How to stop someone from stealing your car

DRIVING | August 2020

Having your car stolen is a big, big nuisance. There’s the hassle of being without transport, but what about losing that laptop, briefcase or backpack you left on the back seat? The one question you’re sure to ask yourself is “why me, why my car?”

Usually car thefts are a result of opportunity. Someone needs wheels to get home on a Saturday night, so they steal the easiest target they can find from a place they’ll not be noticed.

A car with goodies on display is especially tempting. A wallet, handbag, mobile phone, cash, golf clubs, fishing gear, navigation device, laptop, CDs and a nice pair of shoes are all a bonus over and above a free ride home.

Then comes the big pay day! A car with a key fob left inside or, even better, one that’s unlocked with the keys still in the ignition!

Tips for making your car unattractive to thieves

There are several answers to the question “why my car”, but it comes down to how convenient and how tempting your car is to thieves.

To reduce the chances of your car being stolen, you need to make the car thief feel nervous about the time it’s going to take to steal your car. The longer it takes to break into a car, the greater the chance of the thief being caught. First, do the common sense preventative measures to discourage theft.

  • Make sure you lock your car at all times, especially whenever your car is parked and unattended.
  • Don’t leave windows or the sunroof open when you're not in the car.
  • Don’t leave valuables on display.
  • Park your car in a well-lit area if you’re away from home.
  • When you’re home, park in the garage, behind a locked gate or under a street light. And don't forget to lock your car, even when you're parked at home, behind a locked gate or in the garage.
  • Don’t get out of your car and leave the engine running or keys in it, even for a few seconds.

Then, consider using some anti-theft tools to make a thief’s job much harder.

  • Car alarm system
  • Steering wheel lock
  • Ignition cut out switch or ignition shield
  • Fuel cut out switch
  • Handbrake lock
  • Transmission lock
  • Wheel lock
  • Car tracking system

Some of these are standard with later model cars, but they’re also able to be retro fitted.

City dwellers be extra careful

According to, there were 27,527 thefts of motor vehicles, motor vehicle parts or contents nationwide in 2019 alone. Of those, 45.6% happened in the three major cities, Auckland City, Wellington and Christchurch. So if you live in a city then you should take extra precautions.

Install a car alarm if you don’t already have one. Most car thieves operate quickly and quietly and will likely be put off if they see that flashing red alarm diode. Steering wheel locks, anti-theft markings and immobilizers will also discourage thieves. Have your car’s vehicle identification number (VIN) etched onto each of your windows - car thieves want fewer complications and they don’t want to have to pay to have your windows replaced.

When you park in town use a car park where there’s an attendant or park in a mall where there are security patrols. If you’re parked on an incline, leave your car in park or in gear with your wheels pointed towards the curb. This will make it harder for thieves to tow your car.

A vehicle tracking device won’t stop a thief, but it could help you recover your vehicle after it’s stolen.

If you have to leave valuables in your car, hide them. Thieves will be tempted to break into your car if there’s a smartphone or laptop in clear view. Even better, take your valuables with you or leave them at home. Common sense tells you to always lock your car and take your keys with you, even if you’re just ducking in to grab a coffee from the local café.

If you own an older car, don’t think you’re immune from becoming a car theft victim. You may think your car’s not worth stealing, but that’s irrelevant if someone’s just looking for a free ride home.

Types of car thieves

Car thieves come in all shapes and sizes, and steal for their own reasons. Here are four types of car thieves to keep an eye out for.

First are the professionals. Depending on the model and demand, many stolen cars are destined for a ‘chop shop’. Here cars are broken down into parts and individual parts are then sold on the black market. In a few cases, stolen cars are shipped to other countries to meet specific requests for a particular vehicle.

Next there are the joy-riders. They usually favour high-performance or luxury cars. After the fun has ended, these cars are usually recovered but have often sustained considerable damage.

The secondary car thief uses the stolen car for the purposes of committing another crime, maybe another burglary or similar. The car is usually abandoned after the crime has been committed.

Lastly, and not so common in New Zealand, are the car jackers. They may fake an accident by bumping into your car and then steal it when you get out to look for damage. If this happens and you feel threatened, leave enough room to manoeuver around the vehicle in front and drive to a populated area. Call the police.

You can significantly reduce and even prevent your car being stolen by keeping these things in mind when leaving your car unattended.

Protecting your most prized possession

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