avoiding car stereo theft?
July 31, 2005 4:51 PM   Subscribe

Our car was broken into today for the fourth time in about two years and the stereo was stolen for the third time. The car is getting pretty worn out overall, so we're probably going to sell it and get a newer one once we get the window replaced. What should we consider when shopping for a newer car and associated car audio, to avoid being a target?

Also, with all the options out there—retractable/removable faceplates, portable MP3 players, alarms systems, etc.—what are the best strategies to be able to listen to music but not get ripped off every few months? What options are worth the money and what works? All the stereos have been less than $200 new and had removeable faceplates, but I'm not the best at remembering to take the faceplate off. I'm usually very diligent for the first month, but then I start to forget.
posted by xulu to Travel & Transportation (19 answers total)
I'd recommend speaking to an in-car specialist about anti-theft devices first and foremost and see what is suitable for your budget.

Secondly, pay more attention to where you're parking if you aren't already - consider the likelyhood of a break-in. Also survey your car from the theives perspective - is there anything on show that would be appealing to a thief? Make sure the car looks as bare as you can, and if there are vital things you need that you cannot not have in the car try and conceal them as best you can.

I'd try to consider thinking further about how you can remind yourself to remove the faceplate - maybe train yourself to think "handbrake, lights off, faceplate, lock" or similar, if you create a catchy mental routine in your head it pays off (mine for leaving the house is wallet, keys, mp3, money, watch - although not catchy it's got the cues I require).

There are also stealth faceplates which hide the fascia of the radio/cd player with the press of a button that you may have seen - those are fairly effective too as long as the speaker setup isn't too obvious.
posted by rc55 at 5:14 PM on July 31, 2005

Get a car stereo that can be removed completely, and make it a habit to remove it every time you leave the car. Either store it out of site in the car (under the seat, in the trunk, etc) or take it with you. If the stereo seems to be the target of the thieves, remove the target.

Get a club and use it. Very cheap deterrent.
posted by cahlers at 5:15 PM on July 31, 2005

out of *sight*
posted by cahlers at 5:16 PM on July 31, 2005

Consider factory radios (with low resale value) in cars that are low-risk targets.
posted by Rothko at 5:21 PM on July 31, 2005

Maybe you're putting the cart before the horse - I'd look first at different cars and see how their stereos are installed. I remember when I needed to repair the stereo in my old Mitsubishi Eclipse, I had a noodle around online and found a place that did repairs and also gave instructions on how to remove the stereo so that I could get it out and mail it to them. I was rather assured to find out that in the Eclipse, the entire centre console had to be removed as the stereo was bolted to the chassis underneath. I'm sure car stereo thieves know the stereos in which cars are easier to remove over others (and I'd wager your current car falls into the easier bracket), so why not build a list of possible cars you're interested in, and then research how the stereos are mounted.
posted by forallmankind at 5:31 PM on July 31, 2005

i've had a lot of luck with a removable faceplate, a club, and leaving nothing in my car to deter criminals. But, if you are looking for a new car, see if you can find one with a line-in jack for a mp3 player, and get only an am/fm stereo in-dash. That way, an iPod or something can carry more of your music to the car, and is easier to take with you where ever you go.
posted by Hackworth at 5:40 PM on July 31, 2005

If you are bad at taking the faceplate, consider an Eclispe stereo. they use a key CD to lock the stereo if the power is cut, making the resale value very low. Plus the ones that are stolen have a high recovery rate because the have to be returned to the company to reset the locking feature after 10 tries. Other than that, keeping your car clean made the biggest difference for me.
posted by arruns at 5:59 PM on July 31, 2005

Back when I had a car, it was broken into twice in the parking garage at work (Yay, Baltimore!). There was nothing visible in the car and nothing worth taking. The security guards said (both times) there had been a rash of break-ins into Honda Accords (mine was a '94). Supposedly, they are really easy to break into without breaking a window (both times my glove box was tampered with -- the only reason I knew). So, I guess stay away from those, though my roommate has a Civic and has not had problems in the same garage. There was also a third time -- behind my place -- where the windshield was broken, and these were all within about a month, so maybe four isn't an outlandish number of times for urban dwellers, or maybe we are both totally unlucky.
posted by Airhen at 6:22 PM on July 31, 2005

Second getting a factory stereo. No-one wants 'em. Better yet, a factory stereo with a tape deck. For $15 you can buy one of those cassette-jack things and use it with an iPod. I've never (knock wood) had my car broken into.
posted by desuetude at 6:32 PM on July 31, 2005

Definitely spend some time looking into which cars have hard-to-pick locks -- I found out, too late, that older Saturns (pre-1996? Can't find an article now but that's what I remember from last time I could) have such crappy locks that you can basically open them with a screwdriver. Look into a bunch of makes and models; as I recall, later makes have better locks. Then again, my car was broken into via shattered window 3 weeks ago, so nothing's perfect.
posted by rkent at 6:51 PM on July 31, 2005

I had an under $200 Aiwa stereo from Crutchfield that would flip closed when the car turned off, so it looked like a face plate had been removed. It was a little easy to break (the part that flipped shut), so you have to be careful with it.
posted by jdl at 6:57 PM on July 31, 2005

A garage.
posted by caddis at 7:08 PM on July 31, 2005

Response by poster: For what it's worth, the car in question is a Honda Accord ('97) and the police showed me after one of the break-ins just how easy it is to get into without breaking the window, which is what they've done in every case prior to today.

The NICB site above seems to have some good information, but I don't see information on what specific makes and models are most prone to break-ins (not full-on theft of the vehicle itself). I'd be interested in finding that out.
posted by xulu at 7:25 PM on July 31, 2005

The club is pretty useless. Clubs are impossible to cut or break, but steering wheels are soft like butter.
posted by mosch at 7:58 PM on July 31, 2005

but I don't see information on what specific makes and models are most prone to break-ins

I would try your car insurance company.
posted by Airhen at 8:28 PM on July 31, 2005

there's two things i do ... have a cheap generic car stereo ... and i don't lock my doors

i have had deposit bottles stolen from my car, but that's it

of course, i live in an ok part of a smaller midwestern city, so that might not work for you
posted by pyramid termite at 8:46 PM on July 31, 2005

My stereo was stolen three times until I got a car alarm (but please don't get one as sensitive as the NIMROD on our street today who's went off CONSTANTLY for an hour). I also got an Eclipse stereo where you choose any CD set up the stero with that CD before using it. Then if the stereo is ever removed from the car, it can't be played unless the thief knows which secret CD to put in first. (So pick something that you don't leave in your car. In fact, have fun picking something no self-respecting thief would ever have, like Perry Como's Greatest Hits.)

I dunno if having an Eclipse stereo has deterred any thieves (I credit the alarm), but I get great satisfaction from thinking that if they were to steal it, they can't use it. Supposedly.
posted by GaelFC at 9:03 PM on July 31, 2005

AFAIK, you can't really get the completely removable stereos anymore. It's a shame, really. The only way to really insure your car isn't broken into is by not having a stereo and leaving your doors unlocked.

I generally just take the faceplate off and put everything in the trunk. Even though trunks are very easy to break into, most thieves don't. Get a case for your CDs so they're easily dropped into the trunk. Leave your change thingy open, prominently displaying your lack of spare change. Alarm? I guess. Most people just ignore 'em. They have some alarms that page you. Those seem like the only useful ones.
posted by electroboy at 7:55 AM on August 1, 2005

Those seem like the only useful ones.
I thought so to until a year or so ago when a friend's car in downtown Atlanta was broken into. They caught the guy because he tried to break into some other cars...only he pulled a gun when somebody happened upon him. Maybe I'm paranoid, but if someone's breaking into my car, I'd rather not take the chance of confronting them in case of a weapon.
posted by jmd82 at 9:20 AM on August 1, 2005

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