With car break-ins on the rise, keeping your belongings protected is becoming more important. A secure vehicle safe provides an extra level of security and peace of mind, and James Scoltock tested the best
Honeywell digital security box
The largest and most expensive safe on test. There’s enough space in this security box for all manner of items including laptops and mobile printers, meaning you don’t have to worry if you need to leave your mobile office in the car. Its dimensions are 135mm tall, 445mm wide and 325mm deep, weighing in at 4.1kg.
The box is constructed from two layers of steel with a fire-resistant material in the middle and has a foam padded floor to help avoid damage to your belongings.
Set-up is a little more complicated that the other units tested. You have to initially open the safe using the key lock, insert four AA batteries, (thankfully they’re supplied), close the lid and relock using the key.
You then have to input the pre-set factory code to re-open the lid, press the red reset button, the LED on the lid will then flash orange. You then enter your own five-digit code twice and it flashes green to indicate it’s been successfully reprogrammed.
It’s a bit time-consuming, but once it’s done you don’t have to think about it again, and should you commit the ultimate sin and forget your code there are two keys supplied in case of emergency.
Because of the Honeywell unit’s size, it has to go in the boot, which limits where you can tether it using the supplied 1,400mm long, 4mm diameter steel cord.
It could have benefited from some rubber soles on the underside to stop it sliding around; that’s something anyone buying the safe might want to consider purchasing because the sleek metal case enjoyed sliding around all over the place when on the move.
Master Lock digital combination lock box
This small digital combination safe gives you enough room to keep personal items secure while you’re away from your vehicle, but also has a useful handle should you need to take them with you.
Setting up the unit is easy. When you pull the safe out of the box, use one of the keys to unlock it, insert four AA batteries, (annoyingly not included), and set up a memorable code which can be anything from one to eight digits in length.
Interestingly, there’s also the option of inputting a secondary code – perhaps useful if a colleague needs access. And should you forget your code, two keys are included.
At 254mm wide, 201mm deep and 74mm tall there’s easily enough space for phones, wallets, satnavs and other such items, but it does make it more difficult to find a big enough location for it in the car.
It’s too big for the glovebox, and will only fit under the seat of some cars, while it seems strange to need to put such a small item in the boot.
But it’s security rather than placement that is most important, and the 1mm-thick steel construction means it’s incredibly secure, while the 1.5kg weight gives extra reassurance.
The tethering cable is 880mm long, but at 4mm in diameter is smaller than that of the Carsafe. But as with that unit, it isn’t necessarily the size of the cable, but what it is tethered to that is the issue.
Finding a spot where it can’t be ripped out will be the main concern, but then the fact it’s tethered at all should be enough to discourage all but the most determined thieves.
This is the smallest of the safes on test, which makes it easy to store out of view from possible thieves. At 210mm wide, 162mm deep, 69mm tall and only 1.28kg, it’s possible to place the unit in a glovebox or underneath a seat, but its compact exterior dimensions also mean that the size and number of items you can safely keep secure is limited.
The Carsafe is useful enough for wallets, passports and mobile phones for example, but anything bigger and you’ll be struggling.
That said, the unit is undeniably sturdy; the steel outer shell is 1.2mm thick and the aluminium tray is 2mm, which should give enough protection for whatever items you choose to keep in it while you’re away from your vehicle.
The weak point of this safe – and it’s the same for all products – is what you can tether it to.
The multi-strand, 5mm diameter steel cable is strong enough, but if you attach it to a weak point in the car it won’t take much to yank the safe free and for you to lose your valuables. The manufacturer recommends putting the safe under the seat and using the frame rail as a secure option.
However, one area in which the Carsafe does have an advantage over its competitors is its sheer simplicity. There are no codes to remember, no combinations of keys and numbers to remember and no batteries to replace.
Place your items in the safe, plug the tethering cable in the hole next to the lock, turn the key and you’re done. There’s also a small opening on the integral tray so you can feed a cable into the safe, allowing you to charge your devices while you’re away should you need to.
The number of vehicle break-ins rose in 2016, with almost 250,000 incidents reported to police, an increase of 4% over 2015.
Having your car broken into causes no end of headaches; not only do you lose valuable possessions, but there’s also the insurance claim to get your car repaired. Which makes investing in a secure vehicle safe a highly sensible idea.
There are plenty on the market meeting everyone’s budget, but in this test there’s an obvious winner: the Honeywell digital security box.
It offers the greatest level of security, the largest storage space and is fire-resistant, helping offset the lofty price compared with the other units on test.
It isn’t 100% perfect, and there are issues with it, namely the fact it slides around the boot because of the shiny steel case, but this is an easily solved problem. And of course, tethering it to a secure point in your vehicle is a challenge because it has to sit in the boot, but tethering is an issue for all of the safes here.
If you can slip the steel cables around an Isofix point, or as suggested, a seat rail, then the security of the safes is increased dramatically. But there again, simply seeing a safe with a steel tether might be enough to deter a wannabe thief.
Both the Carsafe and Master Lock units are useful products, but their smaller sizes mean that for someone constantly on the road, that usefulness is limited. How often do people need to leave their phone and wallet in the car?