Cars get stolen all the time. The FBI states a vehicle is stolen in the Unites States every 44 seconds. Sometimes it’s a family dispute, other times a business agreement gone bad. Usually, people steal cars to sell them illegally and make money. Cars get painted, parts are swapped and vehicle identification numbers are removed in order to disguise stolen vehicles. Some people steal cars to commit crimes with them and then abandon them.
The FBI reports nearly 700,000 vehicles were stolen in 2013. Car thefts have been on the decline since, but they still are a regularly occurring crime. New devices to protect your vehicle are invented each year, and new methods to circumvent them are devised by criminals.
You don’t have to drive a Corvette to be concerned about your car being stolen. Thieves will steal any car that suits their immediate needs. You don’t have to be paranoid, but you need to be cautious to protect yourself and your property. Here are a few ideas to prevent you from being the next victim of a car theft.
Lock Your Doors
This tip is common sense, but you’d be surprised how many people leave their doors unlocked. They may feel they are in a “good” or “safe” neighborhood, or they simply don’t think about it. Get in the habit of locking your doors — with your key, so you don’t lock yourself out — every time you exit your vehicle.
Don’t think about it in a negative way. Think of it as reassurance that your property is safe. You need your keys to drive your vehicle, so there is no benefit to leaving it unlocked.
Don’t Leave Valuables in Sight
Don’t give thieves a reason to break into your car. A purse left in the open is an invitation to thieves to smash the window and grab it. Never leave cash in the open, not even a one dollar bill. You’d be surprised what desperate people will do for a dollar.
Put your valuables under the seat or in the back. Use your vehicle’s cargo cover or buy one that fits your vehicle. This item covers everything up, so no one can see what is in your car.
Invest in an Alarm
Many vehicles come equipped with a factory car alarm, but they only work under unique circumstances. If your car is opened without a key or somehow forcibly entered, your alarm may sound. Aftermarket alarms are much more thorough and can be set to go off under any circumstances when someone opens your car without the code. If you want to go a cheaper route, buy a sticker that says you have an alarm. This will deter many would-be car thieves.
Don’t Knowingly Park in High-Crime Areas
This seems obvious. But many people pay top dollar for concert tickets at an arena or sports colosseum in the inner city. Instead of paying the exorbitant parking fees, they opt to park in a dimly lit, crime-ridden street nearby.
Well, guess what? Despite your rose-colored view of the world, there are likely criminals lining up waiting for you to do just that. Yes, paying $50 to park seems criminal, too. But it’s better than having your car stolen or vandalized. Pay for safe parking, or pay the price.
Secure Your Car in a Garage
Thieves are looking for an easy target and are not as likely to break into your garage. That doesn’t mean it never happens. If you have an expensive vehicle, you might want to invest in a quality, tamper-proof garage door. To make it even more secure, choose a door opener that uses rolling codes. This will keep potential thieves from copying your code and opening your door later, unfettered.
Get the Club
The Club is a simple metal steering wheel lock that can only be removed with your key. It makes a statement just being in your car. Yes, there are ways to remove it or break through it with a drill, but most thieves will simply move on to a different car without The Club. If you don’t like using it all the time, just have it available for when you have to park in unknown or unsafe areas.
Invest in a Kill Switch
Kill switches come in different varieties and methods. All of them are expensive and should be installed by a qualified mechanic. Basically, these switches disable the ignition or the fuel pump so your vehicle simply cannot be driven.
This will stop the most persistent of thieves. They would have to know you have a kill switch, what kind and where it is. Then they would have to delve into the wiring in order to get rid of it. This takes precious time, which most thieves don’t have. They want a quick in and out with your car.
If you’ve lived long enough, you realize people will steal anything. It’s a sad truth we have to deal with. If you have been a victim of any crime, you know it’s often impossible to make sense of it.
But don’t despair. You don’t have to live in fear or suspicion of society. Just be smart and take a few extra steps of precaution, so your car and the other things you worked hard to buy remain yours. Vehicle thefts will never end, but you can at least make thieves choose someone else’s car.
Scott Huntington is a writer and car fanatic from Harrisburg, PA.