Keep Your Car from Being Stolen: Anti-Theft Devices and Tips

When it comes to securing your valuable possessions, how much thought do you give to the security of your car? There were over 760,000 motor vehicle thefts in the United States in 2016, with an average loss of $7,680 per vehicle.1
While some anti-theft devices and methods may cost more than you’d like to spend, all of them are less expensive than having to replace a car completely. We’ve rounded up our top tips and products to help prevent your vehicle from being stolen and save you money in the long run.

#1 Don’t forget to lock your car

Locking your car is the simplest way to protect it, yet people forget to do it every day. Make sure you lock your car whether it’s parked at home, at the grocery store, or in long-term parking at the airport. While it won’t stop a determined car thief, it will certainly prevent an opportunistic burglar from stealing anything valuable in it.

Keep all the windows rolled up and don’t ever leave your car running with the keys in the ignition or store a spare key anywhere in the car.

#2 Be smart about where you park

Whenever possible, park your car in well-lit areas or near a security camera if you’re in a parking garage or other facility. Avoid dark or remote locations where no one would be able to see or hear your car being broken into.

At home, consider installing a visible outdoor security camera so you can monitor who is around your home and to deter would-be thieves.

#3 Install an additional lock

Installing an additional locking device such as a wheel lock, pedal lock, or steering wheel lock makes it extremely difficult for a thief to drive off with your car. Plus, just seeing the locks will deter many thieves from making an attempt.

These types of devices are not terribly expensive and will last a long time, but they also require you to put them on and take them off each time you use your car. The disadvantage is that over time, you may become less vigilant about using them.

You could also use a hood lock, which prevents the hood of the car from being opened without a key. While this won’t stop anyone from stealing the car, it can deter thieves from scrapping your engine for parts.

Steering wheel lock: The Club 1000 Original

Steering wheel lock
The Club 1000 Original

    At under $50, the Club steering wheel lock is one of the least expensive anti-theft devices we recommend. The Club has been around for decades, and it’s still one of the best choices for a highly visible and secure lock. While a key is required to remove the lock, you don’t need a key to install the lock, so installation is easier and faster.

    The Club works by locking the steering wheel in place, making it impossible to turn or steer, and it’s made with durable strong materials that are resistant (though not impervious) to cutting, sawing, hammering, and other disabling methods.

    Pros
    • Pro BulletFits most vehicles, including cars, light trucks, SUVs, and vans
    • Pro BulletComes with two keys
    • Pro BulletLocks in place easily
    • Pro BulletIs highly visible in red or blue
    Cons
    • Con BulletComes with a limited warranty of only 90 days
    • Con BulletIs not totally invincible against cutting and sawing

    Tire lock: Trimax TCL65 Wheel Chock Lock

    Tire lock
    Trimax TCL65 Wheel Chock Lock

      A wheel or tire lock (also known as a boot) fits around your vehicle’s wheel and locks in place, making the car impossible to move.

       

      Like a steering wheel lock, the Trimax unlocks with a key and comes with three spare keys. The Trimax fits most tire sizes but also comes in a larger size for extra-large tires (view on Amazon here).

      To top it off, it has a bright yellow and red finish for high visibility. The Trimax is slightly more expensive than the other locks on our list, and it may not be a practical tool to use every single time you drive your car. However, if your car is going to be left in one spot for an extended time, this is a great device to deter thieves.

      Pros
      • Pro BulletFits most wheel sizes
      • Pro BulletInstalls easily
      • Pro BulletComes with three spare keys
      • Pro BulletIs bright and clearly visible
      Cons
      • Con BulletIs not convenient for daily use

      Brake pedal lock: The Club CL606

      Brake pedal lock
      The Club CL606

        Break locks, or pedal locks, fit around the pedals of your car, making it impossible to use the pedal until the lock is taken off.

        We especially liked The Club CL606 Brake Lock because it attaches to the steering wheel and the brake, making it difficult to steer the car or use the brake. It also locks easily with one pull, so you don’t need your key for installation. It fits most vehicles and brake pedals up to 9/16 of an inch wide, but be sure to double check before purchasing.

        Pros
        • Pro BulletFits most cars, light trucks, SUVs, and vans
        • Pro BulletLocks easily with one pull
        • Pro BulletComes with two keys
        • Pro BulletIs clearly visible with bright-red finish
        • Pro BulletCosts less than $50
        Cons
        • Con BulletIs not impervious to cutting and sawing

        Car hood lock: Estink Hood Lock

        Car hood lock
        Estink Hood Lock

          A hood lock protects your car’s engine from being picked apart or sold piece by piece, though it won’t do much against car theft itself.

          Most car locks open with a key, like the Estink Hood Lock. Many hood locks are designed specifically for one make of car, so make sure you check that before you buy, or get a universal lock like the Estink.

          Pros
          • Pro BulletHolds up against weather thanks to durable materials
          • Pro BulletEasily installs on the hood of the vehicle
          Cons
          • Con BulletDoes not completely prevent car theft

          #4 Prevent the car from turning on

          Another great line of defense against theft is preventing the car from turning on. One way to accomplish this is by installing a kill switch. This kind of device is professionally installed in the vehicle and interrupts one of the key systems in the car, such as the electrical, ignition, or fuel system. The kill switch can be disabled with a key, code, or even just a switch—otherwise, the car won’t start.

          You could also go with an electronic immobilizer, which prevents the car from starting without receiving an RFID signal from the key or some kind of key fob. The signal has to be close to be received, so you generally have to be next to or inside the car for it to work. This is not foolproof protection against car theft, as a prepared thief will be able to bypass the system, but it can help. Many newer vehicles already have immobilizers built in, but if you have an older car, you can have an immobilizer installed.

          Professional kill switch: Ravelco

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          Because it is a professional service, Ravelco it is quite expensive—starting at $500 or more. It’s also not available in all 50 states. However, if you want to feel really confident in the quality and reliability of the kill switch, this is great option.

          Pros
          • Pro BulletComes with a unique plug (plus a spare) that cannot be picked or duplicated
          • Pro BulletIncludes window stickers to deter thieves
          • Pro BulletHas a lifetime warranty
          • Pro BulletWorks with all types of engines (gasoline, diesel, hybrid)
          Cons
          • Con BulletCosts much more than DIY kill switch options
          • Con BulletNot available in all 50 states
          • Con BulletRequires professional installation

          DIY kill switch: Cal Hawk Kill Switch

          DIY kill switch
          Cal Hawk Kill Switch

            Like the Ravelco, the Cal Hawk Kill Switch prevents the car from turning on without a specialized key in place. The Cal Hawk specifically cuts off power to the battery so the car can’t start without the key.

            The switch itself is inexpensive, although additional wires and components may be required. We strongly recommend having a professional install it unless you are experienced with the system.

            Pros
            • Pro BulletComes with two keys
            • Pro BulletCosts less than a professional system
            • Pro BulletPrevents a thief from driving away or hot-wiring your car
            Cons
            • Con BulletIs difficult to install unless you are a professional

            Electronic immobilizer: iBlue Immobilizer

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            Available for about $100, the iBlue Immobilizer takes the concept of an electronic immobilizer and makes it smart. The iBlue connects to your smartphone via Bluetooth instead of a typical RFID signal. From the iBlue app (for iOS and Android), you can start the car or view a history of where your car has been and how many miles it traveled, among other things.

            The drawback, of course, is that you have to have your phone with you and charged in order to drive your car. However, if an electronic immobilizer is what you want, this is a great high-tech, reliable system.

            Pros
            • Pro BulletImmobilizes car without Bluetooth signal from a smartphone
            • Pro BulletHas a hands-free mode for iOS devices
            • Pro BulletCan be connected to more than one phone
            • Pro BulletDoes not require additional key or key fob
            Cons
            • Con BulletRequires a smartphone to start the car
            • Con BulletCosts slightly more than other products

            #5 Get a car tracker

            Unfortunately, in spite of the best precautions and anti-theft devices, an experienced car thief may still find a way to steal your car. If the worst happens, your best bet at recovering the vehicle is to have an electronic tracking system installed so you can find it, no matter who has it.

            This is one of the more expensive options, but most tracking systems have high recovery rates, and our recommended system works with many police systems as well.

            Professional tracking system: LoJack

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            You’ve probably heard of LoJack, even if you don’t know exactly what it is. With a LoJack system, you can track your car almost anywhere using a specific radio frequency. The LoJack system integrates with police systems, so you have a greater chance of finding your car quickly.

            Admittedly, the LoJack system is fairly expensive (costing several hundred dollars or more, depending on the dealer), but there are no additional monthly fees or subscriptions. While having a LoJack system won’t prevent your car from being stolen, it ensures that you will be able to recover it quickly.

            Pros
            • Pro BulletLocates your car quickly
            • Pro BulletIntegrates with police systems
            • Pro BulletDoes not have monthly fees
            Cons
            • Con BulletCosts more than most other tracking systems and devices
            • Con BulletRequires professional installation

            DIY tracking system: Spy Tec GL300 GPS Tracker

            DIY tracking system
            Spy Tec GL300 GPS Tracker

              If you want a less expensive tracking option, consider the Spy Tec GL300 GPS Tracker. The small tracking device can be placed in an unobtrusive location in the vehicle to let you track the car from anywhere.

              It also has geofencing options, so you can set a perimeter and receive a text or email if the car crosses that boundary. It is much less expensive than the professional LoJack system, but there is a $25 monthly fee for the service.

              Pros
              • Pro BulletCosts much less than a professional system up front
              • Pro BulletIs compact enough to easily hide in the car
              • Pro BulletHas geofencing capabilities
              • Pro BulletTracks your car via Wi-Fi
              Cons
              • Con BulletDoes not integrate with police systems
              • Con BulletRequires a monthly fee

              Protect your car from theft

              Although it seems like it only happens to other people, having a car stolen is something that could happen to anyone. Be smart about where you leave your car, get an outdoor security camera to have eyes on it at all times, and add one or more anti-theft devices to prevent your car from being taken or to recover it if the worst should happen.

              Do you use an anti-theft device? Tell us about your experiences in the comments.

              See Also: Preventing Package Theft

              1. FBI, “2016 Crime in the United States: Motor Vehicle Theft