Reviews

LAST UPDATED:  April 12, 2019

Best Car Alarm Systems: Secure Your Automotive Asset 

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

Entering our 7th season of /DRIVE on NBC Sports, and with millions of YouTube and Facebook followers, The Drive is a leading authority of all things automotive.

The Drive on NBC The Drive on YouTube The Drive on Facebook

The Review Team

  • Product Network

    25 Products

  • Clock

    14 Hours

  • Reviews

    13 Reviews

How We Decided

The Drive and its partners may earn a commission if you purchase a product through one of our links. Read more.

PUBLISHED ON April 12, 2019

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
LEARN MORE
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
LEARN MORE
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
LEARN MORE
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


All of our reviews are based on market research, expert input, or practical experience with most products we include. This way, we offer genuine, accurate guides to help you find the best picks.

Learn more

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

Active

Active car alarm systems are activated or deactivated when you touch a button. Contrary to passive alarms, simply locking the doors of your vehicle and walking away will not arm an active car alarm system. This type of car alarm is ideal for consumers who prefer a more engaging experience with securing their vehicles.

Passive

Passive car alarm systems automatically activate when the engine in your vehicle is turned off and the doors are locked. To deactivate a passive car security system, the driver must unlock the doors. This type of aftermarket car alarm is a great option for drivers who prefer a hands-off approach to secure their car.

Audible

As its name implies, audible car alarm systems emit an audible alert whenever it’s tripped. The audible alert ranges from the horn repeatedly honking to an attention-grabbing alarm tone. This type of alarm is effective in drawing attention to a would-be thief attempting to break into your vehicle, but it can be annoying if you accidentally set it off. 

Silent

Silent car alarm systems alert the owner that their vehicle is being broken into. Since the thief doesn’t receive any audible cues that the alarm is set off, the owner is given the opportunity to catch the thief in the act. Owners in this scenario should alert the police of a potential break-in. Ensure that you verify whether or not your silent car alarm system does this automatically.

Immobilizing

Immobilizing car alarm systems require that your vehicle’s key is near your vehicle or it simply will not start. This is an excellent measure to deter car thieves from driving away with your pride and joy unless the enterprising crook happens to have a copy of your key. 

GPS

The best car alarm with GPS tracking helps locate your vehicle when it’s been stolen. Car alarm systems featuring GPS tracking pinpoint the precise location of a stolen vehicle, assisting the police with quickly recovering the car as well as apprehending the perpetrator.

Remote Start

Car alarm systems with remote start let you conveniently start your vehicle remotely. This is particularly helpful in cold climates because you can warm up your vehicle before you set off or blast the A/C so the cockpit is comfortable in hot climates. Finding the best car alarm with remote start isn’t too difficult, as shoppers will find many affordable options on the market.

Two-Way Paging

This type of car alarm system provides two-way communication between your vehicle’s alarm and the key fob. The two-way paging system alerts you when the alarm system on your vehicle has been activated or deactivated, when the doors are locked or unlocked, and when the alarm has been set off. Since there are a lot of options available, shopping for the best two-way car alarm can be tricky; however, you should be pleased with most models offered by reputable manufacturers. 

Top Brands

Avital

Avital has been a trusted name in the vehicle security and remote start system business for over 18 years. Incorporating cutting-edge technology and user-friendliness into its car security systems, Avital offers consumers a diverse range of car alarm systems, including its popular Avital 3100LX.

Compustar

Based out of Washington State, Compustar is a division of FirstTech, LLC and has become one of the most recognized brands in the industry with more than 20 years of experience in manufacturing automotive security and auto remote start systems. One of its top products is the Compustar CS7900-AS.

Viper

With its headquarters located in sunny Southern California, Viper has become one of the most revered car alarm brands with over 30 years of experience under its belt. Offering consumers everything from smartphone car alarms to remote start systems, one of its best-selling systems is the Viper 350 Plus 3105V.

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-$199: This price range covers a vast assortment of car alarm systems. The options in this price range generally offer a solid mix or reliability, performance, and features for the money.
  • $200 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

Carjack Protection

Carjack protection combines chirping alarms, flashing lights, and ignition kill switches to draw maximum attention to car thieves attempting to break into your vehicle. This comprehensive feature aims to deter thieves from stealing your ride, and it’s quite effective at doing so. Carjack protection isn’t standard on all car alarm systems, but it may be an option on some models.

Encrypted Transmission

Unfortunately, determined car thieves don’t just rely on a crowbar to break into your car, rather they can simply hack the signal from your key fob and unlock your vehicle remotely. If your heart is set on a wireless car alarm system with remote entry, then it’s imperative that you find a system that employs an encrypted transmission to keep the tech-savvy thieves at bay.

Mobile App-Compatibility

Numerous car alarm system manufacturers offer specialized mobile apps which allow you to use your smartphone to effortlessly control and manage your vehicle’s security system. These handy remote apps let you monitor your car and receive text and email alerts notifying you of any security issues. As an added bonus, you don’t have to lug around an extra key fob or remote.

Shock Sensors

The top-rated car alarms on the market will most likely feature these motion sensors. In the event that your car is jostled or struck, the shock sensors detect this impact and send out an alert. If the car alarm system is equipped with a siren, the alert will trip the audible alarm. Additionally, if the alarm system features mobile alerts, you’ll be notified that your vehicle was hit.

Two-Way Remotes

A basic car alarm typically features a one-way remote which lets you unlock and lock your vehicle’s doors, as well as arm and disarm the alarm. A two-way remote provides visual feedback that you’ve performed such common functions as turning on your engine, radio, or A/C. Some higher-end models even feature an LCD screen which displays inputs and security alerts.

Other Considerations

  • Ease of Installation. Installing an automotive anti-theft system can be a daunting task involving a bundle of wires and tinkering with your vehicle’s electrical system. Unless you have the time and technical know-how to attempt this job, it’s highly recommended that you have a professional install your alarm system. If you do want to roll up your sleeves and install it yourself, make sure you closely follow the instructions and contact the manufacturer if you need additional assistance.
  • Customization. Some premium car alarm systems let you customize certain features and functions of the security system. You may be able to customize everything from the tone of the siren to the sensitivity of the shock sensors. If you’re looking for a more personalized approach to automotive security, these anti-theft car alarms deliver—but usually at a higher cost.   

Best Car Alarm Systems Reviews & Recommendations 2021

Best Overall

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 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

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.

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

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.

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

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 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

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.

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.

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.