Buyers' Guide: Car security on a budget
Search Driven for vehicles for sale
Owners of older used cars are often unaware of how attractive their model could appear to would-be thieves on the lookout for their next target. One of our AA members had never given additional security a second thought until her Mazda hatch was broken into and stolen.
Thanks to her insurance policy the car was fully compensated for, but she called through to our Motoring Advice line asking what low-cost options were available to make her car more secure.
Several affordable DIY options are available to make your car both harder to steal and easier to track down should it go missing. These technologies are perfect for older, budget cars that lack more advanced modern security systems such as engine immobilisers and alarms.
Steering wheel locks
These have been around for decades and offer a good visual deterrent to any potential thieves.
There are two main styles of steering wheel locks. The most popular has a protruding arm to prevent the steering wheel from turning without clashing on the windscreen or dashboard of the car. The other style is particularly popular with larger cars and is attached to the steering wheel and the brake pedal, preventing both the brake from being applied and the steering wheel from turning.
Priced between $30 and $70.
Another visual deterrent if you can’t afford a real security system for your car is at least having the appearance of having one fitted. We found solar-powered flashing LED light units that mimics an alarm light on your dashboard. These can be attached with a simple adhesive strip.
Priced between $15 and $20.
GPS car trackers
GPS car trackers have become popular as an additional security measure as they’re easy to install and provide real-time location tracking. The more affordable trackers usually need to be powered via a USB power source. If required, you can buy an adapter that plugs into your cigarette lighter socket. Some trackers use the more inconspicuous OBD-II diagnostic socket (available in most cars built from 1996) as a power source, and may also have built-in battery back-ups to ensure a signal continues to transmit a car’s location even after the ignition is turned off. Higher-end models can monitor the speed of the car and listen to what’s going on in it remotely. Owners can then review this information through a smartphone app or online and police can use it to track down your car. Priced between $30 and $200.
Wheel locks are probably the most extreme measure, however if you own a car solely to carry a boat or trailer and it is often left idle, then it could make sense. They aren’t foolproof. Someone could always change the wheel for the spare tyre, unless you have the car double-clamped which can be expensive and inconvenient.
Priced between $60 and $100.
Remember the basics
1. Keep your car locked and windows closed. Your car’s door locks are the first and often the most vital theft deterrent system that you have. Similarly, always keep your windows fully closed when your car is unattended.
2. Never leave keys inside your car. It might sound obvious, but there’s nothing more attractive to a car thief than seeing the keys inside, ready to use.
3. Be sure to hide valuables. Keeping valuable items such as computers, smart devices, wallets and jewellery in your car is risky.
4. Park sensibly. If you have a drive or garage, make sure to use it. Cars are much more likely to be stolen if they are on the street or in a public car park. If you don’t have off-street parking, try to park in a well-lit area.