Cars and security: What to look for when buying
When it comes to buying a car, it’s often the way a vehicle looks, the equipment it features and the space it offers that become the key factors that you consider.
However, one thing that shouldn’t be neglected is a car’s security. The number of cars stolen has increased noticeably in recent years, with certain vehicles, in particular, being targeted by organised crime networks. There’s been a particular increase in the theft of vehicles with keyless entry and start fitted as well.
But what are the things you should look at when it comes to buying a used car? Let’s take a look.
Check that the locks work
It might sound obvious, but never take it as a given that any car you’re buying has locks that work. It’s always worth trying out both keys, or fobs, to make sure that they lock and unlock the car properly. If you’re able to press an ‘unlock’ button inside the car, it’s worth checking this works as it should too.
If a remote fob doesn’t work, it could well just be the batteries that don’t work. These are relatively inexpensive to replace, but we’d ask the dealer to do this just to ensure that it’s not a wider issue with the car’s electronics and locking.
Make sure an alarm and immobiliser are fitted
A must on any car should be having an alarm and an immobiliser fitted – two preventative measures that can deter car thieves, as it makes it harder for them to steal a vehicle without anybody noticing.
The good news is that every car manufactured since October 1998 has had an immobiliser fitted from the factory. However, a regular alarm has never been mandatory, and therefore some more entry-level cars have never had them fitted as standard. Double check both are present before buying.
Is the car keyless?
Much of the increase in car thefts is attributable to ‘keyless’ cars. These work by a signal being sent to the vehicle through the fob, allowing a vehicle to be unlocked and then started without a need to physically unlock the vehicle. The trouble is that car thieves have been able to intercept these signals with a special device, which allows the car to then be opened, even if the keys aren’t directly within range of the vehicle.
You shouldn’t be put off by a car having keyless entry, especially as it’s now quite commonplace on premium vehicles and higher-spec models. However, you should be aware of steps you need to take with a keyless car.
When buying a used car with keyless entry, you should ask if it’s possible to disable the ‘keyless’ element, which will reduce the likelihoods of thieves targeting your vehicle. You should be able to find out this information in the vehicle handbook.
Check a vehicle’s security rating
Before buying a used car, it’s worth investigating the vehicle’s security rating, with one star being the worst cars and five-star cars having the best security.
Consumer Security Ratings are awarded by Thatcham Research, which works with car manufacturers and insurers to calculate insurance groups for cars, lower insurance repairs and maximise safety. While only introduced in more recent years, you can see if the vehicle has a security rating here.
Take practical steps once you get the car to put off thieves
Once you’ve bought the car it’s worth taking additional steps that will help to deter thieves. Fitting a traditional steering lock might seem like a backwards step, but these have really increased in popularity in recent years, and serve as a great deterrent for thieves.
You should also park the car in a sensible place away from prying eyes, and keep your keys away from a door or window and out of sight. If you’re able to park a vehicle in a garage or around the back of your property and not in full view, it’s a step worth taking.
When it comes to keyless cars, we strongly recommend purchasing a Faraday pouch or bag, which aim to block the signals from the keys, and mean that thieves won’t be able to connect to the fob. These pouches are available for only a few pounds, though it’s worth spending more on a higher-quality feature when it comes to security. Just be aware that the signal-blocking can wear off over time. You should regularly test to see if the car will unlock when you have the keyless fob in a pouch right next to the vehicle.
One final point is that, while it’s important to take many steps to help maximise your vehicle’s security, you should never risk your own or your family’s safety if a thief is trying to steal a vehicle. At the end of the day, a car can be replaced when it’s fully insured, your health can’t be.