What’s a Passive Disabling Device?

WRITTEN BY: Julia Matseikovich


There’s nothing more frustrating than a stolen car. Anti-theft devices are a good vehicle feature if you live in an area with high car theft rates. With various anti-theft devices on the market, you may wonder which option is best. This article breaks down passive disabling devices and what they offer car owners. 

What’s a passive disabling device?

As its name states, a passive disabling device is an anti-theft device that requires no action from the car owner. An active anti-theft device is the opposite and requires your activation every time. 

Types of passive disabling devices

Passive disabling device types include a car alarm that immediately activates after your car is off, the key is out of the ignition, and the doors close. 

Depending on the make and model, your car may have a passive disabling device such as PASS Lock and a chip-enhanced key that prevents the vehicle from starting without it. 

How do they work?

Unlike active disabling devices, such as a car alarm you set, a passive disabling device works automatically. It sets itself when the doors close and the key is out of the ignition. Some cars automatically lock car doors when the key travels a certain distance away from the vehicle. 

The main point of a passive disabling device is that it immobilizes the car’s engine. 

Who needs a passive disabling device?

You should consider a passive alarm for your car if you were the victim of car theft in the past. It’s also a good idea to arm your vehicle with a passive disabling device if you live in California, Texas, or Florida, which rank the highest in the nation for car thefts, per the Insurance Information Institute. 

College students, drivers of high-value vehicles, and residents of the worst cities for car theft should also consider a passive anti-theft option. Kia and Hyundai owners are susceptible to car theft and should consider passive disabling devices. 

What other types of anti-theft devices are available?

types of antitheft devices

The automobile accessory market includes several other types of anti-theft devices for every make and model vehicle. The options vary in function, but all help deter and prevent theft. 

Active anti-theft devices

Activate anti-theft devices are any security device that requires you to activate and doesn’t arm the car automatically. An anti-theft device is ideal for anyone who worries about car theft. 

  • Steering wheel locks (such as “The Club”)
  • Brake locks
  • Tire locks
  • A push-button alarm system 

Tracking devices

A tracking device features GPS and can show your vehicle’s location, pinpointing its exact coordinates on a map on your phone or computer. They don’t actively help your car if a thief tries to break in, but they can help you locate it after a theft. 

Tracking devices also encompass vehicle recovery systems, which use a small device hidden in your car to transmit a signal. The transmitter interacts with GPS and tracking technology to help police locate your vehicle. 

How anti-theft devices affect your car insurance premiums

An anti-theft device for your car can help lower your car insurance premium. Many insurance carriers offer discounts if a policyholder uses an anti-theft device on a vehicle. Insurance companies reward customers if they have anti-theft devices or features on their vehicles because they have a lowered chance of car theft. 

Discounts vary by insurer, with  3% to 25% the typical savings, with higher savings offered for passive anti-theft devices. 

More car theft prevention tips

car theft prevention tips

In addition to adding a passive disabling device or another anti-theft device, you can make smart decisions to reduce your theft risk. The following are easy tips that anyone can follow:

  • Use a stencil to etch your car’s VIN on every window to deter thieves from stealing 
  • Always park in a well-lit and public area when possible
  • Never leave valuables or shopping bags visible 
  • Lock your car doors every time you exit your car
  • Pay attention to your surroundings when you’re in an unfamiliar area, especially if you notice loiterers
  • Always take your keys with you, and never leave your car running, not even for a “minute”


How do I know if my car has a passive anti-theft device?

You can find out what anti-theft features your car features by reading your owner’s manual or by looking up your make and model on the manufacturer’s website.

If buying a new car, you can ask the dealer about any included anti-theft options. Some passive anti-theft devices are apparent, such as if your car automatically locks its doors after you step away with the key. 

What are the three categories of anti-theft devices?

Anti-theft devices for vehicles include passive, active, and tracking categories. Each category focuses on the way to protect your car against theft. 

What qualifies as an anti-theft device?

An anti-theft device is anything that immobilizes or prohibits vehicle theft. Steering wheel locks, kill switches, and armor collars are examples of anti-theft devices. Anti-theft options include systems, such as a GPS tracker, that help locate your stolen car. 

Can thieves break into cars without setting off your alarm?

Yes. Car thieves are crafty and may break into your vehicle without triggering an alarm. Whether they can steal or ransack your car without tripping the alarm depends on your car’s features and anti-theft devices. It’s common for thieves to break a car window to break into a vehicle because most alarms don’t link to a window. 

What anti-theft device can lower your insurance premium?

Various anti-theft devices can lower your car insurance premium. The discounts available depend on your insurance company and the type of anti-theft feature you add. A GPS tracking system, for example, typically gives a higher discount than a loud alarm. 

Find cheap car insurance

Having a passive disabling device might qualify you for insurance discounts. However, to save the most money, you should compare rates. Use our online quote tool to review rates from several companies in minutes.

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