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Wise Up When It Comes to Auto Theft

In 2006, almost 1.2 million vehicles were reported stolen in the United States, according to the annual Hot Wheels study from the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB). The 1995 Honda Civic topped the most-stolen-vehicle list, followed by the 1991 Honda Accord. Car thieves continue to prefer imports to domestic brands, and vehicles that are 10 or more model years old over newer models. That’s because these cars have been consistent top sellers for many years and some of their parts are interchangeable. Thieves steal these cars for their parts.

Anyone can be a potential car theft victim. Since just 59% of stolen vehicles were recovered, according to the study, all car owners have a strong motivation to do what they can to protect their vehicles. To help consumers lessen their risk of auto theft, the Council of Better Business Bureaus and the Insurance Information Institute have joined forces to create the “Wiser Drivers Wise Up” program. Here are some of the tips from this program:

·   Don’t rely solely on manufacturer-installed vehicle theft protection. Experienced thieves can disable these devices, as well as unlock a Club and other such anti-theft deterrents. Aftermarket vehicle anti-theft systems are usually more sophisticated and are worth paying a professional to install.

·    Don’t think your old clunker is safer than a new model. It is also a myth that a luxury sedan is more attractive to thieves than a less expensive model. Older vehicles are usually stolen for their parts, which are no longer being manufactured; newer cars are stolen for their popularity.

·    If your car is stolen, contact the police immediately, preferably while still at the scene of the crime. Speed is essential to recovering stolen cars, since any delay means your car is more likely to be in a chop shop or driven out of town. In addition to knowing the make, color and model of your car, you should also know the license plate number and vehicle identification number (VIN). Keep a copy of these identifying numbers and your insurance card in your wallet, and keep a photocopy of your registration and insurance card at home, so you can provide information quickly to both law enforcement and insurance claims agents.

·    Don’t assume your insurance covers you for all the costs associated with having a vehicle stolen. Review your policy to see if you are covered for a replacement rental car after a theft, and if there’s a waiting period before you’re allowed to rent a car. Many people waive the rental car coverage, even though it costs only a few dollars a month.

·    Make sure you have roadside assistance. Your insurance company will likely offer this for a few dollars per term, or you can go through an outside company such as AAA or even your automaker. Be sure you understand the terms of the coverage.

·    Don’t overlook simple theft deterrents. Park in well-lit areas. If you park in a lot, resist the temptation to park near the exit, because it makes your vehicle a more likely target for thieves. According to the FBI, more than one-third of all vehicle thefts occur at a home or residence. Always lock your car, even in your own driveway.

Following these simple tips can help you avoid being an auto-theft victim, and minimize your damages and inconvenience in the event that you are one.