How to Prevent Your Car From Being Stolen

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Broken car windowAs the year draws to a close, it's right around this time that the Insurance Bureau of Canada releases the annual list of vehicles that were most frequently stolen in Canada. In the country overall, Honda has held the top spot for seven of the past eight years. Meanwhile, in Alberta, thieves appear to have favored Fords.

No matter what car make is targeted by thieves, though, there are several things that they don't want the general public to know, because if they did, they wouldn't be able to get away with their disreputable activity.

In a special for automotive website, contributor Jess Davidson spoke with several car care professionals about the ins and outs of the automotive theft industry, which robs Canadians of millions of dollars in excessive car insurance premiums every year.

As the annual "Top 10 Stolen Cars" list from the IBC suggests, thieves often have an eye out for specific makes and models. The reason why is not necessarily because one is more esthetically pleasing than another, but rather because their parts can be used on more than one model - making it that much more valuable to sell on the black market or to unscrupulous used car dealers overseas. Michael Lendick, national security director and law enforcement liaison for theft deterrent company Lo Jack Canada, told Davidson that the most popular brands tend to be Japanese, such as Toyota and Honda, as parts can be sold in both international and domestic markets.

VIN etching an exercise in futility?

In an attempt to make cars less attractive for stealing, various deterrent methods may be implemented. An increasingly common one, according to Davidson, is vehicle etching - where a car's vehicle identification number is permanently carved onto a vehicle windows. While this may seem somewhat unsightly, it does little to ward off thieves from making off with an automobile.   

"All that window etching amounts to is some almost invisible scratches on your window that you get charged hundreds of dollars for," Lendick advised. "It all boils down to lots of money spent to have the etching done, but no real value to the consumer at all."

He added that while heists are performed with the aim of selling a vehicle in its whole form, nine times out of 10, it's to sell a vehicle's parts piece by piece, so VIN etching is an expense that's usually not worth the money.

Something else that thieves don't want innocent bystanders to know is that how a vehicle is parked often affects how quickly they're able to get away. For example, police officials told Davidson that by turning the wheels hard to the right - as close to a 90 degree angle as possible - and by pulling the emergency brake, it does two things. One is it requires them to straighten the steering wheel out, which takes added time and effort. But it also makes it more difficult for them to tow the car away if they don't notice how the front tires are positioned.

Here's a handful of other ways in which to lower the risk of automotive theft:

  • Never leave the keys in the ignition. It may sound simplistic, but it's common for motorists to forget their keys when they park at home or to leave their car running if they are making a short trip to the corner store.

  • Don't store personal information in the car. While automotive theft has decreased nationally in various provinces, identity theft has risen. Motorists should be sure not to leave their driver's license, credit cards or their home address in their vehicle, as this makes them a potential identity theft victim.

  • Always remember to lock all the doors. Whenever exiting the vehicle, make sure to hit the "all lock" button so none of the doors can be opened. Any windows opened should not be so large that a person could reach their arm in and reach the lock.