No matter what you may have heard about car theft being a thing of the past, the truth is, it’s just as prevalent as ever. With thieves reselling cars on Craigslist or stolen parts on eBay, it’s hard to predict which cars can be a target. Getting your car stolen can severely impact you financially, and you might find yourself in a serious bind while waiting for a settlement check from the auto insurance company. According to the National Insurance Crime Bureau, a car is stolen every 26 seconds in the United States. Car theft happens in virtually every city, but not every driver can afford OnStar or an alarm system, and the technology that keeps some newer cars safe may not apply to your ride. Luckily, there are some basic ways to protect your vehicle that can end up being even more effective than the best security money can buy.
Lock the Doors
Would it surprise you to learn 50 percent of stolen cars were left unlocked? It’s a no-brainer, but it could make all the difference. Car thieves have been known to case mall parking lots or other public places where they try every door, knowing they will find at least a few left unlocked. Not only does this make you the number one target for theft, it can get you in trouble with your insurance company. If your car is stolen and then recovered, the police may report there was no evidence of forced entry and it might be hard to prove you didn’t dump it.
Keep it Clean and Repaired
You might think old and dirty cars are less appealing to thieves, but actually the opposite is true. Many thieves are just looking to raid your car for parts or make a quick sale online, and if you have cracked windows, dents, and dirt, you’re less likely to have an alarm or tracking system. The better a car looks, the more effort the owner will put into finding it, and the more likely police will track it down. This doesn’t mean you should use the contents of your car to class up its image though. Keep your exterior looking nice, but don’t leave valuables out in the open – you might keep your car but lose your iPod.
If you’re lucky enough to have a garage, there’s no excuse not to use it – that alone will cut down your risk of being a victim of theft by 90 percent. When you’re parking at work, choose a well-lit area as close to the entrance as possible, even if your building has a secure parking garage. Sticking to well-lit areas is a good idea wherever you go. You know where the better parts of your town are, and when you’re traveling to a crime-ridden area, you need to take extra precautions with where you leave your ride if you want to be sure you’ll have one home.
Drive a Stick Shift
Manual cars only represent about 5 percent of vehicles on the road these days, so obviously they have a smaller theft rate anyway. But in reality, the average petty car thief is simply not going to know how to drive it. Especially when you consider that the majority of them are young adults who were not exposed to stick shifts during their driving education. Police departments are quick to warn that more sophisticated thieves might be interested in certain brands of cars, especially sports cars, because of their manual transmissions, but for the most part, your car is probably safer than most.
If all else fails, many people who are worried about their car being stolen slap an alarm sticker on their back windshield. Similar to the alarm signs you can place around your home, thieves will be deterred whether the actual alarm exists or not. If you want to keep your vehicle safe, you can think creatively, or just remember the basics. It’s sure to save you a lot of panic later.