We’ve all been there. It’s the middle of the night and you’ve just managed to drift off to sleep when suddenly your peace is interrupted by the sound of a car alarm device. It’s annoying, but it helps keep people’s car’s safe, right? The answer is complicated. Read on to find out just how how car alarms work.

Car alarm systems and car theft

The first basic car alarm system was developed a century ago, but they didn’t become widespread until the 1960s and 1970s. Over time, people grew to ignore them, especially in the 1980s and early 1990s when urban crime rates were high. Nowadays, the streets are still teeming with older cars with loud, obnoxious vehicle security systems. Most of the time, when we hear a car alarm, we just try to ignore it, and most car thieves know this.

Car alarm system efficacy

A loud alarm may deter an amateur, but it’s no problem for most skilled thieves, who can easily clip a few wires and mute an alarm. In fact, according to a 1997 study, cars with alarms “show no overall reduction in theft losses.”

Worse, when car alarms go off, they may have an impact on the health of your neighbors. New York’s vehicle alarms are expected to cost $400 to $500 million per year in “public-health expenditures, lost productivity, decreased property value, and diminished quality of life,” according to a report by Transportation Alternatives, a cycling advocacy group. So why are vehicle manufacturers still making cars that include a vehicle security system?

Are car alarms still standard in new vehicles?

Today, only a small percentage of cars are equipped with car alarms when they leave the factory. A spokeswoman for Toyota, the world’s largest automaker, for example, claims that vehicle alarm installation is not standard in their vehicles. Aside from regulating that carmakers differentiate key combinations for different vehicles and brand various sections of their automobiles with vehicle identification numbers, the federal government currently does not force carmakers to take many anti-theft safeguards, including car alarm installation.

However, some folks are choosing to have alarms installed even if their vehicle does not come with one. But is an auto alarm installation the best use of your funds when it comes to theft protection?

Car anti-theft devices to deter car theft

In 2022, we have some great advanced options that utilize technology to prevent car theft. These systems do more than just sound an auto car alarm system; they can track your stolen vehicle’s location and report it to the local police. Two options out there are OnStar and LoJack.


OnStar’s Stolen Vehicle Assistance uses advanced technology and a specially trained staff of Stolen Vehicle Assistance Advisors to assist law enforcement in recovering your vehicle promptly and safely. OnStar’s Theft Alarm Notification can notify members through text, email, or phone call as soon as the alarm sounds if the vehicle has a factory-installed alarm system and the doors are electronically latched. If your automobile is stolen, the Theft Alarm Notification feature allows you to quickly begin the recovery process. Plus, your advisor can use the built-in GPS technology to locate your vehicle and report its whereabouts to the appropriate authorities.


The LoJack system uses GPS and cellular technology to find your car in and across states. LoJack has an impressive 98% recovery rate with an average recovery time of 26 minutes. How does it work? Simply purchase a LoJack system to install in your car and download the app. You will be able to see exactly where your car is if it is ever stolen.

Immobilization systems

Vehicle immobilizers have become popular as a way to stop car thefts in recent years. But what are they? And how do they work?

An automobile key with a transponder chip and an immobilizer receiver are the two primary components of an engine immobilizer. When the transponder car key — or the remote key fob — is placed into the ignition, it sends a security code to the immobilizer receiver. The automobile will start if the codes from the transponder and the immobilizer match. If they don’t, it won’t start. If the car thief does not have the code, the engine will not turn on.

Steering wheel lock

You can also try to protect your vehicle with a good old-fashioned steering wheel lock bar. The thief may not be able to crack it or, better yet, they’ll see the steering wheel lock bar from your window and decide to move on to an easier target. Having a vehicle that has clear visuals of security can often deter more amateur thieves looking for a quick getaway.

The truth is that while all the method’s we’ve talked about are good to have in place, none of them are a guarantee that your car, or the contents of your car, won’t be stolen. As technology advances, so do the methods that thieves use to get inside your vehicle. In some cases, they don’t even need to enter your car in order to take something of value. Catalytic converters are located on the outside of the vehicle and are worth up to $1,000, making them a popular target. So aside from having a security system in place, what can you do to keep your car safe?

Steps you can take to prevent vehicle theft

There are things you can do to make your vehicle an unappealing target for thieves. Here are a few:

Park in a well-lit area

Avoid parking in dark alleyways or other secluded locations since car thieves function better without an audience. If you want to be extra safe, park near building entrances or parking lot cameras.

Always lock up

Avoid leaving your windows open or doors unlocked, even in your own driveway — and never (ever) leave your running car unattended. It might be tempting to start your car and leave it to warm up on a chilly winter morning, but a running car with an unlocked door and no driver in sight could be irresistible to a thief.

Protect your keys

While keeping your car keys on a hook near the front entrance may seem like a good idea, it’s also the first place a thief will look for them. Whether someone breaks into your home or simply opens your unlocked front door, they’ll be ecstatic to find a gleaming set of keys ready to be taken.

Lock windows and sunroofs

Close your windows altogether. A burglar can reach into your car through an open window and take whatever they can reach, or they can unlock the door and get complete access to your vehicle and everything within.

Don’t leave valuables in your car

If someone sees your laptop or wallet (or even just some small change) in your car, they may be tempted to break in and take it — and once inside, it will be all too tempting to drive away. To avoid theft of either your belongings or your entire car, don’t leave valuables in your car at all.

Layering security measures

We’ve talked about a lot of security systems you can use, and there is no reason to pick just one. A physical barrier as well as a LoJack system or a different combination of systems with a car alarm installed can help keep your car safe in any situation.

What to do if your car is stolen

So, you’ve done everything right and your car was still stolen? Here’s what to do next.

Call the police right away

Double-check that your car wasn’t just towed (or that you didn’t simply forget where you parked). They’ll want to know the following:

  • Your car’s make, model, year, and color
  • Any distinguishing characteristics of your vehicle
  • Number on the license plate
  • Number assigned to a vehicle (VIN)
  • If you have a GPS or tracking system, provide information about it.
  • When and where did you last see your vehicle?

Contact your auto insurance company

Submit a claim with your insurance company within 24 hours of the theft, or as soon as possible after you’ve filed a police report. Now would also be a good time to go over your policy and see if you’re covered for car theft. If your insurance company requests additional information, get it to them as quickly as possible.

In addition to the information you provided the police, your insurance company may request:

  • A list and description of any valuables that were in your car, such as a laptop or other electronic equipment, workout gear, textbooks, or tools
  • A copy of the police report

Prepare for the potential that the vehicle will not be returned

Only half of stolen automobiles are recovered, according to estimates. Cars are frequently stolen only for the parts, which means they may be dismantled rapidly. Because of these circumstances, it’s likely that your automobile will be damaged or missing parts when it’s returned. Only you can determine if that’s worth the cost of a car alarm installation.

If your car is returned, make sure to inspect it

If your car is in drivable condition when you get it back, make sure you inspect it thoroughly first. Put on some rubber gloves, get a flashlight, and go through your car looking for anything that isn’t yours. Notify the authorities if you discover anything. You don’t want anyone to get hurt, and you certainly don’t want to be pulled over for having something unusual in your vehicle.

Car alarms near me

Use the map to show auto alarm shops near me.

Does your car insurance policy cover car theft?

The truth is, not all types of insurance policies cover car theft. If you are an Elephant Insurance customer and you find your coverage is lacking, contact us today so we can adjust your policy. If you aren’t an Elephant customer but are interested in finding out how much we charge for a policy that includes theft coverage, you can easily get a quote from us today. Don’t let a car thief steal your peace of mind. A quick call with one of our representatives will ensure that you are covered in the event of an emergency.

Article last updated on June 25th, 2023 at 7:20 pm