South Africa is known for its widespread crime, and cars rate fairly high on the list of desirable items for thieves. According to Wheels24, a total of 55,090 cars and motorcycles were reported stolen in 2014 alone, in many cases re-sold or used for spare parts.

Given the ever escalating prices of vehicles, this isn’t exactly welcome news for South African consumers, who rely heavily on motorised transport in the absence of a developed network of trains and buses. Sadly, car theft has become a widely accepted reality, and one that many car owners have had to deal with first-hand. But you don’t have to sit back and wait to become the next victim. By following a few simple guidelines, you’ll ensure your car remains out of thieving hands, and maintain a better insurance track record in the process. Here are a few things you can do to safeguard your vehicle against theft:

Double check
Just because you’ve clicked that remote to lock your car doesn’t mean you’ve necessarily succeeded. In recent years, car thieves have begun to use ‘remote jamming’ devices, which block the signal from your remote, leaving your car unlocked and vulnerable. So, double check to ensure that all your doors are in fact locked when you step away from your vehicle, or risk having a thief driving away with your car in broad daylight.

Location, location, location
Your car stands a far better chance of staying put if you park it where it can be easily seen. The more eyes you have on your vehicle, the less chance it has of being targeted by opportunistic thieves, who prefer to operate in poorly lit and well concealed lanes and alleyways. So while it might be tempting to park around the corner and avoid paying a fee, you could save yourself plenty in the long-term by shelling out a few coins to the parking attendant.

Get tracking
While high-tech tracking systems, which today are both extremely accurate and relatively affordable,  are unlikely to prevent a theft entirely, you’re likely to know within seconds that something is amiss. These devices can now detect anomalies in your driving habits, sending you alerts in the event of additional pressure or unusual routings. Not only that, but they can locate your vehicle with pinpoint accuracy, which means you stand a good chance of getting it back in the event of theft.

Clear the decks
Leaving valuables in your car is a recipe for disaster, and leaves you extremely vulnerable to crimes of opportunity. Remember, your car is significantly more attractive to thieves when it comes complete with a full set of valuables in tow, so try not to encourage any form of window shopping by leaving personal items strewn about.

Leave your windows slightly open
According to Arrive Alive, there has been an increase in ‘smash-and-grab’ thefts from vehicles. Criminals smash a car window while it is stationary at a traffic light or in slow moving traffic and grab any valuables they can see. If you don’t have a protective safety film on your window, leaving your car windows slightly open, between 2cm and 3cm will make them far more difficult to break. For car thieves looking to make a quick getaway, the prospect of repeatedly bashing your window to gain entry is not an enticing one, so wind them down just a little to make them more impact-absorbent. And store your valuables out of sight while driving.

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