Car theft is a growing concern across the country, with stories about the problem regularly popping up in news outlets from B.C. to Nova Scotia. In addition to the major inconvenience a stolen vehicle has on its owner, it is also a major expense. According to the Insurance Bureau of Canada, auto theft costs Canadians close to a billion dollars a year – that includes costs to repair or replace vehicles, police and court costs, and millions more for correctional services related to criminal convictions.
You can’t always prevent a theft, but you can make the thief’s job as difficult as possible.
I’ve spoken with several people who deal with auto theft claims for us here at Allstate Canada over the years. They all agree that while you can’t always stop a thief who is determined to steal a particular car, there are ways drivers can make their cars less appealing to thieves and more difficult targets. Here are some of the best tips I’ve heard to help protect your vehicle from theft:
1. Lock it up: As simple as it sounds, most thefts are crimes of opportunity, and a vehicle owner can minimize the number of opportunities for someone to steal their car by following preventative measures such as locking the doors and rolling up windows. A thief looking to take a car is more likely to try the one whose owner was kind enough to complete the first step.
2. Don’t give them the keys: Never leave your keys in the vehicle, even if you’re just stepping away for a minute or the vehicle is locked. Try to avoid leaving your keys with parking attendants and other strangers. Key fobs with push-button starts are handy, but leaving the actual keys in the car leaves it vulnerable. Also, avoid marking your keys with your name and address. While labeling your keys might help a good Samaritan return your lost keys, someone with less sincere motives will know exactly where to look for your parked car. It’s also becoming more common for car thieves to break into homes in order to steal vehicle keys, so when you’re at home, never leave keys in plain sight.
3. Park Smart: If you have a garage, use it. It’s easier to take a car that’s out on the street, and – as per point one – you don’t want to make the job easier. This means keeping the garage closed and the door to your house locked while you’re at it. If you don’t have your own garage, consider renting one. If you must park outside, be sure to park in well-lit areas with pedestrian traffic. If your choice is between an attended and an unattended parking lot, choose the former. Another tip is to park with the front end of your vehicle facing an obstacle, like a wall or a curb, and turn the wheels toward the curb, then lock the steering. If you have two vehicles, park the less expensive vehicle behind the more expensive one when in the driveway.
4. Keep Valuables Hidden: The goal here is to help make your vehicle a less tempting target. If a thief sees an iPod, detachable navigation system, and a pair of designer shades lying on the passenger’s seat, the vehicle will become more appealing. Also, don’t wait until you reach your destination to hide your valuables. If someone watches you fill up your trunk with expensive items and then walk away, you’ve just made your car an attractive target.
5. Get the VIN etched on all windows: If your vehicle identification number (VIN) was professionally etched on each window or other major parts of the car, not only would it allow the vehicle to be traced and identified more easily after recovery, but it also makes the car less attractive to steal.
6. Consider an Alarm or Security System: If the simple tactics above don’t sound like enough, a good car alarm should help deter thieves. These may include:
- Warning Devices: Such as audible car alarms, tire locks or deflators, and window decals warning of your security system.
- Immobilizing Devices: These make it impossible for a thief to operate the vehicle. For example, a kill switch is a hidden switch that cuts off the flow of electricity or fuel to the engine. Or, a fuse cut-off can short-circuit the car’s electrical system, preventing it from starting.
7. Look into a Tracking System: While these devices may not prevent a theft, they are designed to help locate and recover a stolen vehicle quickly. They will emit a signal that allows police or a monitoring service to keep tabs on where the vehicle goes. Self-tracking GPS units are also available and allow vehicle owners to place devices (sometimes small tags) inside the vehicle, allowing them to locate within seconds where the car is now and where it’s headed. While this technology makes it handy to find your car in a large parking lot, never go after a stolen car by yourself. Always report the information you have gathered to the police.
While you may not always be able to prevent the theft, by taking some precautions, you can make the thief’s job as difficult as possible.
Ever had your car stolen? Do you have any tips to add to the list? Please tell us about it in the comments below.