The FBI reports hundreds of thousands of vehicles are stolen nationwide every year. And when you dig into statistics, you see that everyday cars are popular targets, not just high-end rides. You can reduce the risk of it happening, and these are the five best technologies currently available.
Alarms. Remember the last time you took notice of a car alarm going off? Exactly. Years of false alerts and lost sleep have desensitized us to cars crying wolf. Although you can still get the audible kind, the most effective are stealthy and silent. In the event of an actual theft attempt, instead of having a very pronounced freakout, the alarm sends an alert to a two-way remote pager or even a cell phone. A downside is that you have to maintain a signal and stay within range to receive the notifications.
Vehicle tracking. Systems like LoJack and OnStar aren’t just useful in aiding police after your vehicle has been stolen. There are various features to remotely confirm vehicle location and be notified when the car moves without you behind the wheel. Functions vary with system and application, and some may be optional. The visible deterrence of these systems vary also. Sharp-eyed thieves may spot OnStar housed in a vehicle’s rearview-mirror and the occasional discreet window decal. LoJack takes the opposite approach; the device is hidden a non-specific place within the car and no stickers announce its presence when installed.
Electronic keys. Passive immobilizer ignitions are standard on most newer vehicles, and they don’t require any special activation on your part. A chip in the key allows the ignition to function. Without it, it’s a no-go situation as the engine won’t start. Unless it’s towed, it’s unlikely to go anywhere. If you ever lose a key or need a spare though, you’ll have to get a dealer to cut and program a new one for you.
Clamp-on devices. This auto theft prevention approach is decidedly low-tech, but remains effective in deterring thieves who would rather not bother with the effort or attention-getting noise of cutting through them. Lockable clamps that fasten to the steering wheel, brake or both have been around a while and can be defeated, but can be an inexpensive and worthwhile addition.
Yourself. Of all the auto theft prevention technologies, this remains the obvious entry. It still bears mention because people still leave cars unlocked, may leave keys in the car, or worse still, in the ignition with the engine running. Even without obvious invitations like those, you could still be inviting car thieves with valuables left visible and/or parking in low-visibility areas.