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So I was at a dealership recently and of course they advertised the typical Lojack. No doubt I feel these things are useful but it seems the price actually fluctuates (one dealership was selling to me for $695 whereas another was selling for $995).

How exactly does a Lojack work? Are there alternatives for a Lojack? Does it really cost as much as the dealership says it does? Can these be installed by ourselves?

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    As a side note, when I bought a car several years ago, the dealer offered Lojack for $600 or so, but pointed out that I could get a discount on my car insurance for having it, implying that it would "pay for itself". I called my insurance company to inquire, and they said that indeed, there was a discount for having Lojack: $8 per year. – Nate Eldredge Aug 31 '14 at 18:02
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The Lojack is what is called the "aftermarket" in the automotive sales world. This is just one way a dealership will try to rip you off when purchasing a new (or used, for that matter) vehicle. When I say "rip you off," I'm not saying that the product doesn't work as advertised, as I'm sure it does. What I'm saying is, they mark up the price on such items to the point where they are making a ton of money. For instance, when I worked at a dealership, our aftermarket department would talk to the customer and suggest they purchase three products. The products were paint sealant, undercoating, and Scotch Guard of the interior. The sales person would tell them all of these products would normally cost $1400, but "today only we are running a special of $800" (or some such number) ... and of course this cost can be rolled up into the financing of the vehicle. The actual cost to the dealership? $80. Anything they put on at the dealership will have a HUGE markup.

As far as how Lojack works, I'm sure it works as advertised. I've never heard of it doing otherwise ... though I've never talked to anyone who has ever had to use it either. If your vehicle is stolen, you contact them, they send out a signal to the Lojack, this activates the Lojack, which then starts sending out a signal as to where its location. The Popo can then track it and find it.

The only alternative I can think of to Lojack would probably be Onstar, which is only offered on GM or GM partnered vehicles (I think Honda is one?). There may be some others out there. Onstar can be tracked by the police, but has an added benefit of being able disable the vehicle so it cannot run, which makes it a lot easier for the police to catch up with the vehicle.

The only way to get Lojack'ed is at a dealership, though there may be installers willing to do it for you. The Lojack installer will be called in and put it in any of several locations on your vehicle, unbeknownst to you. You will know it's there somewhere, but you'll not know where. This is part of their deal so as nobody really has the exact location on your specific vehicle. This helps with the theft deterrent portion of Lojack.

It's up to you whether you'd have one installed. The biggest issue you need to look at is whether your area warrants having something like this. If you live in a high crime neighborhood, it may be advised to have it installed. If the car is going to be housed in a garage at night inside of a gated community, it's probably not going to be worth it.

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LoJack can only be installed by authorized installers. The price of installation is fairly consistent.

OnStar and other similar services offer a similar feature set, but are not necessarily as secure. OnStar now offers an aftermarket upfit system that can be installed into any car or truck (not available for motorcycles/scooters, while LoJack is). A "specially trained" dealer is required to install the OnStar FMV system though. It is much cheaper than LoJack, but my understanding is that all the electronics are in the special OnStar rear view mirror, so it would be very easy for any thief to simply rip the mirror out and throw it on the side of the road while leaving with your car.

Also, LoJack has a one-time cost, while OnStar has a monthly fee. The $695 price is the standard LoJack fee, and all dealers are required to sell it at that price, as I understand. If a dealer is charging more for it, they are overcharging, and you may wish to consult LoJack directly about that quote. The LoJack module is self contained and does not interact with any of the vehicle wiring. All the installer does is find a reasonably good location, generally behind an interior panel, remove the panel, install the module, verify it works, and replace the panel. It needs to be checked very 2 years or so, to have the batteries replaced if need and such, but otherwise the $695 cost is a lifetime of service.

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