How Do You Get An Anti-Theft Discount on Car Insurance?

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Car insurance companies really don’t want your car to get stolen. Why? Because if it does, they have to pay for it! That’s why, when you’re shopping for car insurance, you may get asked if you have any car anti-theft devices installed.

Often, insurers will offer cheaper quotes if you have those theft prevention devices — and in 12 states (Florida, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Mexico, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Texas and Washington) they’re required to give you a discount on your comprehensive insurance. The discount is typically 15-20 percent. Don’t get too excited — that’s 15 to 20 percent off your comprehensive coverage, not your entire insurance bill.

Still, you don’t want to miss getting insurance discounts for anti-theft devices! can help. When you’re comparing auto insurance quotes on, we may ask you about these features. Not sure what a “manual disabling device” or “vehicle recovery device” is? Here’s our guide.

Types of Car Anti-Theft Devices

Manual disabling devices

A manual disabling, or active, car anti-theft device is simply one the driver must physically put in place/turn on to prevent the car from being driven. The oldest manual disabling feature is the steering wheel lock. Have you ever put your key in the ignition and found that neither your key nor the wheel will turn? That’s a built-in anti-theft device to prevent thieves from hotwiring your car. To unlock the wheel, gently turn it in the direction that has a little give, as you simultaneously turn the key.

Another example is a classic car anti-theft device: The Club. Introduced in the 1980s, the Club is a wheel lock device: a heavy steel rod with two U-shaped hooks that fit on your steering wheel. When locked in place, the Club prevents the steering wheel from turning — although, as many experts have pointed out, a determined thief can cut the wheel. You can go one step further and buy a brake pedal lock, a small metal clip or a long metal rod that attaches to the pedal and prevents it from operating. Or, if you’re a tinkerer, you can install a kill switch that cuts off electricity in your car.

  • The pros of manual disabling devices: They’re cheap, they’re easy to use, and their presence deters thieves from even trying to steal your car
  • The cons: You have to make sure you enable them, every single time. If your Club’s lying on the floor, it’s not good for much (unless you need to break a window)

Automatic Disabling Devices

An automatic, or passive, car disabling device is one that works without the driver having to enable it. One is a transponder key, or smart key, which most new vehicles have. These keys won’t allow a vehicle to be driven if the corresponding key’s not present. You may get a nice insurance discount for an automatic disabling device, because they really work. One 2015 study found that transponder keys decreased car thefts by about 40 percent between 1995 and 2008.

  • Pros: Highly effective
  • Cons: If you lose your key, it can cost hundreds to get a replacement

Remote Disabling Devices

With a remote disabling system, a vehicle’s owner can downshift, decelerate or lock the brakes of a car if it’s stolen. These systems cost thousands, however, and are used more to prevent hijacking of commercial vehicles than theft of ordinary cars.

  • Pros: Effective and pretty cool, too
  • Cons: Very expensive

Commercial vehicles disabling device

Car alarms

Ah, the good ol’ car alarm. Bump into a vehicle, or maybe blow on it gently and then it’ll honk for five minutes, annoying all the neighbors. Car alarms don’t really deter theft, studies have found and for that reason they’re rarely included in newer vehicles.

VIN Etching

Etching your VIN (vehicle identification number) onto your windows is one of the cheapest and best car anti-theft devices out there. The unique VIN allows police to identify your car. Etching it onto the windows makes it tougher for thieves to sell a stolen car, because they’ll have to replace all the glass — reducing their profit — to render your car untraceable.

VIN etching is a quick process that uses a stencil and a chemical to permanently inscribe the number onto your windows. Don’t pay a dealer to do it; instead, buy a cheap at-home etching kit or ask your local police department if they offer the service for free. Another alternative is UV VIN labeling, which adheres the VIN to all your car body parts in ink that can only be seen under ultraviolet light.

  • Pros: VIN etching is quick, easy and cheap
  • Cons: A thief in a hurry may not take the time to examine the windows for a small VIN mark and if he wants your car for transportation, or for parts, he won’t care

OnStar and Other Vehicle Tracking Systems

Tracking a car with GPS has become ridiculously easy and cheap. You can buy a small GPS transmitter, either battery-powered or hard-wired, and track your car’s location on your phone. These tracking systems are useful not only as anti-theft devices but also to remember your parking space or keep tabs on teenagers.

Subscription services like OnStar  take tracking a step further. If your OnStar-equipped vehicle is stolen, the company can send a remote signal that blocks the engine from starting. Or, if police are pursuing the thief, OnStar can remotely slow the car down.

  • Pros: Find your car anywhere and, with OnStar, get personalized help retrieving it
  • Cons: Subscriptions can be expensive; also, ethics and privacy questions arise if you’re tracking the car while family members are using it

Vehicle Recovery Devices

A vehicle recovery device is a small transmitter you keep in your car that’s specifically designed to help police find your car if it’s stolen. The best known is LoJack, which uses radio frequency technology. The tracking computers on police vehicles nationwide send out an alert if they detect your car nearby. LoJack boasts a 90 percent recovery rate for its customers. Its early-detection system alerts you directly by text, email or phone if your car’s being driven and your LoJack keyfob isn’t inside.

  • Pros: Buy the system once, and you’re set. There’s no need to may monthly fees
  • Cons: Vehicle recovery devices are expensive; and if your car ends up in a remote location, the radio transmitter won’t do much good

Do you have any of these anti-theft devices on your car? Time to get an insurance discount! See how much you can save with a free quote comparison on

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