10 ways to prevent your car being stolen

Simon Heptinstall 8 November 2021

Having your four-wheels stolen is a worry for any car owner. Here are the best ways to prevent theft 

Car theft is a huge problem in the UK—with 90,000 vehicles being taken from their owners in the last 12 months. And that’s despite general crime plummeting during the pandemic.

This means a car is currently disappearing on average every six minutes.

No wonder car owners can feel their precious vehicle is always under threat. One of your most expensive possessions can spend much of its life on full view to any passing thief.

Thefts and break-ins can be very different. Some cars are taken by opportunists—maybe when the owner left a window open or the keys on view. Others might be stolen to order by a professional car thief. They are often looking for a particular type of car to steal, then take it abroad quickly where it can’t be traced.

Whatever type of car you own and whatever type of theft you are trying to avoid there are plenty of things you can do to protect your vehicle. Here are ten of the most effective anti-theft measures:

1.  One of the simplest precautions is to park to avoid being towed away. Many cheeky thieves use unmarked tow trucks to simply drive up and pull away a car they fancy (this has even happened to the writer of this piece). Always try to leave your wheels turned in towards the kerb with your car in gear. This makes it harder for tow-away thieves.

As the vast majority of car thefts occur after dark also try to leave your car parked under streetlights or in busy, well-lit areas.

2. The threat isn’t just about your car disappearing. Break-ins can be as much hassle to reclaim, report and fix. Deter casual break-ins by hiding valuables and gadgets. A portable sat-nav or connected smartphone is a temptation to a smash-and-grab thief. Even if the item isn’t expensive—the cost of fixing the broken window will be.

Also, fit inexpensive locking wheelnuts to protect your alloy wheels. Otherwise it’s very easy for a thief to slide a portable jack under your car and steal a set of alloy wheels. They’ll have a quick money-maker—you’ll have a car with no wheels.

3.  Always lock your car of course—but try to get into a habit of trying the door handle afterwards as a double-check. Occasionally remote devices don’t work as they should—so it’s always worth checking again.

A car fob

Remote car fobs might not always work, so it's worth trying the door handle to see if it's locked

4. Remember it is illegal to leave your car idling in the road to warm it on a frosty morning while you pop back indoors. If you leave your car running like that and someone jumps in and drives it away your insurance company is unlikely to pay up.

5. Be conscious of where you leave car keys or fob devices. Don’t ever leave them in sight. Never put them on the car roof while loading supermarket shopping or on the fuel pump while filling up.

These are all opportunities for thieves. Even if your keys are inside your house next to your front door they are vulnerable. Thieves often fish through letterboxes for keys. They may even knock at the door and pretend to be tradesmen but are really looking for a chance to take keys.

6. If you have a keyless remote system beware that thieves can now hack into them, open your car and start the engine. With a common relay device thieves pick up the signal from your remote key even if it is inside your house.

The way to defeat this is simple though: keep the key in an electronic security pouch or box, sometimes called a Faraday pouch. These cost a few pounds from motor accessory retailers.

7. Sometimes a simple old-fashioned physical device protects you as much as the most sophisticated. Try a sturdy steel lock for the steering wheel, gearstick or pedals or a brightly coloured wheel clamp.

These will suggest it’s going to be hard work stealing your car and will deter all but the most determined thieves.

8. For most car thefts less than three-quarters of owners ever see their car again. Have your VIN, the unique vehicle identification number, etched onto each of the windows so your car can be identified and returned, even if given new number plates.

Similarly, use a tracker system. Displaying the tracker logo may stop some thefts and a digital tracker vastly increases your chances of getting it back.

9. Don’t keep all your vehicle documents such as the log book in your car. It makes it easier for a thief to sell your car and perhaps use them to make you a victim of identity fraud.

10. Finally, check you are fully insured. The basic legal minimum insurance cover is purely third party. This doesn’t cover you against car break-in or theft at all. It normally only costs a few pounds more to extend the cover to theft.

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