How to prevent car theft

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Image of a man stealing a bag from a parked car.

What helps keep your car secure? Thinking ahead.

Protection begins with preparation, and while this doesn’t guarantee your car or its parts won’t get stolen, it may help your claim and lower the chances of it happening.

Car theft prevention tips

Check your car isn’t stolen

If you’re buying a second-hand car from a stranger or unauthorised seller, you need to make sure it’s not stolen.

Check if the V5 (V5C) logbook has a ‘DVL’ watermark and the serial number isn’t between:

  • BG8229501 to BG9999030
  • BI2305501 to BI2800000

They may have offered you a stolen car if the above is true. You can verify this with an HPI check.

You can also check if the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) on the V5C is the same as on the vehicle.

Use modern security devices

Car alarms, immobilisers, tracking and security devices keep your motor safe – they can help deter thieves and recover your car. Keep your details updated if you use a subscription-based one.

If you drive a car made before 1998, you may need to purchase an immobiliser separately.

Remember to make it clear your car is secure. Locks for the steering wheel, pedals or gearstick should be visible from outside; thieves are less likely to try their luck with these in place.

You might not consider adding these devices to your vehicles because it’s not “worth” stealing.

However, most cars stolen aren’t high-end vehicles.

Also, if your insurer knows you’re taking security seriously, you’ll inherently have less risk and potentially reduce your premium.

Park in bright, busy areas

Thieves are stealing more cars  in daylight, notably when the owner is away at work or shopping.

Isolated vehicles are easier to hide behind and break into. When you’re out, park in well-lit, public parking spaces near other cars. Thieves will avoid your car as they’re more likely to run into someone.

Also, be picky with your car parks. Look for good security, CCTV and some foot traffic.

Prepare against keyless car theft

Thieves use keyless car theft (relay theft) to steal keyless cars. Usually, two thieves work together.

One stands near your home, where your keys are, while the other stands near your car. The thief near the door can pick up your car key’s signal, which is then “relayed” to the thief near the vehicle, which can unlock the doors.

The easiest way to avoid this is to keep your keys away from your front door. We’ve covered how to protect your car against relay theft in more depth.

Keep your keys in a safe spot

If you can’t keep your keys near the front door, where should you store them?

The kitchen is a good alternative if it’s away from your front door and car. Don’t keep them in your bedroom, as this can put you and your family in danger if a determined thief comes looking for them.

Don’t leave your car running in winter

Many drivers switch their engines on in the winter to warm their cars while they get ready for work.

While it might seem like a quick fix, driving your car warms up your engine faster than idling. You don’t risk letting thieves in either.

If someone steals your car while it was unattended with the keys in, insurers could refuse your claim.

Don’t keep documentation in the car

Your car documents, especially your V5C, need to be safe. If a thief has them, it's easier for them to sell your car or commit identity fraud in the future.

Keep all official documents in a safe place at home. Lost your documents? Find out how to replace lost car documents.

Double-check your locks

Double-checking your motor’s locks should be second nature, but many just rely on key fobs.

Thieves can jam the signal from an electric key, meaning it’ll make the sound that it’s locked, but one or more doors will be left open.

Instead, check your doors and boot are locked before you leave your car.

Keep valuables out of sight

A thief will justify stealing your car or smashing a window if they can see valuables in plain sight.

If you must leave possessions in the car, hide things in the boot or glovebox.

If you drive a van, try not to store your tools and equipment in the vehicle, especially overnight. A thief is more likely to try their luck if they know you keep expensive equipment in there.

How do thieves mark cars to steal?

Sometimes, thieves will mark cars before stealing them.

Thieves will usually mark your car in two ways:

  • using a marker pen
  • pushing in wing mirrors

If you notice your car marked, look around before opening it. If you feel unsafe or someone is acting suspicious, call the police.

For wing mirrors, thieves will wait for you to unlock and get in the car first. If you notice the wing mirror and open your door or window, they’ll attempt to force entry.

Before you get in your car, check your car for marks and if your wing mirrors are in, readjust them.

Call the police if you ever feel unsafe.

Does car insurance cover car theft?

It depends. Your insurance covers you if your car’s stolen, broken into or damaged during an attempted theft.

However, you must prove you’ve taken reasonable action

Your insurer may decline your claim if you haven't taken reasonable care. Your cover level matters, too. For example, car thefts aren’t covered under third-party only insurance. Check your policy documents to see what’s covered.

Be honest with your provider. If you state that your car is parked in a garage, but it’s actually in your driveway, this can impact your claim.

Where and when cars are most likely to be stolen

Usually, cars are most commonly stolen from the driveaway, shortly followed by the street. Garages are typically the safest places to park your car.

We analysed 2022 theft data to see which days of the week thefts happened most:

Most and least common days

Days Theft claims Percentage
Monday 1,404 14.7%
Tuesday 1,429 14.9%
Wednesday 1,433 14.9%
Thursday 1,407 14.7%
Friday 1,463 15.3%
Saturday 1,288 13.4%
Sunday 1,165 12.1%

Alongside this data, we found that November 4th was the date with the most car thefts in 2022, with December 25th as the least.

No matter the date, it’s important to practice safety wherever and whenever you drive. 

If your car's stolen, read our guide on what to do.

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