Having your car stolen is an expensive headache, and if your car has sentimental value, it’s also a heartbreak. According to the latest statistics, a motor vehicle theft occurs every 40.9 seconds in the US. While the overall rate of car theft has fallen over the past few decades, some of this decrease can be attributed to steadily improving automobile anti-theft features and technology. Here are the best tools, devices and tips for preventing car theft in 2019.
1. Steering Wheel Locks
Steering wheel locks are easy to put on and take off, making them a great choice for stashing in your car and using on the go. They work by locking over the steering wheel, rendering it immobile. Since they’re large and highly visible, would-be car thieves are less likely to bother, knowing that it will be tough to make off with the car without drawing attention to themselves.
Look for a sturdy, metal steering wheel lock that’s appropriately sized for your car. Several companies even offer guarantees – if your car is stolen, they’ll reimburse the owner’s comprehensive insurance deductible up to a certain amount. Shop steering wheel locks now:
- The Club Original Steering Wheel Lock, a classic option to fit most small/medium-sized cars
- Steering Wheel Lock With Emergency Window Breaker, doubles as an emergency window breaker (if you get trapped in your car due to an accident) or a self-defense tool
- The Club Truck/SUV Steering Wheel Lock, with a longer shaft for larger steering wheels
2. Tire & Rim Locks
If you’ve ever seen a car “booted” by a parking enforcement officer, then you’re already familiar with tire locks. Anti-theft tire/wheel locks for personal use work the same way. They lock onto the outside of the wheel and lock shut, preventing the wheels from turning so you can’t drive away. Since some might find them cumbersome, they’re best for cars that tend to stay parked for a while in between uses. Since they’re available in a range of sizes, they’re handy for a range of vehicles, including trailers, lawn mowers, ATVs and RVs.
Explore best-selling and highly rated wheel locks:
- TMS Wheel Lock Clamp, for small wheels between 6 3/4”-10 ½”
- Oanon Wheel Lock Clamp, for vehicles with a tire radius up to 14”
- Homdox Heavy-Duty Wheel Lock, an extra-sturdy option with soft PVC to prevent wheel scratches.
3. Car Part Protection
If thefts of car parts are common in your area, targeted layers of security could offer major peace of mind. Hood locks, for example, safeguard the engine and everything else that’s under the hood. You can buy a universal kit like this one, but due to manufacturers’ differences in hood latching mechanisms, you might be better off choosing one made specifically for your make and model of vehicle.
Jake Mckenzie of Auto Accessories Garage provided more insight on which parts can be most lucrative: the catalytic converter is a top target. “This component of your exhaust system usually sits vulnerably under your vehicle and a skilled thief can remove it in a matter of minutes before selling the palladium, rhodium, and platinum for their value as raw metals. Once it’s gone, not only will your emissions spike by about 900% but your vehicle will also be deafeningly loud.” Replacement could cost anywhere from $900 to $2500. He recommends installing a catalytic converter lock with virtually uncuttable wire rope, like those made by CatClamp.
4. Car Alarms
If your car alarm is broken, out of date, or simply non-existent, an aftermarket car alarm is a great way to thwart thieves. In addition to increasing security, new alarms often add on convenient features like remote car starting (pre-warm your car when it’s cold!) and keyless entry (unlock the door even if your key is in your pocket). Depending on your policy, your car insurance company may also offer discounts on your premium due to the increased protection, but when you’re budgeting, keep in mind that it will likely require professional installation.
If you’re a savvy auto technician yourself, here are some DIY kits to consider:
- Avital alarm systems with options for adding keyless entry and/or remote starting
- Easyguard Car Alarm System with keyless entry and push-button remote starter
5. Track Your Car With a GPS Device
Install a GPS device to track your car in case it goes missing. If you act quickly, there’s a much greater chance of catching the thief and recovering your car unscathed. These devices are generally easy to install yourself – just plug the tracker into the car’s OBD-II port or outlet, and follow along with its whereabouts using a smartphone app. However, you’ll usually have to pay for a data plan or monthly subscription to support the GPS features.
Some car insurance companies also offer telematics (devices that track your driving habits) to offer discounts for safe driving and low mileage. Telematics devices have essentially the same capabilities as GPS trackers, so look into usage-based car insurance plans if you’d like to opt in to everything at once.
- Vyncs GPS Tracker, includes a 30-day trial period, one year of service and optional upgrades for roadside assistance
- Vivint Car Guard, which extends smart home security to your automobile. This all-in-one device features GPS tracking, car diagnostics, tamper alerts and integration with other Vivint products.
- Metromile, a pay-per-mile auto insurance company, utilizes the Metromile Pulse telematics device to power its business model. According to a company spokesperson, it’s proven quite handy in theft cases as well: Metromile maintains a stolen vehicle recovery rate of 94%.
6. Kill Switches
In cars, a kill switch is a device that interrupts the operation of the ignition system. Kill switches prevent hot wiring, a method of tampering with a car’s electrical system so that it can be operated without a key (a favorite technique of car thieves).
Kill switches aren’t for everybody. Installing one makes your car harder to steal, but it also changes the way it operates. Since the kill switch bypasses the ignition system, you can no longer use the key. Instead, you’ll have to use a remote, button or smartphone app depending on the type of switch used. This is a dealbreaker for many people, but some people with strong sentimental connections to their cars wouldn’t have it any other way.
Automobile-savvy individuals might be able to install a kill switch themselves with only a few inexpensive parts, but due to the complexity of messing with a car’s ignition, professional installation is recommended for the rest of us.
- Cal Hawk Cutoff Kill Switch and Killswitchcentral’s Automotive Kill Switch Kit are both inexpensive kill switch kits.
- The Top Post Battery Master Disconnect Switch is a kill switch alternative recommended by Sean Pour, founder of the auto purchasing company SellMax. Instead of permanently disrupting the electric system, this switch temporarily blocks the battery so the car won’t start. It’s easy to remove if you know it’s there, but the unexpected frustration stops most criminals from attempting to steal it, Pour says.
7. No-Cost Vehicle Theft Prevention Tips
You don’t always need to spend more money to protect your investment. These good habits cost nothing and they’ll help prevent your vehicle and belongings from being targeted.
- Always close and lock your doors and windows when you park. Unlocked doors are invitations to rifle through your car, and even a cracked window makes it easier for thieves to get into a locked door.
- Be careful with your keys. When you leave your vehicle, even if it’s just for a minute, bring your keys with you. Don’t leave them on the top of the car, on the tire, in the ignition or anywhere else.
- Park in more secure areas. A garage is often best, but if you’re in public, choose a place that’s highly visible and well-lit. Even better if there’s surveillance cameras or security personnel nearby.
- Don’t leave valuables in your car. A purse or laptop on your seat could be all the bait a thief needs to perform a smash and grab. If you can’t take an item with you, lock it in the trunk or hide it completely.
Wait! Do I Need To Protect My Car If I Have Insurance?
You might be nonchalant about car theft if you assume that your insurance will take care of it. First, you should probably double check your coverage. In order to have any kind of theft compensation, you need a policy with comprehensive coverage, which is usually optional (unless you have a car loan. Banks often require comprehensive coverage as a condition of the loan). If you own your car and you only have the minimum type of coverage required, you’re probably not protected from theft.
Second, you’ll likely experience some loss even if your car insurance policy covers theft. For example, you might still be on the hook for your deductible and paying for a rental car, not to mention all of the inconvenience and lost time that arises from being without transportation. Some companies may increase your premium after the theft. And even comprehensive coverage doesn’t cover any personal belongings that you might have left inside the car.
Third, consider that your auto insurance premium may drop if you install additional anti-theft protection in your car, so it could be well worth it. Contact your insurance agency to learn what kind of discounts are available.