Don’t let them take your car

Theft of vehicles and from vehicles is still a major problem in New Zealand. Apart from the personal upset and inconvenience of having your vehicle stolen, insurance companies pay out (through your premiums) about $110 million a year.

Dealing with vehicle-related theft also ties up valuable police resources.

Most car thieves are looking for easy targets to take joy- riding, to strip for parts to use or sell, or a vehicle to use to commit a crime. The car’s then dumped and often trashed or burnt out. Some vehicles are “re-birthed”, which means thieves use a real vehicle identification number – usually from a pranged vehicle – and apply it to a stolen vehicle of the same age, make and model. The stolen vehicle is then re-registered and sold to an unsuspecting buyer.

Theft from vehicles includes property such as wheels, stereos and personal items – purses and wallets, clothing, briefcases, laptops, cell phones and so on. Most of the time, thieves just force a lock or smash a window.

Reduce the risk

The police suggest the following steps will reduce the risk of having your vehicle stolen or broken into. Keep your keys with you and keep spares keys at home or work.

  • Don’t hide a spare key on the car – thieves will find it.
  • Always lock your car, including the boot and the sunroof if you have one.
  • Park in busy, open, well-lit areas if possible.
  • Use an attended, secure parking building if possible.
  • If you have your vehicle in a garage at home, lock the garage and the car.


  • Don’t leave things where people can see them.
  • Take your valuable stuff with you or leave it at home – not in the glove-box or under a seat.
  • Keep larger items such as bags, luggage, coats etc locked out of sight in the boot.
  • Keep a record of car stereo serial numbers.

Other ideas

Some of these steps might reduce your insurance premiums (talk to your insurance company).

  • Install a car alarm
  • Install an electronic engine immobiliser – they make it really hard to hot-wire or start a car without the right key, which contains an electronic code.
  • Use a steering wheel club or lock, lockable fuel cap and lockable wheel nuts.
  • Etch your registration or Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) on windows, windscreens and headlights.

Beware when buying

If you’re buying a vehicle and you want to be sure it’s a legitimate sale:

  • Ensure the seller of the vehicle is the registered owner (if not, why not).
  • Does the seller have both sets of keys?
  • Does the seller have the original log books and history of servicing?
  • Check all identification plates, engine and chassis numbers for tampering.

You can check online to see if a vehicle’s listed as stolen at It’s a great website you can use to enter the vehicle’s registration number, VIN, engine or chassis number. The database the site accesses is updated by police three times per day, but there could be a brief delay in stolen vehicles appearing and in recovered vehicles being cleared from the list.

You can also download a file of stolen vehicles from the past six months by area, or all of New Zealand.

Found a stolen vehicle?

If you see a stolen vehicle being driven or if the occupants are nearby, call the police on 111 and let them deal with it. Don’t chase a stolen vehicle.

If it’s been abandoned, call your local police station. Remember if you want to report it but don’t want anyone knowing who you are, call anonymously to Crime Stoppers on 0800 555 111.

Your motorcycle

Don’t let the thieves get your bike, either.

  • Keep your keys on you at all times.
  • Use an ignition or steering lock.
  • Use a strong, thick chain and “U” lock. Keep the chain off the ground to make it harder to cut.
  • Secure your motorcycle to something solid that can’t be moved.
  • Keep your helmet with you or use a helmet lock.
  • Install an alarm or other anti-theft/immobiliser device.
  • Etch or mark your motorcycle with your registration or Vehicle Identification Number (VIN).
  • Garage your motorcycle and lock the bike and the garage.

Use a motorcycle cover.