Most of us rely on our cars; whether it be for work, taking the kids to school or social activities. Having a car stolen can be stressful, inconvenient and costly. Many think it won’t happen to them but around one in every 120 Australian homes fall victim to car criminals each year. The good news is whether you own a late-model car or something a little more vintage, by taking a few simple precautions you can greatly reduce your risk of becoming a victim of theft.
- In Australia a car is stolen every 12 minutes.
- 76 per cent of cars are stolen for short term purposes not involving the vehicle's value such as joyriding or for use in the commission of another crime.
- Advances in security technology have made it impossible to simply ‘hot wire’ a modern car.
- 70 per cent of late model vehicles are stolen with the keys.
- Thieves are now targeting homes to steal car keys—
- Half of all cars stolen are taken from the home.
- Another 25 per cent are stolen from a garage or the street outside the owner’s home.
- The thefts are almost always opportunistic, with offenders often entering premises through unlocked doors and windows.
- Some offenders are prepared to enter occupied premises to quickly grab keys left in easily accessibly spots.
- Car theft is stressful, inconvenient and costly; and contrary to popular belief insurance does not always cover the cost with victims on average out of pocket $3,000.
What can you do?
Enhance your home’s security – a secure home means a secure car:
- Keep trees and shrubs well-trimmed in order to provide a clear line of sight to the street and reduce potential hiding places.
- Ideally front fences should allow clear visibility to the front door and any windows.
- External doors and frames should be of solid construction and fitted with quality deadlocks which comply with Australian Standard AS 4145.1:2008.
- Fit quality key-operated lock sets to windows.
- Lock doors and windows when gardening or working outside or in an isolated part of the house.
- Keep your garage locked to restrict unauthorised access.
- Motion activated external security lighting can deter intruders.
- Consider installing a home alarm system that meets Australian Standard AS/NZS 2201.1:2007.
- Plan and discuss with your family or housemates what to do in the event that you or they encounter an intruder entering or already in your home.
- Download a free security assessment guide and conduct an audit of your home’s security.
Safeguard your keys – they are worth as much as the value of your car:
- Always store car keys out of view and away from external doors and windows.
- Thieves mostly target the master bedroom first, followed by the living room and home office.
- If the car is at home but you are out make sure you have all the keys with you. (When you are out don’t leave keys unattended in bags, lockers or the like.)
- Don’t tag your keys with your name or address – use a mobile phone number or driver licence number instead.
- If your home has been broken into and your keys are stolen, change the cylinders in the locks or fit additional locks.
- Never leave a spare set of house or car keys in your car.
- Be a good neighbour. If you notice any suspicious activity report it immediately to Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000 or police on 131 444 in all states except for Victoria. In Victoria contact your local police station.
Tips for owners of older cars
Older cars are not equipped with the security features of newer vehicles such as an engine immobiliser. The ease with which older cars can be broken into and driven away using simple tools such as a coat hanger and screwdriver makes them the perfect target for young thieves looking for a joyride or a quick mode of transport. To reduce the risk of your older car being stolen:
- Fit an after-market engine immobiliser. It can cost as little as $220 and will prevent your car from being able to be hotwired;
- Remove all valuables such as mobile phones, tablets, bags, and sunglasses from your car to reduce temptation;
- Park wisely - if you have off-street parking, use it; and
- As in the case of late model cars - protect your car keys. An engine immobiliser cannot help you if a thief has access to your keys.
Buying a used car
Around a quarter of all cars stolen in Australia are never recovered with a large number of these stripped for parts which are given new identifiers and placed back on the market to be sold to unsuspecting buyers. While it may seem unfair, if you buy a car from a private seller which is later found to be stolen or written off, you may lose both the vehicle and the money you paid for it. This can also be the case if you purchase a car which is still under finance.
To be completely safe, buy through a licensed dealer. If you decide to buy from a private seller be sure to check the status of the vehicle on the Personal Property Securities Register (PPSR). A PPSR check will confirm:
- that basic vehicle description (eg. make, model, colour, jurisdiction of registration, etc) is consistent with the national register;
- whether the vehicle is financially encumbered;
- whether the vehicle is recorded as stolen; and
- whether the vehicle has ever been declared a total loss (ie. a write-off).