The 8 Best Car Alarms
Sensitive to Your Security
The FBI put out a report in 2014 that said a car is stolen in the United Stated every 46 seconds. For every five minutes you spend researching car alarms, thieves steal seven cars. And that's only accounting for successful thefts; there's much less data on attempted thefts, as car alarms and other deterrents intervene sometimes without leaving any evidence behind.
These are pretty staggering numbers, especially when you consider the fact that so many cars on the road today were manufactured with decent alarm systems built in. The problem with stock alarm systems, it would seem, is that they're predictable. A good thief can take one look at your car, determine its make, model and year, and know how to dismantle its alarm almost instantly.
How many times have you heard a car alarm going off for just a few seconds, only to be immediately silenced? Whether it was the owner deactivating it with their key fob or a criminal knowing which cord to cut you may never know.
But if you had a good enough alarm installed to keep the thief at work long enough, the safest course of action for the crook would eventually be to abandon the attempted boosting. After all, in that scenario above, when the alarm keeps blaring, almost anyone within earshot would eventually start to wonder whether it wasn't their own car making all the racket, and it would attract a lot of attention.
The best aftermarket alarm systems out there do this for you in spades, but they also offer additional benefits. Most of the alarms on our list are sensor-based, meaning that they respond to changes in pressure or light in specific areas. If a small light sensor that's blocked entirely by your closed car door gets hit with a blast of light without first being deactivated, it will trigger your alarm.
Additionally, a lot of these packages include their own key fobs that can trigger your trunk to open, and, in some cases, even provide you with keyless or remote ignition, so you can keep you car locked up safe, even as you warm it up in the winter.
More Than Just A Siren
I bought a car back in 2011 from a major manufacturer known for outfitting even their most basic models with a decent amount of features. As with most car purchases, I spent the better part of a lifetime in the dealership, filling out paperwork, waiting, drinking coffee, waiting, chatting with the equally bored sales team, and waiting some more. Then, finally, they handed over the keys.
The fob, however, seemed to be missing a button. There was no trunk release. This was a 2010 model, and there was no trunk release. My first car was a 1991 VW, and it had a trunk release. I'd thought that kind of thing had become standardized.
About a year later, after finding scratches on my door and window consistent with an amateur slimjim operator, I looked into some aftermarket alarm systems, and I was delighted to find I could set one up to trigger my trunk. Trips to the grocery store have never been safer or easier.
With the basic alarm sensors and horns covered by each of the models on our list, your decision here will likely come down to the features each offers.
For example, our top rated alarm system allows you to wire your ignition to operate by push-button, with only the presence of the fob required, which is becoming increasingly popular in car designs. Features like these can bring a slightly outdated car further into modernity. Other systems feature remote ignition capabilities, allowing you to start your car from the comfort of your own home, which is especially useful in inclement weather.
A few systems also outfit you with even more detailed feedback. They do this by relaying nuanced information to a separate fob with its own screen. That screen tells you everything from lock and alarm status, to battery power and door openings.
A Not-So-Easy Getaway
It didn't take very long after the invention of the car for auto theft to become an industry unto itself. The first documented case of car theft took place in 1896, and it's been off to the races ever since.
By 1913, auto theft numbers grew to a point where a prisoner in Denver, Colorado designed a device to prevent thieves from stealing cars. It was a manually armed sensor placed in the ignition system. If you recall, cars in those days required their drivers to actually hand-crank the engines to get them started, not too unlike the kickstarters on motorcycles.
If a thief attempted to crank the engine with this first car alarm in place and armed, a small sound emitted from within to draw attention to the scene. Another development a couple of years later actually used a kind of early fob designed to act as a receiver and vibrate if the owner's car were under duress.
Advances in radio technology led to more complicated transmission, reception, and sensitivity in alarm systems, as well as the inclusion of flashing lights for deterrents and immobilization of a vehicle to prevent a successful thief from getting anywhere with the car.