AA Buyer's Guide: car security on a budget
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Owners of older used cars are often unaware of how attractive their model could appear to would-be thieves.
One of our members had never given additional security a second thought until their Mazda hatchback was broken into and stolen.
Thanks to their insurance policy the car was fully covered, but they called through to our Motoring Advice line asking what low-cost options were available to make their car more secure.
There are several affordable DIY options available to make your car both harder to steal and easier to track down, should it ever 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 style has a protruding arm to prevent the steering wheel from turning without clashing on the windscreen or dashboard of the car.
The other is particularly popular for 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 mimic 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; 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 even monitor the speed of the car and listen to what’s going on in the car remotely. The owners can then review this information either through a smartphone app or online and police can then use this 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 prove to be expensive, inconvenient and time-consuming.
Priced between $60 and $100.
Don’t forget the basics
- 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.
- Never leave your keys inside your car –it might sound obvious, but there’s nothing more attractive to a car thief than seeing the keys already inside.
- Be sure to hide any valuables - keeping valuable items such as computers, smart devices, wallets and jewellery in your car is risky.
- 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.