Reviews

Best Car Alarm Systems: Protect Your Automotive Investment 

Here are our top picks for anti-theft car security in an insecure world.

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BY Andra DelMonico / LAST UPDATED ON September 30, 2021

Your car is not just a mere means of transportation—it’s your trusted road trip companion, one of your most valuable assets, and perhaps most importantly, a mobile memory-making machine. The best way to protect your ride is by arming it with a car alarm system. We did the heavy lifting for you and found a few excellent options for the best car alarm system on the market.

Best Overall
Compustar CS7900-AS All-in-One 2-Way Remote Start and Alarm Bundle
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Summary
Summary

Wide range remote start and keyless entry with two-way LCD confirmation and two-way alarm alerts.

Pros
Pros
  • Highly sensitive alarm
  • Remote start from up to 3,000 feet away
  • One-year warranty
Cons
Cons
  • Somewhat pricey
  • Professional installation recommended
  • Installation instructions are vague
Best Overall
Compustar CS7900-AS All-in-One 2-Way Remote Start and Alarm Bundle
Best Value
Scytek A15 Keyless Entry Car Alarm Security System
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Summary
Summary

Bargain-priced basic car alarm that’s easy to install and has all the essential features you want from an alarm.

Pros
Pros
  • Easy DIY installation
  • Unbeatable price
  • Smartphone compatible
Cons
Cons
  • No siren available
  • Limited operational range
Best Value
Scytek A15 Keyless Entry Car Alarm Security System
Honorable Mention
Avital 5305L Security System with 2-Way LCD Display Remote
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Summary
Summary

Multifunctional aftermarket car alarm packed with impressive tech and features for the money.

Pros
Pros
  • Remote keyless entry can control up to four cars with a single key fob
  • Remote engine start/stop great for cold or hot climates
  • LCD remote shows command confirmations and event notifications
Cons
Cons
  • Complex operation can be intimidating
  • Professional installation recommended
Honorable Mention
Avital 5305L Security System with 2-Way LCD Display Remote

Why Trust Us


Our reviews are driven by a combination of hands-on testing, expert input, “wisdom of the crowd” assessments from actual buyers, and our own expertise. We always aim to offer genuine, accurate guides to help you find the best picks.

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Benefits of Car Alarm Systems

  • Protect your investment. The odds are that you paid a pretty penny for your shiny set of wheels, so it stands that you’d like to protect your investment. A car alarm system is the most cost-effective and easiest way to provide security against car theft. 
  • Lower your insurance premiums. Looking for a surefire way to lower your insurance rates? Adding a car alarm system to your vehicle will reduce your monthly insurance premiums by a considerable amount. In fact, the amount you’ll save on insurance will oftentimes offset the cost of an aftermarket car alarm within a year’s time.
  • Peace of mind. Investing in an anti-theft car alarm system not only provides tangible security for your beloved ride, but also gives you peace of mind knowing that your vehicle is sufficiently safeguarded against theft. You’ll find this particularly comforting when you’re experiencing separation anxiety from being away from your cherished car during vacations.
  • Quicker theft recovery. Most of the top-rated car alarms feature GPS tracking, so in the event that your vehicle is stolen, the alarm company can track your car and alert the authorities of its exact location. With this innovative technology on your side, law enforcement authorities can recover your vehicle quicker than cars that aren’t equipped with GPS tracking systems.
  • Add high-end features. More advanced car security systems will sport innovative features such as remote engine start/stop for added convenience. Other premium touches include passive keyless entry and customizable alarm tones and volume.

Types of Car Alarm Systems

Two main types of car alarms define the functioning of the alarm. These are active and passive. These terms refer to how the alarm engages and monitors your vehicle. Under these two main categories, several alarm types refer to how the alarm notifies you of a problem. These subcategories can overlap, so you will find them in active and passive versions. 

Active

Active car alarms are called this because you have to actively turn the alarm on for it to engage and protect your car. These alarms typically come with a key fob or smartphone app. You’ll use these to activate and deactivate the alarm. This type of alarm is nice because you have more control over the alarm. You don’t have to worry about it auto-arming while you’re trying to clean your car, unloading groceries, or temporarily running inside. The downside is that you have to remember to activate the alarm, or your car won’t be protected. 

Passive

These alarms automatically turn on without you having to do anything. Typically, the car will have to be turned off and all of the doors closed for the alarm to engage. The advantage of this type of alarm is that you don’t have to worry about forgetting to set the alarm. You’ll have to deactivate the alarm when you return to your car so that you don't set the alarm off. The biggest advantage of this type is that many car insurance companies offer a discount for having it. A drawback is that you have less control over it and can have it arming in situations where you don’t need it. 

Audible

Alarms that use audible alerts have sensors that get triggered. When this happens, a loud siren will start making noise, the car’s horn will beep, and the vehicle’s lights will flash. All of this noise and commotion is supposed to attract attention to the vehicle and deter someone from breaking into it. The sound will continue until you turn the alarm off. While this type of alarm is effective at deterring thieves, it can also be annoying for the people around you when it goes off accidentally. Overly sensitive alarms can get triggered by the vibrations from a large truck driving by or someone slamming a car door. 

Silent

A silent alarm doesn’t make a noise at the car when someone tries to break into your car. Instead, it alerts you, the owner, through the key fob or app that comes with the alarm system. This type of alarm makes it more likely that you will catch the thief in the act. Since the thief isn’t alerted to the alarm, they will not immediately run away like they would with an audible alarm. Their drawback is that people in the immediate area of your car aren't alerted to a crime taking place. 

Immobilizing

Some car alarms do more than just trigger an alert. An immobilizing alarm will stop the thief from driving away with your vehicle. The entire engine and system are deactivated until the alarm’s key fob is in the area and the vehicle’s key is put in the ignition. Some alarms will also lock the steering wheel and turn on the vehicle’s hazards for more of a deterrence. This type of system is nice because it prevents your car from being stolen by a skilled thief who can quickly disable an audible alarm. The downside of this type of alarm is that it typically requires professional installation because it has to wire directly into your car’s system. 

GPS

The alternative to immobilizing the vehicle is to track it via GPS. This type of system will send a signal to allow you and law enforcement to track the vehicle’s movement. This is crucial for recovering your vehicle. It’s also beneficial because some sophisticated thieves can disable alarms and tow an immobilized vehicle away. The drawback to this service is that many car alarm sellers require you to pay for a monthly subscription for this service. 

Top Brands

Avital

The Avital name has been one of the most trusted for about 20 years. It is one of the brands that are under the Directed umbrella. The Avital security systems are most well-known for their remote start capabilities. The Avital 3100L 1-Way Car Security System is a simple yet complete security system for protecting your car. 

Compustar

Firstech is the owner and producer of Compustar products. Since 1995, Firstech has become an award-winning manufacturer of automotive electronics. The company was originally based in Alaska, but moved its headquarters to Seattle in 2003. The Compustar CS8900-AS All-in-One 2-Way Remote Start + Security Bundle comes with an impressive list of features. 

Viper

Viper car security systems are one of the most popular worldwide. The brand is known for having innovative technology and features. It’s also responsible for introducing systems that are smartphone compatible. The Viper brand is a part of the Directed family of brands. The Viper 5706V 2-Way Car Security with Remote Start System is a high-end system that’s perfect for the car owner who’s serious about security. 

Python

This is yet another brand that is under the Directed umbrella company. Python is the name car owners turn to when they want innovative features packed into a sleek system. It also has one of the most extensive support networks for nationwide protection. The Python 5706P LC3 SST 2-Way Security/Remote-Start System is a reliable system that’s sure to protect your car. 

Car Alarm System Pricing

  • Under $100: There are many car security systems available for under $100. These car alarm systems vary widely in terms of quality, features, and performance, so consumers must prioritize which qualities matter the most to them while shopping around.
  • $100 to $199: This price range covers a vast assortment of car alarm systems. The options in this price range generally offer a solid mix of reliability, performance, and features for the money.
  • $199 and up: The car alarm systems in this lofty price range deliver exceptional performance, reliability, and high-end features that you probably won’t find in less expensive models.

Key Features

Vehicle Compatibility 

Some systems have universal compatibility. These are generic systems that you can easily install yourself. Other systems require extensive wiring and integration into your vehicle’s system. Whether you choose a universal or model-specific system, check to confirm the compatibility with your vehicle. Some systems require you to buy an additional module for complete integration and functionality of all the features. Look for a system that also comes with ongoing support with software updates. This ensures that the system continues to be compatible as the automaker updates the software in your vehicle. 

Operating Range

Systems that use a key fob will have an operating range. This is the distance you need to remain within to maintain communication. Alarm systems use radio frequencies, which are generally inconsistent in their performance. If you live in an area where there are many buildings or a high use of electronics, then the promised performance range shrinks. Consider this when determining the right range for your system. Don’t expect reliable performance if you are maxing out the maximum operating range on a system. Buy a system with a longer range than needed to account for obstacles blocking the signal. 

Installation Requirements  

Almost anyone can install a simple system. These are generally plug-and-play. You also shouldn't have too much trouble with systems specifically designed for your vehicle. It should come with a wiring harness that will plug directly into your vehicle’s existing wiring. Things can get more complicated with more advanced systems. These may require professional installation. A professional can also ensure that the alarm system is hidden so that a thief can’t easily locate and disarm it. 

Other Considerations

  • Smartphone Compatibility. Traditional car alarm systems have a key fob. The system will communicate with the key fob to alert you to the alarm’s status and events. If you want something more advanced, then look for a system that comes with an app. Then you can control your alarm system from your smartphone. Be careful; some companies require you to pay a monthly fee for this service. 
  • Servicing Requirements. Choose an alarm system that is easy to maintain. This means it should have ongoing software support. The last thing you want are sophisticated thieves hacking your alarm’s software, disabling it, and stealing your vehicle. It’s also nice to have a local authorized dealer who can assist with troubleshooting should a problem arise. 
  • Features. Decide what level of security and protection you want and need. This will help you determine how many safety features you need your alarm to have. A simple alarm will have an audible sound that triggers once someone breaks into the car. An advanced system will have smartphone integration, immobilization, smartphone communication, a proximity sensor, GPS, remote start, and impact sensors. The more features the system has, the more expensive it will be.

Best Car Alarm Systems Reviews & Recommendations 2021

Best Overall
Compustar All-in-One 2-Way Remote Start and Alarm Bundle

The Compustar All-in-One 2-Way Remote Start and Alarm Bundle scored the title for best auto alarm thanks to its unbeatable mix of security-enhancing features like the CM600 control module, shock sensors, super loud siren, and bright LED alarm light.


Users can remotely start their engine from up to 3,000 feet away and warm up their ride during particularly chilly mornings, or blast the A/C before they enter their car so the interior is refreshingly cool on a hot summer day. 


With two-way paging, drivers will also receive up-to-the-second alerts if someone tampers with the doors or windows, or if the alarm is set off. Add a super loud alarm that puts out over 105dB, and you’ll easily see why this snagged first place amongst our top-rated car alarms.


Drawbacks are few, but worth mentioning. This alarm system requires solid technical knowledge for installation, so professional installation is recommended for those with limited mechanical experience. Also, the alarm is highly sensitive, so many users choose to put it on the lowest setting. Lastly, this anti-theft car alarm system is a little pricey, but all the top-notch security and convenience features at least give you your money’s worth.

 

Best Value
Scytek A15 Keyless Entry Car Alarm Security System

If you’re shopping for a quality security system for your car, truck, or SUV, the Scytek A15 Keyless Entry Car Alarm Security System delivers the most bang for your buck. We were impressed with its host of must-have features such as keyless entry, a programmable dual-zone impact sensor, and smartphone compatibility. This basic car alarm provides all the essentials you’d want in a security system for a fraction of the price.


The Scytek A15 is a one-way alarm system that comes with two five-button remotes to control its various functions. We liked that it packs must-have security features such as a user programmable coded override switch, starter interrupt, and a Warn-Away alert designed to scare off potential thieves. It's also easy to install compared to most other car security systems on the market, so this is a plus for budding and veteran mechanics alike.


One of this alarm system’s biggest shortcomings is that it will quickly drain your battery if you don’t regularly drive your vehicle. Additionally, this system doesn’t include a siren; instead, the alarm triggers your car’s horn. If you’re looking for a car alarm system that packs a loud siren for maximum security, this system may not be the best option for your needs.

Honorable Mention
Avital 5305L Security System with 2-Way LCD Display Remote

We awarded the Avital 5305L Security System our honorable mention spot because it’s fully loaded with an arsenal of excellent security and convenience features for its price point. It comes with the capability of controlling up to four different vehicles with a single remote, making it one of the most versatile keyless entry systems on our list.


This car alarm system offers more than just remote keyless entry—you can remotely start your vehicle from up 1,500 meters away using its two-way LCD 4-button key fob. The alarm system boasts an awesome array of security features such as an audible revenger siren, dual-zone impact sensors, fault-proof starter interrupt, a warn away light, and nuisance prevention. If you’re looking for an alarm system that gives you peace of mind, then this one definitely delivers it in spades.


All the latest and greatest automotive security technology is fantastic, but the downside is that the LCD remote is big and bulky, and with up to four different cars programmed into it, it can be confusing to use initially. Additionally, the instructions that are packaged with this anti-theft security system are confusing and insufficient for installation. As such, we highly recommend that you consider having a trained professional install the unit in your vehicle.

Most Durable
Viper 350 PLUS 3105V 1-Way Car Alarm

The Viper 350 PLUS 3105V 1-Way Car Alarm deserves a shout out for being a straightforward, easy to install, and durable car alarm unit. It’s also got a reasonable price point, making it an even more attractive option for budget-conscious consumers.


This model is a three-channel, one-way security system that comes equipped with four-button keyless entry remote control. You can easily upgrade by adding a remote starter and GPS tracking option, which can be purchased separately. A well-built FailSafe starter kill system and built-in anti-carjacking mode are smart and effective theft deterrents.


This model also features a six-tone soft chirp siren, a bright blue LED status light, and adjustable dual-zone shock sensors that make this affordable car alarm system a versatile and reliable option. Some users recommend pairing the alarm siren to work in conjunction with your car’s horn, as the siren itself isn’t exceptionally loud.

Most High-Tech
CarLock 2nd Gen Advanced Real Time 3G Car Tracker & Alert System

The CarLock 2nd Gen Advanced Real Time 3G Car Tracker & Alert System is a high-tech upgrade to the typical car alarm. This intelligent system monitors your vehicle and alerts you on your smartphone whenever the vehicle is moved, if the engine starts, if unusual vibrations or jolts are detected, and even if the device is disconnected from the car itself. 


This model also detects hard braking, sharp cornering, and harsh acceleration, alerting you to whenever the car is being driven aggressively or dangerously, whether by a family member or intruder, making it a great way to monitor your teen’s driving when you’re not in the car. Detailed trip tracking in the GPS component lets you monitor where the car has been, whether it’s stolen or a “trusted” driver is not where they should be. Another thing we love about this innovative alert system is that it can also monitor the health of your vehicle, alerting you to a low car battery, high drain on the battery, and more. 


This unit doesn’t come equipped with a loud siren alarm, like most typical systems, but rather is meant to alert you privately if your vehicle is stolen, allowing you to track it and increase your chances of recovery. Another drawback worth mentioning is that the unit relies on cloud computing and internet storage, which requires a monthly service contract that you will need to pay for.

Honorable Mention
Python Car Security 3105p Python One-Way Security System

Outfit your vehicle with this three-channel security and keyless entry system. You’ll appreciate that it’s clone-safe and resistant to code-hopping. It’s also packed with plenty of innovative technology, including the Stinger DoubleGuard shock sensor, Failsafe Starter Kill, and Revenger six-tone siren. A standout feature is the keyless entry ability. The system comes with all of the required wiring and two four-button remotes. You’ll have a working range of 1,500 feet. 


Unfortunately, the siren on this alarm isn’t very loud. It may not attract the attention you are hoping for when it goes off. This is a one-way system, which gives you limited functionality. You may also need an additional command module, depending on your vehicle’s make and model. This system does not have a remote start or trunk control.

Honorable Mention
Avital 3305L Responder Two-Way Security System

Protect your car with this impressive alarm system. Use the included two-way LCD four-button backlit remote. It has an audible tone and vibrations to confirm commands. It also comes with a one-way remote that also has four buttons. This system comes with a suite of features, including a dual-zone impact sensor, fault-proof starter interrupt, nuisance prevention, warn-away, and a Revenger siren. This combination of features helps you protect your vehicle while also not becoming the annoying neighbor with the constant car alarm. This system is Directed SmartStart compatible and bitwriter programmable for simple configuration. 


Unfortunately, the range for this security system is half of what other systems on this list have. This may not be a big deal if you don’t have many obstructions or are generally near your vehicle. It also only comes with one LCD remote, and you can’t program it to work with more than one vehicle’s alarm system. 

Honorable Mention
New Prestige APS997E Two-Way LCD Remote Start & Car Alarm System

If you’re looking for more than just a car alarm, then this is the system for you. Not only does it monitor your vehicle with multiple modes to choose from, but it also has several remote functions. The metal five-button two-way remote has an LCD screen. You can choose from single or two user control outputs for multiple vehicle control. This system stands out because it’s compatible with hybrid vehicles. You also have the option of custom-programming the unit for active or passive arming. If you choose passive arming, there are several timing options to customize how the system works with your daily habits. There are three sensitivity modes to choose from for the dual-stage shock sensor to minimize false alarms. 


One drawback of this unit is that if you want the system to have engine immobilizer ability, you’ll need an additional relay that’s sold separately. The same applies to the negative triggers for the hood and trunk.

Honorable Mention
Performance Teknique ICBM-7071 Two-Way Car Alarm System With Remote Start

Protect your car while giving it an upgrade with this alarm and remote start. It comes with a two-way remote that you can use from up to 3,000 feet away from your vehicle. A unique feature is that it’s outfitted with a code learning system. You can use the audible car locator to help you find your parked car. The automatic arming feature helps ensure you always engage this active alarm. This system is safe for both automatic and manual transmissions. Should your vehicle get stolen, the engine cut feature will ensure the thieves don’t get too far. 


Unfortunately, this system requires professional installation. This increases the total cost of adding a security system to your vehicle. If you do decide to install it yourself, you void the warranty.

Tips

  • Decide which kind of car alarm system best fits your needs. If you park your ride in a generally safe area with low crime rates, a one-way alarm system may be adequate. However, if your vehicle spends most of its time in a seedy area plagued with higher crime rates, a two-way alarm system will probably be the way to go.
  • If you purchase a two-way system, check its operating range. Alarm systems operate via radio frequency, which can experience interference in areas like apartment buildings, rooms with high electronic or radio frequency interference, and over extended distances. Make sure you can use your two-way function wherever you need it the most. 
  • If your car alarm system is optimized for your smartphone, have your smartphone within easy reach when you go to sleep at night. You’ll be able to hear any alerts and hopefully react accordingly to thwart break-ins or vandalism to your vehicle.
  • Test your vehicle’s alarm system to make sure that it was installed correctly and all its functions are working as intended. If you need help troubleshooting any issues that may arise, contact the manufacturer or go to a professional who specializes in aftermarket car alarms. 
  • Exercise common sense. Always park in a well-lit area, lock your doors, and keep all valuables out of sight. Although modern car alarm systems are superb theft deterrents, they are even more effective when you use them in conjunction with the tips above.

FAQs

Q: Do I need to have a professional install my alarm?

If you’re a veteran wrench-turner who has the tools, time, and technical aptitude required for installing an aftermarket car alarm system, you should be able to handle the job. On the other hand, if the thought of fussing with your car’s electrical system makes you break out in hives, it’s probably best that you refer to a professional for installation. 

Q: Will my car alarm drain my vehicle’s battery?

Yes, though the actual rate of depletion depends on the car systems that are connected to the alarm system. For instance, if your alarm system sets off your car’s horn, lights, and other accessories, it could drain your battery in a matter of hours. Additionally, if your battery is not at a full charge when the alarm is triggered, then the battery can be drained even quicker. 

Q: Will I void my vehicle’s warranty if I have an aftermarket alarm system installed?

No. The Magnuson-Moss Warranty Improvement Act of 1975 essentially permits you to have aftermarket alarm and remote start systems installed on your car. With that said, if you make mincemeat out of your vehicle’s wiring system or carelessly punch holes in places where you shouldn’t, you’ll probably encounter warranty issues. If this is a legitimate concern for you, we recommend that you have your system professionally installed. 

Q: What’s so good about alarms with remote start?

Alarms featuring remote start functionality are beneficial for users living in cold climates because you can start your engine remotely and let your car warm up for a few minutes, so it’s ready to roll when you are. Remote start is useful in warmer climates because you can remotely start your ride and have the A/C blasting so the cabin is delightfully cool when you’re ready to take off.

Final Thoughts

Our pick for the best auto alarm is the Compustar All-in-One 2-Way Remote Start and Alarm Bundle. Its long list of formidable features, such as two-way paging, shock sensors, and stellar battery life, shot it up to the top of our list.

For those budget-conscious consumers, we recommend the Scytek A15 Keyless Entry Car Alarm Security System.