Your car is likely one of the most expensive investments you’ll ever make. As such, you want to protect it from theft and vandalism much in the same way you want to protect your house. You also want to make sure that no one steals anything important out of your car. When it comes to securing your vehicle, you can spend big bucks on alarms, tracking systems, locks, and disconnect switches. However, if you’d rather not lay out that kind of money, there are quite a few things you can do to secure your car that are free or very inexpensive. Here are some easy steps you can take to secure your car.
Lock the doors
This is the easiest thing to do, but a lot of people forget. When you park your car (even in your own driveway), lock the doors and roll up the windows. Thieves look for an easy opportunity and an unlocked car is one of the easiest. There was a rash of car “break-ins” in my area not long ago and the only vehicles that were affected were the unlocked ones. The thieves didn’t bother with the locked cars. Too much effort, time, and risk of detection is involved. So lock the doors.
Don’t leave valuables in plain view
Don’t leave GPS’s, cell phones, purses, laptops, or shopping purchases in plain view, even if you’re parked at home. Secure them in the trunk, but make sure no one is looking when you do. And if you do put your items in the trunk, lock the doors since the trunk can be popped from inside the car. Better yet, take valuables out of the car entirely. Thieves can see a GPS holder, laptop stand or charger, etc. and may take the chance that the item is still in the car.
Park in the garage, if possible
If you have a garage at home, use it. It’s more secure than your driveway. If your garage is too full of junk to get the car in, clean out the garage. If you live in a more urban area and you have the option of parking in a monitored, gated garage, take it if you can afford it. The harder it is to get to your car, the less likely it is to be stolen.
When you park your car, try to park under lights, near security cameras, or in a well-traveled area. These make it more likely that someone will see a thief messing with your car and call the police. Thieves don’t like to be watched.
Don’t buy a car that’s a target
You can save yourself a lot of trouble if you don’t buy a car that’s a target in the first place. Some are targeted because of their style, such as luxury or sports cars, while others are targeted because their parts are in demand. Your insurance company likely has a list of most frequently stolen cars that they will share with you so you can avoid those models.
Buy a locking gas cap
While a cap won’t keep your car from being stolen, it does make it so that if your car is stolen the thieves will have a harder time filling up. This increases the chance that they won’t get far and may be caught by police. It also helps prevent thieves from siphoning gas out of your tank — a crime that always seems to spike when gas prices rise.
Always take your keys with you
Never leave the keys in the ignition or in the car. That’s just making it way too easy for the thieves.
Never leave the car running unattended
It’s tempting to leave the car running while you run in to the coffee shop or up to the ATM. People also leave cars running to warm them up in the winter. Don’t do it. Thieves watch for these opportunities and it only takes them a second to get in that car and take off.
Protect personal information
Don’t keep your registration in the car, and don’t keep any paperwork with personal or financial information in the car. If a thief steals your car, they may not stop at that. Identity theft is easy with a registration and if they get banking information, it’s easy to clean out your account. Also, with your home address, they know where you live and may decide to rob that, too (particularly if they got your keys).
Don’t use a hide-a-key
Even if you think it’s impossible to find, it isn’t. Thieves know where to look. Give someone you trust a spare key and call them if you have a problem, or get a service like AAA.
Don’t leave your car keys in an obvious place in your home
If thieves break into your home, they often look for car keys. You car will make an ideal get away vehicle and cap off their robbery of your home. Don’t leave the keys on the table, or on a hook by the door. Put them somewhere less obvious.
Mark your car
You can inscribe the VIN number on the engine, on the hood, in the trunk, and on the windows. This makes a car unattractive to thieves because it is now much more difficult to change the car’s identity. It’s also easier for the cops to find if they raid a chop shop or catch the criminals joyriding in your car.
Avoid long-term parking
Thieves know the owners aren’t likely to come back soon and long-term lots are often poorly policed. Get someone to give you a ride or take a taxi to the airport. If you do park in long-term, you can take some simple steps to disable your car such as disconnecting a battery cable, or disconnecting the distributor cap. Thieves often won’t try to figure out what’s wrong with the car, they’ll just move on. It takes too much time and is obvious if they go poking around under the hood.
Don’t create a target
It’s fun to “pimp your ride,” but it also makes it a target. Custom rims, expensive stereo systems, built-in navigation systems, and other additions scream, “Steal me!” Keep your car basic to make it unattractive to thieves.
Use the features you already have
Read the owner’s manual to find out what might already be included with your car. Many newer cars come with alarms, combination locks, and other security features. Figure out what you already have, then use it.
Securing a car doesn’t have to be expensive. Most of it is just common sense. Start with simply locking your doors and parking in secure locations. Those two things alone will go a long way toward making sure your car stays with you.
(Photo courtesy of *USB*)