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How to prevent car theft

Consumer Reports News: September 08, 2009 11:21 AM

The good news is that car thefts are down across the country, continuing a five-year trend. Preliminary figures from the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) show that total thefts for 2008 could reach their lowest level in over 20 years. However, still nearly one million vehicles were stolen last year. Drivers need to continue to be vigilant to reduce these numbers further.

Here are some tips to help make your vehicle less desirable to thieves:
  • Lock your car. It is common sense that many thefts happen to unlocked vehicles. The goal is to make your car less desirable than others, and a locked door is a simple deterrent.
  • Never leave your car running unattended and always take your keys with you. Otherwise, you are inviting thieves to drive off with your car.
  • Keep windows closed when you park and leave your vehicle. A slender arm or clothes hanger can reach in through even a narrow opening to unlock the door.
  • Don’t store valuables or expensive electronic devices in plain sight. It’s best to take portable devices with you.
  • Park in a well-lighted, public place when running errands and when at home. A car will, obviously, be safer in a garage than in a driveway or at a curb.
  • Use a visual warning device, such as a blinking light, as a deterrent. An alarm can be effective, but it is even better if the crook doesn’t break into the vehicle in the first place. If your car is not factory-equipped with these features, they can be installed at a local automotive stereo shop.
  • Smart keys or a fuel cut-offs system, aka engine immobilizer, are standard on many late-model cars and can add security. Thieves won’t steal a car they cannot start.
  • For advanced protection, install a GPS or radio frequency tracking system in your vehicle to help police find it.
The top three most stolen vehicles for 2008, according to the NICB, are the 1994 Honda Accord, 1995 Honda Civic, and 1989 Toyota Camry. These older cars tend to be more popular than new cars because their parts can be sold for a higher value. Also, anti-theft technologies in new cars have made it more difficult for thieves to steal.

If you are in the market for a used car, see our used car buying advice.

Liza Barth  
   

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