Car theft is a serious issue. Cars are our primary mode of transportation, and losing one hurts more than one way. While the technologies like engine immobilizers are becoming the norm, even the most advanced technologies can be breached by thieves.
No, they don't need to use high-technology spy tools or gadgets that look straight from a Hollywood movie. Most of the time, they only need a couple of seconds and some common hand tools. However, thieves have access to incredible technology when they need them. This explains why, according to NHTSA and FBI, a car gets stolen every 43.8 seconds.
It's not just car theft. Vehicle-related theft is on the rise. Thieves can smash your window to grab your valuables or come in under your car to steal your catalytic converters. This huge epidemic affects millions of people, and your vehicle might get targeted.
Before panicking, you need to know that by using common sense and some inexpensive methods, you can rest your head peacefully, knowing that your car is safe. In this post, we will look at statistics, explain why thieves target certain cars and catalytic converters, explain their methods, and give tips on how to make your car safer from getting stolen.
Most Stolen Cars: A Look at the Statistics
According to the National Insurance Crime Bureau's (NICB) annual report, 932,329 vehicles were reported stolen in the US. When it comes to which cars are the bigger targets, we got some answers. Some popular vehicles, such as Full Size pick-up trucks from Chevrolet and Ford, including, but not limited to, Ford F150 and Chevrolet Silverado, are getting stolen because, well, they are popular. Older Honda vehicles like old Honda Civics get stolen a lot because they are easy to steal. Also, some Toyota and Lexus vehicles are being targeted more than others. Check out the infographic below to see the ten most stolen vehicles in the US.
Car Theft Hotspots
Car theft is on the rise nationwide, but if you live in certain parts of the United States of America, you might be at more risk. Check out the infographic below to see where car thefts are more common.
Why Thieves Target Catalytic Converters
Catalytic converter theft isn't new. It has been going on since the device's widespread use in 1975. However, it has become more common in the last couple of years. But why do thieves steal catalytic converters? To understand why you need to know what a catalytic converter is.
The catalytic converter is a part of a car's exhaust system. It is an exhaust device that reduces emissions, pollutants, and toxic gases from the exhaust pipe. These devices have some precious metals, such as platinum, palladium, and rhodium, in their core. These metals react with the exhaust gas to break them down into less harmful stuff like carbon dioxide and steam.
Thieves target catalytic converters because they are after those precious metals found in the catalytic converter. A catalytic converter is also easy to steal, especially considering how high trucks and SUVs are. They can slide under a car and cut it out in seconds.
Some other vehicles, like hybrids and plug-in hybrids like Toyota Prius, are targeted because they have more precious metals in their catalytic converters. Hybrid vehicles use their Internal Combustion Engine (ICE) less often. So the exhaust doesn't get as hot as a traditional car.
Thieves sell catalytic converters anywhere from $50 to $250, but it can get as high as $1500 for catalytic converters of hybrid vehicles.
Getting into the Mind of a Criminal: How and Why They Steal Cars
Thieves have different motives for stealing cars. Some do it for money, as they can sell the cars overseas or in other states. Thieves can also break the cars down for parts in "chop shops" and sell the valuable parts. Some do it because they are jerks that enjoy using other people's properties.
Motives and ways evolve with the years. If you want to keep your car safe from criminals, you must get into their heads and know their methods.
Common Methods of Car Theft
Nowadays, most vehicles have an engine immobilizer. However, they are less common than you would think. For example, some new model Kia and Hyundai cars didn't have an immobilizer, and they are extremely easy to steal; all it takes is a USB cable, not a special one at that, too. Because of this, young thieves started breaking into these cars for joyrides.
Thieves also hotwire cars. However, that's where the steering lock comes into play. They can't move the steering wheel if they don't have a key inserted. Be that as it may, steering locks can be easy to break if you yank on them hard enough.
If your car has an immobilizer and a chipped key, your vehicle is a lot harder to steal. Chipped keys communicate with the ECU of your vehicle through radio frequencies. If the key doesn't provide the right frequency, the car will not start. However, some thieves get creative to steal those cars. They impersonate a car dealership, give the VIN, and get a key made for your car. After getting the key, they can enter the vehicle and disengage the steering lock. After disengaging, the locks, thieves will hook an advanced OBD II tool to the OBD II port and program the key. Most criminals don't have the tools, skills, or patience to steal this kind of car, and they move away to easier targets.
Thieves can perform a high-tech relay attack if your car has a keyless entry. Relay attacks require two jerks to perform, one thief to get the signal and relay it to the thief that stands near the car. With this attack, thieves can trick the car into thinking the keys are near the vehicle, get in, and drive the car.
Anti-Theft Measures for Cars: What Works?
While thieves have all sorts of tools in their pockets, you can mitigate the risks by using some tools and common sense; you can keep your pride and joy safe from no-good thieves.
Car Security Cameras
If you live in a risky area where common break-ins and car theft are common, getting security cameras for your car may help you keep it safe or get some evidence to find your car once it's stolen. These cameras have motion detection sensors, and when they detect something, they send notifications and videos to your phone and save the video to the cloud to keep the footage safe. The cameras can also be a deterrent.
Steering Wheel Locks
Installing a steering wheel lock might seem outdated, but it is a great way to deter less determined jerks from stealing your car. There is a couple of different styles of steering wheel locks you can choose to get. Some only lock onto the steering wheel itself, and some lock onto one of the pedals and the steering wheel together. Whichever you choose, installing a visible lock will make your car less enticing and time-consuming to steal.
Tire Locks and Tire Boots
If you live in a metropolitan area and regularly street park, you have dealt with tire boots at least once. So, you don't need us to say it is very annoying. You can use this annoying tool to your advantage, as they are inexpensive, visible, time-consuming, and noisy to deal with. These bad boys can also keep your tire, lug nuts, and rims safe. Overall, if you want to mitigate the risk of car theft, tire boots, and tire clamp locks are fantastic tools.
Installing an aftermarket GPS tracker might not keep your car safe, but it will give you peace of mind. Installing a GPS tracker will provide you and local law enforcement with your vehicle's pinpoint location and increase the chances of recovery.
OBD II Lock
As mentioned, thieves can use the onboard diagnostics port (OBD II) to reprogram a key for your vehicle. You can get aftermarket OBD II locks online or at an auto parts store to keep your OBD II port safe from thieves.
RFID Blocking Pouches
As previously mentioned, most keyless entry and start systems and chipped keys use radio frequency to communicate with the vehicle. If you want to keep your keyless entry car safe from relay attacks, you can get an RFID-blocking bag or a little RFIF block pouch and keep your keys or card in there to block the radio signals. RFID block pouches are constructed in a way that they interfere with the radio signals. These bags are also known as Faraday bags. RFID block pouches are a relatively inexpensive and easy way to keep your car safe.
Catalytic Converter Shields and Locks
You can invest in a catalytic converter shield or a catalytic converter lock to keep your catalytic converter safe. Catalytic converter shields are made from sheet metal and welded into place to make your catalytic converter challenging to steal. A mechanic or your dealership can install these.
Catalytic converter locks are different. These devices act like alarm systems and let out a loud siren when it detects vibrations from a battery-powered saw. Also, try to get your VIN engraved on your catalytic converter. This will help law enforcement and make it harder for the thief to sell your catalytic converter.
Installing a killswitch to your vehicle is one of the cheapest and most effective ways to prevent car theft. There are different kinds of killswitches you can find. Some can disable the fuel pump. Some can cut the battery power. Once the switch is turned on, thieves can only start a car if they can find the switch.
Also, some throttle response controllers come with similar functionality. Once you enable the anti-theft function, these performance parts disable the gas pedal, and your vehicle won't accelerate unless an authorized device enters a set pin code.
Helpful Habits and Common Sense
As mentioned, you must make your car not appealing to steal, and a way to do it is by using some common sense. For example;
- Don't leave your car unlocked. That goes without saying, but lock the doors and close the windows whenever you exit your vehicle.
- Kill the engine whenever you are exiting your vehicle. Never leave the keys in your vehicle or keep it running.
- If possible, park your car in a locked garage. If you don't have access to a locked garage, you can park in a well-lit and populated area.
- Don't leave your valuables in your vehicle. If you must, keep them out of sight.
- Don't hang your keys or keyless entry card near the doors or windows. If you want to hang your keys, keep them in an RFID-blocking pouch or bag, or install a metal box to keep your keys.
Resources for Car Owners: Insurance and Local Law Enforcement
You need to be calm and act fast if your car gets stolen. If you work quickly and report your vehicle to your local law enforcement and insurance firm, the recovery rate increases drastically. Let's examine how you can report a stolen car and whether car insurance covers car theft.
How to Report a Stolen Car and What to Expect From Local Law Enforcement
If your car gets stolen or it is being stolen, call 911 immediately. Law enforcement will want some information from you to help locate your vehicle. They will ask for the following;
- Make, model, and color of your vehicle. Also, if your vehicle has a distinctive mark or unique features, report them to the police.
- License plate number.
- Vehicle Identification Number (VIN)
- Things you see at the crime scene. For example, if there is any broken glass or thieves left any tool behind.
- The approximate time your car could have been stolen.
You should also tell the police if your car has a GPS tracking system installed or if you have any video device installed that has the footage of the incident. This will help law enforcement significantly in locating and recovering the vehicle.
Does Car Insurance Cover Theft? What to Know About Your Coverage
There are three types of insurance: liability, collision, and comprehensive. Collision insurance is exactly what it sounds like: it covers losses/damages caused by accidents. Liability protects the other person in the case of an accident caused by you. Comprehensive insurance covers theft or damage that is not the consequence of a traffic accident.
Liability insurance is required in all states, although collision and comprehensive coverage are optional. If you have comprehensive coverage in your insurance, your insurance company will pay you.