How to keep your car safe from theft
Car theft in Ireland has become more prevalent in recent years, with thieves targeting cars to sell for parts or export to other countries.
Many organised crime gangs are now using cutting-edge technology for ‘ghost thefts’, leaving little trace behind. And since the commencement of Brexit, more and more cars are being imported from Japan. A lot of the time, these cars are not fitted with immobilisers, making them a much easier target for thieves.
As a result of this increase in car theft, motorists are experiencing higher car insurance premiums.
Vehicle owners are being advised to stay vigilant and keep an eye on their cars. If you want to learn how to keep your car safe and its contents secure, keep reading to discover our tips!
1. Park your car safely
If you’re out and about, always be careful about where you park your car. We know it can be tempting to park wherever is free if you’re in a rush, but it’s worth taking time to think about where your car will be most secure.
Don’t park your car in a vulnerable location, such as a car park without lights, or near the coverage of trees or shrubbery. In car parks, try to park near the main entrance, surrounded by other cars. This means the footfall will be greater and people will notice anyone tampering with your car.
Check and see if there is CCTV in the vicinity and try to park in a well-lit spot.
If you’re parking at home, try to park in your driveway instead of on the street. You can install a motion detector light that shines on your vehicle in your driveway. Or, if you have a garage, park your car there.
You may also be able to deter thieves by parking your car facing your house; this means anyone who steals your car will have to reverse out, which can take longer and attract more attention.
2. Remove your keys from the car
Even if you’re just hopping out of your car for a few seconds, make sure you remove your car key from the ignition.
Similarly, don’t defrost or heat your car with the engine running if you’re not with your car.
3. Make sure you lock your car
While it may seem obvious, it can be easy to forget to lock your car, especially if you’re in a hurry.
According to Gardaí, 38% of all vehicles broken into are left unlocked. To avoid inviting any opportunistic thieves into your car, make sure you lock your vehicle when you get out.
You should try to get into the habit of double-checking if your car doors are locked and that your windows are completely up as well.
4. Don’t leave any belongings on display
Don’t leave personal items on display, such as your phone, wallet, or handbag. It’s best to take these with you when you exit the car, but if you can’t, make sure they’re locked safely in the glovebox or boot.
Also, consider removing any clothing items, such as coats and jumpers too. Clothing pockets may be searched by thieves looking for valuables or wallets.
If you’ve just been shopping, make sure you lock your shopping bags in the boot of the car.
5. Always keep your keys secure
Once you park your car, put your keys somewhere safe. If you’re at home, store them in a secure place, away from your front and back door, or any windows.
It’s easy for thieves to look through your letterbox and spot them if they’re near the entrance of your home. They can then use coat hangers or fishing rods to hook them through the letterbox.
You can learn more about this in our article about keeping your home safe and secure.
6. Improve the security of your car
Many modern cars are fitted with security systems, such as immobilisers and alarms. If your car doesn’t have these features, you can get them fitted. It's a worthwhile investment, as security improvements will also help lower your car insurance costs.
Car alarms are the obvious deterrent for burglars. Most modern cars are fitted with car alarm systems, but if you own an older vehicle that doesn’t have one, we’d recommend you get one installed by a registered body.
If someone attempts to break into your car, the alarm will sound off a distinctive noise to alert you that someone is tampering with your vehicle. This can scare off thieves quickly.
If you can’t afford to have an alarm fitted, you can always buy a blinking light to stick on your dashboard to give the illusion that you have an alarm fitted.
An immobiliser is a security device that stops a car from starting if the wrong key or fob is used, usually locking the steering wheel or activating emergency lights.
Like alarms, immobilisers are found on a host of new vehicles, but if your car doesn’t have one you can easily get a system installed.
GPS trackers are discrete devices that can track the location of your car, should it be stolen.
If your vehicle is no longer where you left it, you can send the device a message which will send the location of your vehicle directly to your smartphone. You can then contact the Gardaí, informing them of the location.
Stolen cars with a GPS tracker are a lot easier to locate than those without them, and many trackers can be fixed to the battery for permanent power as well.
Steering wheel lock
Steering wheel locks do exactly what they say on the tin. They lock and secure your steering wheel in place so that it cannot be turned.
These locks are typically metal bars sitting across the wheel or covers that go over the whole wheel. They’re manufactured from durable material, meaning thieves will even struggle to loosen them.
Steering wheel locks are also very obvious to see; they’re usually bright or reflective in colour. This means any thief peering through your car window will easily be deterred.
It’s possible to buy one of these for as little as €20.
Use window decals
Window stickers are a cheap and effective way of letting potential thieves know that your car is fitted with an alarm or has a tracker. These can be bought online and will cause anyone thinking of tampering with your car to reconsider.
Even if you don’t have an alarm, these stickers can act as deterrents.
7. Act quickly
If you happen to lose your car key or it’s stolen, it’s best to act quickly. As soon as you can, get new locks fitted on your car.
Similarly, if a car window has been broken, get it repaired as soon as possible instead of trying to cover it up with a taped bag or plastic sheeting.
What should you do if your car is stolen?
Even if you do take the above steps, you may find yourself in the unfortunate position of having your car stolen.
Before you start to panic, think everything over and run through what may have happened to your car before you contact the Gardaí. Oftentimes cars are reported as missing, when they may have just been:
- Parked elsewhere
- Borrowed legitimately by someone you know
If you believe your car was stolen, you should report this to the Gardaí immediately, either in person or by telephone. It’s possible to report a stolen vehicle online if the vehicle is worth less than €1,000. You can do this by completing an Online Crime Declaration on garda.ie.
If contacting the Gardaí, you should have the following information on hand ready to give to them:
- Colour, make and model of the car
- Licence plate number
- Contact details
- Address of where the theft took place
- A photograph of your car
- Logbook and VIN number
- Information about tracking devices that may be installed on the vehicle
Vehicles that are reported as stolen are entered into a central database that all Garda stations nationwide can access, so stolen vehicles can be tracked by the Gardaí across the country.
Contacting your insurer
After informing the Gardaí, you should contact your car insurance company. They will need to know:
- The incident reference number given to you by the Gardaí
- Details of where your car was stolen. Include a photograph, if possible
- A description of the car, along with a photograph of it
- The location of all your keys
- A list of any personal items in the car
- Whether your car is leased or owned
Make sure you get an insurance reference number when you report the theft to your insurer, which will be required if you have to fill out any further documents.
Check whether your insurance cover includes a temporary replacement car you can use until you get access to a new one.
Helpful car insurance articles
If you found this article useful, why not take a look at the following?
- Our Quickstart Guide outlines all you need to know about finding car insurance on bonkers.ie.
- Read our two-part mini-series on the most common car insurance-related questions. Part 1 focuses on general queries, while Part 2 focuses on more niche ones.
- Car insurance terminology won’t leave you scratching your head after you read our guide on common car insurance terms.
Get comprehensive car insurance
On bonkers.ie you can get a discounted quote for comprehensive car insurance, so you’ll be covered should something happen to your car.
Simply head over to our car insurance page, and fill in the necessary information needed on your vehicle, as well as some of your personal details.
In just a few minutes, you will be provided with a direct quote from the insurer, outlining a policy and price that is best suited for you.