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Roadside Tips

How to Prevent Auto Theft

Have you ever looked for your car in a parking lot but your vehicle is not where you initially thought? When you continue looking, you begin wondering if maybe you parked in a different section. Then the thoughts and panic start to kick it - what if it was stolen?

close up of thief opening car door

According to the Insurance Bureau of Canada (IBC), automobile theft is still a huge issue in Canada, costing Canadians close to $1 billion each year. This includes $542 million in insurance payouts, as well as $250 million in policing costs, health care and court systems costs. These numbers do not include the cost of correctional services.

Despite advancements in technology, such as key-less entry and GPS, car theft is evidently still a large - and costly - issue in Canada. In fact, the IBC estimates that a vehicle is stolen every six minutes in Canada. 

Auto thieves are getting smarter and are developing new ways to steal. Many thieves have crafted sophisticated methods of using technology to bypass vehicles’ security systems. In 2020, auto theft has become less about stealing keys and hot-wiring vehicles, and more about intercepting signals between your vehicle and the entry fob. When your vehicle and entry fob are close enough together, experienced thieves are able to capture the signal and dismantle the vehicle.

Although provinces such as Alberta and British Columbia experience the highest levels of auto theft, Ontario is still impacted by this issue. In December 2019, CTV news reported that Toronto police busted a $1.6 million car theft ring focused on the exportation of high-end vehicles out of Canada.

According to the IBC, there are four key reasons why auto theft occurs

  1. To Sell Abroad: Many thieves will steal vehicles, package them in shipping containers, and proceed to sell them abroad.
  2. To Sell to Unsuspecting Individuals: Stolen vehicles are often given a false VIN number and sold to unsuspecting consumers. The car can also be dismantled and sold for parts.
  3. To Get Somewhere: This is also commonly referred to as “joyriding."
  4. To Commit Another Crime: Vehicles are often stolen and used to commit other crimes. Typically, they are recovered within 48 hours of their theft abandoned and badly damaged. 

We suggest taking the necessary steps to protect yourself, and your vehicle, from theft: 

  • Always keep your vehicle locked, even while driving.
  • Never leave your keys in your car while parked.
  • Always close your windows and the sunroof.
  • Never leave your car running and unattended.
  • Do not leave your vehicle ownership inside the car.
  • Avoid high crime areas, if possible.
  • Install an anti-theft system if your vehicle didn’t come with one.
  • Thieves prefer to work in the dark, so be especially careful at night.
  • Look around and be aware of your surroundings, particularly in garages, parking lots, and gas stations.
  • Get your VIN number etched on each window. 
  • If you are on an incline, leave your car in park with the wheels turned towards the curb. This will make it more difficult for thieves to tow your car.

In the unfortunate circumstance that your vehicle is stolen, be sure to immediately inform police. When you speak with the police, they will likely ask for your insurance policy number, the location of theft, and if any witnesses were present.

After you’ve contacted the police, give your insurance company a call. Try to have the following information readily available: the police report number, the insurance policy number, and the location of the theft. Typically, insurance companies will wait five days to see if the vehicle is recovered before providing compensation.

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