Whether you just drove off the lot last week with a brand new vehicle, or your car is a well-loved companion from days long past, auto theft and burglary are concerns for all drivers. These concerns are especially justified when you know that, according to the FBI, a motor vehicle is stolen in the U.S. every 44 seconds.
But rather than live in fear of theft, it makes more sense to learn a little about the patterns of thieves. In doing so, it’s often possible to avoid them altogether. In this post, we’ve collected some helpful advice that will reduce your chances of losing your vehicle.
Remember to Properly Secure Your Car
Whenever you leave your car unattended, there is a risk that a criminal will take advantage of the situation. There are a few steps you can take to mitigate this risk.
The first step is to shut all doors, windows, and sunroofs, and lock the vehicle. Even if you are just running into a store for five minutes, always lock your vehicle. While this may seem like common sense, a study carried out in 2007 by the National Insurance Crime Bureau and LoJack showed that 21% of drivers admitted to not locking their cars upon every instance of leaving them unattended. A thief is much more likely to enter your vehicle and possibly steal valuables or the car itself if it is easy to do so.
Never leave your keys in the ignition or the lock, even when refueling. Similarly, it is a good idea to keep spare car keys out of the vehicle at all times. If a thief can find your car keys, their life becomes a whole lot easier.
Finally, never leave your car running unless you are sitting inside the vehicle. Cars are frequently stolen while left running to warm up in the winter months, but they could just as easily be taken while you are buying a drink at a gas station.
Always Park Safely
Thieves are less likely to steal your vehicle or your belongings in a well-lit, heavily trafficked area. But beyond simply avoiding crime-heavy neighborhoods and darkened streets, drivers can seek out safer places to park.
There have been a number of cases in which cars are towed illegally and sold to scrap yards. Try to park in a lot that is monitored by guards or security cameras. These measures can serve to scare off criminals before any theft occurs. Should a thief still target your vehicle, it will be easier to track him down.
When parking at home, use a garage that can be locked. If unavailable, pull all the way into your driveway and consider investing in security cameras or motion detection systems.
Secure Your Personal Belongings
Often, a thief will be uninterested in stealing your entire vehicle, and will instead break into your vehicle to take your personal belongings. To prevent this from happening, make your valuables as hard to find as possible, and take them with you if you can.
Try to make your car appear as if there is nothing worth taking inside. Lock valuables that will fit inside the trunk, and do not leave anything in plain sight in the passenger compartment. Should you have larger items that need to remain where they are, consider covering them with jackets or loose cloth to disguise them as laundry or other, less valuable items.
Always take all bags, laptops, and other electronics with you (or hide them in the trunk) when you leave your vehicle. These are frequent targets of theft because they are easy to scoop up in a hurry. If none are readily visible, a thief will be less likely to break into your vehicle.
Prevent Your Car from Being Illegally Towed
To keep this from happening to you, be mindful of where and how you park your car.
Always remember to leave your vehicle in gear if it is a manual, and always set your parking brake. Turn your wheels all the way to one side. These two steps will make it more difficult to drag your car away.
Additionally, try to park between other vehicles or in a space that is difficult to access by larger vehicles. The tow trucks used in illegal towing are often makeshift vehicles, and do not have the advanced towing equipment of certified trucks designed to pull cars out of tight parking situations – such as being sandwiched between two other vehicles.
Install an Anti-Theft device
There are a number of different anti-theft systems available to the public. In order to ensure proper installation, it is a good idea to look for a system approved by the manufacturer of your vehicle, and that is available for installation at the dealer.
According to the FBI, a motor vehicle is stolen in the U.S. every 44 seconds.
Features such as audio alarms and flashing lights can act as deterrents, but do not prevent thieves from driving away in your vehicle. For complete peace of mind, consider installing one of a variety of systems that prevent your vehicle from being driven away. These include ignition-kill switches, fuel-kill switches, steering-wheel locks and other kinds of immobilizers.
Many of these systems utilize a warning light. If the car thief is the cautious type, they may see this light and choose a different target.
Should all these measures not be enough for your peace of mind, you can install a security system like OnStar or LoJack. These are GPS enabled, and allow tracking of your vehicle in the event it is stolen.
Stay Properly Insured
One final word of advice; no matter how prepared and cautious you are, sometimes luck just isn’t on your side and your vehicle may be stolen anyway. Should such an unfortunate circumstance arise, it is a great idea to have purchased a quality, full coverage insurance plan. Talk to your agent to see what coverage you are entitled to in the event of a theft. Some plans even go so far as to replace your vehicle with the same model, or even a model that is a year newer.
Vehicle theft and burglary is a common issue worldwide. In 2013, there were an estimated 697,979 motor vehicle thefts nationwide. But there are concrete steps you can take to prevent your car from being added to that statistic.
Remembering to secure your vehicle, safe parking habits, securing your belongings and using anti-theft devices are all important factors in ensuring your vehicle stays untouched, and hopefully unnoticed by some of the more unsavory characters in our society.