It can take a thief under 30 seconds to steal a car. In 2021, about 80,000 vehicles across Canada were reported stolen – an increase of 1% from the previous year. With stolen vehicle trends on the rise, it’s never a bad idea to take extra precautions to ensure your vehicle is safe.
From installing anti-theft devices to taking simple steps like setting your emergency brake, there are a number of things you can do to help prevent your car from being stolen. Let’s take a look at some techniques.
1. Protect your VIN
If it isn’t already, have your Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) etched into the windows or other visible parts of your car. The VIN allows police officers to easily identify stolen vehicles, so if your car is taken, it can be returned to you when it’s discovered. Having a visible VIN also makes your car less attractive to thieves as they will need to take extra steps to ready the car for resale. And don’t forget to keep a copy of your VIN at home – having it readily accessible allows you to give it to the police and your insurance provider easily, should it be required.
2. Park in a private garage
This should be obvious, but a private garage adds a great deal of security for your parked vehicle. If you have the ability to lock the garage, even better. A private parking garage ensures your vehicle is out of sight, and should thieves want to steal it, they have an additional obstacle in their way. The longer it takes for criminals to access your car and the more barriers standing in their way, the less likely it is that they will target your vehicle.
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3. Protect your smart key fob
Electronic key fobs are a convenient way to lock and start your car. Unfortunately, they also make stealing your vehicle really easy for thieves. And the worst part is that thieves don’t even need your physical key fob to steal your vehicle.
Key fobs work by sending a low-frequency signal to your car’s computer. This signal tells the car to start the engine, unlock the doors and so on. By using a relay box, criminals can pick up the signal emitted by your car, then send it to a second relay box beside your vehicle. This will trigger the internal computer, and thieves can get away in a matter of seconds.
There are a few ways to avoid such a theft, like keeping your key fob far away from your car, inside a metal container like a coffee tin, or even wrapping your key in aluminium foil. Such steps prevent the frequency from being transmitted, and therefore impossible to pick up.
4. Use port blockers
As mentioned above, your car’s computer receives a low-frequency signal from a key-fob in order to operate the vehicle remotely. This computer can be accessed by a port (think of it as a USB port for your vehicle). Criminals can plug into this port to reprogram the key fob, so should they sell the vehicle, they can make it only operate with a new fob they provide. Criminals can also perform some of the vehicle’s operations by using this port. Port blockers are “plugs” you insert into the port that can only be unlocked through a coded key that you possess. They are a great idea if you own a luxury vehicle or one of the top 10 stolen vehicles in your region.
5. Use a steering wheel lock
A steering wheel lock is a device that goes back to the 80s, but the fact that they’re still around just shows that they work. Using a steering wheel lock is a great – and affordable – way to deter criminals. When installed, the device makes it impossible to turn the steering wheel, and therefore un-drivable. Couple this with any of the other modern anti-theft technologies, and thieves will think twice before trying to steal your car.
6. Use your parking brake
Not only are tow trucks used when cars are illegally parked or broken down, but they’re also used in auto theft. A tow truck can pull up on a vehicle, lift it up, and drive off with it before anyone knows what happened. Engaging your parking brake won’t necessarily stop theft by a tow truck, but it will definitely slow the process down. Parking brakes typically lock the rear tires of a car, so if your car is backed into a parking spot against a wall or other obstruction, it’s that much more difficult for thieves to tow it away. Thieves often look for the easiest targets so as to avoid detection, so this is a simple way to help prevent vehicle theft.
TIP: If you have a driveway, be sure to back into it if you have a rear-wheel drive or frontwards if you have a front-wheel-drive vehicle – this also makes it more difficult to tow your car. Similarly, you should turn your wheels to the side. And regardless of where you park, ensuring that it’s a well-lit area helps protect your car.
7. Beware of new technologies
You might think it’s great that you can find your phone or wallet using a remote GPS device, but be aware that criminals can use these same devices for nefarious purposes. A form of vehicle theft that is gaining prominence involves attaching a tracker to a desirable vehicle. Criminals can then observe exactly where the car is parked and strike at an opportune time. If you want to be cautious that no such device has been planted on your vehicle, you can perform a quick check of common areas where trackers are hidden. These include under bumpers, in-wheel wells, inside front grates, and behind gas caps.
Car theft claims: replacement cost vs. actual cash value
If you have actual cash value insurance for your car, you might be in for a surprise when your insurance company cuts you the cheque for your stolen vehicle. Actual cash value policies cover the replacement cost less depreciation – factors like age and use. So if you purchased a car for $20,000, and the adjuster calculates the actual cash value as only being $10,000, you’ll only receive the cheque for that lesser amount. When you go out to buy a new car, you’ll likely find yourself unable to replace the vehicle you owned with the same make and model as you’ll have to pay much more out of pocket.
If you have a replacement cost policy, your insurance provider will give you the money you require to replace the same make, model and year of vehicle that was stolen. In these instances, there is no depreciation factored in. If you drive a vehicle that is targeted for theft more frequently than others, you should consider getting a policy that has replacement cost coverage. Be sure to compare auto quotes using Ratehub.ca's car insurance calculator as well so you know you’re getting the best deal.
The bottom line
Insurance claims are time-consuming, stressful, and ultimately lead to you having to pay higher premiums. The best way to avoid these headaches is to take proactive steps to prevent your vehicle from being stolen. From the simple – like leaving business cards in your vehicle to help police identify it if it is stolen – to the more complex, such as installing surveillance cameras inside your car, every step you take can help lower the risk of your car being stolen. By implementing anti-theft measures into your vehicle, you may be eligible for reduced insurance premiums as well. But above all, to find your cheapest rate, be sure to compare car insurance quotes with us. today