So, you're in this thread which (presumably) means you're pretty interested in getting an alarm for your car. Firstly, why bother getting an alarm in the first place? They cost a decent amount of money and - for most people - your car has never been in a situation where you've wished you had one. Well, while you might have never actually had your car broken into, it's very definitely worth getting a car alarm; if your car ever is attacked by some random off the street, you definitely, definitely want a siren to be going off. It can mean the difference between a broken window and a broken window, ruined interior, stolen headunit or - worst case scenario - a stolen car. In the whole time you have your car and alarm, the majority of the times it goes off are going to be accidental, but for the one time it goes off when something is actually wrong, it's very worth it. If you think your lude is worth more than the cost of an alarm system, then definitely, definitely pay the money for an alarm. Alarms can also have other benifits - take a look at the features section - but their primary use is in deterring thieves.
The three basic alarm types
i) Budget Flashing Light ($1-$10)
What is it: Basically, you want something that might scare a thief away and you don't want to pay any money. You wire up a simple light and capacitor to your car battery (via the cigarette lighter) and bingo! Flashing red light. It barely constitutes an alarm system but it needs to be mentioned. You can make this yourself in about half an hour with a screwdriver and the right components, recommend mounting it on one of the dash blanks (ie, the sunlight sensor space on the right hand side)
Advantages: It's ridiculously cheap (we're talking sub ten dollars)
Disadvantages: Not likely to really convince anyone, and on the offchance they actually break the car there's no sensors/alarm to activate.
ii) Entry level alarm ($50-$400)
What is it: An entry level alarm has some basic features to protect your car for a fairly decent price. You can probably install this yourself (read the insurance section first to see why you might not want to). Generally an entry level car alarm will set you back around $120 dollars, although the price can vary a bit between different units for whatever features you get. Expect an immobiliser, one or two shock sensors and a few remotes; the basic kit can include some other cool sensors, backup sirens and so on. Some also come with sensors for the hood and boot; these are a pretty worthwhile investment if you're worried about someone trying to steal your skis or whatever.
Advantages: Decent protection for your car, still a fairly low price. Widely available.
Disadvantages: Any real pro is probably going to be able to neutralise the alarm. Oh noes! That said, this alarm category is more than enough to deal with your average teenage ice addict.
iii) High end alarm system ($400-$1000)
What is it: A high end car alarm system will set you back a fair bit more than your basic system, but in return you get some really cool features (see the features list). Will have all black wiring, two point immobolisation and all that good stuff; worth paying if you think someone might try and steal your car and you want some extra features while you're installing the alarm system.
Advantages: Heaps of really, really cool features. Possible insurance discounts.
Disadvantages: Costs a mint, and no matter how much you pay, there's no such thing as a foolproof alarm.
While the majority of features are pretty self explanatory, there are some that you might not understand. This section of the Car Alarm Guide goes over the functions of some of those features.
- Anti-Hijacking: An anti hijacking Alarm System will automatically lock your doors when you start the car, and will unlock them when you turn the engine off.
- Code hopping: Changes the transmission code and frequency to stop someone recording the unlocking signal.
- Remote start: Gives you a button on your alarm remote that can start your engine without you in the car. Guaranteed to get you heaps of ladies.
- Two-way remote: The average alarm remote only works from the remote to the car, and can lock/unlock the car, arm the alarm and so forth. A two way remote (or two way pager) can lock the car and so forth, but can also be notified if something goes wrong with the car. This way if someone hits your car you can know about it straight away (provided you're in range - usually about a kilometre).
- GSM Two-way remote: Capable of notifying a designated mobile number via phone call and/or SMS the moment the alarm has been set off.
Depending on what car alarm system you have and what insurance company you're with, you can get a discount on your premiums if you have an alarm installed. Usually the company will have three requirements: that it have all black wiring, two point immobilisation and that it be installed by a professional.
Where to buy
You can get a car alarm system from pretty much anywhere. A lot of retailers have them (JB Hifi for example) or if you feel brave you can pick one up off ebay.