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How Easy Is Your Car To Steal?

Car Theft Used To Be A Great Avenue For Your Everyday Thief. But With Security Getting More Advanced, Is Car Theft as Viable As It Used To Be For Criminals?

Sep 19, 2014

Back in the 1990s, car theft became an epidemic in the UK. Around 600,000 cars were being stolen every year, leading major motor manufacturers to take a range of steps to stop so-called ‘twocking’ – taking a car without the owner’s consent.

Car thefts have fallen significantly over recent years as manufacturers have taken steps to improve security. In our guide we look at the fall in car thefts, the advancements in car security that have been made and we give you some useful advice on how you can keep your vehicle safe.

Car thefts fall as new cars become more difficult to steal

According to a BBC report in 2011, car thefts have fallen by around two-thirds since the early 2000s. 107,000 cars were stolen in 2010, down from 119,000 in 2009 and massively down on the 600,000 a year which were taken 20 years ago.

Andrew Miller, director of research at car insurance repair research centre, Thatcham, said: "We are doing everything possible to crack down on car crime. Now it is the motorist's responsibility to drive down vehicle theft figures.”

Mr Miller added that the reduction in car thefts was "due to the incredible improvements to a raft of security systems including alarms, locks, immobilisers, toughened glass and tracking devices".

Over the last 20 years manufacturers have made many improvements to cars to prevent theft. These include:

  • Car alarms – these detect anything from a window being broken to the bonnet being opened
  • Immobilisers – these prevent the ignition, starter motor or fuel pump from working. Fitting an immobiliser is one of the single most cost-effective ways to reduce your insurance premium, provided it is 'Thatcham' or 'Sold Secure' approved and professionally fitted
  • Toughened glass – ‘security glazing’ is designed to prevent 'smash & grab' attacks. The noise and time required to break in means that the thief is more likely to be caught in the act
  • Trackers – these use GPS to locate your vehicle if it is stolen

Next, we look at three ways you can help to prevent the theft of your car.

3 ways you can help to prevent your car from being stolen

1. Keep your keys safe

Car thefts where the thieves steal your keys in order to take the car now account for around two thirds of the vehicle thefts every year, according to a survey by insurer LV. In four in ten car thefts, the keys are stolen from the owners’ home during a burglary.

John O’Roarke, managing director of LV car insurance, said: "Improvements in car security mean that criminals now place a greater emphasis on stealing the keys rather than forcing the ignition.”

Keys are often stolen at night while you are asleep, And, in some cases, keys are ‘hooked’ from your home by a thief using a rod, cane or hook to snag your keys through a window or letterbox.

The easiest way to prevent this type of theft is to make sure your keys are kept in a safe place. Don’t leave your keys next to a door or a window and never leave your home unlocked while you pop out for a short time.

2. Don’t leave the engine running

Many car thefts are opportunistic and occur when the keys are in a car and the engine is running. This can often happen on cold winter mornings where owners leave their cars unattended on their driveway or on the street to warm up.

You should never leave your car engine running, even if you will only be gone for a short time. Cars are commonly stolen at supermarkets, petrol stations and cash machines. Even if you are only going to be a couple of minutes, close your windows and sunroof and lock your car.

3. Be careful when you park your car

Now that modern cars are more difficult to hotwire and to break into, some thieves simply tow expensive cars away. According to LV, an estimated 12 per cent of car thefts were ‘lifted’ in 2011.

To help prevent this, always park with your wheels turned towards the kerb or to the side in a car park or driveway. This makes your car harder to tow away. And, if your vehicle is rear-wheel drive, back into your driveway. Front-wheel drive vehicles should be parked front-end first.

You should also always use your hand-brake when parking and leave your car in gear (or in ‘park’ if it is an automatic). Not only is this safer but it makes it much more difficult for your car to be towed away.

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