are a number of options to choose from when it comes to car alarm features. Think about all of the things you would like your alarm system to get from your system, now and down the line.
For example, does the area you park in require extra layers of security? If so, perhaps you will need an alarm with added features.
Step 2: Familiarize yourself with the options. From typical features, like keyless entry and remote start, to more advanced options like motion sensors, impact sensors, glass break sensors, and even tilt sensors, it is important to be knowledgeable about what options you have in terms of alarm features.

Part 3: Shop Around for Brands and Prices

Step 1: Look for features you want. Once you have decided what options are best for you, pick a number of different models that fit the bill and start comparing.
Step 2: Compare brands and prices. Make sure the brands you are looking at are reputable and trustworthy, and that their prices are competitive. Some well-known brands include Python, Viper, and Compustar. Inquire about any warranties as well.
Step 3: Find out about installation. It’s recommended that you have a professional install your new alarm system, as these are complex. Be sure to ask about this service and how much it costs.
Step 4: Ask if a local dealer can service it. If you ever need to update your system, replace the remote, or change a feature, it is immensely helpful to have a local dealer who can do this for you. If you cannot find a dealer within 25 miles or so, go with a different car alarm brand.
While it might take some research to do it right, purchasing a car alarm is one of the best things you can do for your car. The peace of mind you’ll have is worth all the effort. But no security device it 100% foolproof, so make sure you understand what you should do if your car is broken into.

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