How to protect yourself from car theft

Last updated April 30, 2021

Recent innovation in methods used by car thieves might be responsible for the surge in car theft in the UK, with figures showing that over 150,000 vehicles were stolen in the 2018-19 financial year. That’s an increase of over 50% from the 97,609 stolen vehicles reported in 2014-15.

So, how do you protect yourself from car theft? We’re here to cover some extra preventative measures you can take to keep your vehicle safe.

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Double-check your car is locked

Don’t just rely on your wireless key fob to lock your car doors – always manually check that they’re locked. This is important to keep in mind, because ‘jammer’ devices can be used by thieves to intercept and cancel out the wireless signal between your wireless key fob and your car, leaving your vehicle vulnerable to theft without you even knowing.

Be aware of ‘relay attacks’

A relay attack involves two thieves working together using electronic signal relay devices. One uses a device to receive the signal from your keys, transferring it to a second box located next to your car. This can trick your car into thinking the key signal presented is genuine, unlocking the doors.

While signal relay devices are thought to be able to penetrate walls, doors and windows, electrical signals in general can be blocked by a Faraday cage (essentially a metal enclosure). You can now buy specific Faraday bags – metal-lined pouches to store your keys in. Alternatively, you could choose to keep your keys in your own metal box or safe when they’re not in use.

Don't display belongings or tech items

Having your belongings on display, or even leaving loose change on the dashboard, could be all it takes to tempt somebody to break in and leave you with a repair bill for a damaged window. To minimise the risk of opportunistic theft, keep the cover of your stereo closed and remove your sat nav from view when you park your car.

Removing the holder and cleaning any tell-tale suction marks from the windscreen is an extension of this precaution. In the same vein – if you have a dash cam then consider removing it and storing it out of sight to reduce the risk of dash cam theft.

Fit a car alarm or immobiliser

Most modern cars are equipped with factory-fitted immobilisers, but adding a Thatcham-approved car alarm can reduce your car insurance premium as well as the dangers of car theft. You can even go a step beyond and install a post-theft tracking system in your car. This won’t make it any less likely to be stolen, but may increase the chances of being able to recover it if it is.

Add visual deterrents

Sturdy steering wheel locks and having your car’s reg number etched onto the windows are old-school deterrents that are still worth considering in the digital age. Any opportunistic thieves may be put off by visual deterrents and could pass by a car they see as having robust security measures in place.

Keep your documents at home

Don’t leave your logbook or service records in your car. While it seems like a suitable place to store them, if a thief steals your vehicle, they may find it easier to sell on with the service records present. What’s more, you’ll have the added stress of having identify-sensitive documents stolen too.

Protect your alloy wheels

Expensive alloy wheels might be particularly appealing to thieves, so protect them with locking wheel nuts. Fortunately, you can pick these up relatively cheaply, they are easy to fit and are very difficult to remove without the correct key. While wheel nut removers are available online, the lock itself may deter opportunistic thieves.

Stay safe in traffic

You might overlook this piece of advice because of its simplicity, but car safety is just as important when you’re in the car as when you’re parked. If you’re in slow-moving traffic jam, close your windows, lock your doors and keep any valuables out of sight.

Don’t leave your car running

While it might be tempting to leave your car running, especially when warming the cabin up on frosty mornings, you run the risk of having your car stolen. When de-icing your car, popping into a shop, or dropping the kids off at school – switch off the engine and lock the doors to protect your vehicle.

Park in a safe place

Consider if you need to park in the most convenient place rather than finding a well-lit space open to public view. If you’re at the shops or in a busy town centre car park, parking close to other shoppers, rather than away from other cars for convenience’s sake might act as enough of a deterrent to put off opportunistic thieves.