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Car insurance and anti-theft devices: what to know

Anti-theft devices installed in your vehicle are good for more than preventing theft: they may save you money in car insurance premiums. This popular discount opportunity is available from many auto insurance companies.

Let’s explore the various types of anti-theft devices, their benefits and why car insurance companies encourage their clients to use them. 


Why anti-theft devices impact car insurance rates

It’s simple — if your car gets stolen, your insurance company is on the hook to replace it. Car insurance companies advise installing anti-theft devices in your vehicle to thwart thieves from stealing your car and in turn, avoid paying out the cost of your loss.

Insurers encourage the implementation of these devices by offering discounts to drivers with one or more theft-prevention technology. Twelve U.S. states require insurance companies to offer anti-theft device discounts to policyholders with comprehensive coverage.


Does car insurance cover auto theft? 

Theft of a vehicle is only covered if you carry comprehensive insurance. Comprehensive coverage is optional for vehicles that have been paid off but it is required for leased and financed vehicles.

If you don’t opt for comprehensive coverage, your insurer will not replace your stolen vehicle.

What about personal items?

Personal items stored within your vehicle are not covered by your auto insurance policy, but they may be covered by your renters or homeowners insurance.

Check your insurance policy documents to confirm protection against property loss.


Types of anti-theft devices

There are many types of theft-prevention devices available today that will earn you a discount from your insurance provider. Read on to find examples of manual, automatic and remote disabling devices, as well as other ways you can protect your vehicle from theft.

Manual disabling devices

Key Finding 1Sometimes referred to as active devices, manual disabling devices must be physically switched on by the driver.

Common active devices include:

  • Steering wheel lock: This device immobilizes your steering wheel, delaying and often preventing theft completely by ensuring a lack of movement. 
  • Brake lock: This lock makes it impossible to push down on the gas pedal and drive away until disabled. 
  • Kill switch: This option requires installation (either by yourself or professionally), but the kill switch disables all electricity in the vehicle, rendering it undrivable until turned off by the owner. 

 

Automatic disabling devices

Automatic devices are also known as passive devices and work without manual enabling from the driver. Many new cars have these already installed. Examples of passive devices are as follows:

  • Transponder keys: Transponder keys must be in the vehicle in order for it to be driven. Without it, cars cannot be hot-wired nor can thieves break the ignition lock. They provide a higher level of security for vehicles — in fact, a 2015 study found that transponder keys decreased car thefts by 40% between 1995 and 2008.
  • Audible alarms: Most cars are equipped with an alarm system that blares loudly when it detects unwarranted touch. If your car does not have this installed already, you can purchase one separately. It’s important to note, though, that alarm systems are sensitive and go off easily, and passersby hear car alarms so frequently nowadays that it is not the most effective way to prevent theft.
keys

Remote disabling systems

A newer addition to anti-theft devices are remote disabling systems. These devices connect to your smartphone and allow you to decelerate, downshift or lock the brakes.

These are often expensive and are more commonly used in commercial vehicles than personal cars.

 

Vehicle tracking systems

These devices are used when cars have already been stolen. They are meant to provide the location of your vehicle via a GPS system and deliver the information to your smartphone. There are a few services that offer this technology:

  • GPS trackers: With this device in your vehicle, you are able to track your car whenever it’s in motion. With some models, you can get alerts sent to you via email or text message. Car thieves may be deterred from stealing your vehicle if they see a GPS device within it. 
  • Subscription services: The most popular example of this is OnStar, which tracks your vehicle’s location and can also remotely prevent the engine from starting when a theft has been reported. Users pay a minimum of $25 per month for this service.
  • Vehicle recovery systems: The best-known example of these is LoJack, which uses radiofrequency to locate your car if it has been stolen. The transmitter that remains in your vehicle is designed to help police find your car when it's stolen, and will send you an alert via text, email or phone call if your car is being driven without the corresponding LoJack keyfob inside. While there is a 90% recovery rate with this device, it is very expensive.
gps

VIN etching

One relatively simple and inexpensive solution is VIN etching. Using a stencil and chemical product, your VIN can be permanently etched on your windows, allowing police to identify your car and deter thieves from reselling it. This method works because VIN etches make the car traceable and car thieves would have to replace the glass in order to sell it, greatly reducing their profit.
 
AVERAGE ANNUAL PREMIUMS BY ANTI-THEFT DEVICE
Anti-theft Device Average Annual Premium % Savings
None $1,483 --
Audible Alarm $1,477 -0.38%
Active disabling device $1,477 -0.41%
Tracking device $1,472 -0.70%
Passive disabling device $1,472 -0.75%

Auto insurance data methodology

The auto insurance rates published in this guide are based on the results of The Zebra's State of Insurance car insurance pricing analysis. This analysis of more than 83 million insurance rates spans every U.S. ZIP code, using a sample user profile: a 30-year-old single male driver with a Honda Accord, good credit and full coverage at these levels:

  • $50,000 per person/$100,000 per incident for bodily injury liability
  • $50,000 per incident for property damage liability
  • $500 deductibles for collision and comprehensive coverage

To generate pricing for particular rating factors, we adjusted the driving profile based on common pricing factors used by major car insurance companies. These factors include credit score, coverage level, driving record and others.

In some instances, average rates from Liberty Mutual were derived from internally sourced sales data.


Car insurance companies that offer anti-theft device discounts

The anti-theft devices discount is a common one and can be found in many car insurance companies’ offerings.  Nationally-recognized companies are listed below, but if your insurance provider is regional, be sure to check out their list of available insurance discounts and see if you qualify.

 

Insurance Company Average Discount
Allstate Varies
Esurance 5% to 25%
Farmers Varies — check state availability
GEICO 5% to 23%
Liberty Mutual Varies
Nationwide Varies — check state availability
Safeco Varies
State Farm Varies — check state availability
USAA Varies

How to get an anti-theft device discount on your insurance

If you have installed a theft prevention device in your vehicle, you may qualify for this discount if it's offered by your insurance company. Most insurers have the available discounts listed online, so your first step is to check if your provider offers a discount for anti-theft systems. This discount may vary in availability depending on the state you live in, but your insurance agent will be able to confirm whether you can enjoy the benefits of this discount.

You may have to show proof of installation before qualifying for the discount, and some insurers restrict the granting of this discount to drivers with specific anti-theft devices. Talk to your insurance agent for more information.

It’s never a bad idea to reevaluate your insurance policy to make sure you are getting the best deal for your unique circumstances. If your present insurer does not offer an anti-theft discount, shop around with other carriers and compare quotes using The Zebra’s quote tool by entering your ZIP code below.

Comparing car insurance options is quick, simple and hassle-free.

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Recent Questions:

Auto-pay was enabled without my consent

First things first, Michigan car insurance rates are notoriously high. This has to do with the fact Michigan is a no-fault state with unlimited Personal Injury Protection.
Jul 5, 2018 Grayling, MI

Someone attempted to steal my neighbor's vehicle and wrecked my van, how do I handle insurance?

You would not be at fault in this case. In cases like this, it's best to get all the documentation you can, like a police report.
Nov 4, 2019 Los Angeles, CA

What is the discount rate like when you give proof of prior insurance?

In Arizona, the average difference between having no insurance history versus five years of high bodily injury and property damage limits (100/300/100) is about $238. However, I do not have any data for unknown lapses in coverage.
Feb 26, 2018 Tucson, Arizona

How can I find the best auto insurance for my family?

Some insurance companies offer occupational discounts, including for teachers and educators. On average, teachers paid $1,515 annually for auto insurance — 2% less than the national average.
Feb 13, 2020 North Little Rock, AR

Renata Balasco
Renata BalascoAssociate Content Strategist

Renata is a licensed insurance professional and content strategist responsible for creating home and auto insurance guides for The Zebra.

Renata's background in technical writing and her experience working in the insurance industry informs her work. She holds a bachelor’s degree in communications.

Renata's work has been cited by Car and Driver

About The Zebra

The Zebra is not an insurance company. We publish data-backed, expert-reviewed resources to help consumers make more informed insurance decisions.

  • The Zebra’s insurance content is written and reviewed for accuracy by licensed insurance agents.

  • The Zebra’s insurance content is not subject to review or alteration by insurance companies or partners.

  • The Zebra’s editorial team operates independently of the company’s partnerships and commercialization interests, publishing unbiased information for consumer benefit.

  • The auto insurance rates published on The Zebra’s pages are based on a comprehensive analysis of car insurance pricing data, evaluating more than 83 million insurance rates from across the United States.