Car theft is nothing new, but that doesn’t mean that it’s any less terrible when it actually happens to you. Waking up in the morning to find your driveway empty, or coming out of a store to see nothing but an empty parking spot, will leave you with that sinking feeling in your stomach: your valuable property has been stolen.
It’s tough to know exactly how prevalent car theft is in South Africa, the best estimate puts about 1.6 million stolen cars on our roads. But only around 60% of stolen cars are resold on the local market. A further 30% are exported to other countries, and the remaining 10% are broken down into parts in order to be sold. Whatever that final number is, it’s pretty clear that there’s a solid chance of your vehicle being stolen.
Car Theft and You
Obviously, you don’t want your property to be stolen. But this isn’t just a question of the high cost of replacing a stolen vehicle, it’s also a question of insurance. If your car happens to be financed you might find that your insurance company won’t be paying the total amount that you still owe your bank (though if you have top up insurance, they might). And even if you don’t have a financed vehicle, you might find that a stolen car adds up to higher insurance premiums in the end. A recent study found that theft and hijacking make up about 15% of your insurance premium, a segment that you can expect to increase if you’re a victim of car theft.
All this comes down to trying to prevent car theft before it happens. So how exactly can you do that? We’re taking a look at some of the best ways that you can stop car theft, from car alarm systems to installing a car tracker. Don’t want to wake up to find your car gone? Then keep reading…
Location and Car Theft
Though it seems like a simplistic solution, the location where you park your vehicle has to be high on the list of ways you can prevent car theft. Certain places are just more dangerous than others. And that’s why insurance companies take into account where you live as well as whether you have a garage or locked parking space when they’re calculating your insurance premiums. Parking somewhere safe, whether that’s a home garage or a public, guarded garage, does lessen your chance of car theft. Yes, this can be a pricey solution to the problem, but chances are that if you rent a safe parking spot then your insurance premiums will go down. Even if you can’t do this, then do pay attention to the area that you park in. Locations that have plenty of people and are busy are obviously better choices than deserted streets, and you know which areas of your city are the dangerous ones…
Car Security Systems
Your first thought when you’re considering lessening the risk of car theft is probably that your vehicle has an alarm, so you’re safe. However, we have a bit of bad news for you. A study from the American Highway Loss Data Institute of over 73 million vehicles showed that audible car alarms had little to no effect on theft rates. Why? Probably because we’re all so used to hearing car alarms go off these days that few of us respond to them.
Does that make your car alarm system useless? Not necessarily. Whilst audible car alarms might not be so effective, there are alarm systems that send messages direct to police, or to your mobile phone, for example, and these are much more effective. Even if you have the regular audible alarm, a sticker on your window saying that your vehicle is alarmed might make the difference if the car parked next to you doesn’t have an alarm…
Stop Car Theft by Stopping the Car
Maybe a more practical solution to the car theft problem is disabling your vehicle altogether. Investing in a car immobiliser can be a good way of preventing theft. These come in a variety of forms, but the one you’re most likely to have is a metal bar that connects a pedal to the steering wheel making the car impossible to drive. Are these foolproof? No, of course not. Immobilisers can be sawn off, but just as with audible car alarms, a visible immobiliser may make the difference if the vehicle next to you doesn’t have one.
More high tech, modern vehicles immobilise in a slightly different way. Some models have entire pieces that can be taken out of them, the barrel that accepts your car key is the most usual solution. Others have removable radios and electronics, making a vehicle less tempting to thieves. These aren’t real solutions if you have an existing vehicle though, since these designs are installed at the factory.
Get More High Tech
Probably the newest tool on the anti car theft market is car tracking systems. These are a slightly different way of looking at the problem, since rather than actually preventing car theft they make it easier to locate your vehicle after it’s been stolen (though, of course, thieves are less likely to take a vehicle knowing that it has a tracking system inside).
Car Track is one such system, and it allows the company to track where exactly your vehicle is at any given time, meaning that if it’s stolen the police can be informed. Another option is DataDot, which places microscopic dots in 60 or so locations across your car, each dot containing unique information. This makes it difficult for thieves to disguise the identity of your car, since even if parts are replaced or a new paint job is done, the dots will still reveal your car’s true identity…
Don’t Forget the Small Aspects of Car Theft
There are also a handful of smaller things that you can do to help protect yourself. Anti smash and grab film on windows stops opportunistic thieves from grabbing your belongings and maybe even your vehicle itself. Doors should always be locked and windows left up (don’t forget the sunroof!). Don’t leave belongings in a vehicle, or at least leave them out of plain sight. Leaving the parking brake on, with your front tyres pointing to the kerb and the gearshift in park will make it tough to illegally tow your car.
Most of these things you probably know already, but one additional tip that you might not know is that you should always, always physically check that your doors are locked. Why? Because many people these days have remote car locking, that little key that beeps when you press a button and your doors automatically lock. Well equipped thieves can use a remote jamming signal to prevent this key from working, meaning you think you’ve locked your doors, but you really haven’t. Use your auto locking system if you wish, but you do also need to physically check that the doors are locked…
Car Theft Prevention: Tips and Tricks
Finally, there are a few sneaky little things that you can do that might help you to avoid car theft. One of these is to have your Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) engraved on each window of your car. This number is unique to your vehicle, and whilst it’s generally etched onto a couple of engine parts and the body of your car these marks are easily obscured by thieves. Having the number on all the windows might make thieves think twice, since it will mean that a potential thief will need to replace all the glass in your car to hide its stolen identity.
You should also think about NOT keeping the title to your vehicle in the car itself. Occasionally, car thieves evade the police by being able to produce the car’s title and registration information when stopped. This might not be possible if multiple drivers use a vehicle, but if it’s just you then consider keeping that title at home.
There are many ways to help prevent car theft. The bad news is that car theft is relatively common, but the good news is that a lot of car theft is opportunistic. If your car looks well protected (alarm stickers, visible immobiliser, VIN etched on windows etc.) then there’s a fair chance that a thief will just move on to the next vehicle in line and leave yours alone. Of course, there’s no way of completely protecting your car, unless you’re willing to spend 24 hours a day inside it, but with a little forward thinking, you can definitely lessen your chances of being a car theft victim.
Main Subject: Car theft
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