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The Facts & Figures Behind Auto Theft and Tips to Prevent It

Besides your home, your automobile is probably one of your most valuable assets. Aside from its outright cost, your vehicle may be an important part of your daily life to get to work or operate your business.

Given an automobile’s value to most of us, it’s no surprise that auto theft is rampant in Canada; approximately 125,000 vehicles are stolen annually, and on average, a car is stolen every 7 minutes.  A professional thief can steal your vehicle in just 30 seconds without having a key.

More than half of stolen vehicles are cars. Recently theft of trucks, mini-vans and SUVs has risen to four times the pace of car thefts.

What Vehicles Are Stolen Most?

In Ontario, automobile theft is measurably different from the rest of Canada. Far more high-end and later-model cars are targeted by thieves, suggesting an increase in organized crime activity may be responsible for the higher theft rate of luxury vehicles.

Last year, the top ten vehicle models most likely to be stolen in Ontario were as follows:

 1.  2015 Toyota 4runner 4dr 4wd SUV
 2.  2014 Toyota 4runner 4dr 4wd SUV
 3.  2003 Hummer H2 4dr Awd SUV
 4.  2003 Chevrolet/GMC Tahoe/Yukon 4dr 4wd SUV
 5.  2015 Lexus RX350/RX450h 4dr Awd SUV
 6.  2002 Cadillac Escalade 4dr 4wd SUV
 7.  2015 Acura MDX 4dr 4wd SUV
 8.  2011 Land Rover Range Rover Sport 4dr 4wd SUV
 9.  2004 Chevrolet/GMC Tahoe/Yukon 4dr 4wd SUV
10. 2005 Chevrolet/GMC Suburban/Yukon XL 1500 4dr 4wd SUV

Common Theft Locations

The most common locations for vehicle thefts are large parking lots adjacent to shopping malls, airports or GO train stations.  Movie theatres and automotive dealership parking lots are also targeted locations. Your vehicle may also be stolen from your residential driveway or unlocked garage.

The Cost of Vehicle Theft

Automobile theft costs insurers nearly $500,000 dollars annually and this cost is passed on to policy holders at a cost of approximately $35 for every auto insurance premium in Canada.

What Is Being Done to Prevent Auto Theft?

Immobilizer technology has been an effective deterrent to automobile theft. Immobilizer devices prevent vehicles from starting without keys to preventing hot-wiring. Theft rates of vehicles have dropped approximately half since 2007, when immobilizer devices were mandated, but there is now an increased likelihood that a stolen vehicle will never be recovered.

Preventing Auto Theft

Aside from getting comprehensive auto insurance in Burlington, there are several ways to help protect yourself from auto theft, outlined briefly below.

1. Where Are Your Keys?
Never leave your keys in the ignition, in key boxes or inside your garage. Approximately 20% of stolen vehicles have keys that were left in the ignition. If you need to warm up your car during the winter, do so while you are inside the vehicle.

Also, don’t hide a spare key inside your car. If you have extra sets of keys, make sure you keep them in a secure location inside your home, not on the table or on hooks by the front door.

2. Is Your Vehicle Locked?
Since approximately 50% of all stolen vehicles were left unlocked, make sure that you lock your car and roll up the windows, especially in the summer if you have all the windows down.  Don’t forget that if your children have exited and re-entered the vehicle they may have unlocked doors you had previously locked.

3. Park Where Your Vehicle Is Safest
Considering that half of all vehicle thefts occur at night, park your vehicle in a garage if possible and lock it when you are not planning to use your vehicle. If you have more than one vehicle, park the more expensive car in front of the older one in the garage or your driveway.

If you don’t have a garage, park your vehicles as close to the house as you can so you can so you are able to see it if possible.  You are more likely to hear any noises that may indicate someone is trying to steal your vehicle if it is parked close to the house.

If you park your vehicle in a public place in the evening, park your vehicle in a well-lit, populated area.  If your choice is between an attended and an unattended parking lot, always choose the attended parking lot and only leave the ignition key with the attendant.

4. Be Mindful of What Others See
Protect your vehicle and your valuables inside by not leaving valuables visible in your vehicle. Doing so adds temptation to a break in.

5. Assess Your Vehicle’s Security
Ask yourself what security measures are available to you. If your vehicle has a security system built in, you are best off. Car alarms can be combined with engine kill switches. If you don’t have a built-in security system, consider installing a motion activated light directed at your driveway and/or a mechanical device that locks the steering wheel or brakes. Installing a vehicle tracking device is also a wise idea.
Make sure you know who is, or might be, “borrowing” your car.  Lending to a “friend of a friend” may result in a call from the police advising you that your vehicle has been involved in a crime and is believed to be stolen.