The Best Anti-Theft Devices for Cars

Americans reported one motor vehicle theft every 40.9 seconds in 2017, according to the Insurance Information Institute (III). 777,139 vehicles were reported stolen that year, a number which represents a 55-percent drop compared to 1991’s peak of 1.7 million. That’s still a lot of cars taken illegally from their owners, though.

There are basic actions you can take to reduce the likelihood of someone stealing your car. Don’t leave the key in the ignition when you park, for example, and avoid leaving valuables in plain sight. Lock your car, and park in a safe area, even if it means walking an additional five minutes to get to your destination. There are also numerous theft-deterring devices you can buy to make stealing your car considerably more difficult. Here are five of our favorites.

Steering Wheel Lock

The Club

A steering wheel lock attaches to the steering wheel of the car to lock it in place, preventing someone from driving away. There are two main styles for this lock. The first goes across the steering wheel horizontally and attaches to the wheel at the 3 o’clock and 9 o’clock positions. On one side the lock extends farther, preventing the wheel from turning very far. The second style attaches to the top of the wheel with the end extending over the front dash to prevent the wheel from turning. Either way, steering wheel locks are easy to install and are a great way to deter most thieves.

Tire Lock

anti-theft devices
You have probably seen these used by police if a car is parked illegally, but they are also useful as an anti-theft device. If you have space in your trunk, a tire lock (or boot) is a great way to prevent a carjacking. This is only feasible if you are parking your car for an extended amount of time, though. It just doesn’t make sense to attach a boot every time you stop to fill up your tank, or run into your favorite coffee shop for a double espresso.

Baby Monitor

anti-theft devices
An overlooked yet practical anti-theft device is a baby monitor. There are many monitors that are wireless and have night vision and audio, which allows you to leave the monitor in your car and get live updates of what is happening. Battery “charge-packs” are also available so you don’t have to take the monitor out of the car, just replace the battery to keep monitoring. Most car thieves will refrain from stealing a car if there is a video camera visible through the window, and if that doesn’t scare them off, you will have video footage to help get your car back. Make sure you have the audio turned up on the receiver, that way you will hear a window getting smashed in. Alternatively, good dash cams perform the same function.

Kill Switch

anti-theft devices

One of the more advanced anti-theft devices is a kill switch. A kill switch disrupts the flow of electricity to the fuel pump or other critical systems, making it impossible to start the car without flicking the switch. Simply frustrating a car thief will most likely motivate them to move on to the next car, so keeping the kill switch hidden out of view (under the dashboard, for example) typically does the trick. Installing a kill switch is difficult, though, so we suggest installing this device only if you, or a friend, has intimate knowledge of the vehicle’s wiring systems.

Electronic Tracking System

anti-theft devices

The harsh truth of carjacking is that if a thief really wants your ride, they’ll find a way to take it. Someone can put your car on a flatbed, and figure out how to remove a tire lock or a steering wheel club later. While an electronic tracking system is not an anti-theft device, it will help police find your car after it has been stolen.

Using GPS, electronic tracking systems can typically locate cars even if they are in parking garages or in heavily wooded areas. This technology often consists of a device that plugs into the car’s OBD2 port, meaning it’s not compatible with older vehicles, and a smartphone app that lets users see where their car is in real-time. Note that keeping the tracking service online normally requires paying a monthly subscription fee that hovers around $10.

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