How to Thwart a Car Thief

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Sometimes the sum of your car’s parts add up to more than what your car is worth fully assembled, and owning certain models could make you the prime target for a car thief.

Car Thief Dream Vehicles

Nationwide, the top three most commonly stolen vehicles are the 1994 Honda Accord, 1995 Honda Civic and the 1989 Toyota Camry, according to a new National Insurance Crime Bureau study of 2008 data from the National Crime Information Center.

A major reason why these specific cars are popular among thieves is that the value of their parts sold to a chop shop can actually exceed how much the car itself is worth for resale, according to the NICB. In some cases, the parts can be worth double what the car is worth on the used car market, the bureau says.

In addition to the list of most popular cars for thieves nationwide, the NICB also provides lists of the most commonly stolen cars by state which can vary widely from the national list.

Older cars are more likely to be stolen than newer models because of new, built-in anti-theft technology.

How to Stall Car Criminals

If your car has made any of these lists, or if you’d be lost if your car were stolen, here are four tips and tools for protecting your car as recommended by the NICB:

Start with the obvious. Besides taking your keys out of the ignition and locking your doors and closing your windows, park in a secure, well-lit area that might deter thieves. 

Invest in car alarms and locks. Whether they’re steering-wheel or brake-pedal locks or tire deflators that make your tires go flat if they rotate before the deflators are removed can keep a thief from getting away with your car. Average equipment cost: Less than $50.

Get smart. You may want to get a device that can inhibit the flow of electricity or fuel to the engine until a hidden switch or button is activated. The NICB suggests using a smart key, fuse cut-off, kill switch, starter, ignition and fuel disablers. A kill switch, which cuts off the flow of electricity or fuel to the engine until a hidden switch is activated, costs anywhere from $10 to $125.

Tracking devices add another layer of car theft protection. These devices let you monitor your car by computer, can send a signal to police or a monitoring station if your vehicle is stolen and help you recover it. Cost: $350 to $1,000.

The good news for car owners, despite the recession, is that car thefts were down more than 13.1% in 2008 compared with the year before. That would make 2008 the fifth consecutive year of declining vehicle thefts.

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