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Car theft rose during the pandemic, according to the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB), so there’s no better time than now to learn how to discourage criminals from targeting your vehicle.
Thankfully, Consumer Reports (CR) recently put a list of tips together to help keep your car safe. Some of the watchdog’s advice can get expensive, but other suggestions are free or as cheap as a lightbulb.
On top of protecting your vehicle from car thieves, some of CR’s ideas can also save you money on car insurance.
Consumer Reports’s 4 car-protection tips
Car thieves tend to be on the lookout for vulnerable vehicles that are easy to swipe. Consumer Reports says being careful where you park, keeping your home safe, buying theft prevention devices, and using a car tracker will encourage would-be thieves to keep moving when they come to your car.
Check your parking habits
Simple, smart parking techniques can deter most car thieves—and they don’t cost you a dollar. Locking your doors might seem like common sense, but Crystal Clark, a spokesperson for the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office in Florida, told CR that most vehicle thefts and burglaries are the result of unlocked doors.
If you’re in the habit of keeping your car unlocked at home or leaving a fob in the car, changing those habits can be the difference between finding your car where you left it and being left without it.
Even if you park in a private garage, locking the doors and bringing the fob into the house is an easily established barrier between your car and the stranger trying to take it.
Besides locking doors and bringing your keys with you, it’s also a good idea to stash valuables out of sight before leaving your car. That way people looking for something to snag won’t be tempted to smash your window and take what’s yours.
Outfit your home to keep your car secure
When the lights go out or when you’re away for the day, a few easy devices will keep your vehicle and other belongings safe from thieves.
Motion detection lights can make criminals think twice before targeting your car, especially if you park your car outside. Even if you keep your vehicle in the garage, installing lights on the outside of your home can startle anyone creeping around, looking for something to steal.
Doorbell cameras are also helpful for deterring thieves (if they notice you have one) and catching them (if they don’t).
Buy theft prevention devices for your car
Steering wheel locks and alarm systems are not a gimmick. They really do thwart thieves from singling out your car to lift. Even something as simple as a blinking red light will make a car thief hesitate before breaking into your vehicle.
Alarm systems can be costly, ranging from $500 to $1,300 for the product and installation, according to CR. But most steering wheel locks cost less than $100 and will make stealing your car too much of a hassle for the vast majority of robbers.
Use a car tracker
In the extremely small chance that all these tips fail and your car gets jacked, installing a tracker can help you get it back.
Expert Markets says most of these systems require you to purchase the tech (which can cost between $200-$400+) , have it installed by a professional ($100+), and pay a monthly subscription fee for the tracking service (between $15-$29 per month).
While they can be expensive, these systems can keep you from having to replace your car and make expensive insurance claims.
How theft prevention techniques can save you money on car insurance
Some of CR’s tips can get pricey, but you can often get some of that money back through car insurance discounts.
Loretta Worters, vice president at the Insurance Information Institution (III). told CR that outfitting your vehicle with an alarm, GPS tracking, or a hidden ignition kill switch can get you access to up to 15% on your premiums.
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