Most of us don’t think much about preventing car theft until it happens to us or to someone we know. According to the FBI, $6 billion was lost to motor vehicle theft in 2017. The average dollar loss per theft was over $7,700. One motor vehicle theft was reported every 40.9 seconds. And while it is true that vehicle thefts have been trending downward, due largely to the use of sophisticated anti-theft systems and the increasing availability of keyless entry, car thieves are continually coming up with new high-tech ways of separating owners from their autos.
For many vehicle owners, their automobile is a necessary part of their daily lives. The following tips might help keep your car safe and might also help you to be prepared for what to do should you fall victim to vehicle theft.
1. Choose Your Vehicle Wisely
According to CBS News, the 10 most stolen vehicles in the US in 2018 were the Cadillac Escalade, Ford F-250, Chevrolet Silverado 1500, Ford F-450, GMC Sierra 1500, Chrysler 300 Ford F-350, Chevrolet Avalanche 1500, GMC Yukon, and Chrysler 300 HEMI. Owning one of these vehicles is just asking for trouble. On the other hand, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s Highway Loss Data Institute reports the top 10 least stolen vehicles: Audi A6, Mercury Mariner, Chevrolet Equinox, Volkswagen CC, Chevrolet Equinox, Lexus RX 350, Saturn V, Chevrolet Aveo, BMW 5 Series, and Mini Cooper Clubman. While these may be older models, one thing some of them have in common is a good anti-theft system. Others on the least stolen list are there for the apparent reason that they are just unpopular. But consider that such vehicles can usually be purchased at a lower price and will often still provided reliable transportation while incurring little risk of being stolen.
2. Have Your Vehicle Security Systems Checked
Have your vehicle security systems checked for proper function during regular vehicle maintenance or after any major vehicle repair. Certified technicians like those at Stewart's Donnybrook Automotive in Tyler can ensure that all original equipment and aftermarket security systems are performing properly.
3. Where You Park Your Car or Truck Matters
Although auto theft is a problem in many rural areas of East Texas, your chances of having your car stolen are greatest in urban locations. Always park in a well-lit area as any secluded dark place makes your vehicle a more likely target. Avoid parking where large groups of cars are clustered together over extended periods of time. Shopping centers, open access parking garages, and large apartment complex parking lots are all places where car theft is more likely to occur. Try to park near building entrances and in view of parking lot security cameras whenever possible. When at your home, always park in your garage if you have one rather than leaving your vehicle in the driveway or out parked off the street. Always keep your garage closed and the garage door locked if so equipped. If you must park in your driveway, consider a home security system with cameras to monitor your home’s outside parking areas or install outdoor lighting controlled by motion detectors.
4. Keep It Locked
High tech auto theft gets lots of attention in the media, but the simple truth is that most stolen vehicles were left unlocked and often with the keys or fob key left inside. Always keep your car, truck, or SUV locked, even when parked at your home and in your own garage. The chance of you having your locked vehicle stolen from inside of your home’s closed and locked garage is statistically insignificant. Wherever you park, always check that all doors are locked before you walk away.
Never leave a vehicle running when it is unattended. Make sure all windows and any sunroof, if so equipped, are closed if you’re not inside the car. And don’t hide a spare key inside or outside of your car. Getting locked out of your vehicle is not near so inconvenient as having it stolen. And if anyone else has keys to your car, get them back as soon as they no longer have a need.
5. Don’t Leave Valuables in Your Vehicle
Never leave any valuable items out in plain sight to temp passing thieves. Secure any such items in your vehicle’s trunk if so equipped and keep the interior of your vehicle empty whenever possible, always taking any purses and cell phones with you after you park. Consider that any items left your car, even if secured out of sight, will likely be lost if the vehicle is stolen and so try to leave any such valuables at home when you can.
6. Increase Vehicle Security
Consider investing in an anti-theft system if one is not already installed. Even something as simple and inexpensive as a steering wheel locking device can often deter thieves. Aftermarket car alarms and vehicle immobilizers or kill switches are available, as are electronic tracking systems that will aid law enforcement in locating and recovering your car if it is stolen. Some anti-theft devices can even save you money on auto insurance by qualifying for discounts. If your current auto insurance policy doesn’t include coverage for theft of your vehicle and of its contents, ask your insurance provider about an upgrade. Depending on your vehicle’s value, the value of the contents you typically carry, and your own risk factors for auto theft, it could end up being money well spent.
7. If You Think Your Car is Stolen
First, make sure your vehicle has really been stolen. Could you have parked it somewhere other than where you recall like on a different floor of a multi-level parking garage. Could it have been towed? Most parking lots and garages display a phone number to call to inquire about towed vehicles or check a website such as FindMyTowedCar.com for information.
Once you are reasonably sure your car was actually stolen, contact local law enforcement and complete a stolen vehicle report. They will ask for information such as the make, model, year, color, license plate number, and VIN. If your car is equipped with OnStar installed, you may be able learn its GPS location and have them remote block the vehicle’s ignition to prevent it from starting.
After the police report is completed, contact your auto insurance company. They may want to know the location of all keys and the names of anyone who had access to the car along with list of any personal property in the car when it was stolen. If the car is leased or financed, the theft should be reported to the lease provider or lender. If your vehicle is ever stolen, having this information handy and available could assist and speed vehicle recovery as well as recovery of any valuable contents.