Keep your car safe

Even the most basic of city cars comes with remote central locking nowadays, and it’s easy to just assume that when you press that button your car is safely locked.

Not necessarily though; there’s a new scam in town, with thieves using remote controls for garage doors or gates to block the signal from your remote key. All they do is hold their button down while you press yours, and your signal is blocked.

How can I keep my car safe?

So the next time you press the button and walk away, it might just be worth trying the door handle to see if it really has locked, or you might come back to find your car has been ransacked.

Also, because of standard-fit immobilisers, stealing a modern car often involves the use of the original keys – and the majority of these thefts involves the keys being stolen directly from the owner or their home.

The remaining thefts involve keys being nicked having been left in the ignition, stored in lockers or ‘borrowed’ by family members. So if you want to make sure your car doesn’t become another statistic:

    • Never leave your car keys visible in your hallway, where they can be seen through the letterbox.
    • Don’t leave your keys in the ignition when buying petrol, opening the boot or popping into a shop.
    • Never hang up your jacket in a public place with your keys in it.
    • Be wary of using a locker at the gym; they’re a prime target for car key thieves.
    • In the winter, don’t leave an engine running to clear the windscreen; cars are often nicked as a result.
    • Drive with your doors locked, to reduce the risk of being car-jacked – especially in slow-moving traffic or urban driving.
    • Carry your keys securely; don’t allow them to be dropped or to fall through a trouser pocket.
    • Don’t reveal on social media that you’re away from home – if your car is still there. You might come back to find it gone…

Thatcham alarms

There’s one way of pretty much guaranteeing a reduction in the cost of your insurance, and that’s by fitting an enhanced security system. You can expect some form of security on any modern car, but some systems are more worthwhile than others.

So that insurance companies and consumers can directly compare the various security products available, the automotive research centre tests and rates them. As the centre is based at Thatcham in Berkshire, the rating given to each product is called its Thatcham category. The most secure products are category 1; the least secure (but still worthwhile) carry a category 3 rating. The key requirements for each category are as follows:

Category 1

Professionally fitted alarm and immobiliser that integrates into the vehicle’s electrical system to control electric windows and central locking. Such a system must have a back-up battery, an ultra-secure immobiliser and protection for the doors, bonnet and any other means of entry into the car.

Category 2

Significantly cheaper than a category 1 system, a category 2 immobiliser has to incorporate technology that won’t allow a car to be started without some form of unique code. This may be entered from a key pad, it may require a transponder to be used or it could merely be a system that’s operated by the door key.

Category 2:1

All modern vehicles come with some form of immobiliser, so it’s usually only a matter of upgrading rather than starting from scratch. This category encompasses all products that integrate with an existing category 2 immobiliser to take it up to category 1 level. Such systems would be expected to integrate into the vehicle’s electrical system and offer all the key attributes of a category 1 system.

Category 3

Whereas the previous categories all required the fitment of an electrical alarm or immobiliser, this one relates to mechanical items that physically protect your car. Such things include wheel clamps and steering wheel locks. In the event of a theft it’s impossible to tell if one of these item was fitted, which is why insurance companies don’t stipulate that you must fit one.

Tracker systems

If your main worry is somebody breaking into your car, a tracker system won’t help. It’s not an alarm, but as the name suggests it offers a means of tracking your car if it should be stolen. There are various products available, but whichever one you buy, make sure it works in mainland Europe in case your car is stolen then quickly exported. A tracker system is usually £500 or so, plus an annual subscription to be connected to the network.

* A crucial point is that it’s easy to spend hundreds of pounds on security for your car, and see a reduction in your premium of rather less. However, if you have to make a claim because your car is stolen, you could ultimately end up being out of pocket by a huge sum, especially if you lose any no-claims bonus that you might otherwise have had.