In 2014 there were 60,000 cars stolen in Australia, or 4.5% of all cars, and that number is on the rise. While 80% of stolen cars are eventually recovered, most of them are badly damaged.
Having a car stolen is annoying, an invasion of your property and downright inconvenient. The end result is countless hours spent on calls to the police and insurance companies, as well as researching and purchasing a replacement vehicle. When your primary vehicle is stolen it could also mean lost time at work, time off the road if you’re self-employed, and lost money if you’re not correctly insured.
While most car theft victims point their fingers at the perpetrators, the truth is that, in most cases, car owners could be doing a lot more to keep their cars safe. So why don’t they? In most cases, they feel like their car is already protected.
The two most conflicting myths that exist around car thefts is that if you have an alarm and immobiliser you’re safe (not true) and that no one wants to steal your car if it’s old (actually, the opposite is true).
So basically, no matter what your situation, you need to know how to protect it against getting stolen. Here are our top tips:
HOW TO SECURE YOUR CAR
1. Know what thieves are looking for
If you know what the thieves are looking for, you’ll know how to avoid them. So what are they looking for, then? Here are the most common targets:
*Portable devices, cables and valuables: Visible portable electronic devices are attractive to thieves. They can easily be removed from the car, wiped and re-sold. Even just having a cable visible can suggest to a thief that there may be a device hidden in the glove box or boot. It’s best to not leave anything in your car in the first place but, if you have to, keep everything out of sight.
*Easy targets: Unlocked cars and cars left running is an obvious one but people still do it — often to duck into a shop or elsewhere. While they think they’ll just be a minute, that is more than enough time for a thief to make their move. Cars left in dark, isolated or concealed areas also make a thief’s life easier.
*Signs of neglect: Cars parked for long periods that collect road dust, spider webs and parking tickets show a thief that the owner is probably not around very often. If you’re going to leave your car unattended for a long period of time, leave it somewhere attended or remove the battery.
*Released handbrakes and wheels facing forward: It’s not unusual for cars to be stolen using a tow truck. Turning your wheels towards the curb and ensuring your handbrake is on will make this much more difficult.
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2. Fit your car with a security device.
Even if your car was factory-fitted with an alarm or immobiliser, this alone is not a deterrent to thieves. Adding additional security devices will only reduce the odds of your car being a statistic.
There are plenty of security devices on the market, ranging in price and ease of installation. Most are available from either an auto parts supplier like Supercheap Auto, or an electronics store such as JB Hi-Fi. If you’re not comfortable fitting the device yourself, your mechanic or local auto electrician will be able to help. Some stores will even provide a fitting service.
Before you purchase and install any device, it’s worth checking with your insurance company first to see whether it’s on their approved list. This will reduce your insurance premium.
Some common security devices include:
*Alarm: Probably the most common form of security, and very annoying if it won’t turn off. While thieves can easily disable most alarms, they still make your car more of a deterrent than one without an alarm. Look for an alarm that has additional features such as GPS tracking and an immobiliser for extra security.
*GPS tracking: GPS trackers are easily installed into a vehicle. They allow your car to be monitored and tracked by a central tracking company should your car be stolen. Take note, though: thieves are savvy to these devices and are easily able to disconnect the device if it’s found. The trick is to have the GPS tracker installed where it is not easily detectable. This may at least buy you some time to track down your car and report it to police prior to the thief spotting the GPS and destroying it. If you have a GPS tracker installed, don’t forget to record the details of the tracking company somewhere you can easily access should your car be stolen (such as your phone).
*VIN etching: Every car has a unique 16-digit code called a VIN. You will find this on your compliance plate under the bonnet and on your registration and insurance papers. One of the most common reasons for a vehicle to be stolen is for thieves to resell the parts for profit. If some of your vehicle’s parts can be identified with your VIN, this means the thieves have to replace those parts, making your car more expensive and difficult to resell than the next. DIY-etching kits are available and can be included on your windows.
*DataDots: These are thousands of tiny dots that are sprayed to the underside of your car fitted with your car’s unique VIN (Vehicle Identification Number). They are barely detectable by the naked eye, but are visible under UV light. It is extremely difficult to remove all of them, which prevents thieves from being able to change the identity of your car or sell its parts. The police are also able to identify the car’s owner if these are detected. Some newer cars are being fitted with this device as a standard inclusion, and DIY kits are available from DataDots for $199 online.
*Immobiliser: Otherwise known as a kill switch, this is a hidden electronic device that prevents your car from starting without its key. This means your car cannot be hot-wired.
*Steering lock: An oldie but a goody. While not impossible to break into, a steering lock will make stealing your car that much harder, leaving thieves to move on to easier targets.
3. Park your car in a garage
A garaged car is obviously harder to steal than one on the street. Yet many people will opt to leave their car on the street for convenience or will use their garage for another purpose. Opting to use your garage for your car will not only reduce the likelihood of your car being stolen, it will also better protect your car from wear and tear and improve its resale value.
The Finish Line: With car thefts on the rise, it makes sense to take the extra precautions to ensure you don’t become a statistic on the stolen cars list. Know the key things thieves look for, fit a security device and park your car in a garage whenever possible.
About the author
Janelle Gonzalez is the owner of Blue Toro, Australia’s first national mobile mechanic franchise, one of the fastest growing automotive repair businesses in the country. She is an advocate for the hard-working mechanics who want an ethical and profitable way to better support their families. Her mission is to disrupt the automotive repair industry by exposing the rip-offs and returning to old-fashioned service values that car owners want.