Car Security: The Definitive Guide for 2019

By Tony Partaux | GPS Trackers

Jun 01
Car Security in 2017

Car Security – The Definitive Guide for 2019

Even though for the most part public transportation is available, traffic congestion seems to only get worse every day and even though gas prices are through the roof, we are still heavily dependent on our vehicles for both casual and business commutes. Living without our 4-wheel lovechild is literally unthinkable so you can just imagine the affect it has on our lives in the event it is stolen!

When a crime is committed against you, be it auto theft or a break-in, it is only natural to feel a range of emotions – shock, anger and fear just to name a few. It goes further than the fact that your vehicle was stolen, but that you were targeted and that someone quite possibly saw your vehicle, observed your movements and waited for the right time to steal it.

This horrible realisation doesn’t just have an impact on adults, but on kids as well as they live in the fear of thinking that a similar situation could have affected something much dearer to them. There’s more to it than that – it is unfortunate that even though most of us are aware of the spiralling rates of car theft, we still consciously or carelessly leave valuables in our vehicles be it a GPS Navigation System, golf bag with a signature pair of Callaway’s or even something as personal as items made by our children.

Emotions can also run wild especially when you’ve put in some serious thought, effort and cash into personalising/modifying your vehicle, which if truth be told would probably be impossible to replace.

Apart from the emotional impact, inconvenience is something that we all face owing to the simple fact that a car is a basic modern day amenity that can disrupt your everyday schedule. Without your own vehicle to take you at your own time from point A to B, you will have to work with public transportation schedules or rely on friends, which can be very inconvenient.

When it comes to insurance, you probably already know that some insurance companies offer great discounts for having your vehicle fitted with one or more anti-theft devices such as a GPS vehicle tracker. But filing an insurance claim is a rather lengthy and daunting process to say the least.

After getting in touch with the police and having them complete their end of the process, you have to worry and wait with anxiety to hear back from your insurance company as to how much they’re willing to cover. Some car owners are shocked to learn that their insurance company refused to cover the value of the car stolen so be sure to read the fine print when you sign up for a policy.

What’s more concerning is the staggering rate of car thefts across the globe, and if you aren’t familiar with the numbers – here’s a quick lowdown.

Preventing Car Theft

Car Theft Statistics in Australia

Getting to the numbers, more than 52,000 registered vehicles were stolen in 2014 alone, with more than 36,000 vehicles identified as short term thefts (recovered vehicles), and more than 16,000 described as theft for profit. Delving a bit deeper, the average age of the cars stolen was about 13 years, where 70 percent of short term thefts were recovered within 1 week (this doesn’t imply no damage done). Thefts where the vehicles weren’t recovered cost the country more than an alarming $100 million.

And it gets worse for motorcycle owners, which only account for 4 percent in registrations, but make up for 16 percent of all vehicle thefts.

An average of 140 cars are stolen each day in Australia, which compared to other countries is significantly high. One might assume that high value vehicles are a thief’s favourite, but statistics prove otherwise.

The data reveals that 44 percent of all short term thefts were low value vehicles, while 2 percent were attributed to cars over $50,000 in value. There are a number of good reasons for this, starting with the fact that low value vehicles are more in number, and in most cases do not have the anti-theft technology found in higher priced vehicles. Moving to the “profit motivated thefts” category, light/passenger commercial vehicles accounted for the majority of vehicle thefts at 64 percent, but motorcycles topped that list with 28 percent of all thefts for profits.

Ever wonder how Thieves steal your Car? Let’s break it down for you!

If someone asked you what is the most common method of stealing a vehicle – you’d probably say hot-wiring, disabling the alarm system, breaking into the vehicle or something of the likes! Wrong, and quite surprisingly, it’s with your own keys readily available. Here a quick breakdown of the car theft methods by the percentages.

Keys Stolen during a Burglary (37 Percent)

You may have several valuables in your home that interest enthusiastic burglars, but did you know that your car keys are high up on that list? In fact, many thieves break into houses with the sole intention of stealing car keys. After a spate of reports, many reputed and leading publications even advise that you take your keys to bed when you sleep rather than leaving them in plain site on the table. This not only gives thieves an unmatched opportunity to store things from the burglary, but also a rather effortless way to get away with them.

Keys left in your Vehicle (18 Percent)

Yes, there are still people that leave their keys in their vehicles on short errands such as when making a quick stop at the ATM or grabbing something real quick from the store. But considering that it takes an opportunist thief just a few seconds to get in and make way with your vehicle, this is hardly a good practice.

Hot-Wiring (14% Percent)

Although this is a rather old method of stealing vehicles, it is less common today owing to factory installed immobilisers. However, older models or those without immobilisers are still susceptible to this method of car theft.

Other Methods

Some thieves may even note down the VIN and registration of your vehicle and may unscrupulously approach a dealer to get duplicate keys made. Next is taking your vehicle without consent where someone you know uses your car without your permission. Carjacking is a scary one, and is where you’re threatened to give up your keys as part of a burglary. This doesn’t happen often, but it’s worth mentioning – some thieves use a tow truck to steal your vehicle, most often by first breaking into your vehicle and releasing the parking brake.

When and Where – Location and Timing of Vehicle Thefts

Car thefts are generally more frequent between the months of October and March, and considerably less during the Winter months of June, July, August and September. When it comes to timing, most vehicles are stolen in the late afternoon and evening between 4pm and midnight with Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays being peak days. Most people park their vehicles in well lit areas on the street because they believe that their car is more likely to be stolen off the street. But fact is that more than half of the vehicles stolen in Australia were from the home, with 27 percent being off the street. Whenever possible, is it a good practice to park your vehicle behind gates, in a garage or in a secure parking area.

Improving your Car Security

Car Theft Statistics United States

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) reports that the number of vehicle thefts in the USA jumped up 3.1 percent between 2014 and 2015, which was 1.9 percent lower between 2014 and 2013. With regards to the value and number of cars stolen and you better be ready for this one – the number clocked in at a whopping $4.9 billion, with the average value of a motor vehicle stolen being just over $7000. On a brighter note, and a big reason why Americans have unfortunately stopped worry about their vehicle being stolen, is the fact that auto theft has been trending downwards for the past two decades or so since their peak in 1991.

But despite the constant reduction in car theft over the past 20 years, and we really shouldn’t be telling you this, but thieves are always trying to be ahead of the game by finding new ways to steal vehicles such as switching VIN numbers or acquiring smart keys. Motorcycle theft was also on the rise with a 6 percent jump in 2015 from a year earlier.

How do you know if the area you live is plagued by car theft – we’ll tell you!

Here are the Top 10 Cities in the U.S., in order from most car thefts:​

  • 1. Albuquerque, New Mexico
  • 2. Modesto, California
  • 3. San Francisco, California
  • 4. Bakersfield, California
  • 5. Stockton, California
  • 6. Milwaukee, Wisconsin
  • 7. Fresno, California
  • 8. Spokane, Washington
  • 9. San Jose, California
  • 10. Seattle, Washington

If you live in any of those areas, best advice is to move house (we’re just kidding) – but you should definitely take extra precautions to secure your vehicle. And if you must know what the most frequently stolen passenger vehicle was – the Honda Accord took home the gold in this category with over 50,000 thefts of all model years of this vehicle. It’s much smaller yet power packed cousin – the Civic slotted in the #2 position followed by the Nissan Altima and Chrysler 200. It is however important to note that newer models of the aforementioned vehicles are stolen less frequently because they are better equipped with modern anti-theft technology. But the sheer fact that they are still commonly targeted proves that criminals can still make way with them through their own advanced methods such as hacking.

Although there is no foolproof way to secure your vehicle, here are a few methods that are extremely effective.

Car Security Guide

Car Security Tips

Consider where you Park

Whether at home or public, it is important that you park in a safe place such as a garage at your house or well lit and secured areas when in public. The benefits to garage parking are twofold – first you keep your car secure from prying thieves and second you protect it from sap, bird droppings, leaves or anything else that might cause damage to the exterior of your vehicle.

If your garage can be secured with a lock, make sure you lock it every night or when your car is inside. Fitting an alarm may also be a good idea for those who constantly forget to do so. Keep in mind that some insurance companies also offer discounts for having garage alarms installed so the investment could very well be offset by these savings. Visibility can also be highly beneficial when taking your vehicle into town for work or casual trips. Parking in high traffic areas and those with full public view should deter criminals as your vehicle is in full view of passersby’s.

Steering Wheel Locks

Although their bright colours may add to the pizzazz of your interior, they arrive in striking colours for a reason and that is to be spotted from a mile away. This serves as a deterrent to enthusiastic thieves unless they’re hell bent on stealing your vehicle. Immobilisers are a standard anti-theft accessory on most modern vehicles, but are impossible to spot from outside, so steering wheel locks still make good visual deterrents. These devices are easy to use and work by simply placing them over your steering wheel and securing them with a lock and key. Further, they are also compact to be places in tight spaces, making them both convenient to store and use.

Some may question the effectiveness of steering wheel locks given that they can be detached from the steering wheel by some thieves in less than a minute, but they are rather inexpensive devices that are most likely able to discourage all but the most determined criminals. Handbrakes and gear-stick locks are similar alternatives. To get around them, thieves would have to use pair of bolt cutters or a hacksaw, which does require a fair bit of effort – something that most thieves aren’t willing to put in.

Refrain from Tempting Thieves

First, and this is something you should already know, is to ensure that items of value are hidden from plain sight or better yet not left in the vehicle to begin with. Glove boxes are often the first location of a vehicle that thieves generally pry into so if you’re going to leave MP3 players, sat nav devices or anything else that needs to be kept safe by your vehicle, find a low key spot for it.

Having these objects in plain view is a firsthand invitation for criminals to get at them so covering them at the least simply adds to the overall protection of your vehicle. Opportunistic thieves will steal almost anything, but bags, electrical items and clothing are the most popular. Adding to this, it is also a good idea to keep your glove box open to show that you’ve got nothing to hide. And avoid giving out clues that you may have valuables inside such as the circular suction mount marks left behind from sat nav devices.

Keep a Close Eye on your Keys

Even the most basic city cars and even at their lowest variant come factory outfitted with remote central locks – a system that allows you to secure your vehicle with the push of a button. Some thieves have found a way around this, where they use remote controls for gates or garage doors to block the signal from your remote key. This means that although you think your vehicle is locked because you hear those magical sounds when you push the button, your signal is in essence blocked. So it’s a good practice to try the door handle to ensure your vehicle is indeed locked before walking away.

Stealing most modern vehicles also involves the use of original keys owing to standard fit-immobilisers, which in most cases are stolen right from the owner’s home. Other ways thieves gain access to keys include when stored in lockers or left in the ignition. Here are a few tips to ensure your vehicle doesn’t become another statistic:

  • Never leave your keys visible in plain sight, such as on your table or hallway.
  • Do not leave them in your ignition when you run short errands such as filling gas or grabbing something real quick from the convenience store.
  • Never leave your jacket in public places with your keys in it.
  • Refrain from using public lockers such as those at gyms and if you must, use your own secure lock over and what they provide you.
  • Do not clear your windscreen when you have the engine running.
  • Always drive with your doors locked to greatly reduce the chances of carjacking.

Stealing cars these days is literally impossible without the right keys so it only makes sense to take good care of these small and crucial items. In the event you lose your keys or they are stolen from you, it is best to contact your manufacturer or a reputed dealer to have them replaced.

Keep your car safe

Fit an Immobiliser

If you don’t have one already, it is a good idea to have an immobiliser installed in your vehicle for several reasons. These anti-theft devices disengage the ignition, starter motor or fuel pump and work towards the common goal of securing your vehicle against theft. They also may result in reduced insurance premiums especially when they are Sold Secure approved and installed by a member of the Vehicle Systems Installation Board (VSIB). A point to note is most hardwired GPS trackers come with an immobiliser feature built in so you don’t have to go out and buy one separately.

Fit a Car Alarm

Again this is a basic anti-theft device that must be installed in your vehicle regardless of its age or model. When shopping for a car alarm, you will be spoilt for choice given the myriad options available, but look for devices that are approved by your insurer so that you can earn insurance discounts.

Wheel Locks and Locking Wheel Nuts

If you have a premium set of wheels it is a good idea to install locking wheel nuts. They are not only an effective deterrent, but are also inexpensive to buy and easy to fit. Unlike regular wheel nuts, locking wheel nuts are placed on each corner of your vehicle, and feature a special shaped head that can only be undone with the matching socket, making it more difficult for thieves to steal your wheels.

VIN Etching

This is a highly effective way to give cloners a hard time. When the last seven digits of the 17-digit VIN are etched on your headlights, windows and mirrors or all glass surfaces of your vehicle, thieves know that the only way to remove these visible etchings is by changing the glass panes themselves

Pedal Locks

These devices secure the brakes and the only way to get around them it to bridge or cut them, which takes roughly 15 to 30 seconds with the right tools.

Get an Alarm Sticker

In order to add to the visual deterrent system, apply a sticker like the ones you see in front of houses “Protected by brinks”. As an example your car is unlikely to get stolen from a lineup of vehicles if it has a blinking LED to indicate an alarm regardless of whether it exists or not.

Take the Steering Wheel with you

You can’t drive a car without a steering wheel can you? So consider getting a quick release hub and take your steering wheel with you.

Drive a Manual Vehicle

It is a well known fact – most people in both Australia and America can’t drive stick so if your thief is one of them, they won’t be able to take it if he/she can’t drive it.

Park away from Exits

Always try and park in between a row of cars to avoid giving thieves an easy and faster getaway.

Random Tips and Tricks:

Car Tracking Devices

Of course this list would be incomplete without mentioning the king of all car security devices – GPS vehicle car trackers. They can be hardwired to your vehicle or used as a portable device and go a lot further than simple tracking. You can set up overspeed alerts, tow alarms, door & window alarms, and even alert you via SMS when your vehicle has experienced a crash.

Click here for an in depth review of our most popular car tracking device.

Personal Responses from Car Security Experts

As you can see, we’ve done a lot of research into all areas of car security. But we didn’t want you to just take our word for it. So we’ve got in touch with some of the Top Car Bloggers around and asked them what they recommended.

Here’s what they had to say…

Jee – The Mechanic Doctor

First, make sure you get yourself a good alarm system with an anti-starting system. Pretty obvious, I know. But if you plan on buying a sport or luxury vehicle nothing can beat that.

But, if you want to save money, what I personally do on all my car is to install a switch on the power side of the fuel pump relay circuit. Correctly hidden, this will prevent any thief to be able to start the car no matter how hard they try to start your engine. If the power to the fuel pump is turned off, no screwdriver or ignition wire trick like you see in the movies will be of any use.

And for extra security, like when you leave your car in an airport parking for several days or even when you go to the movies, locate and memorize where is located the fuel pump relay and take it with you. It’s small enough so you can carry it in your pocket and the amount of time needed for the thief to find where is the problem and bypass the relay makes it almost impossible to steal the car.

Gary – The Garage Guy

Move to an area with lower incidence of theft!

Michael Coates – Clean Fleet Report

Automotive cybersecurity starts with your own phone. As Apple CarPlay and Android Auto become more ubiquitous and other methods of connected your phone to your car’s infotainment system (and other critical components), security starts in your hand. The presence of malware downloaded with an unsecure app can potentially infect the whole system, now including your car. According to Consumer Reports, 5.6 million smart-phone users experienced undesired behavior on their phones last year, including things as serious as accessing accounts without permission and sending of unauthorized messages. If one of those unauthorized messages is to unlock and start your car, that could be disastrous Start your automotive cybersecurity by only downloaded trusted apps. Next, be aware of insecure Wi-Fi connections, which can expose your phone to intrusion.

Malcolm Flynn – Cars Guide

My number one tip is to be careful where you park your car. The more visible your car is to the general public, the less appealing it is to would-be thieves who thrive on secluded parking spots.

It’s wise to park away from other cars to minimise the risk of parking damage, but you should be careful not to hide it from view at the same time.

Andrew – Sacarfan

Awareness. Watch your mirrors, be on the lookout for strange behaviour and always maintain enough space to the car ahead. Have an exit strategy in mind. — but these are mostly for hijackings

Be organised from the minute you get into the car. Don’t let small things distract you in the car.

Caroline – Changing Lanes

Park your car in a safe place. Don’t park in the bad side of town and expect everything to be okay. Choose an area with good lighting and a car park with security if possible.

Jody DeVere – Ask Patty

Make it less tempting for a thief to break into your car. Keep your valuables like your purse, wallet, phone, laptop or shopping bags out of sight. Don’t leave them on the seat, dashboard, floorboards or on the back seat. Lock up everything in the trunk, a locking glove box or conceal under the floor mats.

Expert Car Security Opinions

Somto – Stannis Wheels Team

We would advise new cars owners to always double check to ensure that their cars are actually locked by pulling the door handle, even if they hear the car beep from pressing the lock button on the remote key for cars that come with keyless entry. Doing this gives the driver the psychological assurance that the car is safely locked.

New cars owners should try go get a car trackers installed in them regardless of the cost of the cars. It hurts to have your car stolen even if you have two or three cars.

Jaxer – Free Auto-Mechanic

The single best security tip for new car owners would be to install a GPS Tracker. Older car owners may need to worry more about making sure the doors lock. However this shouldn’t be a concern on a new car. Being able to locate your vehicle is.

Parbeer – Car Guy

The best tip we could give new car owners – is to always hide any valuables that are visible through the windows as this can often be all the temptation a thief needs to break into a car.

In terms of equipment – we’d have to say having a dash camera fitted is pretty indispensable these days. It not only deters theft but can provide vital footage of thieves and break ins.

Gary Biller – The National Motorists Association

Besides the usual admonitions like always lock your doors, park in a garage or in conspicuous, public places, probably the thing that will deter theft most effectively is to install an ignition kill switch. Thieves who gain access to a vehicle are usually highly efficient at working the ignition to turn on the engine. Often they’ll move onto another target if they can’t get the vehicle started right away.

I asked a few National Motorists Association members your question and the most common, tongue-in-cheek answer was “get a car with a manual transmission, it won’t get stolen since no one knows how to drive stick anymore.”

As connected-car technology advances, the answer to your security question may evolve with it, but for now we are sticking (pun intended) with the kill switch.

Kurt Schleier – Click Mechanic

“Keeping your car safe from theft or break-ins can be tricky, especially if you’re based in a big city where crime rates are usually higher. We believe the best trick to prevent criminals from doing anything to your car is to make it as unattractive a prospect to break-in as possible. That means parking up in a well-lit and busy area where chances of being caught are high, and on the other hand make sure to leave nothing on display, especially anything valuable.”

Paul Hadley – MotorVerso

From our perspective the best security tips would be all about keeping the key as safe as possible. As we get a lot of house break ins in the UK to take car keys.

Tushar Kelshikar – The Super Car Blog

Most modern cars come equipped with an immobilizer and alarm. But, it’s clearly not enough as we’ve seen in so many cases. The next best thing is to install metal locks that prevent the use of the steering wheel or gearshift. While these can make life difficult for a car thief it certainly doesn’t guarantee total security.

Recent technological advancements have provided us with the option of satellite trackers. GPS trackers are currently the most effective tools against car theft. It’s a subscription-based service but it’s definitely worth it if you own a fairly expensive car.

Signing off…

Thieves are highly discouraged when you make life difficult for them and by considering one or more of the anti-theft measures outlined above, you are greatly reducing the chances of your vehicle being broken into or stolen.

Visit the Car Tracker Resources page for more guides & information.

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