Anti-theft Devices for Cars, Explained

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anti-theft device car

An anti-theft device aims to prevent thieves from stealing your car, or to help locate and retrieve it if a theft does occur. Devices range from simple auditory car alarms to more complex car tracking systems. In many states (including Illinois!), installing an anti-theft device could even decrease the premium you’ll have to pay for your car insurance.

How does a car anti-theft device work?

Having your vehicle stolen is a real bummer, especially if it’s your brand new car. Anti-theft devices can help prevent this scenario in various ways—they can either make it physically impossible for car thieves to steal your car (#tirelock), scare them away by attracting attention to a theft in progress, or help track down your stolen vehicle. 

Let’s take a closer look at the different types of security devices. 

What types of anti-theft devices can prevent my car from being stolen?

Anti-Theft Car Steering Wheel Lock
Using an active anti-theft system—like a steering wheel lock—is one of the many ways you can protect your car from theft

Anti-theft devices for your car can come in various shapes and sizes, and help prevent theft in a lot of different ways. Generally, they can be divided into the following categories: passive, active, and tracking devices. 

Passive anti-theft systems

Once this kind of system is in place, no further action is required to activate it from your side. Passive anti-theft devices include:

  • An alarm system that activates automatically when you turn the ignition off or shut your car door. 
  • Automatic disabling devices such as a computer chip in the ignition key.
    • This device will prevent the car from starting if an unrecognized key is used.

Active anti-theft systems

A device falls into this category if you have to activate it–every single time–in order for it to work. Active anti-theft devices include: 

  • An alarm that is engaged by you—either by removing a car key or by pushing a button.
  • Manual disabling devices. 
  • These devices—which ensure your car stays put—need to be actively set up by you. This could be steering wheel locks, security tire clamps, brake locks, and engine kill switches.

Tracking devices

Tracking devices help you locate a stolen car. Usually they’ll take the shape of: 

  • GPS tracking devices
    • GPS trackers can tell you your car’s exact location on a digital map, and in some cases even come with a real-time anti-theft alarm. 
    • If you’re interested in reading more about GPS trackers, Forbes has summarized the best ones
  • Vehicle recovery systems
    • With these transmitters on your car, the police will have an easier time locating your car if it is stolen. 

Extra tip: it might be helpful to install some visible security devices on your car. If potential thieves can spot them from the outside, they may think twice before targeting your car. 

How do I know if my car is already equipped with anti-theft devices?

When buying your car, it might come with some built-in anti-theft mechanisms (this is the case for many new cars nowadays). Simply check with your auto manufacturer.

Alternatively, if you feel like upgrading your car after you’ve had it for some time, just get yourself some additional security systems.

What qualifies as an anti-theft device for my insurer?

Both passive and active anti-theft systems that are installed permanently in your car could qualify as an approved device by your car insurance company. These devices can be installed either by the manufacturer of the car before buying it or after the fact. 

How do anti-theft devices affect my car insurance premium?

Let’s start with the basics: Car theft could be covered under your car insurance policy if you add on comprehensive coverage. Basically, comprehensive insurance can help pay to fix damage to your car, or possibly replace it, from a lot of things that don’t involve a car crash—like theft, or damages caused by fire, vandalism or natural disasters.

So, how does this connect to vehicle anti-theft devices? If your car’s equipped with an anti-theft device, it’s less likely to fall victim to car theft. Not only that, in the case that your car is stolen, there’s a higher chance that your car will be recovered if it’s equipped with an anti-theft device. 

This decreases the likelihood of you handing in a theft-related insurance claim. Great news for your insurer, as these kinds of claims can get pretty expensive. If you have a qualified anti-theft device installed in your car, your insurer might even reward you by lowering your insurance premium. More specifically, equipping your car with anti-theft devices might score you a discount on the comprehensive coverage section of your auto insurance policy. 

However, this discount is only available in 12 states so far (Illinois is one of them!) – and is offered by a limited number of insurance companies. The good news is that if you have a qualifying device installed on your vehicle you’ll be able to enjoy the discount on your Lemonade Car insurance policy! Be sure to check out our car insurance quotes online when you think you are ready.

More tips for car theft prevention 

  • Don’t park your car in any deserted, non-well-lit areas. If no one’s watching, potential car thieves can take all the time in the world to break into your car. In addition, there won’t be any witnesses to tell you what has happened to your ride or testify for you at the police station.
  • Don’t leave valuables in your car that can be easily spotted from the outside. Leaving your MacBook on the passenger seat might as well close the deal for any potential thieves. And once they’ve broken into your car, it’s much easier for them to drive off with it. 
  • When you exit your car, always check that you’ve closed all the car doors and windows and have locked your vehicle.

Please note: Lemonade articles and other editorial content are meant for educational purposes only, and should not be relied upon instead of professional legal, insurance or financial advice. The content of these educational articles does not alter the terms, conditions, exclusions, or limitations of policies issued by Lemonade, which differ according to your state of residence. While we regularly review previously published content to ensure it is accurate and up-to-date, there may be instances in which legal conditions or policy details have changed since publication. Any hypothetical examples used in Lemonade editorial content are purely expositional. Hypothetical examples do not alter or bind Lemonade to any application of your insurance policy to the particular facts and circumstances of any actual claim.