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Protect your old car from theft

By Tara Baukus Mello · Bankrate.com
Wednesday, September 21, 2011
Posted: 11 am ET

If you drive an older car, especially one that's eight years old or older, you might think it's immune from theft. After all, who would want it? But old cars are much easier for car thieves to steal than newer models because they don't have the theft-prevention features that are standard on all cars today.

While you may not drive one of the 10 Most Stolen Vehicles on the National Insurance Crime Bureau's, or NICB's, list, if you drive a car that is a 2004 model or older, it is more likely to be stolen than a newer model. Cars and pickups from the mid-to-late '90s are the most likely to be stolen, according to the NICB.

If you drive an older car, you may have dropped the theft insurance on your car (usually categorized under collision and comprehensive insurance) since the car is worth relatively little. You might consider, however, adding that coverage back. While it won't net you that much if the car is stolen, you'll at least have some payout if your car is stolen and it's not likely to raise your insurance rates dramatically. Call your current insurance agent or get a car insurance quote online to determine the additional cost and then check the value of your car by using a car pricing resource such as NADAGuides.com, Kelley Blue Book or Edmunds.com.

Regardless of whether you have theft coverage on your car insurance or not, it makes good financial sense to take a few extra steps to keep your car safe. Two inexpensive options are a siren that will give an audible warning if the car is being tampered with or add a visible device such as a lock for the steering column, brake or wheels. While older cars don't have smart keys that "talk" to an engine immobilizer to prevent theft, you can add an aftermarket device that disables the starter, ignition or fuel pump if not properly disarmed. While this costs a bit more than sirens or visible locking devices, it increases the likelihood a thief will just give up if he can't get your car started.

Of course, common sense is also a terrific way to protect your car from theft -- and the cheapest. The NICB advises drivers to always remove the key from the car and lock the doors when you leave, even for the shortest periods.

Tara Baukus Mello writes the cars blog as well as the weekly Driving for Dollars column, providing practical financial advice for consumers as well as insight into the latest developments in the automotive world. Follow her on Facebook here or on Twitter @SheDrives.

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