On average, a vehicle is stolen every two minutes in the UK. That makes for worrying reading, but the fact that half of them – around 103,000 – are never recovered is downright frightening.
With car firms now habitually fitting complex immobilisers and alarms as standard on new models, opportunist thefts have been cut drastically. Unfortunately, professional thieves now work in a different way. Statistics show that the most common method of stealing a car is to burgle your house (which, ironically, is usually far less secure than your vehicle) and take the keys.
So, if you ultimately can’t prevent your car being stolen, the next best thing is to make sure you can trace it once it’s gone – and that’s where hi-tech tracking devices come into play.
All these set-ups operate in a similar manner: illegal movement is detected, and location is plotted by means of an on-board GPS receiver. This is connected to a mobile phone, which contacts both the service provider’s control centre and the owner. The system liaises with the police – although this feature requires an annual subscription that’s paid up front, or for the length of ownership.
The devices are triggered by the car’s immobiliser and/or a ‘geo fence’ – an invisible ring at a set distance around the vehicle. More complex products also have a special electronic tag or card, which means that even if the vehicle is stolen with the keys, it will be tracked instantly.
Fitting a tracking device won’t necessarily get you a discount on your insurance policy, but you may receive a reduction in your theft excess.
Insurers accept three Thatcham security ratings. Category Q tests makers’ claims for products. This was superseded in January by the Total Quality Accreditation (TQA). Category 5 tests hardware, and also ensures the standards of fitting and control room support.