How to protect your car or motorbike from thieves

Vehicle crime is a constant blight on our roads.

While thefts of vehicles have fallen sharply since the early 1990s, thousands of car, van and motorbike owners still lose their vehicles to thieves every year.

The latest official data shows that in 2019-20 there were a reported 80,000 vehicle thefts in England and Wales alone, not accounting for incidents in Scotland and Northern Ireland or taking into account thefts from vehicles and failed attempts.

Data from the Office of National Statistics also shows that just 40 per cent of stolen vehicles are ever recovered, leaving owners upset, inconvenienced and often out of pocket.

With that in mind, we’ve gathered advice from Keith Hawes, director of Nationwide Vehicle Contracts and Mark Copper, head of product at insurance specialist Carole Nash on how to keep your precious motor safe, whether it’s on two wheels or four.

Think about where you park it

Car or bike, one of the best ways to protect your vehicle from thieves is to keep it in a locked garage.

Keith says: “Where your vehicle is parked has a major impact on its chances of being stolen. Thefts from garages only make up seven per cent of all incidents, similarly thefts from public and private car parks only make up 10 per cent, compared to 43 per cent of the vehicles being stolen when parked on a street.”

Even if you have access to a garage, Mark suggests beefing up security further. “Adding a garage alarm and low-level dusk to dawn lighting can also enhance security," he says.

(Photo: Shutterstock)

If you don’t have access to a garage try to leave your vehicle in well-lit areas where there will be increased footfall, giving thieves less of a chance to go unnoticed.

Physical deterrents

Particularly for motorbikes, physical security is key but old-fashioned methods can also protect modern cars.

If you own a bike you should invest in a lock, chain and cover. Mark explains: “It’s worth investing in both a disc lock and a grip lock - a disc lock can help to secure the front brake disc and a grip lock can help to keep the brake and throttle controls secure. A D-lock on the front wheel will also stop thieves from wheeling the bike away.”

Placing a chain lock through the back wheel will also deter thieves. Ideally you should secure your bike to an immovable object but threading a chain through the frame and back wheel is the next best option.

(Photo: Shutterstock)

Mark adds: “Although all motorbikes are at risk of theft, certain models are likely to be at even greater risk due to their value. By covering your motorcycle, you’ll deter a thief’s wandering eye, particularly in public spaces.

For car owners, especially those worried about keyless thefts, a good old steering lock can act as a visual deterrent and a solid, hard-to-remove obstacle to thieves, especially opportunistic ones. And Keith recommends window etching. It's no longer common practice but it can make it easier to identify your car if it is stolen and make it harder for crooks to sell on.

Alarms and trackers

Most modern cars come with a factory fitted alarm, however, many bikes don’t so it’s worth installing one with immobilisation, anti-grab and movement sensors if it isn’t a feature.

For both cars and bikes, if the worst does happen a GPS tracking device can improve your the chances of your vehicle being recovered.

Protect your keys

Relay attacks which use high-tech equipment to mimic the signal from a keyless car fob and allow thieves to unlock and start in a matter of moments and are increasingly common. However, they are easy to protect against. Keith says: “Don’t be tempted to hang your fob next to your front door, store it securely, as far from the car as possible. Better yet, get into the habit of placing it in a bag designed to block these signals completely, and make sure you do the same for spares.

If your car or bike uses a traditional key you should likewise keep them as far from doors and windows as possible to avoid smash-and-grab attacks.

Don’t leave your car unattended

Keith’s final piece of advice is particularly relevant during these winter months. “Cold is a catalyst to cars being stolen. During a frost, it’s common for motorists to leave the car running a few moments to defrost while they nip indoors. You might just be running the engine to keep it from seizing up while it's not regularly being used. This is when opportunist thieves could jump in and drive off, a technique that has been dubbed “frost-jacking”. A theft in this way is also likely to invalidate your car insurance policy as insurers will consider this an at-fault claim.