I came across a press release from Norwich Union: this morning, claiming that older cars are twice as likely to be stolen as newer models. According to data gathered from insurance claims in 2007, the majority of cars stolen were worth under £5,000.
As the owner of a rather scruffy T-reg Vauxhall Astra (incidentally, one of the car thief's most preferred models) I'd always maintained that parking next to a much newer, more valuable vehicle might help to protect me from crime. It seems I couldn't be more wrong.
As the police often remind us, most thieves are opportunists, and are far more likely to go for the simple option, than a vehicle fitted with an immobiliser, alarm or steering wheel lock (up to ten times more likely in fact). Old cars are usually quick and easy to break into - perfect for the thief who needs to get home after a night out, or to transport other stolen goods in.
It only takes about two hours to dismantle a vehicle for its parts, and the retail value of individual components can be worth up to three times the value of the car. Airbag theft in particular is already big business in the US, and is now becoming a problem in the UK too. When you consider that it can cost £1,000 to replace, a security measure or two is probably wise.
Whether you own your own vehicle or use hire cars, by taking a few simple precautions you can minimise the risk of becoming a car crime victim (or at least make it less worthwhile for the thief):
Try to park in a place with plenty of visibility, ideally under a light and/or near a CCTV camera. You are 17% more likely to have your vehicle stolen if you park on the road, so car parks and driveways are best whenever possible.
Put all possessions out of sight. Cars are often broken into simply for the CDs, mobile phones or even loose change. If you've used a sat nav, as well as hiding the device (or taking it with you) rub the sucker marks off your windscreen.
Don't store any documentation in the car, relating to you or the vehicle. You could get your identity stolen along with the car.
Lock all doors, roll windows up fully and check that the sunroof is shut.
Be especially diligent on Mondays (peak car stealing day of the week) and in the winter, when this crime increases by 25%.
If you do return to your parking space and find a big hole where your car should be, phone the police in the first instance, then your insurance company. For hire cars, call the provider to explain the situation - they will handle things for you.