We love—and need—our cars. So we should protect them to the fullest extent. July is National Vehicle Theft Protection Month and it’s the perfect time to take a look at whether we’re doing all we can to keep our cars safe.
Vehicle theft is more common than you think.
The pandemic has caused vehicle thefts to surge to the highest number in more than a decade. There were 873,000 vehicles stolen last year, up from an annual average of 750,000. A car is stolen in the U.S. every 36 seconds. As car prices rise and demand continues, we expect this trend to continue, too.
Don’t think it can happen to you? Think again- anyone can be a victim of vehicle theft. It takes less than 60 seconds for a thief to open your vehicle. They can use shaved or worn-down keys to jiggle the lock open. They can break the window or hotwire the car. For “keyless” vehicles, they use wireless transmitters to capture the signal from your key fob. They can also jam your signal as you’re locking your doors so that your vehicle doesn’t really lock.
How do you prevent vehicle theft?
Thieves are looking for an easy target. The harder you can make it for them, the less likely they are to target your car. Here are some ways you can prevent a break-in.
Anti-Theft Safety Devices
- Safety locks
- Steering wheel locks attach to the steering wheel to lock it in place.
- Tire locks attach to the outside of the tire, but are not easy to take on and off, so best for vehicles parked long-term.
- Hood locks vary by make and model so get one that fits yours exactly.
- Catalytic converter locks protect this car part that is often stolen.
- Car alarms usually require professional installation.
- GPS trackers are different than your GPS. They are specific devices to help the police find your car.
- Kill switches and engine immobilizers interrupt the ignition process. They change how your car operates so they’re not right for everyone.
Keyless Entry Safety
- Store the key fob in a signal-blocking box.
- Carry the fob in a shielded wallet or aluminum tin.
- Switch off your fob at night (if your key has this feature).
Other Steps You Can Take
- Etch your car’s VIN number on each window. Thieves often change the VIN to hide the identity of the car. They will not want to have to replace all the glass and may avoid your car as a result.
- Make sure your driveway is well lit.
- Trim shrubs and trees so you can clearly see your car from inside your house.
- Keep your vehicle doors locked when away from the car even for a minute.
- Close all windows, including the sunroof. Don’t leave your window cracked open even if it’s hot in the summer.
- Park in secure, well-lit areas.
- Don’t leave valuables in view. They could be tempting for a thief.
- Don’t leave your key in the car or your car running.
- Don’t keep your spare key hidden underneath your car. Thieves know where to look.
- Take your garage remote out of your car so thieves don’t have access to your house.
Remember, never leave any personal information in your car, such as a social security card, driver’s license, birth certificate, passport, or financial statement. Otherwise, you could be a victim of identity theft as well as vehicle theft.
Is your vehicle on the most stolen list?
Thieves prefer popular, high-performance cars, with interchangeable parts. They also like older cars, which typically do not have complex locks and security systems and can be sold for parts. Here are the latest statistics on the most common stolen vehicles in the U.S.:
- Honda Civic
- Honda Accord
- Ford Pickup
- Chevrolet Pickup
- Toyota Camry
- Nissan Altima
- Toyota Corolla
- GMC Pickup
- Dodge Pickup
- Jeep Cherokee/Grand Cherokee
Some regions are prone to car theft. Check your local statistics to see if yours is one.
What do you do if you are a victim of a theft?
Even if you take the proper precautions, thefts can still happen. If you are a victim of car theft, here are the steps to follow.
Step 1: Contact the police. Make sure that you have all of the information about your car, as they will need it. This includes the year, make, model, color, license plate number and vehicle identification number (VIN), any special markings (including dents). Write down the police report number; you will need it.
Step 2: Contact your insurance provider. You will need to provide them with the police report number and information about your vehicle. Your provider can tell you what your policy covers in the event of a theft.
Step 3: Arrange for transportation, such as a rental car. Note that rental car companies have a minimum age, usually 25. Some companies may offer rentals to younger drivers but at a higher cost.
Does insurance protect you if your vehicle is stolen?
If you have comprehensive auto insurance, you will be covered in case your car is stolen. Insurance will cover the cost of a replacement car, minus any deductibles or rental car costs that you may need to pay. Drivers who are paying loans on their vehicles are required to have comprehensive insurance. However, once you have paid off your car, this insurance is optional. Check with your insurer to see what is covered in the event of theft.
You can often save on your insurance premiums if you install anti-theft devices. Ask your provider for more information.
It typically takes 30 days before a vehicle is considered gone forever. Work with your insurance provider to get your claim paid, so you can get back on the road.
This article is furnished by California Casualty, providing auto and home insurance to educators, law enforcement officers, firefighters, and nurses. Get a quote at 1.866.704.8614 or www.calcas.com.