Olsen-Sottile Insurance Brokers Inc. | Niagara

Niagara's choice for Auto, Home, Life & Commercial Insurance

What is the insurance industry doing to help prevent auto theft?

Posted Mar 7th, 2024

What is the insurance industry doing to help prevent auto theft?

While the federal government is chipping away at a plan to combat auto theft nationwide, P&C professionals can advise their clients now to help them protect their vehicles, experts said during a Canadian Underwriter webinar last week. 

“We call it a layered approach,” said Bryan Gast, Equite Association’s vice president of investigative services.

“[Criminals] don’t want to be sitting in your vehicle for very long,” he said during CU’s ‘How to stop auto theft webinar.’

“The more that you can do to slow them down and make it harder, then perhaps they won’t have the right tools to defeat it.”

The old-school steering wheel lock or the newer-school on-board diagnostics (OBD) port lock are two options consumers should consider for one step of their layered approach to preventing theft.

One key to preventing auto theft, panellists agreed, is building awareness for consumers. 

“The City of Brampton, for example…had a campaign giving away Faraday boxes [to drivers],” said Amanda Dean, Insurance Bureau of Canada’s vice president of Ontario and Atlantic Canada. “All of these things build awareness on the need to combat this particular issue.” 

Faraday boxes stop car key signals from being intercepted or cloned by thieves. It’s another measure P&C pros should advise their clients to take in their layered approach.  

Plus, insurers have also been incentivizing anti-theft device installation for their clients, and that’s been paying off, added Karin Ots, senior vice president of regulatory and government relations at Aviva Canada.

“We’ve targeted high-risk vehicles in high-risk areas and paid for customers to have those devices installed, and it’s resulted in some recovery,” she said.  

Similarly, many cars come equipped with stolen vehicle locator systems, added Stephen Beatty, vice president of corporate at Toyota Canada. These in-vehicle systems use GPS tracking technology to help police locate and recover vehicles. 

“If you buy one of our new vehicles, it comes…with a digital communications module in it that connects you to our computers,” he said. “If you have given us the permission, then for the first 10 years of ownership of the vehicle, you have the option of going and using our stolen vehicle locator system.” 

Once consumers file a report, the auto manufacturer works directly with police to locate the vehicle.  

That said, the best approach is to make vehicles harder to steal to begin with, rather than rely on recovery, since recovery of stolen vehicles can be quite difficult. Canada’s national vehicle recovery rate is 57% — and it’s even lower in the theft hotspots of Ontario (46%) and Quebec (38%), according to Équité.  

The top advice experts have for consumers is to simply make your car hard to get to. 

“The number one advice is get rid of the junk in your garage and actually park the car inside,” said Beatty. 

As for whether insurers might consider ceasing to cover cars at high risk of theft, Dean said insurers are hopeful it won’t come to that.  

“Insurers would have to take a hard look at, and adapt their actuarial analysis, and how they come up with premiums for those particular vehicles,” she said. “It will continue to be a challenge and an issue for consumers, and we’ll continue as the insurance industry to be part of the conversations toward the solution.” 

Canadian Underwriter Article link can be found here