12 Tips to Prevent Vehicle Theft

A burglar trying to steal a car

Every year, thousands of vehicles are stolen in Canada, with 87,066 vehicles nicked in 2019 (an increase of 874 thefts compared to 2018), according to Statistics Canada. Ontario and Alberta had the highest numbers of auto thefts in the country in 2019 at 23,992 and 23,535, respectively.

The Insurance Bureau of Canada (IBC) says auto theft costs Canadians close to $1 billion every year, including $542 million for insurers to fix or replace stolen vehicles. In its annual list of top 10 most stolen vehicles, and based on its insurance claims data, IBC ranks the 2018 Honda CR-V SUV as the No. 1 vehicle thieves target nationwide.

Stolen cars, trucks, and SUVs are often used in other crimes such as street racing, are dismantled for parts, or shipped overseas to be resold. It’s always good to start thinking about protecting the vehicle you purchase by finding out what models are more susceptible to thefts by reviewing the Canadian Loss Experience Automobile Rating system. Theft deterrents not only help to protect your car, but they can also help earn you lower auto insurance premiums.

Here are some steps that you can take to protect your car from theft:

1. Never leave your car running if it’s unattended.

It’s often tempting, especially during the cold, Canadian winters to leave the car running while you dash into a store or to start the car and leave it running to warm up while you’re inside your house getting ready to go. Unfortunately, this can be an open invitation to auto thieves who only need a few seconds to get into your car and drive away with it.

2. Don’t leave your keys in the ignition, in key boxes, or inside your garage.

Many stolen vehicles are those in which the keys have been left in the ignition. If a thief can get to your keys, they can get your car, even if it is parked in your garage or driveway.

Never hide a spare key inside your car. If you have extra sets of keys, make sure you keep them in a secure location inside your home and never leave them in the ignition.

If your vehicle is the type with a keyless remote entry fob and push-button ignition system, don’t leave it near the front entrance of your house unless you have a protective box or bag that is designed to block the key fob’s signal. There is a growing trend among criminals to use wireless transmitters which can capture key fob signals through the door of a house, unlock and start your vehicle, and drive away undetected.

3. Don’t leave valuables inside your car.

A car which has valuables within plain view is always a target for car thieves. Don’t leave any personal documents, electronics, credit cards or cash inside your vehicle.

If you have to store valuable items in your car, make sure that you put them in the trunk, or at the very least, hide them from plain sight. Keep in mind that stowing your valuables at your destination and then leaving your car in the parking lot can also be tempting for thieves who may be watching. So whenever possible, store your valuables before arriving at your destination.

4. Make sure that you lock your car and roll up the windows.

Many stolen vehicles are left unlocked. If your car is unlocked, or the windows are not rolled up all the way, a resourceful thief can get inside and steal your car. At the very least, they can get in and have access to any of your belongings that are inside the car.

5. Park in a garage.

If you have a garage, park your car inside and keep the garage locked. That makes it much harder for a thief to get access to your vehicle.

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6. Install a mechanical device that locks the steering wheel or brakes.

Anti-theft devices such as a steering wheel or brake lock make it more challenging to drive the vehicle and are likely to deter car thieves.

7. Know your licence plate and Vehicle Information Number (VIN).

You need to know your licence plate number and VIN, as well as the make, model, year and colour of your car to file a stolen vehicle report and to prove that a vehicle is yours. The more information you can provide to the police, the more likely it is that your car will be recovered in the event of theft.

8. Buy a vehicle with a security system.

Many of today’s vehicles have some form of anti-theft device. Even though it may cost more to buy a vehicle with this protection, it may save you money. Most auto insurance companies will lower your premium if your car has anti-theft protection among its features.

9. Park in well-lit areas with as many people around as possible.

More than half of all vehicle thefts occur at night. It’s easier to steal your car if it’s in an area with no one around or where thieves can conceal their activities. Stick to parking in high-traffic, highly visible areas whenever possible.

10. Use your emergency brake when parking.

Your car is more difficult for thieves to tow away if the emergency brake is engaged.

11. Install a vehicle tracking device.

The police can use vehicle tracking devices to find your vehicle when it has been stolen. Certain vehicle manufacturers include this as a standard security device on every vehicle. In other cases, you can have it added as an option from the factory or installed aftermarket.

Immobilizers interrupt three circuits that are required to start and operate your vehicle, including the starter, ignition, and fuel supply systems when your car is turned off. These circuits can only be reactivated by a specially coded microchip in the key issued to you when you purchase your car. Immobilizers and tracking devices that have a National Standard of Canada designation can earn you a discount on your auto insurance premium.

12. Have your VIN etched on the window or other major parts of the vehicle.

You can have your VIN professionally etched on a window or other major parts of the vehicle. That allows your vehicle to be traced more easily (even if it has been dismantled and sold as parts) and makes your car less attractive to professional thieves.

Protecting your vehicle from theft can save you time,and stress. It can also save you money on car insurance rates since many insurers will give you a discount on your premium if you have anti-theft protection for your car or truck. A little bit of prevention in the short-term can make your life safer and easier over the long haul.