In 2020, there were over 113,000 reported vehicle thefts in England and Wales alone – over 300 a day.

It takes just a few seconds for an experienced criminal to get into a car and getaway. So, it’s important drivers are vigilant, not only when parking in public but also when pulling up to their home at night.

With car thieves working on new and discreet tactics to prize their way into your vehicle, Izzy Schulman, Director at Keys 4 U, offers his tips for protecting your car and preventing break-ins.

Cause for alarm

While a basic car alarm may be enough to panic an opportunist car thief, the reality is, experienced criminals can disable them in seconds, before speeding off undetected.

However, some ‘aftermarket’ alarms – fitted after the car is manufactured – offer additional security benefits to deter criminals from targeting your vehicle.

Some alarms offer Bluetooth connectivity with mobile phones, alerting car owners when they’re triggered, even if they’re away from the vehicle and out of hearing distance.

Others offer greater sensitivity to movement, protecting you against tactics like towing away parked vehicles.

While these systems can cost upwards of £100, it’s a small price to pay compared with the hassle of having your vehicle broken into or stolen – especially as the average car insurance theft claim is valued between £6,000 and £15,000.

Security gadgets

Experienced car thieves make light work of bypassing standard car door security, disabling built-in alarms and hotwiring vehicles – or hacking onboard systems in modern models. So, the more security layers you add to your vehicle, the harder you make it for criminals.

One accessory for foiling thieves is a steering wheel lock. While these clamps may seem like an old-school approach, new models include innovative features like fingerprint technology, for added security.

GPS systems are also recommended as a way of tracking down your vehicle if the worst happens. These small, affordable trackers can be hidden in your car, allowing you to monitor its location.

Simply adding a GPS warning sticker in the window of your vehicle may also go a long way in deterring criminals from trying their luck.

Plus, fitting security devices like alarms and trackers can drive your car insurance premiums down, too. Insurance providers typically offer reduced rates for those taking extra precautions to keep their vehicle safe, so it pays to protect your ca

Keyless entry

Research suggests keyless cars are to blame for a recent rise in car theft.

Criminals can not only intercept cars when they’re unlocked remotely but there have also been reports of ‘relay’ signal boosting techniques being used to unlock cars while the fob is safely stored inside the owner’s home.

Keyless car owners are recommended to keep their key fob stored away from the front of the house – or wherever the car is parked around the home. Storing key fobs in a specialised Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) wallet also prevents their signal from being boosted or detected by nearby thieves.

Basic best practice

When it comes to car security, you can’t beat the basics. Never leave your car doors unlocked – even when you’re inside – and, if possible, park on a home driveway so you hear any loud noises or alarms if the worst happens. Those without access to a private driveway should aim to park in a well-lit public area.

If you lose your keys, contact a locksmith immediately. It only takes a passer-by to spot you dropping your keys and they can make off with your vehicle in seconds.

A locksmith can de-programme any existing key fobs – making them incompatible with your vehicle – and programme a new fob on the spot, to keep your car safe.

For van owners, vehicle security is even more important, as a break-in could see valuable equipment – or even the van itself – taken.

All tools and valuables should be removed overnight and adding window blinds or tints can disguise the van’s contents, making opportunist criminals less likely to chance their luck.