Seems like a good idea?
September 3, 2008 4:50 PM   Subscribe

Is LoJack really worth it?

We've been quoted $695 (after taking $100 off) for our new vehicle. Does anyone out there have any first hand experience? Thanks.
posted by 6:1 to Travel & Transportation (19 answers total)
You'll be betting $695 that if -- IF -- your car gets stolen, LoJack might be able to help you recover it before it's severely damaged by the thieves.

At the same time, you'll likely be paying for comprehensive auto insurance, which, among other things, will cover you ... wait for it ... in the event your car is stolen and/or damaged by thieves.

No, LoJack is not worth it. Comprehensive auto insurance, on the other hand, is. ;-)
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 5:04 PM on September 3, 2008

Response by poster: It's about the cost of a deductible, and not having the claim. Of course I'd have comprehensive auto insurance.
posted by 6:1 at 5:08 PM on September 3, 2008

Still not worth it. After you leave the dealership, the salesmen will be high-fiving each other.

I'm sure you'll find people that will tell you about LoJack success stories. But if you do the math, it's just not worth it. Moreover, LoJack doesn't prevent the damage from happening, and doesn't pay for it afterward.

For the amount you'd pay for LoJack, you could look into lowering your comprehensive deductible, which will cover you in a far wider variety of situations than mere car theft.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 5:14 PM on September 3, 2008

It's definitely worth it for construction equipment costing over $100k. For an average car I can't see it. If you have a hot car that thieves want, then they typically get stripped and parted out quickly.
posted by JJ86 at 5:30 PM on September 3, 2008

This is a question for your insurance company.. how much will it lower your premiums?
posted by TravellingDen at 5:55 PM on September 3, 2008

Consumer Reports, and some other car advice sites, seem to classify it as "dealer profit margin" material, like rustproofing.

According to an actual economics paper, as well, individual Lojack users get less than 10% of its total social benefits.... That is, the LoJack offers no visible deterrent, so car theft is likely only deterred in areas where it is more common. Even so you are not lowering your own theft risk by much when you buy one; the benefits only accrue substantially when considered collectively.
posted by dhartung at 6:02 PM on September 3, 2008

As said above, it will not prevent or deter the theft of the car, but it may aid in quick recovery once it is stolen.

The wife helped prosecute a car theft ring specializing in higher-end cars. According to those who pled out and talked: unlike OnStar, which could be quickly deactivated, LoJack was hard to find or detect. Typically they would steal a car but then leave it in an apartment complex parking lot for a day or two. If no one came and recovered it, presumably through LoJack, then the thieves would go back for it. This was for cars being sent overseas, not chopped up and parted out. YMMV depending upon the desirability of your car and the sophistication of your local car thief.
posted by sardonista at 6:12 PM on September 3, 2008

LET A = the lojack annual expense, if any

LET B = What interest rate will you be paying on this loan

LET C = A + B x $695

LET D= Insurance premium discount for having lojack

IF D > C then the money pencils out regardless of the chances of the car getting stolen & recovered, assuming the $695 adds that much to the resale value of the car and/or you have the car so long that the insurance premium discounts covers the up-front cost of lojack.
posted by troy at 6:31 PM on September 3, 2008

Are you certain you wont file a claim if its recovered? I've had a car stolen once and I can tell you its impossible to steal a car and not damage it, even if the thief wanted to be careful, and trust me, he wont be.

So instead of just filing a claim and getting a big fat check you'll have to call the police, worry about the car, hope it turns up, and then pay out of pocket for whatever damages the thief did to it.

Granted, if paying out of pocket is less than the raise on your premium for filing a claim then perhaps its worth it. I'd also factor in whatever premium discount.

It also requires service every two years and if you sell it then its around 300-400 to remove it.

The real question is whether you want a stolen car back. Strange as it sounds, its psychologically jarring. You feel violated. The repair guy cant seem to make it look like it did before. The new steering column just doesnt look right and the car drives funny. You start to think that this really isnt your car. Everytime you notice these things it reminds you of the robbery. It makes you a little depressed. Its strange. I would have prefered a check.
posted by damn dirty ape at 7:03 PM on September 3, 2008

SmartMoney: For the LoJack, State Farm's discount ranges from 10-30% and AAA's from 5-25%. I believe the discount comes off comprehensive coverage, not the entire policy. So you'll probably break even over the life of the car.
posted by junesix at 7:07 PM on September 3, 2008

Comprehensive insurance is discounted by 15% in most states. AAA offers a $100 discount so the basic system retails for $595 with Early Warning $696
posted by maloon at 7:08 PM on September 3, 2008

To reiterate something others have said... Assuming you have insurance (which you, of course, do), it's probably not "worth it" except to figure out what it'll do for your insurance. (I have a friend who has a car alarm solely because he saved enough money on his insurance by having it that, after a couple years, he'd 'made money' by having a car alarm. He hates having it.)

As others have said... Lojack has no preventative value. It's there so that, after your car has been stolen, you have a chance of getting it back. (I can't quantify what that chance is, though I have a hunch it's considerably less than 50%.)

One of my friends had his car stolen last year. (No Lojack involved, but hear me out.) He was kind of jarred/shocked, understandably. But then he came to see it as a good thing, because he'd wanted to get a new car anyway, and he (of course) had it insured. But before he could buy a new one, the police found his car in another state. He was actually pretty bummed. They'd stripped the radio and some parts, and ultimately, because he drove a rusty tin can, they decided it was better to declare the car totaled then to try to get everything fixed, so in the end, he got his new car. But it was weeks later.

So I learned two interesting things from his experience:

- damn dirty ape is absolutely right: you may well realize that you don't want the car back after it's stolen. His car being recovered turned into a hassle for him, and left him in limbo about what sort of compensation he'd receive, for at least a week.

- Thieves don't think like you and I. His car was more than a decade old, had rust, had power-nothing... I rode with him once (pre-theft, obviously) and wondered how he could see out the windshield because it was so badly scratched. The night his car was stolen, he parked it next to his parents' car and locked it. His parents' car? A late-model Mustang. Shiny. Unlocked. And yet they they broke into / stole his car, but police found no signs that anyone had even looked through the glove box in the Mustang. (I suspect it has to with demand for parts and/or not wanting to stand out too much?)

Of course, whether it's worth it isn't something we can answer directly... But if I were you, I'd say that $695 wasn't worth it, unless you would save more than $695 over the next few years on your insurance. (Though I'd invoke TVM here, too: paying $695 now to "save" $696 over the next 3 years is losing money compared to, say, taking out a 3-year CD for $695...) But I would also add that people value things differently, so we can try to offer semi-objective opinions, but it's really a subjective decision. (Objectively, my AAA membership hasn't gotten me a penny's worth of benefits in about a year, so it's a waste of money. But I get great peace of mind from it, and know that next time I need it, just like the last time I used it, it'll pay for itself many times over.)
posted by fogster at 8:49 PM on September 3, 2008

I recommend the Club. It's about $20-$30 bucks on Ebay. I live in Chicago, and it's used by a lot of people. It a big deterent to grab and take thefts. Basically, unless someone has a tow-lift to take your car, they can't drive it away. It is a very visual, and makes it not worth it to hit your car. I had my car stolen, and luckily found without being stripped. I bought the club right after. It also comes with insurance free if they manage to crack it -but I haven't heard that has happened to anyone.
posted by Xmeit at 9:43 PM on September 3, 2008

I suspect it has to with demand for parts and/or not wanting to stand out too much?

I've only known two people whose cars were stolen: one was an Acura Integra (so likely stripped for parts pretty darn quickly) but the other was a mid-70s custom van in crappy shape, which was then used in a robbery. So yeah, you never know why it's being stolen.

Having said that, there's one situation in which I'd say LoJack is worth it: if you own a classic car that is rare or otherwise difficult to replace. If that's the kind of car you own, then recovering it -- even if it's been damaged or had some parts removed -- is probably going to be more important to you than getting the cash value and not being able to find another one in good shape (if at all.)
posted by davejay at 11:05 PM on September 3, 2008

I recommend the Club. It's about $20-$30 bucks on Ebay. I live in Chicago, and it's used by a lot of people. It a big deterent to grab and take thefts. Basically, unless someone has a tow-lift to take your car, they can't drive it away.

Absolutely a false sense of security and a bad idea. Thieves regularly laugh at these as they cut the steering wheel itself with a small pair of bolt cutters and easily pull the club out.

I've never done the math on LoJack, OnStar, and the like, but "break even" sounds about right. You could go to esurance or progressive and compare the rates that way.
posted by rhizome at 12:34 AM on September 4, 2008

For a new car, no. Security should be good, and the police are pretty poor.

If it's a classic car (you know, something that would be difficult to replace because they're rare already) with crappy security then anything will help.

basically agreeing with Troy, if the costs of buying and maintaining lojack over 3 years is less than the insurance saving over 3 years, then it looks like a good idea. But a $200 saving a year on insurance sounds like a hell of a lot for something like this...
posted by twine42 at 12:42 AM on September 4, 2008

His car was more than a decade old, had rust, had power-nothing... [...] but police found no signs that anyone had even looked through the glove box in the Mustang. I suspect it has to with demand for parts and/or not wanting to stand out too much?

That and modern cars have security systems that are actually pretty effective. In an old car, if you can get in, remove the steering wheel lock, and connect up the ignition wires, you're good to go. In a modern car you have to do all that, plus deal with a built in immobiliser, where the computerised engine control unit checks for a microchip built into the key. Without the right key it's very hard to get the engine to run.

Of course, you can still steal the car by carjacking it, towing it, craning it, or breaking into the owner's house to get the keys.

If you're just a joyrider, though, stealing an older car is just a lot easier.
posted by Mike1024 at 1:31 AM on September 4, 2008

I agree that those things weren't worth it. If I were in the car thievery business, I'd vandalize cars with "The Club" just to be an asshole. I hate those damned things- it's one of those culture of fear things. Every time you drive your car, you get to remember that there are unseen "evil forces" out there, just waiting to take advantage of big important you.

But yes, I'd get LoJack if I had a classic of some kind.

When I was younger, our car was stolen. Thief was a close friend of the family and had access to keys, and sold the car to someone for a few hundred bucks to score cocaine. The car was recovered and repaired, but was never the same. "Drive it like you stole it" is a real thing- whoever had that thing damaged it for the rest of its life. And, as a bonus, the car became a symbol of our friend's betrayal.

(Anti drug message derail- that person spent the rest of his life in and out of jail, getting arrested and using other people's identities to sign out on I-bonds, which caused those people to be arrested and held until the identity screwup could be rectified. Guy eventually died after getting heart bypass surgery at the county hospital under an assumed name- he took off from the hospital before they could correctly identify him, still in stitches, and went to a flophouse and died there after smoking crack. Under same assumed name, because he still had the hospital wrist bracelet thing. Somehow, they sort of figured out who he might really be and his elderly father had to identify the body and then go through the added tragedy of trying to get his degenerate son buried under the correct name.

How did he get started? Working a second job as a bouncer at a bar where minor celebrities hung out and coat-tailing their recreational habits. Except those guys could sleep all day, when this guy had to go to work. And... addiction.)
posted by gjc at 7:25 AM on September 4, 2008

An assumption that a lot of people seem to be making is that the car (and it's returned condition) is the only concern. I see a few other benefits. Of course, everyone has different practices so YMMV.

Also, the assumptions I am making is the insurance discount makes the cost of lojack a wash over the life of the car, and you're driving a regular joe kind of vehicle. (I'm not assuming it's new jag or some lovely classic)

Additional benefit #1
Greater potential that a car thief can be caught. That's generally good for everyone (excluding/including the thief - depending on your opinion).

Additional benefit #2
Your car may be recovered *much* faster - which means less time for damage to occur.

Additional benefit #3
I leave things in my car. I know I shouldn't. The added potential of finding the car and the thief (and faster) means that there's also an increased likelihood that other property in the vehicle can be recovered. Maybe you left your phone in the car (on accident or on purpose). Phones don't mean a lot to thieves, but your contact list that you haven't backed up recently probably means something to you. Maybe you left your bowling/golf/tennis/SCA/little league stuff in the trunk. Real nice to get that back. Maybe you [shudder] left your laptop, possibly even your [double shudder] work laptop in the car. Maybe you've got old and financially worthless mix tapes/fuzzy dice/aunt rose's jesus statue in the car. You'd love to get your sentimental stuff back. Insurance isn't going to cover that big book of CDs in the car. Maybe your car is stolen while you're on a road trip and you've got luggage in there - maybe even a child's favorite stuffed animal. You get the point. Of course, maybe you're one of those people who leaves nothing in their car, ever (good for you!), in which case this benefit doesn't benefit you very much at all.
posted by terpia at 8:50 AM on September 4, 2008

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