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How to choose a car alarm

Tips for buying security and remote start systems

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

Doesn't my car already have an alarm system?

Factory keyless entry and alarm systems are okay. But aftermarket car alarm systems are better. They're more sophisticated and can do so much more than the basic factory-installed car alarm.

Smart phone

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 usually replaces your factory key fob and 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? We'll discuss more of the available features below.

Remote start

Remote start systems

Another way to apply security measures to your vehicle is to add a remote start system. A remote starter is fun to use as well as a great convenience — preheat your interior in winter, precool it in summer. Most remote start systems will not only start and stop your vehicle's engine, but will also tie into a factory or aftermarket security system, so you can lock and unlock doors and set off the car alarm remotely.

Excalibur RS-475-3D remote start system

Excalibur RS-475-3D remote start system

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.

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. Or start the engine if you have a remote starter. You can even use the remote to sound the siren if you can't find your car or if someone is bothering you.

Car thief

Car alarm features to look for

Alarm systems offer a variety of options that go far above and beyond simple the keyless entry from the factory. Note that not all alarm systems offer all of these features. Write down the ones most important to you when shopping for an alarm system.

  • 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. Remote start features either come built into a security system or can be added later with a remote start module.
  • Smartphone compatibility — some remote systems let you use your smartphone for control, giving you unlimited range when you have phone service. Often, a separate smartphone interface module will have to be added to a remote start system in order to get the smartphone features.
  • Consider adding GPS tracking capability to your security system so you can find your car in a crowded lot or if you forgot where you parked it in an unfamiliar place. Want to keep an eye on your teenaged driver? With a GPS tracker 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.
Excalibur AU-SEC security upgrade package

The Excalibur AU-SEC security upgrade package adds alarm features to Excalibur remote start systems 

Can I install my car alarm system myself?

Here at Crutchfield, we're usually all about doing it yourself. But when it comes to car alarms and remote start systems, we recommend professional installation because wiring them into your vehicle can be quite challenging. 

However, when it comes to installing remote start systems from iDatastart or Fortin, we offer T-harnesses and vehicle interfaces for your specific vehicle that simplify the wiring by connecting directly to your vehicle's computer databus. You intrepid DIY-ers out there will save tremendous amounts of time and money during installation.

Let us help you get the right one

Not all security systems will work in all vehicles, so we strongly recommend you contact us before you order yours. A Crutchfield advisor will confirm the right equipment for your vehicle and make sure you'll get the features that want in your security system. 

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.

Have questions? Give us a call

If you need more information about car alarms and remote start systems, or just want to confirm compatibility with your vehicle, contact us and our advisors will be happy to help.

  • Gatara from Nairobi

    Posted on 11/30/2023

    Very good.can iget one for Toyota premior

    Commenter image

    Buck Pomerantz from Crutchfield

    on 12/1/2023

    Gatara, You'll have to check with a local car dealership for advice - as we don't know what's available in your country.
  • DAVID from Hamilton twp

    Posted on 10/22/2023

    What auto start alarm should I get for my 2003 acura mdx

    Commenter image

    Buck Pomerantz from Crutchfield

    on 10/23/2023

    David, Give us a call, so an Advisor can help you pick the perfect system for your vehicle.
  • Jaime from Los angeles

    Posted on 5/30/2021

    Can you tell me which of your alarm systems support the most sensors? Most I've seen only have one, maybe two inputs. Is there any with more than this?

    Commenter image

    Buck Pomerantz from Crutchfield

    on 6/1/2021

    Jaimwe, A quick look through our selection came up with the Viper Model 3606V, which has 5 auxiliary channels. Other systems have as many if not more. Give us a call, so an Advisor can help you pick the perfect alarm system for you and your vehicle.
  • Michelle Catapang

    Posted on 6/20/2019

    Thank you for this content! I am now very well informed on how to choose a good car security alarm.

  • Ed from Chicago

    Posted on 7/1/2018

    I have a 2018 F 150 with remote factory start and want to add a security system. Is there anything that will be compatible with my factory key fob?

    Commenter image

    Buck Pomerantz from Crutchfield

    on 7/3/2018

    Ed, I'm pretty sure there're a few options out there for you to add a security system to your vehicle. To find out what those options are, give us a call and you will be directed to an Advisor who specializes in remote start and security systems.
  • Robert Irizarry from NEWYORK

    Posted on 3/16/2018

    I just got a 2018 kia sorento suv with keylees start, it has a factory alarm but I want to upgrade the alarm .Any sugestions on a alarm kit with remote start ,and the prices

  • Commenter image

    Buck Pomerantz from Crutchfield

    Posted on 10/15/2017

    Michael, Most aftermarket car alarm systems will work in your Ford. I recommend you give us a call at 1-888-955-6000 and talk to an Advisor about which security system and sensors will be best for you and your vehicle.

  • Michael Williams

    Posted on 10/14/2017

    Which car alarms are compatible with Securilock? I'm interested in proximity and/or motion detection.

  • Commenter image

    Buck Pomerantz from Crutchfield

    Posted on 1/3/2017

    Linda, I could recommend setting up a few dash cams, or action cams, or even wireless security cameras aimed to view multiple angles and record upon sensing motion. However, I strongly recommend you first consult with your local police department - especially with a domestic relations expert. Together, I think, you can come up with a course of action that can safely and legally protect you and your vehicle.

  • Linda from Bonney lake, WA

    Posted on 12/31/2016

    I went thru ugly divorce and somehow my vehicles keep being tampered with, inside sidewall sliced open; gas siphoned, nails in tires, two tires simultaneous punctured with screws, lastly jigsaw blade sliced the outside sidewall of one of my tires ( the blade broke off and was stuck in the sidewall). All this in last 12 months - getting expensive. Is there any alarm that will signal me if someone gets near tires or if someone tries to tamper with brake lines? I am worried.

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