There’s one way of pretty much guaranteeing a reduction in the cost of your insurance, and that’s by fitting an enhanced security system. You can expect some form of security on any modern car, but some systems are more worthwhile than others.
So that insurance companies and consumers can directly compare the various security products available, the automotive research centre tests and rates them. As the centre is based at Thatcham in Berkshire, the rating given to each product is called its Thatcham category. The most secure products are category 1; the least secure (but still worthwhile) carry a category 3 rating. The key requirements for each category are as follows:
Professionally fitted alarm and immobiliser that integrates into the vehicle’s electrical system to control electric windows and central locking. Such a system must have a back-up battery, an ultra-secure immobiliser and protection for the doors, bonnet and any other means of entry into the car.
Significantly cheaper than a category 1 system, a category 2 immobiliser has to incorporate technology that won’t allow a car to be started without some form of unique code. This may be entered from a key pad, it may require a transponder to be used or it could merely be a system that’s operated by the door key.
All modern vehicles come with some form of immobiliser, so it’s usually only a matter of upgrading rather than starting from scratch. This category encompasses all products that integrate with an existing category 2 immobiliser to it take up to category 1 level. Such systems would be expected to integrate into the vehicle’s electrical system and offer all the key attributes of a category 1 system.
Whereas the previous categories all required the fitment of an electrical alarm or immobiliser, this one relates to mechanical items that physically protect your car. Such things include wheel clamps and steering wheel locks. In the event of a theft it’s impossible to tell if one of these item was fitted, which is why insurance companies don’t stipulate that you must fit one.
If your main worry is somebody breaking into your car, a tracker system won’t help. It’s not an alarm, but as the name suggests it offers a means of tracking your car if it should be stolen. There are various products available, but whichever one you buy, make sure it works in mainland Europe in case your car is stolen then quickly exported. A tracker system is usually £500 or so, plus an annual subscription to be connected to the network.
* A crucial point is that it's easy to spend hundreds of pounds on security for your car, and see a reduction in your premium of rather less. However, if you have to make a claim because your car is stolen, you could ultimately end up being out of pocket by a huge sum, especially if you lose any no-claims bonus that you might otherwise have had.