We will begin with an anecdote. The other day, a friend of mine received a terrifying wake-up call. Despite having a locked garage, he found his car had been broken into, his garage opener and keyfob were gone, and mysteriously, everything else was present. Ultimately, it seemed as if he had done everything cautionary to prevent car theft.
Unfortunately, this was not a rare occurrence. Just a year ago, someone broke into another car he owned (though that car was kept outside). A few months before that, someone stole his roommate’s car with a screwdriver.
If you are reading this with nodding agreeance, don’t be surprised. Car theft and break-ins have been looming over Denver like a dark cloud for a few years. A 2022 report by Colorado-Metropolitan Auto Theft Task Force (C-MATT) stated that car thefts in the Denver area are up 24% thus far. Consequently, that makes the ninth-straight quarter of double-digit percentage increases in vehicle thefts. Calling it a problem would be putting it ever-so-lightly.
But, we aren’t here to fearmonger! If you live in the Denver area, you are probably aware of the rise in car-related crime. We aren’t here to navigate the root cause of the rise but to help. As online car sellers, we know a thing or two about vehicles and their safety. Here are our best tips on how to prevent car theft.
1. The Basics
We could make an entire list of the basic tips to stop car thievery. The stuff you probably already know. Fortunately, that’s not what we are here to do. We want to explain unique and effective ways to prevent car theft. Keeping your doors locked is not one of them.
To cover our bases, we will quickly go over some of the basic techniques on how to prevent car theft.
– Lock Your Doors and Close Your Windows
The quickest way to find yourself bamboozled by car thieves is to leave your car open and unlocked. Ultimately, this should just be considered common sense, but sometimes things slip through our already busy minds.
Make sure that your car is always locked and your windows are always closed. It doesn’t matter how hot it is outside. If heat is a problem, look into getting a windshield cover or tinted windows to help beat the scorching rays.
– Never Leave a Spare Key
Having a hidden key stuck around your vehicle (i.e. in a magnetic box under the wheel well or in the glove box) is always an awful idea. It may seem convenient if you find yourself locked out, but weigh your odds. Would you rather pay a locksmith to unlock your door or search for a stolen vehicle?
– Park in Lit Areas
While thieves will still perform crimes in lit areas, it’s much less likely.
Parking your vehicle in a visually-obscured and dark area is an invitation to break-ins. Try to park your car under streetlights, houselights, or near security cameras during the night. Unfortunately, this may not be possible for every situation. If you must park in a dark area, go about other methods to improve your safety (we’ll get to those).
– Install or Use an Alarm System
If you have a security alarm already installed in your vehicle (like the ones that wake you up at odd hours of the night), then make sure to arm them after leaving your car. Usually this involves double-locking your car with your keyfob, though some systems may require different initiations.
If you do not have an anti-theft system, you could always get one installed. Though it’s not as technical as the other methods on this list, it can still detract thieves with its ear-piercing screeches.
2. Use a Steering Wheel or Tire Lock
The old tried-and-true method still exists for a reason.
If you are looking for a cheap option to secure your vehicle, forgo the fancy technology and apps. Go with the classic steering wheel lock. For those unaware, the steering wheel lock is an extendable metal pole that stretches throughout your steering wheel (or tire). When locked with a special key, the device stops your steering wheel from moving. Thieves would have to have the key for the lock to maneuver the car, despite their hotwiring expertise.
Furthermore, steering wheel locks act as a visual deterrent, too. They are fairly noticeable in size and are usually bright colors. Just the site of extra security may steer some thieves away. It shows that you’ve take precautions, and may have more secret ones up your sleeve.
Unfortunately, the wheel locks require a separate key than your ignition. So, if you are the type that has issues maintaining your key inventory, this device may cause woe. Losing your lock key can cause quite the difficulty in removing it.
3. Etch Your VIN Number Into Your Windows or Windshield
This is a fairly rare one, but it has its benefits.
Your VIN number is the identification of your vehicle. Henceforth, in order for someone to steal, hide, or sell your vehicle, they would have to take the identification number off. Furthermore, if they are looking to piece apart the car and sell the parts, having a VIN number on the parts would make them useless.
Etching your VIN number onto your windows or windshield deters the peskiest of car thieves. They will notice the etching and realize that getting money for the car may be more effort than its worth. Also, it allows the police to identify the vehicle easily if it is stolen.
Luckily, etching your windows is not expensive. You can get an etching kit for around $20, though you may want it done professionally for the visually integrity of it all.
4. Install a Vehicle Immobilizer or Killswitch
Despite being patented in 1919, vehicle immobilizers are finally becoming a common place. If you are looking for how to prevent car theft, an automatic killswitch is your best option.
Sparring you from the technical details, the vehicle immobilizer works as a way to recognize the owner of the vehicle. Without correct recognition, the immobilizer will not allow the vehicle to start, even if hotwired by a thief. Mostly, this technology is seen in vehicles with smart keys. If you have a keyless ignition that only starts when your keyfob is in the car, you have a vehicle immobilizer.
Getting them installed may be a bit pricier than the aforementioned safety methods, but it is one of the most effective techniques when stopping car jackers (though more technical thieves are finding ways around it).
On the other hand, a killswitch is a more old-school approach to immobilization. Simply put, the switch would turn off power to the ignition or battery. You would park your car and turn the switch on. The only way someone could steal your car is by finding the killswitch. Luckily, it being uncommon is a key to its success. Carjackers won’t immediately think to look for a killswitch due to its obscurity.
5. Install a Tracking System
The easiest way to get a stolen car back is to know exactly where it is. Informing the police that your vehicle has been taken results in waiting and seeing. Having the exact pinpoint location makes the process much, much simpler.
Why not have a GPS system already installed in your vehicle? Therefore, if your car is ever taken, it can be immediately found.
Fortunately, smarter heads have already thought of this. Most new vehicles already have a tracking GPS system installed in the vehicle. If not, you can purchase and install one for fairly cheap. While not a prevention method, it is crucial for recovering the vehicle if all else fails.
You can even buy tiny Apple AirTag trackers and hide them in the car. They connect directly to your iPhone and allow you to see exactly where the tracker is. No installation is required. In fact, I have one attached to my cat’s collar. He doesn’t steal cars, but he loves to sneak out at night.