How to prevent car theft and protect your car

Danny Baggs

Posted October 30, 2023

Common reasons for car theft

Easy-to-find keys  

"Older models can be hot-wired, but there are fewer of these pre-2000 cars on the road," says Gordon. Modern cars, on the other hand, are impossible to hotwire – meaning that thieves need your car keys to steal your car.

Neighbourhood Watch Victoria statistics reveal that 70 per cent of late model cars stolen in Victoria are stolen using their own keys. "Thieves look for keys left in the car, or on a hook inside an unlocked front door," Gordon advises.  "If your keys are in the house, even if you are home, keep the doors locked so that a thief can’t sneak in, grab the keys, and steal the car before you even realise they have entered the house."

Leaving valuables in the car  

Leaving valuable items like tablets, mobile phones or trade tools in plain sight from outside the car increases the temptation to steal. Victoria Police statistics reveal that there were 52,855 cases reported of items being stolen from vehicles during the year ending June 2023.

The most common items stolen include registration plates and tradie tools. Stolen registration plates are often used to facilitate further offending such as petrol theft and other crimes.

“Thieves can be ruthless," Gordon says. "They’ll take what they can easily get their hands on inside your car, and if the opportunity presents, they’ll take the car too.”

black car with smashed rear left window

Thieves often look for valuable items in easily accessible locations, like car seats. Image: Getty


Poor car security

Older cars are much easier to steal due to a lack of engine immobilisers, proper door locks, security alarms and vehicle trackers. The absence of modern security features makes older cars very easy and appealing to steal. They also offer easier access to catalytic converters, which are a part of the exhaust system rich in precious metals like platinum, palladium and rhodium.

Easy access to the home 

Car theft can be a precursor to home burglary. By putting details like your home location and front door key on your car keys, you’re providing a thief with your address and an easy way to enter your home – meaning it’s not just your car that can be stolen, but your belongings too. 

“Many people put their home address on key rings in case they lose their keys, so they can be returned,” says Gordon. “But times have changed, and this is more of a security risk than people may think.”

Strong used car prices

Car theft has been lucrative for opportunistic thieves thanks to high demand and strong used car prices since the pandemic. In-demand cars, such as 4x4 utes, have been among the most stolen cars in Victoria.

Minimise car theft tips

Follow these tips to help minimise your chances of car theft. 

How to protect your car from theft 

Remove keys from your car  

Always lock your car and take your keys with you after driving. In the home, make sure your car keys are kept in a place that’s out of sight, like a drawer or cupboard. If you're going out without your car, bring your car keys along so potential burglars can't take your car.

“Never leave a spare key hidden somewhere in or near the car,” Gordon adds. “Thieves are used to this and know where to look.”

Lock your car doors and garage door 

"Always lock your car – when out and about, and when parked at home," Gordon says. “Locking your doors is a good habit to get into, no matter whether you live in a metropolitan or regional area."

It may sound obvious, but many households also make it easy for thieves by leaving their entry doors and gates unlocked, and even their garage doors open. Not only can thieves easily access your car, but also your garage contents like bicycles and power tools which are in high demand.

Install anti-theft screws on your number plates 

Number plate theft is on the rise in Victoria, with 15,622 number plate thefts recorded in the year ending March 2023 according to the Crime Statistics Agency - an increase of seven per cent on last year.

Thieves target vehicle number plates to install on their own (often stolen) vehicles to carry out crimes undetected. Make sure to blur your number plates when posting any images of your vehicle online for sale and consider replacing the screws holding your physical number plates on with anti-theft screws.

Install car security

If your car doesn’t have a working alarm system, it’s worth getting one installed. “The loud noise emanating from an alarm system can be enough to deter a thief from continuing the theft,” Gordon explains.

Older cars also tend to lack the engine immobiliser security feature found in more modern vehicles, allowing them to be hotwired. After-market engine immobilisers can be fitted to older cars to prevent hotwiring for only a few hundred dollars. Other anti-theft devices include bonnet locks, steering wheel locks, ignition shields, battery isolators and GPS trackers.

A qualified mechanic can have a look at your car and install an alarm system, engine immobiliser or other anti-theft device for you.

Invest in home security equipment 

Home security systems like security cameras and home alarms are a major deterrent for thieves and can be extremely useful in a police investigation.

"Anything that makes a thief aware that the theft won’t be easy and there is a chance they will be spotted is great protection for your car," Gordon says. "Thieves are after low risk and high return."

Take the How Safe Is My Place quiz to identify vulnerable points in and around your home so that you can take precautions to protect your vehicles and other contents.


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The information provided is general advice only. Before making any decisions please consider your own circumstances and the Product Disclosure Statement and Target Market Determinations. For copies, visit As distributor, RACV Insurance Services Pty Ltd AFS Licence No. 230039 receives commission for each policy sold or renewed. Product(s)issued by Insurance Manufacturers of Australia Pty Ltd ABN 93 004 208 084 AFS Licence No. 227678.