When it comes to vehicle theft in Australia, there’s good news and bad news. The good news is that car theft has been steadily declining over the past decade, largely thanks to improvements in car security technology – especially immobilisers in newer model vehicles. The bad news is that thieves are still having a field day with older cars, motorcycles and heavy vehicles.
It is estimated that a car is stolen in Australia every ten minutes. This is a serious problem. In 2018, 53,564 registered vehicles were stolen in Australia, and increase of 1.6% from 2017. 38,568 of these thefts were classified as ‘short term thefts’ (stolen and recovered) while 14,996 were classified as ‘profit motivated thefts’ (stolen and not recovered).
The average age of stolen cars in Australia is around 12 years. Fortunately, 70% of the cars involved in short term thefts were recovered within a week (‘recovered’, of course, doesn’t necessarily mean the car is in the same condition as when it was stolen). If you’re a motorcycle owner, the news gets worse: although motorcycles only account for 5% of vehicle registrations, they made up 16% of all motor vehicle thefts in 2018.
People often believe their vehicle will not be a target for thieves as they do not have a new or expensive car, but 81% of stolen vehicles are 5 years or older, 44% are between 10-19 years. 39% of short term thefts were valued at less than 5% and 45% of profit motivated thefts were valued at less than 5%.
Your chances of having your vehicle stolen depend on where you live in Australia. Victorians experienced the highest rate of car thefts at 29% or 30 thefts per 10,000 regos, followed by Queensland at 23% or 29 thefts per 10,000 regos and New South Wales at 22.8% or 22 thefts per 10,000 regoes. The Northern Territory saw only 1.6% of all car thefts but had the highest rate of thefts per regos at 52 thefts per 10,000 regos.
One thing you might not appreciate about Australian car thieves is just how loyal they are to our own homegrown brands. Year after year, Holden Commodores are among the top 5 most stolen cars in Australia. Often, Commodores make the most stolen cars list more than once, depending on the model.
There are a number of things you can do to reduce the risk of your car being stolen. When you leave your vehicle, close all the windows, lock the car and take the keys with you. Never leave valuables in plain view in an unattended car – it’s an open invitation to thieves. And don’t bother with those ‘clever’ magnetic key holders that let you attach a spare key to the underside of your car. Thieves know all about these not-so-secret hiding places.
Park your car in well-lit areas whenever possible. Turn your wheels toward the curb to make it harder for your car to be towed by a thief. If you’re parked in your own garage, lock the car (and close the windows) and lock up the garage. Make sure garage windows are secured too. If your car has an alarm or other theft prevention device, make sure you use it – even at home. You may want to use more than one anti-theft device for even more protection.
If circumstances require leaving your car unattended for an extended period of time, consider disabling it by removing the rotor, distributor, electronic ignition fuse or another crucial part (but make sure you know what you’re doing!).
Don’t think that just because you drive an old car, you’re somehow immune from theft. In fact, older cars are often easier for thieves to steal because they lack immobilisers. However, they can still be profitable when sold for parts. And speaking of parts, it doesn’t hurt to engrave major parts and pricey accessories with a personal ID number or VIN. You can even have the VIN etched on your windows.
Several anti-theft options are available. Steering wheel locks, ignition kill switches, floorboard locks (that disable the floor pedals), gearshift locks (that prevent shifting of the transmission) and wheel locks can all deter would-be thieves. Vehicle tracking devices are also becoming more popular these days. These can be activated when your car is stolen to aid police in quickly tracking its location.
You can also buy locks that prevent criminals from accessing your steering column or raising your car’s bonnet.
For your own personal safety, always lock your doors and keep your windows up when you’re in the car. This sensible habit offers better protection against road rage, assaults, abductions, and car-jackings. Be wary of strangers coming up to your car window asking for directions, distributing flyers or otherwise engaging in conversation. Don’t roll down your window to talk to them.
If you’re bumped from behind by another car and believe it’s a ploy to get you out of your vehicle, ring the police immediately from your car. Gently nudging the rear of a car is a commonly used technique by criminals – don’t fall for it, especially in an isolated, poorly lit area.
It helps if you’ve got quality car insurance that covers you in case your car is stolen. With common sense and a few basic precautions, you can make car thieves’ lives just a little bit harder.
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