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CarLock Review

The biggest problem with traditional car alarms is the alarm. The deafening 120-dB siren is meant to draw attention to the car, scaring the would-be thief away.

Our Verdict

CarLock is simple to install, works with your smartphone and has practical functions traditional car alarms can't match.

For

  • You can track the car's location and performance.

Against

  • It requires a monthly subscription.
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The biggest problem with traditional car alarms is the alarm. The deafening 120-dB siren is meant to draw attention to the car, scaring the would-be thief away. While this may have been an effective deterrent in the early 1900's when the car alarm was first invented, multiple reports over the decades suggest 95- to 99-percent of the car alarm sirens are false alerts triggered by accident. After over a century of this noise pollution, car alarm sirens simply aren't the deterrent they're meant to be. And professional baddies know this. In some reported cases, thieves have used the sirens to mask the sound of a shattered window. In other words, sirens are like the boy who called wolf. Nobody cares.

This is what makes car tracking devices, like CarLock, the next technological step in protecting your car. CarLock is a simple plug-and-play device. It doesn't require professional installation, plugging into your car's OBD port and connecting to a cellular network. Rather than relying on a remote with a limited range, it uses your smartphone and can alert you to security issues even if you're halfway around the world. There are only a handful of these affordable car tracking devices on the market, but CarLock is my pick for the best car tracking device because of its affordable price and abundance of performance monitoring features. A significant downside, albeit necessary because of the cellular connection, is the monthly subscription.

Price

CarLock costs about $50 to purchase the OBD device and $9 per month to maintain the cellular connection. By comparison, the Viper SmartStart GPS costs close to $200 for the device and $9 per month for the cellular connection.

After reading as many user reviews as I could find online, the most common complaint with CarLock is the subscription, a reasonable critique. Car alarms are a one-time purchase, but the cost of a subscription adds up. Over the course of a few years, you'll have spent hundreds on the subscription while the $30 car alarm still only cost you $30. With so many services and apps turning to the subscription model, subscription fatigue is a real problem. For the subscription to be worth it, car trackers must offer more functionality than just security. They must be products you actively use often. Fortunately, CarLock has features to justify the subscription, especially for parents of teenage drivers.

Alarm Features

The CarLock consists of two devices – a cellular-enabled OBD device and an app on your smartphone. (The OBD port has been standard in every vehicle made since 1996, so if you have an older car, it may not be compatible with CarLock.) The device has sensors to detect unusual vibrations, such as power tools used to pry open doors or glass breaking. It alerts you, via the app, when the engine starts without you and when your vehicle is moving. You can also set it up to alert you when the car accelerates or brakes too violently, among other performance issues. Basically, it provides the same alarm features you'd find in a high-end alarm, but it notifies you first. Not to mention that it's less prone to false alarms.

Another advantage of the CarLock over traditional car alarms is the simple installation. The only difficult part to the installation is finding the OBD port on your car. To remedy this, however, CarLock helps you find the port with a feature on the website. You simply enter your car's make, model and year and it provides an illustration. It doesn’t require a complicated professional installation like car alarms. The only difficulty you’ll have is finding the OBD connector, usually underneath the steering wheel near the hood release.

The CarLock’s best feature is the GPS tracking. It’s like having an affordable version of a LoJack in your car. The major difference, however, is LoJack contacts police directly when your car is stolen, making for a fast recovery, and a LoJack is far more difficult to find and remove. Still, if a thief takes off with your vehicle, the CarLock helps you track them and you can use it to lead law enforcement to the recovery of your vehicle. You have a much better chance of recovering your vehicle with this.

Convenience Features

The best car alarms are often packaged with remote start systems to make them more valuable, because you'll actively use the remote start system more than the alarm. CarLock is no different, though its convenience features differ greatly from traditional car alarms.

Since the device is connected to the OBD port, it can track the car's performance. You can track speeding, cornering speeds, harsh braking and violent acceleration. These types of reports have been used by car insurance providers to award safe driving habits with premium discounts. At the end of the month, you receive a score out of 100. While car insurance companies often require you to use their own OBD car tracking device, this is still a great feature for parents concerned about their teenage drivers. Monitoring features like a driving score and geo-fencing, a feature where you set boundaries for a car and are alerted when the car leaves the area, are not likely going to make you a popular parent, but it's the best way of keeping tabs on your teenage drivers.

The CarLock is also a virtual mechanic. By plugging into the car’s electrical system, it can alert you to potential electrical issues. It tracks mileage and other stats to help you stay attuned to your car's health.

You can add multiple vehicles and multiple drivers to your CarLock account, and you can track them at the same time. The cloud aspect of the app means all the data is backed up and saved. You can compare driving habits with others in your family and see improvements in safer driving habits over time.

The CarLock is my pick for the best car tracking device because of the affordable cost and many practical functions of a GPS device, including the simple installation. With this, you don't have to worry about annoying neighbors with a siren because only you are alerted to potential security issues. In addition, it tracks driving habits and comes with many types of alerts and monitoring features. In a lot of ways, it's a lot better than a car alarm and the next step in automobile security technology, so long as you're okay with the monthly subscription.