Car security and insurance premiums

Find out how having the right car security can help keep your car safe and lower your insurance premiums.

Eve Powell
Eve Powell
Updated 9 January 2023  | 3 min read

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What car security do I need?

This partly depends on the security features your car already has. For example, most new car models come with an alarm system and immobiliser as standard.

However, if your car was made before 1998, it may not have a factory-fitted immobiliser. In which case, it’s worth considering having one retro-fitted.

Effective security measures that are recognised by your insurer can help deter thieves and potentially lower the cost of your insurance premiums.

Key points

  • Protecting your car can help deter thieves and lower your insurance premiums
  • Any car made after 1998 should come with a factory-fitted immobiliser as standard
  • Thatcham devices set the industry benchmark for car security standards and are recognised by insurers
  • Better car security can prevent theft and help to maintain your no claims bonus

The impact of security devices on insurance

One of the ways you can reduce the cost of your car insurance is by making sure your car is secure and installing effective theft prevention measures.

Your car may already have factory-fitted security features, but if it’s an expensive model, it might still be worth putting in extra anti-theft devices to deter thieves.

And if you have insurance-approved security measures - like car-alarms, tracking devices, and immobilisers - there’s less risk of your car being stolen which can lower your premiums.

What’s more, if your car’s harder to steal, you’ll be less likely to put in an insurance claim, which can help to protect your no-claims bonus.

What different types of car security are there?

Car alarms

Most cars have an alarm installed. Some are set automatically when you lock the car, and others you need to activate yourself. Depending on your car, it can be worth looking to upgrade the alarm to reduce your insurance premium.

Car immobilisers

An immobiliser prevents the engine from running unless the right key is used, so it can’t be hot-wired. Cars made pre-1998 may not have a factory-fitted immobiliser, but insurers may reduce your premium if you later have a Thatcham-approved one installed.

Steering wheel lock

Using a physical lock for your steering wheel or gearstick is a visible deterrent for car thieves and a cheap way to make your car harder to steal.

Wheel clamps and locking wheel nuts

Attaching a wheel clamp to a car can prevent it from being moved, while adding locking wheel nuts can help stop thieves stealing expensive and eye-catching alloys and wheels.

Tracking devices

A tracking device involves a hidden transmitter that uses GPS to track the location of a stolen car. It won’t prevent your car from being stolen, but it can help it to be found and retrieved. Some trackers will even allow you to immobiise elements of the car remotely.

VIN etching

To make your car easier to identify if it gets stolen, you can have its registration number etched onto the windows and windscreen. Because thieves would have to change the glass panels to disguise the car’s original identity, it can also act as a deterrent.

Thatcham device classifications and why it matters

Thatcham Research is an insurer funded research centre that sets the industry benchmark for improving car security.

Its classification categories help car buyers and insurers understand what levels of security a car has.

The type of Thatcham device you have can reduce the cost of your car insurance premium.

Thatcham categories:

Category 1: combined electronic alarm and immobiliser - Systems that fall into this class are at the top of the market. They’re the most complex and offer the highest standard of security.

Category 2: electronic immobiliser - This is effectively category 1 without the alarm. The immobiliser must be passively (automatically) set and must isolate at least two of the car’s operating circuits.

Category 3: mechanical immobiliser - A steering wheel lock is an example of a category 3 device. The device must be a temporary measure that’s easy to set and unset, and it should mechanically isolate at least one system, such as your steering wheel.

Category 4: wheel locking devices - Most modern cars with alloy wheels have wheel locking nuts. They make it harder for thieves to steal your wheels and the nuts can only be removed with a special key.

Category S5: post-theft tracking and recovery systems - These systems have Automatic Driver Recognition (ADR) and can also identify a stolen car’s location and remotely immobilise it. S5 systems can be requested by insurers for cars over a certain value.

Category S7: tracker with stolen vehicle location - This category is similar to S5, but these tracking systems can’t remotely disable the stolen car and they don’t have ADR.

Q class systems: non-categorised aftermarket systems - This category includes all security upgrades, alarms, and locks that aren’t approved by Thatcham.

How do I find out what security my car already has?

If your car was made after 1998, it should have a factory-fitted immobiliser that was installed when it was manufactured.

When you buy a second-hand car, it will come with a handbook and service history record. These can tell you whether the car is fitted with a security system.

A mechanic can check this for you and advise if you’re still not sure.

If you want to upgrade your car’s security, it’s possible to buy an immobiliser or alarm and have it professionally fitted - but it’s always best to choose Thatcham approved options.

Not every insurer will offer a discount for security measures, but that doesn't mean they're a waste of money"

A good alarm could deter thieves, reducing the chance of you having to make a claim and preserving your no-claims bonus”
Ryan Fulthorpe - Car insurance expert

Ways to keep your car safe

Taking some simple steps can make a real difference to preventing your car from being stolen.

  1. Keep your keys out of sight

    When you’re at home, and especially at night, store your keys securely and preferably upstairs. Make sure your house is properly locked and doors and windows are secure.

  2. Prevent keyless car theft

    Some thieves use technology to intercept the key’s signal and start the car. Putting your key in idle or sleep mode, or storing it in a Faraday pouch can block the key’s transmission.

  3. Park in a safe place

    Use well-lit, visible areas and staffed car parks where possible. Parking with your wheels turned into the curb or towards another vehicle will make it harder for thieves to get away quickly.

  4. Hide your valuables

    It can be easy to forget to do this, particularly when you’re parking at home. So before you leave the car, remember to put electronic items in the boot or, better still, take them with you.

  5. Invest in extra measures

    From steering wheel locks to window etching, it’s money well spent if you can reduce the chances of your car being targeted. And it can help knock money off your insurance too.

Did you know...?

The boxes used for some telematics insurance policies can also act as a vehicle tracker

How else can I lower my car insurance premiums?

Improving your car’s security isn’t the only way to cut the cost of your car insurance. For example, you can also try to:

  • Limit your mileage - The fewer miles you do, the lower insurance risk you are which can reduce your premiums. But you need to be honest with your estimated mileage to avoid invalidating your cover.
  • Pay annually - It’s usually cheaper to buy insurance by paying for the year up front than to pay through monthly installments.
  • Increase your excess - A higher voluntary excess lowers the cost of your policy. Just bear in mind that, if you make a claim, you’ll have to pay more towards the cost of repairs or replacing your car.
  • Build up your no claims bonus - The longer you can stay claim-free, the more no-claims discount you can build up which can help you to get a cheaper policy.
  • Take an advanced driving course - Courses like Pass Plus and IAM can make you a safer driver and help to reduce the cost of your car insurance.
  • Shop around - Before you autorenew, make sure you shop around and compare car insurance quotes to check you’re getting the best deal.
  • Buy insurance early - You can get quotes up to 29 days before your renewal date - the earlier you do this, the better price you’re likely to get for your cover.