Car security: how to keep your car and driveway protected

From simple to hi-tech, we look at some of the best ways to help prevent you from having your car or its contents stolen

Given rising rates of car crime in the UK, car security is now more important than ever before. Theft of and from vehicles is at a five-year high, according to official figures from the Home Office, while insurers said claims for stolen cars in January to March this year were higher than for any quarter since 2012.

Unlike in previous spikes, though, the thieves aren’t joyriders. The modern car crook doesn’t use a crowbar or screwdriver, and isn’t stealing for fun. Instead, they will invest hundreds of pounds in sophisticated tech to bypass modern security systems. Once stolen, the cars will be given a false identity, smuggled abroad or broken up for parts.

Insurance payouts for car theft at highest level since 2012

How can you make life more difficult for these increasingly-sophisticated criminals? We’ve taken a look at some of the latest gadgets, and a few old favourites, to help keep your car safe and potentially bring down the cost of insurance.

Wheels of steel

Steering wheel locks have been around for decades, but they are still a good way to make life difficult for thieves. Something which covers the wheel completely, like a Disklok, will deter all but the most committed criminal by making it impossible to drive off. It will also prevent airbag or steering wheel theft, which is an increasing problem as crooks look for cheap parts to repair crash-damaged cars. The downside is that they are cumbersome and relatively expensive, but they can be used on any vehicle, from classics to motorhomes.

Pane relief

While some thieves are using clever technology to break into cars, the cruder criminal will still use the smash-and-grab method to get into a vehicle and take whatever they want. One way to stop or slow them down is to install glass lamination on the side and rear windows. This plastic sheeting is invisible but helps strengthen and hold the panes together, like a laminated windscreen. Professionally-installed film on a mid-sized car, such as a Nissan Qashqai, will be around £500 from www.fxuk.net.

Block to the future

Many modern models are ‘keyless’, which means you don’t have to take the key out of your pocket. While that’s great for convenience, it’s not so good for security. Thieves use boosters to amplify the key’s signal enough to open and start the car. You can prevent it by using a signal-blocking Faraday bag. Our Best Buy last year was the £5 Defender Pouch; similar items are available from online stores and car accessory shops. You might want to keep keys (including spares) in a safe, too, to protect your car in the event of a burglary. They start from less than £40.

Port stormed

All modern cars have an OBD (on-board diagnostic) port, a universal plug technicians use to access the vehicle’s electronic brain. Unfortunately, this port can also be used by crooks to bypass the immobiliser, and even reprogram a blank key so that it unlocks and starts the car. You can protect an OBD port with a special lock, costing less than £200, depending on the model. Or consider a combined OBD protector, tracker and key-clone preventer, like that offered by StopTrack for £599, plus £6.50 a month.

Clone wars

Having your number plates stolen doesn’t just mean you’ll have to pay to replace them. Thieves can use false plates to clone your car (or disguise a stolen model’s identity) and then use the vehicle to commit other crimes. If you’re a victim of number plate theft you could face lots of stressful paperwork as you clear your name. Since most plates are fixed by either sticky pads or screws, any thief can remove them in seconds. Make it more difficult for criminals by using tamper-proof screws on number plates. These are available from as little as £5.99.

CCTV stars

Thieves tend to be camera-shy, so CCTV can be a good deterrent, and help police to identify and catch crooks. Make sure any system has infrared night vision, and go for the best resolution you can afford to make sure faces and registration numbers are identifiable. Basic wired systems with just one camera are available from Amazon for less than £100, and tend to be easy to fit. Sophisticated WiFi set-ups, like the Ring video doorbell, can be expanded to use wireless cameras with floodlights for under £400.

Pole positions

Even if a thief has used a computer to bypass the car’s electronics, they won’t be able to get it off the driveway, or out of a parking space, if it’s blocked in by a solid metal post. Physical barriers such as this vary in their sophistication, with remote-control bollards which rise out of the ground automatically costing around £2,000, while a simple key-operated post is £23 from Halfords. Just remember to keep the key outside the car, and don’t forget the post is there and drive into it yourself.

Back on track

If your car has gone, the chances of it being recovered are low, unless you have a tracker. In fact, some insurance companies will insist on a unit being fitted to certain cars, or will give meaningful discount for a properly-fitted device. Simple GPS trackers can be bought for less than £45, while more sophisticated and professionally-fitted systems, which are approved by insurers and the police, cost between £361 and £708, depending on their features and sophistication, plus an annual subscription fee.

Your car is marked

Selling an entire stolen car is complicated and risky, but breaking one up for parts is comparatively easy and hugely profitable for thieves. Simple window etching acts as a deterrent, while DNA Marking is even more sophisticated. This involves dabbing a uniquely-coded paint on 50 points on your car. It dries clear, but can be seen under ultra-violet lights. Security-marking kits, such as SelectaDNA, cost around £60, but some police forces offer it for free, and some insurers will give a discount for marked cars.

Check out our tips and advice section for our latest guides on how to help keep your car safe...

Most Popular

New 2021 Vauxhall Astra teased for the first time
Vauxhall Astra teaser 1
Vauxhall Astra

New 2021 Vauxhall Astra teased for the first time

The new Vauxhall Astra will get electrified powertrains and a more premium image
8 Jun 2021
‘Our switch to electric will soon make driving manual cars a lost art'
Gearknob
Opinion

‘Our switch to electric will soon make driving manual cars a lost art'

Want to drive a manual car? You need to take your test in a manual car. So what happens once all driving-school cars are automatic EVs?
8 Jun 2021
'The hydrogen underdog disruptor is back in town'
Toyota Mirai opinion
Opinion

'The hydrogen underdog disruptor is back in town'

Mike Rutherford says hydrogen-powered cars could still be a frequent sight on UK roads
13 Jun 2021
New 2021 Tesla Model S Plaid launched with 1,006bhp
Tesla Model S facelift - front
Tesla Model S

New 2021 Tesla Model S Plaid launched with 1,006bhp

Range-topping version of the Tesla Model S officially unveiled, with a sprint time of 0-60mph in less than two seconds
10 Jun 2021
'Factories are at a standstill because they can’t get the parts to finish cars'
Car manufacturing
Opinion

'Factories are at a standstill because they can’t get the parts to finish cars'

Steve Fowler points out the fresh issues facing global car manufacturing
9 Jun 2021
New 2021 Volkswagen T7 Multivan replaces Caravelle
Volkswagen T7 Multivan - front
Volkswagen Caravelle

New 2021 Volkswagen T7 Multivan replaces Caravelle

The Volkswagen T7 Multivan MPV switches to the MQB platform and adds plug-in hybrid technology
10 Jun 2021
Volkswagen Golf GTI Clubsport vs Cupra Leon 300
Volkswagen Golf GTI Clubsport vs Cupra Leon 300
Car group tests

Volkswagen Golf GTI Clubsport vs Cupra Leon 300

The capable Volkswagen Golf GTI Clubsport goes up against its new Cupra Leon 300 sibling in this hot hatch battle
12 Jun 2021
New 2021 Lexus NX arrives with firm’s first plug-in hybrid drivetrain
Lexus NX - front action
Lexus NX SUV

New 2021 Lexus NX arrives with firm’s first plug-in hybrid drivetrain

The new Lexus NX 350h features a standard hybrid set-up, while the NX 450h+ gets a plug-in hybrid powertrain capable of 40 miles of pure electric powe…
12 Jun 2021
LEC launches affordable EV conversion for classic Mini
LEC MINI Electric
MINI

LEC launches affordable EV conversion for classic Mini

The conversion sees the Mini’s A-Series engine replaced with a dinky electric motor and a 20kWh battery for a range of 70 miles in the city
10 Jun 2021
Audi updates line-up for 2022 with new tech and trim features
Audi S5
Audi

Audi updates line-up for 2022 with new tech and trim features

Almost every car in Audi’s line-up has received a tweak, with major updates including Amazon Alexa integration and a Sonos stereo
11 Jun 2021
New Skoda Enyaq iV 2021 review
Skoda Enyaq iV 80 Sportline - front
Skoda Enyaq

New Skoda Enyaq iV 2021 review

The new Skoda Enyaq iV is the Czech firm’s first bespoke electric car and we've tested the full range on UK roads
10 Jun 2021
New Porsche Macan facelift prototype review
Porsche Macan prototype - front
Porsche Macan

New Porsche Macan facelift prototype review

We get behind the wheel of a prototype version of the facelifted Porsche Macan SUV
13 Jun 2021
'GM taking over Honda would be a disaster'
Honda opinion
Opinion

'GM taking over Honda would be a disaster'

Mike Rutherford is worried about Honda's future, despite its recent motorsport success
6 Jun 2021
Mustang Mach-E: your next company car?
A red Ford Mustang Mach-E parked
Advertisement Feature

Mustang Mach-E: your next company car?

Thinking of getting a new company car? Here’s why you should consider putting the Mustang Mach-E on your shortlist
11 Jun 2021