Hot for the holidays: Car thefts on New Year's Day
Some crooks like to ring in the New Year by stealing cars. Though Halloween tops the list of holidays ranked by the number of car thefts, New Year's Day is a close second.
The holidays ranked by number of thefts reported to the National Insurance Crime Bureau in 2011 were:
- Halloween (2,328)
- New Year’s Day (2,286)
- Memorial Day (2,005)
- Labor Day (1,977)
- New Year’s Eve (1,947)
- Valentine’s Day (1,895)
- Independence Day (1,862)
- President’s Day (1,830)
- Christmas Eve (1,797)
- Thanksgiving (1,526)
- Christmas Day (1,347)
The good news is that the nation is experiencing a steady decline in auto thefts. This is mirrored in the analysis of the 11 holidays by the NCIB. Last year, the holiday car theft total was 20,800, compared to 22,991 reported for those same days in 2010.
Still, it's better to be safe than sorry, as the saying goes. Besides deterring crooks, anti-theft devices should get you discounts on your insurance premiums. Although the savings differ from company to company and state to state, discounts should range from 15 percent to 20 percent, according to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners. (See: "Anti-theft devices zap car insurance rates.")
Here are several anti-theft devices recommended by the NCIB, each with approximate costs and a quote from an NICB press statement. Many will qualify for a policy discount with major insurers, but ask your agent to make sure:
- Audible alarms: "Alarms are typically equipped with motion or impact sensors which trigger a 120-decibel siren." Cost: $150 to $1,000.
- Steering column collars: "Collars prevent thieves from 'hot-wiring' the vehicle. Some collars are installed permanently. Others must be continuously activated." Cost: $100 to $200 installed.
- Steering wheel locks: "The lock is a metal bar designed to prevent the steering wheel from turning (and) is an excellent visible deterrent." Cost: $25 to $100.
- Steering wheel/brake pedal lock: "Prevents depression of the brake pedal (and again) is a visible deterrent." Cost: $15 to $80.
- Wheel locks: "Similar to the circular steel 'boots' used by many large city police departments, tire locks prevent the vehicle from being driven." Cost: $80 to $200.
- Tire locks/tire deflators: "Attaches to the tire valve stem and causes the tire to go flat if the tire rotates before they are removed." Cost: less than $50.
- Window etching: "Etching the vehicle identification number or other traceable number onto the vehicle's windows makes it difficult for thieves to resell the vehicle or its parts" and helps police recover the car. Cost: free (do it yourself) to $100.
Des Toups is a writer, editor and expert on insurance, cars and personal finance. He has written extensively about all three for national publications such as MSN and major newspapers such as the Seattle Times. He has been quoted about insurance issues in The New York Times, USA Today and Kiplinger's. Follow him on Twitter @destoups.