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How to keep your belongings safe in the car

Carlton Boyce / 02 November 2018

While it’s true that nothing can stop a determined thief, a few simple measures can go a long way to deterring the casual crook.

A thief breaking into a car to steal the owner's valuable items

Theft from locked motor vehicles is a real problem; estimates vary but the reported problem is probably only a fraction of the true cost no matter what figure you use as most people simply don’t bother to report thefts when the value of the goods that have been taken is relatively low.

But the problem is even greater than the financial loss because any theft is intrusive, and the feeling of having been violated after having had your car broken into can be nearly as strong as it would be after a burglary. And then there’s the inconvenience of having your car repaired, stopping your credit and debit cards, and replacing objects that have no intrinsic value to the thief but are priceless to you…

While it’s true that nothing can stop a determined thief, a few simple measures can go a long way to deterring the casual crook. Here’s my guide to keeping your valuables safe while they’re in the car.

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Put it in the boot

If your car has a proper boot then you should put anything valuable in there. Any door or bootlid can be forced, but if it’s securely tucked away then the potential thief doesn’t know what’s in there. And even if they do decide to break in on the off-chance that there’s something worth stealing - which is unlikely - it’s going to be quite hard for them to force their way in.

But, if you have an estate, hatchback or an SUV then the chances are that the only thing standing between a thief and your belongings is a parcel shelf or roll-up load-space cover. In this case, all you can do is to make sure that the cover or parcel shelf is in place and hiding whatever is below it.

Speaking of which, heavy items stored there can become dangerous projectiles in the event of an accident as the flimsy cover won’t do much to stop things flying around inside the car. For this reason, I use a luggage net to try and keep things under control.

As the name suggests, a luggage net clips on to the tie-down points that a lot of cars now have. Your luggage goes underneath it and is held securely in place, no matter what happens. It might strike you as a bit unnecessary but I’m a belt-and-braces kind of bloke when it comes to safety, and so I don’t begrudge the investment of a tenner and a few seconds of my time if it gives me that extra margin of safety.

Halfords stocks them, as will your local car accessory shop or DIY superstore.

Keep your mobile phone immobile

Speaking of flying objects, your mobile phone would make a very effective projectile too, so whilst we're talking about keeping your belongings safely stowed in a car, it's worth making sure your mobile is secure. Securing it properly will prevent it getting damaged in everyday use; rather than tossing it casually into the cupholder like so many do, clipping it in a dedicated holder keeps it out of the way and stops it getting scratched and battered.

I’ve been using the Quad Lock range of phone covers and mounts for years now and have never had one come loose.

They have a huge range of different cases and mounts for everything from running through to cycling and motorcycling. I use its Universal Mount, using the central hole to screw it straight on to vehicle-specific Brodit ProClip mount. The combined investment will be between £30-50, which isn’t the cheapest way of doing things but is the most secure I’ve come across.

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Lock your glovebox

If you keep any valuables in your glovebox, then please make sure you lock it.

Again, it’s not guaranteed to stop a determined thief but it’ll slow them down, which could be the difference between them getting caught in the act, frightened off, or just giving up and moving on to an easier target. Yes, it’s a bit of a faff when you need to get the tissues out but it’s better to be safe than sorry.

Being extra-safe

Speaking of which, if you regularly carry valuable items then installing and using a car safe makes an awful lot of sense. I’ve got an old Autolock safe, which is perfect but it’s been discontinued for a long time now. However, Amazon sells something very similar for around £50 including delivery.

The beauty of a safe like this is that while you can modify it and install it semi-permanently (which is what I did by drilling a hole in the bottom and then securing it inside the spare wheel well using the spare wheel retaining bolt) you can also just loop the security cable around something solid, which allows you to move it between vehicles easily.

I use mine for wallets, passports and my mobile phone when I don’t want to lug them with me but might need them while I’m out-and-about. It’s been especially helpful when I’m at the beach, keeping everything safe and secure while we’re splashing around.

It’s also small and light enough that you can take it on holiday with you and use it in your rental car or hotel room; the safe in your room really isn’t that secure as every man and his dog will have access to the over-ride code…

Deterring opportunistic thieves

A thief could decide to break into your car for something as simple as a coat if it’s raining and he’s getting wet - and, the goodies on view don’t even have to be that valuable because it’s not unheard of for a thief to smash a window to get their hands on the small change that many people keep in the coin holder between the front seats.

The lesson here is to make sure that there is nothing in there to see; your old dog walking boots might not be the latest word in fashion but they might be just the thing for a thief with a long walk ahead of him.

How to avoid keyless car theft

Clean your windscreen

If you stick a portable sat-nav on the inside of your windscreen then you will need to clean the glass every time you take it off. You can buy small tubs of glass cleaning wipes, which will do the job perfectly. 

Yes, it’s going to be a pain but thieves know that the circular mark is a dead giveaway that there’s probably a sat-nav in the glovebox. And while you might have taken it indoors with you, they’ll have broken the car window before they realise there’s nothing in there for them to steal…

It’s all about the bike

Finally, while some cyclists insist on carrying their bikes inside the car (which isn’t surprising when you learn that some of them are worth more than the cars that are carrying them…), the rest of us generally prefer to use roof- or rear-mounted cycle carriers.

This is a good thing; if a mobile phone is capable of inflicting life-changing injuries in an accident, I shudder to imagine what damage an errant bicycle travelling at 70mph could do.

But, being outside your car does leave them vulnerable to theft, so you’ll need to lock your bike to the carrier, perhaps using your existing bike lock. You’ll also need to lock the carrier to your car to prevent the whole ensemble being carried off and thrown into the back of a van or pickup.

Again, another long cable bike lock might do the trick, or you can buy auxiliary locks for some makes of carrier. The availability, or otherwise, of a suitable lock should be one of the factors you need to take into account when choosing one.

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Do you have any tips on preventing theft you’d like to share with us? If so, why not let us know on 

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The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated. The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.