How to choose car security

Tips for buying security and remote systems


Crutchfield Writing Team

The Crutchfield writing team is a group of full-time, in-house copywriters who share a passion for consumer electronics. In addition to creating the articles and videos you find in the Research area of the Crutchfield website, these hard-working and talented people write the informational copy for the products on our website and in the Crutchfield catalog. Our writers constantly research the latest products, technologies, and industry trends, so that we can bring you the most helpful information possible.

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Viper 3606V

Viper 3606V car security system

Protecting yourself and your family, as well as your vehicle, belongings, and car stereo are all excellent reasons to invest in a car security system. Additionally, most insurance companies offer lowered rates for vehicles equipped with an alarm — it'll pay for itself.

A good security system not only makes your car more difficult to steal, it also makes it easier to live with. The small remote control that you carry with your keys lets you arm and disarm the alarm, lock and unlock your doors, and maybe even zap open your trunk. Some systems let you use your smartphone to control and monitor your car's security. How's that for convenience?

How a typical security system works

When you leave the car, push the button that arms your system. You hear your doors lock, and a siren chirp tells you your vehicle is protected. If you've accidentally left a door ajar, the system alerts you with a different sound.

When you walk away, you feel confident, assured. The first thing a thief sees when he approaches your car is a flashing LED that tells him your system is armed. Often, that's enough to make him look elsewhere.

Viper Model 3606V

The Model 3606V's siren, wiring, module, and remote

If the thief tries to tamper with your vehicle, he'll get a warning chirp or a full siren blast. The security system "brain" decides which sort of warning to give based on the severity of the tampering and the type of sensors the thief trips.

When you return to your car, use the remote to disarm the system and unlock your doors or pop open the trunk. You can even use the remote to sound the siren if you can't find your car or if someone is bothering you.

Some features to look for

  • Two-way remotes give you feedback on your car's condition and response to commands.
  • Starter kill prevents your car from being hot-wired.
  • Motion sensors let you leave the top down or the windows open. They are also good for protecting the cargo areas in vans and trucks. The sensors will sound the alarm if someone invades your space.
  • Glass-break sensors sound the alarm when they "hear" a window breaking. This protects you from the thief who believes he can bypass your alarm by not opening the door.
  • A tilt sensor monitors the tilting of your parked vehicle caused by an attempt to jack up or tow your vehicle.
  • Driver's side priority unlock lets you open your door without unlocking the others. You can get in your vehicle without letting your guard down.
  • Auxiliary outputs allow you to expand the alarm's capabilities by adding features like a remote starter or window controls. Most alarms come with at least one auxiliary output. Consider everything you want the security system to do (now and in the future) when choosing an alarm.
  • Remote starting is the epitome of convenience — you can have your vehicle waiting for you warmed up on a cold day, or cooled down in summer. Remote start features either come built into a security system or can be added later with a remote start module.
  • Smartphone — some remote systems let you use your smartphone for control, giving you unlimited range when you have phone service.
  • Consider adding GPS capability to your security system so you can keep track of your vehicle's location, and receive alerts when it leaves or enters a pre-programmed area, or is traveling too fast.
Viper DSM200

Viper DSM200 SmartStart for your smartphone

We help you install your own alarm and save

We recommend professional installation for your security or remote start system because wiring it into your vehicle can often be challenging. However, for you intrepid and thrifty DIYers, we offer T-harnesses and vehicle interfaces for your specific vehicle that will save you tremendous amounts of time and money during installation, and simplify the wiring by connecting directly to your vehicle's computer databus. That way, you can communicate directly with your vehicle to perform any security or convenience functions remotely.

Not all security systems will work in all vehicles, so we strongly recommend you call, email, or chat with us before you order yours to make sure it will work in your vehicle. A Crutchfield advisor confirm the right interface module and T-harness for your specific vehicle.

Our exclusive and comprehensive tech support is free when you shop with Crutchfield. Seven days a week, experienced, patient experts are ready to answer your questions (just have your invoice handy when you call). It's like having a pro look over your shoulder while you work.

Viper VSS5000

Viper VSS5000 SmartStart system

  • denise handy

    Posted on 7/22/2015 8:31:09 PM

    The Viper system installed on my previous Honda Civic caused the car's wiring to malfunction. I finally disconnected the door locks from the electric system, so that I could use them. How can I get an alarm system installed by a professional who will not destroy the car's existing electronic systems?

  • Buck Pomerantz from Crutchfield

    Posted on 7/23/2015 4:14:27 PM

    Denise, Sorry you had problems with your security installation. Did you give the installer a chance to make things right before you disconnected the locks? One way to ensure that your system gets installed properly is to purchase an InstallCard along with your security system. This gets you a pre-paid, and warrantied, installation by a certified professional in your area.

  • Santiago from houston tx.

    Posted on 8/17/2015 12:05:01 AM

    I have a 01 Toyota Corolla with no electric doors or windows. It's a manual too. What's a good alarm for my car. It's just a basics model no indash cd player or even cd player.

  • Jake Ran

    Posted on 8/19/2015 8:35:46 AM

    I find classic alarms pretty much useless these days. Nobody cares about the sound of the alarm anymore. It just makes your neighbour to be mad at you, nothing else. I got rid of normal alarm and secured my car with GPS locator and I cannot be more happy about it. After some searching I found this: [Link to outside site selling GPS security systems deleted]

  • Buck Pomerantz from Crutchfield

    Posted on 8/19/2015 10:16:26 AM

    Jake, Crutchfield also offers GPS security and tracking systems. Three more systems will come live on our site very soon.

  • Michael Szilvagyi from Vonore

    Posted on 8/26/2015 10:06:31 AM

    I am building a 51 Chevy pickup. I am installing a 2013 5.3 vortex LMG engine with 6 speed auto trans. I want to be able to lock the two doors and hood and have a security system with a two way communication with the transmitter. Any recommendations? Using the Altman Easy latch bear claw door lock kit.

  • Buck Pomerantz from Crutchfield

    Posted on 9/9/2015 12:54:20 PM

    Michael and Henry, I've forwarded your questions to Crutchfield's Sales Advisor Team, and a member will get in touch with you by email to offer suggestions and help you choose the right system for you and your vehicle. For immediate help, you can contact them via phone or chat.

  • fs from St. Louis

    Posted on 10/23/2015 3:08:31 PM

    We are driving a rental moving van cross country. Have heard they are a beacon for thieves. Any suggestions for more security other than parking in well lighted area, making sure doors and windows are locked and closed?

  • Buck Pomerantz from Crutchfield

    Posted on 10/26/2015 10:24:49 AM

    FS, All reputable moving van rental companies offer insurance to cover any loss of property you may incur on the road. If this is a one-time move and you're still worried that someone might break into or drive off with your rental van while you're at a restaurant or motel, then you might want to look into getting a hidden dash camera set up to record any unauthorized entry or use, for future prosecution. You may want to check with the state police departments where you'll be traveling for more suggestions on how to better protect your property along your route.

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