Stop thieves!

How can I protect my car from being stolen or broken into?

You spend years saving to own a car and a skilled thief can steal it in less than a minute. Insurance will cover the loss, but you worked hard to buy it. And who wants the hassle of shopping for another one?

The cost of auto-theft claims now runs about $600 million a year, bumping up the price of each auto insurance policy by about $40. With close to 160,000 vehicles stolen in Canada every year, that’s almost one set of wheels scooped up every three minutes.

Even a nondescript family sedan or a well-aged rusting set of wheels that neighbours secretly snicker at isn’t safe from thieves. Crooks prowling for getaway cars favour convenience over style. An easy target is attractive, no matter what it looks like. But anti-theft devices, and some common sense, can save you from losing your vehicle.

Hot-wire stoppers
Shopping for a theft-resistant car is quite simple. In 1998, the auto insurance industry came up with a certification standard for anti-theft devices. About 60 per cent of new cars come with theft-deterrent immobilizers approved by the Insurance Bureau of Canada (IBC). These cars require a specially coded key or key fob to start, preventing thieves from hot-wiring them. This usually qualifies you for a lower insurance rate. The IBC website lists autos equipped with approved immobilizers.

If you own an older car, you can invest $200 to $400 (including installation) in an IBC-approved theft-deterrent immobilizer. Again, visit the Vehicle Information Centre section of the IBC website for sellers.

No-cost measures
On a tight budget? Here are some no-cost measures to combat auto theft:

·Park in well-lit well-travelled areas. Always close your car windows and lock the doors and never leave valuables in plain view.
·Lock your car in your garage every night. Avoid using key racks to hang car keys (they make a thief’s job even easier).
·Take your claim ticket with you when parking in a large pay lot (unless the stub says to leave it on the dashboard). A thief with your time stub can drive your car out of the lot without raising suspicion.

Driver error
Definitely the more careless gaffe that motorists continually pull is leaving their cars running when they duck into homes, convenience stores or banks—only for a minute, of course. Even cars equipped with theft-deterrent systems have been snatched this way. “Vehicles are a lot harder to steal now than they were in the past,” notes Costa Kaskavaltzis, IBC’s manager of automotive engineering and vehicle services, “but human behaviour is still the missing factor.”

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