It’s bad enough to have your car stolen, but adding insult to injury is to have it recovered stripped to the frame…or to walk out one morning and find that your airbags, headlamps and catalytic converted have been boosted. Theft of this type is typically covered if you carry a comprehensive auto insurance policy. Since comprehensive coverage is not mandatory in any of the United States, many people have chosen to drop it as a cost-cutting measure. Carrying bare-bones liability insurance is one way to get cheap car insurance, but with auto parts theft on the rise, you may want to rethink your strategy.
Auto thefts have actually been going down. FBI stats claim that the theft of vehicles decreased by 12.7 percent between 2007 and 2008, marking the fifth year in a row of declines. Increased use of sophisticated electronic anti-theft devices take some of the credit, as do tougher federal antitheft legislation against forging title certificates and making carjacking a federal offense. This also could account for the drop in the average comprehensive auto insurance premium – down 3.3 percent between 2005 and 2006 (the latest data cited by the National Association of Insurance Commissioners).
Auto parts theft, on the other hand, is rising. Over 75,000 air bags are stolen each year, at a cost of more than $50 million to auto insurance companies and car owners. A new air bag will run you around $1,000, but can be sold on the black market for $50 to $200. Thieves also target expensive xenon headlamps and GPS systems. Nationally, there has been a trend in the theft of catalytic converters, due to the rising price of precious metals platinum and palladium. A converter can be removed in under two minutes and resold to scrap yards for $50 to $100. You, on the other hand, are going to have to cough up your deductible and file a claim, assuming you have comprehensive auto insurance. Otherwise, plan to shell out around a cool grand in parts and labor to replace your converter.
You can avoid becoming a victim of auto parts theft by following some commonsense practices. Park in a locked garage or, if that’s not possible, in a well-lighted area. When you’re away from home, park in attended lots. You can purchase a steering cover with steel bar wheel lock to protect your air bag and a hard-to-cut converter cage to make theft more difficult. Activate your passive anti-theft device. While it isn’t the most effective deterrent, the noise may draw attention if a thief is messing with your car and cause him to pick an easier target. Passive devices generally result in 15 to 20 percent discounts on your auto insurance premium, and nine states currently are required by law to offer discounts on their base comprehensive car insurance rates if you have such a device.