Devices to Prevent Car Theft

Cropped image of businesswoman using remote control key to unlock car
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An average of over four billion dollars worth of cars is stolen in the United States per year, with less than 15% of them recovered. A car doesn’t have to be expensive to be a target. Thieves often steal vehicles just to strip them of their tires, parts, and metal components. Others steal cars to use as getaway vehicles while committing other crimes. It doesn’t matter if you drive a new luxury sedan or an old pickup truck. Car theft is a reality that you need to guard against. Multiple devices are available that help ​protect against your vehicle getting stolen.

  • 01 of 05

    Car Alarm

    Unlocking car with car key.
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    Nearly everyone is familiar with the basic car alarm. You probably hear at least one or two go off every day if you live or work in a metropolitan area. The alarm activates when a thief breaks a window, opens a door or tries to start a car without turning the alarm off first. Some alarms are deactivated with an access code, while others turn off remotely using a key fob.
    One advantage of car alarms is that they make it harder for a car thief to operate anonymously. Thieves don’t want attention, and a loud, blaring siren is bound to get the attention of anyone nearby, including the car owner. As a result, the thief is more likely to bypass a car with an alarm for a vehicle without one.
    The disadvantage of car alarms is how common they are and how often they go off accidentally. The panic button on the key fob in someone’s pocket often gets pushed accidentally, either in the pocket or while the owner is pulling the keys out, and this triggers a false alarm. Society, in general, is so used to car alarms going off inadvertently that many people don’t even turn and look in the direction of an alarm anymore. It’s become a normal part of urban society. Some alarms are also expensive and may not be in your price range.

  • 02 of 05

    Steering Wheel Lock Bar

    A blue steering wheel lock
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    A steering wheel lock bar slides over the steering wheel and locks in place, preventing a thief from being able to turn the wheel because the bar hits the car door, preventing the wheel from turning. The bar is typically made out of hardened metal to make it difficult to cut. It also slides inward to make it more compact when not in use, allowing you to store it quickly under the seat or in the trunk.
    One advantage of the steering wheel lock bar is that it’s simple and easy to use. It fits onto the steering wheel in seconds and just requires a key to remove it. It is also cost-effective, with many brands costing less than $50.
    One disadvantage is the inconvenience. While it is quick to put on and take off, this process easily grows tiresome for some users, and you likely grow complacent over time and start leaving it off more often than putting it onto the steering wheel. The other disadvantage is that the bar is easy to remove for a prepared thief. While the bar itself is difficult to cut, the steering wheel itself is not. A thief with a saw or knife hacks through the steering wheel and pulls the lock bar off in a few seconds.

  • 03 of 05

    Kill Switch

    Thief trying to start up the car with a screwdriver
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    A kill switch works either as a stand-alone device or with an alarm system. When a thief tries to start the car without a key, the kill switch cuts off the fuel to the car or shuts off the electrical system, preventing the thief from taking the car anywhere. The kill switch is disengaged with a plastic key or an entry code, much like a car alarm.
    One advantage of a kill switch is that it makes it harder for a thief to take the car after he has broken into it. While a kill switch does nothing to protect the valuables in your car, the car itself is not likely to go anywhere. The cost of a kill switch is minimal, typically under $100.
    The disadvantage is that some people dislike having to enter a code or insert an extra key every time they want to start their car. The other disadvantage is if the kill switch malfunctions, you can’t drive your car anywhere until it is repaired. It also does nothing to prevent someone from breaking into the car itself because the switch is usually hidden.

  • 04 of 05

    Brake Lock

    Brake and Gas Pedal
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    A brake lock works by attaching to your brake pedal and locking behind it, making it impossible to suppress the brake until the device is removed. It is made out of hardened metal as well, making it difficult to cut. Cutting the brake pedal itself renders the vehicle essentially undrivable, making it an unlikely solution for car thieves.
    The advantage of this is that it is cost-effective, typically under $40, and easy to use. It offers a more reliable car theft solution than the steering wheel lock bar because it is not as easily removed.
    The disadvantage is the inconvenience of placing the lock on and taking the lock off every time you get in and out of your car. There are devices on the market specifically designed to break off the brake lock as well, but a car thief needs to be prepared with one, which is usually unlikely.

    Continue to 5 of 5 below.
  • 05 of 05

    Tracking Device

    Person driving a car with GPS navigation
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    A tracking device uses GPS technology to follow your car after it is stolen, aiding in its recovery. Many services also offer in-car communication as well, where a representative from the tracking company contacts you in the event of a car accident and dispatches emergency services to your location. Many tracking companies can also disable a car remotely if they know the car has been stolen.
    Having a sticker on the car advertising the tracking device acts as a deterrent because thieves don’t want the hassle of trying to deactivate it and don’t want to risk capture by stealing a car that police can track. Tracking devices make your car easier to be found in the event of a theft and therefore offer additional peace of mind as well.
    The disadvantage of tracking systems is that they are expensive, typically costing hundreds of dollars. There is often an additional monitoring fee as well. Some tracking systems do not put markings on the car because they don’t want to alert the thief to the fact the car can be tracked. This aids in vehicle recovery, but not in theft prevention.