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The best ways to secure your car

heycar editorial team

Written by

heycar editorial team

car key unlocking
  • We show you the best ways to keep your car safe and secure from thieves
  • What are the best security locks?
  • How to find out how secure your car is

Car alarms are the eyes and ears of your car. They’re supposed to look after it all the time you can’t. But it is possible to either get around them or ignore them altogether. Proof is the fact UK insurers paid out every eight minutes to a victim of car crime in the first quarter of 2019.

Here we investigate car security, the main types of car theft, and look at the best ways to secure your car.

The main types of car crime

Although most of us are frightened of our cars being stolen, statistics show we’re far more likely to have a car broken into and something nicked from it.

That said, the number of cars being stolen is on the rise. Government figures show car theft was up by 9% in 2018 compared to 2017.

As security measures make taking a car without the key quite challenging, more determined or desperate car thieves resort to violence, or the threat of it. After all, the simplest way to take a modern car is to mug someone for their keys, car jack them, or burgle their home and take the keys.

However, cars with keyless security are vulnerable to a new type of car crime called relay theft. This exploits a weakness in cars that don’t need a physical key to open or be driven. It enables crooks to hack into the key’s signal to take the car.

How to combat car crime

There are five main types of car security devices: alarms, immobilisers, steering or pedal locks, trackers and Faraday bags.

Car alarms are standard on the majority of newer cars. The best ones work in a number of ways to sound an alert if your car is broken into or towed away.

Alarms monitor the openings, sounding if a door, boot or bonnet are forced. They have tilt sensors to go off if a car is lifted up to be towed away or put on a truck. And they have the ability to detect broken windows or if there’s someone inside the car.

Immobilisers work on the car’s main computer. They feature a transponder in the key that talks to a similar device in the car. If the two devices communicate correctly, they’ll let the car start. If they don’t, it won’t go anywhere.

Steering or pedal locks secure your car by presenting a physical barrier to the car being driven. However, some are better at their job than others. It’s worth reading reviews carefully before buying.

Tracking devices enable the tracking company and police to find a car if it’s stolen. The tracker’s transmitter is hidden inside the car. It sends out a signal which can be followed if the car is taken illegally.

The only way to foil a tracker is to put the car in a metal box such as a shipping container. This prevents the signal getting out. Nonetheless, around 95% of stolen cars with trackers are found. But the systems are expensive; on top of fitting them you must also pay an annual subscription, which is why tracking systems are usually only found on high-end vehicles.

Faraday bags are small lined pouches. If you store your car key in one, the signal it emits won’t be able to escape, so no one will be able to hack into it. These are a cheap solution for cars that are vulnerable to relay theft.

Best car security locks

No matter what theft prevention device you use, the best ones are approved by an outfit known as Thatcham. Correctly called the Motor Industry Insurance Research Centre, but based in Thatcham, Berkshire, it’s a not-for-profit organisation funded by the insurance industry to test out security systems. How Thatcham rates a car’s security affects how much insurance premiums cost.

Thatcham put security devices into one of seven categories, enabling us to instantly see how effective they are. Reassuringly, Thatcham-approved car security systems such as alarms and immobilisers are the industry benchmark for protecting cars.

How secure is my car?

First thing’s first: check your car’s user manual. That should tell you what kind of alarm and immobiliser it has. If you’re looking at buying a car, either check the user manual when you’re viewing the car or hunt around for how secure it is on the internet.

Thatcham has started rating keyless starting systems according to how vulnerable they are to relay theft. Check the ratings of cars here.

Look after yourself

No matter which Thatcham-approved security measures you take, the contents inside a car are still vulnerable to someone smashing a window. Police advice is to make sure you take any valuables with you.

Lock your car too. Even if you’re just leaving it for a short time while you pay for petrol, that’s long enough for someone to open a door and take valuables.

If you have a sat nav mounted on the windscreen, don’t just put it in the glovebox: it’s the first place most crooks look. If you leave a mobile device in the car, even if it’s in the boot, make sure it’s switched off. Some criminals will scan car parks for wifi or Bluetooth signals to see if there are any devices in cars nearby.


See also: 

Cars that are hardest to steal

Best cars for reliability

Best rated crossovers on heycar