Protect Your Wheels This Holiday Season

By Kriben Reddy, TransUnion Africa vice president of auto information solutions

‘Tis the season to be jolly – but while December is a time to relax, especially after one of the craziest years in living memory, don’t let your guard down too far. With all of the distractions, it’s also the perfect time for criminals to take advantage of you.

In South Africa, there’s no particular season for car theft. But when our minds wander, and we park our cars on pavements, and leave valuables in full view of passersby, we’re asking for trouble.

So what are some of the things we can do to protect ourselves at this time?

Hold onto your insurance

According to TransUnion’s latest Financial Hardship Study, which measures the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on South African consumers, nearly 8 out of 10 (77%) South Africans are still feeling the effect of the ‘Rona’ on their finances. Whatever you do though, don’t cut your insurance just to make ends meet.

Rather look to make sure you are getting the most competitive quote. Get the FirstCheck report on your car to ascertain its value then talk to your insurer to make sure you get every saving you can. Check that you’re not paying for shortfall insurance on a car that is paid off, for example. Shop around if you have to. Ask yourself: what is your car worth to you? And if it gets stolen, would you be able to replace it yourself? If the answer is ‘no’, try to find somewhere else to cut in your budget. Very few people can afford to lose their wheels right now.

The good news is that there are some really innovative insurance offerings out there right now. One policy allows you to build your cover up over a period of time, based on what you can afford. So you would start by insuring R50 000 of your car’s value for the first year, then move it up to R100 000 in the second year. It’s not first prize, but it would at least cushion your loss.

Install a tracking and recovery device

Yes, indeed, ladies and gentlemen, there are cars out there that do not have tracking devices installed. Monthly premiums for tracking services start at around R80 a month – and if you look at the value of the asset, I would suggest that it’s well worth the cost. In fact, you’d probably be able to recoup the cost of the tracking service through insurance savings. Do it. Just remember to activate your alarm systems and all security features on your vehicle at all times.

Use some common sense

You know what they say about common sense: it’s not that common. But especially during the holiday season, it pays to be vigilant.

  • When you’re parking in a public place, always, but always, manually check your doors are locked – the car jammers are out in force again. Nothing will put a damper on the festive spirit quite as much as having your valuables stolen.
  • Keep your shopping and valuables locked in the boot. Not on the back seat. Not even at your feet. In the boot. It simply removes one level of temptation.
  • Be careful where you park. Even in a time of COVID-19, this time of the year is notorious for big family gatherings (within the pandemic rules regarding groups getting together) which means lots of cars parked on the pavement. Be alert. Or even consider paying a security guard to keep an eye on your visitors’ cars.
  • Check you’re not being followed home. Hijackers often strike in your own driveway. If you think you’re being followed, keep driving.

Protect yourself if you’re buying or selling a car

Car thieves don’t always take your car by force. Increasingly, they try and scam you out of your wheels at the point of buying or selling a car. Fortunately, there are ways to protect yourself. FirstCheck (, or in the app stores) not only provides the current market value of the car, but provides instant, anywhere, anytime access on the value and status of a specific vehicle, including whether it’s currently listed as stolen. It also allows consumers to instantly check their creditworthiness by purchasing their credit report.

Popular scams include people who sell cars with hidden faults, accident-damaged vehicles or vehicles that are still under finance with a bank – which means the bank is still the legal owner, and will report that car as stolen or attempt to take back the car. We see a lot of people being caught out this way, and the financial consequences are devastating.

Be safe this holiday season – both on the roads, and off.