Dude, where's my car?

Dude, where's my car?

by Andrew Willink
23 July 2008

If you’ve ever aimlessly wandered around a crowded shopping centre car park, you probably know what it feels like to have your vehicle stolen. There’s that sense of dread, unease and confusion as you think, “It has to be here somewhere. My car couldn’t have just driven away.”

Well, yes — it could.

Every 8 minutes, another car is stolen in Australia, according to the National Motor Vehicle Theft Reduction Council (NMVTRC). That’s over 700,000 thefts a year. The good news is that the number of car thefts has been decreasing over the past few years. The bad news is that the recovery rate of stolen autos is also down.

No one can say for sure what fate befalls each car, but they are believed to be spirited overseas, dismantled for parts and in some cases, fraudulently reported stolen in order to get insurance money.

Different types of car thieves have very different motivations. Opportunistic thieves, typically young males, are often looking for short-term transport or a vehicle to use to commit a further crime such as a robbery. They target older vehicles they can break into and start up, using basic tools such as a wire coat hanger and screw driver. On the other hand, some sophisticated thieves have been known to use tow trucks. These ‘professional’ thieves tend to go for popular cars they can sell on the black market either as one unit or in parts.

Car theft results in almost 30 Australians, on average, killed each year in stolen vehicle related incidents. At the other end of the spectrum, hundreds of people fall victim to criminal scams by unwittingly buying a re-identified stolen car only to later see it seized by police.

Keep your wheels safe by taking the following steps:

1. Insure your car properly. It’s the best defence you can have against car thieves. Save on your car insurance by shopping around online.

2. Fit an immobilizer, especially if you drive an older model car. Not only will this make it impossible for thieves to de-activate and thus steal your car, you will probably benefit through a cheaper premium from your insurer.

3. Don’t be an attractive target. You probably already know to keep your wallet or purse out of sight of passers-by but don’t forget to hide other things like your mobile phone, iPod, laptop or any other fun gadgetry you have in your car. Among the favourite items on the black market are GPS units. If you have one, conceal it as well as the stand it’s mounted on. Leaving it on view can be a sign to a thief to search your car.

4. Lock your car. It sounds obvious but it isn’t. People tend to leave their cars unlocked when they’re at a quiet, peaceful and seemingly safe location among friends. That’s when thieves can strike.

Driver complacency is the car thief’s greatest friend. Many car owners cling to long-held myths like it will never happen to me, or no-one would want to steal my old bomb, or I’m insured, it doesn’t matter. The truth is, if it does happen to you, you may be thousands of dollars out of pocket and greatly inconvenienced when looking for the stolen car and then searching around for a replacement. There’s also the added danger of personal papers being left in the car, giving the thieves your address or ready details for identity theft. For the sake of a few simple precautions, it’s not worth the risk.

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Learn more about car insurance

Does insurance cover a stolen car if keys were in the car?

A car insurance policy that covers the theft of your car, such as third party fire and theft insurance, usually covers a stolen car, even if the keys were in the car’s ignition.

However, your insurer may deny the claim if you live in an area where there have been several car robberies reported recently. They will see you leaving the keys in the car as a case of negligence. In such cases, your insurance provider may even expect you to have installed anti-theft security measures in your car. 

You may need to confirm whether or not you left your keys in your car, and if they had been stolen or misplaced, before filing your car insurance claim. The loss or theft of your car keys may be covered by a comprehensive car insurance policy, but usually as an optional item.

If you can confirm that your car keys were stolen, mention this in your claim as this will help establish that your car was not stolen as a result of your negligence.

Can you insure your car for 6 months?

Most Australian insurers won’t offer you a 6-month car insurance policy, so you may need to buy a policy that covers your car for damages and cancel it after six months. You will need to purchase comprehensive car insurance to protect your car from accidental damage, theft, vandalism, or natural disasters.. 

Consider checking whether your 6-month comprehensive car insurance will cost more if you pay monthly or six-monthly premiums instead of a one-time annual premium. Another question to ask the insurer is whether you’ll need to pay administration or cancellation fees when you cancel the policy.

Alternatively, you can look for a suitable ‘pay as you drive’ car insurance policy, which usually offers you the coverage of a comprehensive car insurance policy but only requires you to pay for the distance driven. Such a policy may not be the ideal 6-month car insurance plan as it is based on how much you drive rather than for how long. If you need to drive a lot, you may end up paying more than you’d pay for regular car insurance. 

Can I drive a new car without insurance?

It is illegal to drive a car in Australia without insurance. Most states require that you get your insurance in place before you drive the car off the dealership’s plot. So, the answer to whether driving a new car without insurance is no, it is not allowed.

The only time you can possibly legally drive an uninsured car is when you have to get the vehicle registered. You should drive straight to an inspection station or your state's vehicle registry. You must also make sure that you take the most direct or convenient route possible.

It is important to note that your compulsory third party insurance (CTP or green slip) isn’t valid until your car is registered.

Driving an unregistered or uninsured vehicle can have severe legal repercussions. If you are involved in an accident, and are driving an unregistered and uninsured vehicle, you will be personally liable to pay compensation to anyone hurt, as well as for damages. If you are caught driving a vehicle without insurance, you may be fined or even have your vehicle seized.