How to prevent car theft

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

You can’t stop a determined thief from breaking into or stealing your car. So what keeps 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.

Below, we share our car theft prevention tips, including where it’s most likely to be stolen.

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 check that it’s not stolen.

The best way to check this is to check the V5 logbook has a ‘DVL’ watermark, and the serial number isn’t between BG8229501 to BG9999030 or BI2305501 to BI2800000. If it is, the V5C might be stolen.

You can verify this with an HPI check.

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

Invest and utilise modern security devices

Adding car alarms and other security devices keeps your motor safe. Car alarms and tracking devices can help deter thieves and recover your car. Keep your details updated if you use a subscription-based tracking device.

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

You might not think of adding these devices to your vehicles because it’s not “worth” stealing. However, most cars stolen aren’t high-end vehicles, with the Ford Fiesta being the most stolen car in 2021.

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.

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

More cars are being stolen in daylight, notably when the owner is away in work or out shopping.

Isolated vehicles are easier to hide behind and break into so 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 out for good security, CCTV cameras and some foot traffic if possible.

Our data found 56% of car thefts occurred from someone’s driveway, so install a camera facing it to catch the thieves.

Prepare against keyless car theft

Keyless car theft (also known as relay theft) is a specific tactic used to steal keyless cars. Usually, it’s done with two thieves working 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. But we’ve covered how to protect your car from 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 car up while they get ready for work.

While it might seem like a quick fix, driving your car warms up your engine faster than idling, plus leaving your unlocked car unattended is a dream to car thieves and will almost certainly affect your claim.

If your car is stolen while it was left unattended with the keys in it could result in your claim being refused.

Don’t keep documentation in the car

Your car documents, especially your V5 logbook, 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 of us rely on our key fobs alone.

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 

What may help deter a thief? Well, hiding away possessions is key.

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 out of sight in the boot or glovebox.

If you drive a van, try not to store your tools and equipment in the vehicle. 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, then 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.

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.  

If you haven’t taken reasonable care, your insurer may decline your claim.

Your level of cover 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, when and what cars are most likely to be stolen

Recently, we analysed theft claims over a 12-month period to find out where cars are most likely to be stolen.

The data shows that garages are by far the safest option, while driveways are a hotspot for theft:

Vehicle location Theft claims Percent
Driveway 7022 56%
Street 3153 25%
Residential parking 1088 9%
Garage 912 7%

There were fluctuations for days of the week, too, with Mondays having the most frequent thefts:

Days Theft claims Percent
Monday 2143 17.2%
Wednesday 2063 16.5%
Tuesday 1988 15.9%
Thursday 1918 15.3%
Friday 1908 15.3%
Saturday 1283 10.2%
Sunday 1194 9.6%

Ford drivers have the largest chance of having their vehicle stolen, with 17% of all reported thefts.

However, Ford is by far the most popular car make on our roads, so this is expected:

Make Theft claims Percent
Ford 2115 16.9%
BMW 1251 10%
Honda 1206 9.7%
Land Rover 1024 8.2%
Toyota 932 7.5%
Mercedes 861 6.9%
Volkswagen 833 6.9%
Vauxhall 642 5.2%
Audi 575 4.6%
Lexus 352 2.8%

In terms of individual models, the Ford Fiesta is the model with the most reported thefts, with 6% of all reported thefts.

Again, this is down to its popularity:

Make and model Theft claims Percent
Ford Fiesta 759 6.1%
Honda Jazz 579 4.6%
Ford Transit 511 4.1%
Toyota Auris 394 3.2%
BMW 3 Series 316 2.5%
Volkswagen Golf 297 2.4%
Honda CR-V 264 2.1%
BMW 1 Series 255 2%
Lexus CT 240 1.9%
Land Rover Discovery 227 1.8%

Birmingham is the car theft capital of the country, with 293 claims being recorded in the Midlands city, putting it just ahead of Barnet with 289 theft claims:

District Theft claims Percent
Birmingham 293 2.4%
Barnet 289 2.3%
Enfield 238 1.9%
Leeds 216 1.7%
Bromley 204 1.6%
Wandsworth 193 1.6%
Manchester 183 1.5%
Ealing 158 1.3%
Bexley 154 1.2%
Croydon 143 1.2%

The data is intriguing, but it’s important to practice safety wherever you are and whatever you drive.

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