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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 claim insurance for car dents?

Car insurance has been designed to protect you from some of the costs of repairing damage to your car. However, is it worth claiming car insurance for a dent?

The main factor to take into account is the excess that you will need to pay at the time of making the insurance claim for the car door dent, and comparing it with the repair cost of the dent.

For instance, if someone collided into your car with a shopping cart and the cost of repairing the dent is lesser than your excess, you would be better off not making the claim. However, if your car’s panels are dented by intense hail, in all likelihood the cost of getting the dents taken care of will be much higher than your excess. Here making a car dent insurance claim would make sense.

Please note that if you’re making a car dent insurance claim for damages that have accumulated over a long time, you will be required to pay an excess for each separate incident that dented your car.


Are stolen car keys covered by insurance?

Having your car key stolen is not just frustrating, but it can also turn out to be quite a costly affair. Modern electronic keys can be much more expensive to replace than traditional ones, and losing one can make a sizeable dent in your pocket. But does insurance cover stolen car keys?

A few comprehensive car insurance and third party fire and theft policies do cover lost car keys as a standard, while others offer it to their customers as an extra. However, there are some that don’t entertain stolen car keys insurance claims, so you must check with your insurance policy provider and read the Product Disclosure Statement carefully before purchasing the policy.

It is important to note that you will need to prove to your car insurance provider that the keys have actually been stolen and not merely misplaced, as most policies will refuse to provide cover in the case of lost keys. Car insurance policies that cover stolen keys typically cover the cost of replacing the keys, recoding your car locks and locksmith charges.


Can you register and insure a car without a license?

Yes, it is possible to buy, register and insure a car without a driver’s licence in Australia. While most states and territories have different rules regarding car purchase, some states may allow this. However, it is important to note that you won’t be covered if you’re driving the car and you are involved in an accident.

The reason people consider taking out cover on their car even without a licence is to protect the car against theft, vandalism and fire. If someone else regularly drives your car then also you may wish to insure your vehicle. Ensure that you list this driver on your policy, else you might end up having to shell out money for an unlisted driver excess in the event of a claim.