How to protect your classic car from theft

Thieves targeting classic cars are usually willing to go to great lengths. You can try to thwart them through a mix of low- and high-tech solutions, including etching your vehicle identification number on your windshield and windows. Some of the best anti-theft devices for a classic car include an audible alarm system, dedicated locks, a hidden kill switch that immobilizes the car, and a tracking system.

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Theft protection devices for classic cars

Classic car thieves will spend extra time investigating cars that interest them. They'll attend car shows, stake out the storage location afterward, and then take your ride when no one's looking. Some thieves even attach electronic trackers to their targets. Typically, a car with a manual transmission isn't an obstacle. A non-running classic car won't stop them either. They'll just tow it or load it onto a trailer.

The classic car insurance experts at Hagerty recommend several tactics to protect your classic car. The best car anti-theft devices include:

  • Audible alarm
  • Dedicated locks
  • Hidden kill switch
  • Tracking system

For a collector car, check with a restorer on the best way to install devices without affecting the vehicle's appearance or classic car value.

Install a car alarm

Putting an alarm sticker on your classic car might cause some thieves to think twice but having an actual alarm system is even more effective. Several companies make audible alarm systems that work in classic cars, including ones that don't need to be wired in. An extremely loud alarm going off on a classic car would likely draw more attention than one sounding on a modern vehicle.

Etch your car windows

Etching the vehicle identification number (VIN) into your classic car's windows and windshield can help deter thieves and identify your car if it's stolen. A thief would have to replace all the glass before attempting to sell the car, and a buyer might not want to take the risk since the VIN is traceable. VIN etching kits are available for purchase online.

Install a kill switch to your classic car

A hidden kill switch is a small device that prevents a thief from taking the vehicle by cutting electricity to a crucial part such as the ignition, battery, or fuel pump. A classic car kill switch costs around $10 and can effectively act as a classic car immobilizer, thwarting the thief's attempt to drive the car away.

Classic car experts suggest installing multiple kill switches and making sure each one is well-hidden since you're trying to outsmart thieves who will look for these devices. You might need assistance installing each one properly so you don't inadvertently create more problems.

Add locks

Some classic car owners disconnect their steering wheels and bring them along, but that can be challenging and awkward to do regularly. Adding locks is a more convenient measure. Start by replacing the door locks if they're original to the classic car. This helps prevent thieves from using "tryout keys" and other older unlocking techniques. And, it sounds obvious, but keep your car locked whenever you're not driving it.

A wide range of steering wheel, brake, and tire lock options are available. Some lock types may be more effective for your classic car than others.

Pro tip:

If you plan to purchase a tire lock or clamp for extended parking, measure the tires first since some models might not fit your classic car. Switching to locking lug nuts that only come off with the key can also help deter theft.

Are there classic car tracking devices?

Yes. Several different aftermarket classic car tracking devices exist. Some have a transceiver that you can activate for law enforcement to track the vehicle if it's stolen. Other systems use a global positioning system (GPS) that allows location monitoring over the internet.

While tracking technology might not prevent theft, some systems will send an alert about an attempt at unauthorized access. Learn more about how car GPS trackers work.

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