The National Insurance Crime Bureau recommends a “Layered Approach” to vehicle protection to help thwart car thieves.

Once you buy your car, we want you to keep it

At Auto Credit Express, we're not only concerned with you getting a new vehicle; we also want you to keep that vehicle out of the hands (and away from the blowtorches) of thieves and chop shops. Here is some advice from a national organization that receives its support from over 1,000 property/casualty insurance companies.

The “Layered Approach" to Protection

It's a know fact that professional thieves can steal any car (didn't you see the movie Gone in 60 Seconds?), but according to the National Insurance Crime Bureau, you should make them work for yours. In order to accomplish this, the NICB recommends “Layered Protection.” The more layers of protection on your vehicle, the more difficult it will be to steal it.

It's important to realize that the number of layers your vehicle needs varies depending on the kind of vehicle you drive as well as your geographic location. This makes sense, since a 1995 Plymouth Neon in Laramie, Wyoming probably needs a couple of layers less than, say, a Cadillac Escalade in south L.A. Your budget and personal preferences should also considered when choosing which anti-theft device is best for you.
Car Loans and Theft Prevention
Layer #1 – Common Sense

This is not rocket science. According to NICB, “An unlocked vehicle with a key in the ignition is an open invitation to any thief, regardless of which anti-theft device you use. The common sense approach to protection is the simplest and most cost-effective way to thwart would-be thieves.”

It is important to secure your vehicle, even if you're only parking it for brief periods. To make your vehicle secure, you should always:

• Park in a well-lit area
• Close your windows
• Remove your keys from the ignition
• Lock your doors

Okay. Not only is this layer simple, it's also cheap and it won't increase your monthly car payment.

[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="350" caption="Yes, this is a warning device"]Yes, this is a warning device[/caption]

Layer #2 – Warning Device

NCIB's second layer of protection deals with either a visible or audible device which is designed to alert thieves that your vehicle is protected. While there are hundreds of such devices, some of the more popular ones include:

• Audible alarms (the accompanying flashing lights are, evidently, optional)
• Steering column collars (if your ignition switch is located there)
• Steering wheel lock
• Brake pedal lock
• Wheel (the ones on the outside) locks
• Theft deterrent decals
• Identification markers in or on the vehicle
• Window etching (buy your own kit)
• Micro Dot Marking (I had to look this one up. These are small dots just 1mm across and feature a customer unique PIN number/code and tracer phone number)

Most of these items are fairly inexpensive, while many vehicles come with some of these items as either standard or optional equipment. Some of the items on this list might even make sense to the '95 Neon owner.

[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="400" caption="Smart Ignition Key"]Smart Ignition Key[/caption]

Layer #3 – Immobilizing Device

No, were not talking about tasers. The third layer of protection has to do with a device which prevents the bad guys from bypassing your ignition and hot-wiring the vehicle.

Many newer cars actually come with these devices, whether you realize it or not. An example of this would be a hidden computer chip in the ignition key. These keys, standard on many vehicles, prevent the vehicle from starting unless the chip in the key fob matches the stored information in the ignition system “brain”. Other devices that can be installed inhibit the flow of electricity or fuel to the engine until a hidden switch or button is activated.

These devices include:

• Smart keys (discussed above)
• Fuse cut-offs
• Kill switches
• Starter, ignition and fuel disablers
• Wireless ignition authentication

Again, a few of these things are either standard or optional on many newer cars (smart keys, wireless ignition authentication), while the rest would have to be purchased and installed professionally (unless you're very good, it's never a great idea to deconstruct your car's electrical system).

[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="400" caption="OnStar"]OnStar[/caption]

Layer #4 – Tracking Device

The final layer of protection, according to NICB, is a tracking device “which emits a signal to police of a monitoring station when the vehicle is stolen.” These devices can be very effecting in helping police recover stolen vehicles quickly (to prevent vandalism or the stripping of parts). The more advanced systems, such as GM's OnStar, employ “telematics”. These systems combine GPS and wireless technologies that allow remote monitoring, vehicle locating and even vehicle tracking in real time. Many of these systems will even alert the owner if the vehicle has been moved.

Again, many of these systems are standard equipment. OnStar, in particular, is standard on all new and many newer GM vehicles. The only thing you have to pay for is the monthly service charge, once the trial period has ended.

The Bottom Line

While we may have been having some fun while writing this article, having your car stolen is no fun at all. By following these steps and matching the different “layers” with your budget, vehicle and geographic needs, you can reduce your chances of becoming a victim of vehicle theft.

If you do live in a high-risk area, you may want to consider the advantages of buying a car that has one of these systems as either standard equipment or part of an options package.