Your car is one of the most important assets you own. Next to your house, it may be the most important. And it’s important to take steps to keep your car safe.
Recently, I received the following question from a reader named Trevon:
So I live in a townhome community with good lighting. My next-door neighbor had his car broken into a week ago. Luckily, all that was taken was change.
Well, I just heard from him today that our other next-door neighbor got his 2000-ish Honda Civic stolen last night around 2:30 a.m. (they think). He said he has one door that doesn’t lock and they must have hot-wired the car. The other thing is that he also kept the title to that car in the glove box…
Now I’m worried about my truck that doesn’t have an alarm. What can I do to protect it? Any cheap but effective GPS tracking to put on it? Maybe one of us needs to get a camera? Any way to hide a horn or some alarm that goes off when a door is opened? Not sure if I can sleep tonight wondering if my vehicle is next.
The FBI estimates that a vehicle is stolen every 44 seconds in the United States. Even though vehicle thefts have declined over the past few years, cars are still a huge target for criminals looking for valuables and automotive parts.
The thing is about 40% of people admit they don’t hide valuables when they leave them in the car, which is typically the reason a burglar will break in. Plus, 33% of people admit they have left their car unattended while it’s running. Obviously, this presents a crime of opportunity for many thieves.
Lastly, some models are targeted because they’re so common and can be chopped up and the parts sold. The cars most frequently stolen for this reason are the Honda Accord and Civic.
Deter and Defend
With that in mind, I want to share with you some critical tips to keep your car safe. I understand that a real car alarm may be too pricey for some people. But here are four things that you can do.
Buy a fake alarm
I know I just mentioned that car alarms can be expensive. In addition, it’s been my experience that aftermarket car alarms can be a big hassle if the alarm starts going off all the time for no reason.
However, a car alarm can be a major deterrent to a car thief because no criminal wants to draw attention to themselves. I recommend buying a fake car alarm. Basically, just a little red light that blinks. Put it on your dashboard and it looks like a fancy car alarm.
Most criminals are looking for an easy target — they don’t want to mess with the possibility of tripping a loud alarm. So if they see a blinking red light on your dash, they will likely bypass your vehicle. You can purchase these clever decoys for as little as $10 on Amazon.
Get a GPS tracker
GPS trackers are a great thing to have because they can help police quickly track down your car if it does get stolen. You can buy the Spy Tec STI GPS tracker for about $50 on Amazon. Most GPS trackers charge a monthly monitoring fee — for Spy Tec, the fee is $25 per month.
A GPS tracker won’t do much to prevent a thief from stealing your car, but it can help you get it back. Just be sure to hide the tracker in a place the criminal isn’t likely to see it, such as the trunk.
Install security cameras
I’m a huge proponent of having security cameras, but I realize this may not be an option depending on where you park your car. If that’s the case, I recommend installing a trail camera. This is a type of camera commonly used by hunters when scouting game.
Trail cameras are battery powered and can easily be moved from one location to another. You can buy one for about $100, but remember, these also need to be placed in a location where the criminal won’t see the camera and just steal it too.
Remember that security cameras can protect your home as well as your car, serving double duty.
Hide your valuables
I’ll admit that I’m not the best at keeping my car clean, but one thing I’m always careful about is what I leave in my car. I always take my laptop and cellphone with me, and I never leave anything of value in my car.
If you can’t take your valuables with you, at least put them in the trunk. Ideally, you should put these items in the trunk before you park. If you go to a shopping mall and put your laptop in the trunk when you arrive, there is a good chance someone will see you do it.
The bottom line
Most criminals who break into cars or steal them are looking for easy targets. If you have a clean car with nothing inside parked in a well-lit area, they will most likely move on to another car.
And remember, if you have to park in a high-crime area, you can always use The Club steering wheel lock that was so popular in the ’90s. It’s cheap (about $25) and still a surprisingly effective deterrent.