We live in times where leaving your vehicle to pick up an order at a takeaway might mean never seeing your precious again. Vehicle theft is one crime that leaves a dent in your pocket and a reminder that what we value can easily be lost.

Vehicle theft is an ever-changing crime that evolves in sync with technological development. Consider having a live GPS tracking unit that will provide real-time alerts and have your eyes on your vehicle.

Let’s talk about how you can prevent vehicle theft.

In this article, you will:

  • Identify the different methods of car theft
  • Learn about the safest provinces in South Africa for a driver
  • Discover the best ways to prevent vehicle theft
  • Touch up on your roadblock etiquette
  • Get answers to frequently asked questions about vehicle theft

Car theft in South Africa

While South Africa is proud of producing World Cup winners and Grammy award-winning artists, car theft is an ongoing and crippling issue that affects vehicle owners. In fact, it has been reported that 65 vehicles are stolen daily.

Vehicles are stolen from highways, parking lots, and every nook and cranny, making it hard for vehicle owners to drive in a country that they love.

We need to understand the dynamics around vehicle theft, what vehicles are at high risk, and how you can protect yourself and your vehicle from such a crime.

Understanding the dynamics of vehicle theft

Vehicle theft is the criminal act of taking someone’s vehicle without their permission. The reasons for stealing vehicles are different. A person may steal a car just to go on a joyride, steal your car to drive around, and then abandon it elsewhere when the thrill is over. Vehicles can be stolen for their parts to be used on other vehicles, and they can also be used to transport drugs and traffic people.

Once stolen, vehicles are most often resold. However, cars are sometimes used to commit crimes like robberies, so a stolen vehicle also makes for a good getaway that may throw the police off your trail while it’s still hot. We may not know what drives this illegal behaviour, but we do know it exists, and we need to know just how much we are at risk.

Which vehicles are at risk of theft in South Africa

Vehicle theft is a very concerning crime in South Africa, one that many have fallen victim to. It is important to be aware of which vehicles are prone to theft as this helps you take the necessary measures and even avoid purchasing those vehicles.

Here are the types of vehicles prone to theft and carjacking:

  • SUVs: SUVs are mostly stolen to use their parts on other vehicles, parts like engines and exhaust systems. They are also sometimes resold to make more money.
  • Sedans: These vehicles used in e-hailing services are often targeted as they are always on the road and can easily blend in after being stolen.
  • Bakkie/ Off-road vehicles: Bakkies are often stolen to be resold in other regions, they can be used to transport a lot of goods and therefore are in high demand.
  • High-speed hatchbacks: These vehicles are mainly stolen to be used to carry out other crimes, such as armed robberies, because of their ease in getaways. They can reach speeds of 120 km/h in a short period.

Vehicle theft trends in the last year in South Africa

About 5488 vehicles were stolen in South Africa between April and June. The rise in high-level vehicles being stolen is in line with the methods that thieves are using to steal vehicles. Some use the old-fashioned hijacking system and with expensive vehicles, new tricks have emerged.

  1. The most vehicles stolen in South Africa in 2023 were sedans and hatchbacks.
  2. report by Arrive Alive revealed that although vehicles are stolen every day, the crimes are higher on Fridays around midday.
  3. The trend of business trucks and SUVs being stolen is increasing.

Top 4 methods used for vehicle theft in South Africa

Top 4 methods used for vehicle theft in South Africa

Carjacking has changed from the times when thieves would flat-out use a screwdriver to unlock your vehicle and hotwire it to start. There have been a few techniques that have seen vehicles driven off by thieves. We’re taking a look at four:

  • Signal jamming
  • Fake police method
  • Keyless entry system method
  • Deceptive damage method

Signal jamming method

Signal jamming is when thieves block your vehicle remote’s signal so that they can break into your vehicle when you think you have locked it. Gate remotes and vehicle remotes operate on a similar frequency so it makes it easy to jam the car’s immobiliser for it not to lock.

For example, you park your car in a shopping centre and press the lock button on your car remote. A thief sees you pulling into the parking lot and waits for you to lock your vehicle. While you press the lock button on your vehicle remote, they press a button on their gate remote to disturb your remote’s frequency causing the vehicle to unlock while deceptively locking on your remote. This allows them access to your vehicle when you have left the area and they can drive off to wherever they are taking the vehicle.

Fake police method

When a police officer pulls you over, you may immediately think you are in trouble and want to do exactly what they tell you to. Now when that police officer starts telling you to exit your vehicle and proceeds to drive off, then you have just experienced a carjacking method called the “fake police

Yes, you heard right—vehicle thieves are now operating under the guise of law enforcers. Thieves generally do this because they know that people will want to cooperate with the police when they are stopped to avoid tickets and even jail time. Many things can happen during this incident, though; one can be kidnapped and forced to empty their bank account, stripped of their belongings, and have their vehicle taken from them in the middle of nowhere.

Keyless entry system method

The keyless entry system allows thieves to hack the vehicle’s electronic control modules that remotely manage, track, and clone the vehicle’s key and gain access to the vehicle using the cloned key.

This technology relies on a key fob—a small remote control with an RFID chip that transmits information through frequencies to allow vehicles to be unlocked as you approach. Thieves have exploited this technology by having one thief standing next to your car with a device that tricks the car into sending a digital code to verify the owner’s fob then sends a signal to their accomplice to clone the car signal. The cloning process allows thieves to enter your car without alarms going off.

It is important to be aware of your surroundings when leaving your vehicle. Reporting suspicious behaviour may save your vehicle from being stolen.

Deceptive damage method

South Africa is a country known for its humility and kind people, so it wouldn’t be too strange when another driver hoots to get your attention and tells you that your number plates have fallen. Except, this is one trick that can have your vehicle taken from you before you can say “braai”.

Thieves wait at places where they know people are usually absent-minded like malls and shopping centres to remove their number plates, waiting for the car owner to drive off then pretending that the driver’s number plates fell off just so that they can pull over to steal their car is what we call deceptive damage car theft. Vehicle owners are targeted and fall victim to their trusting nature.

Cross-border vehicle theft

Cross-border vehicle theft refers to the illegal act of stealing a vehicle from one country and transporting it over the border to another country. In South Africa, almost 60 vehicles are stolen each day and some of them are taken across the neighbouring countries’ borders like Mozambique, Zimbabwe, and Botswana. Vehicles are now being recovered in countries outside of South Africa, either resold to new owners or even stripped down to the engine.

Crime syndicates have resorted to make-shift bridges that are used to drive vehicles into Mozambique from South Africa to avoid using borders and being caught by border patrolling soldiers. The bridges are in places like Umkhanyakude in KwaZulu Natal which neighbours Mozambique, making the stealing of cars easy and a quick transaction.

SAPS stolen vehicle recovery

The last twelve months have seen about 64 vehicles recovered on the South African-Mozambique border, and this is the work of the SAPS recovery task team. With over 140 arrests of cross-border vehicle theft syndicates, the task team is set on providing safety and enforcing the law on criminals.

Discussing the shocking 1800 stolen vehicles per month, Police Minister Bheki Cele visited Maputo recently for a two-day Ministerial visitThe visit aimed to announce the success of SAPS in recovering stolen vehicles and also set up command offices, detective teams, border policing forces, and crime intelligence departments that will continue to aid in the recovery of stolen vehicles. The successful recovery also seized R100 million worth of drugs and dozens of firearms and rifles while recovering stolen vehicles, making this a success that removed another big threat to society.

The arrest is proof that your vehicle can be recovered and that the SAPS is hard at work to decrease the amount of crime that affects South Africans daily.

SAPS stolen vehicle recovery

Vehicle recovery insights

The South African National Defence Force (SANDF) recovered multiple stolen vehicles transporting millions of rands worth of illicit cigarettes. Captain Moses Semono of Joint Operations Tactical Headquarters in Limpopo reported that the soldiers from Bambatha Rifles patrolling the Zimbabwe border, the soldiers confiscated a bakkie with illegal cigarettes valued at R1.1 million.

Another bakkie reported stolen by SAPS and valued at R674 800 illegally transporting cigarettes valued at R2 million was found while patrolling. At Madimbo, a bakkie was recovered transporting illicit cigarettes valued at R202 957. These recoveries are the result of hard work and can improve when vehicles are fitted with GPS tracking units that have a recovery rate of up to 90%.

Preventing car theft with Cartrack

Let’s face it; crime is one thing that changes for the worse every year in all corners of the world. Preventing vehicle theft is possible with technology that is designed to help recover your vehicle should you fall victim to this crime. Cartrack provides excellent service to ensure that your vehicle has the most protection and a high chance of recovery should the unfortunate happen.

Our vehicle tracking units that are GPS enabled are a forward step to finding your vehicle if you find yourself at the mercy of vehicle theft. Another feature that Cartrack offers, provides an extra eye on your vehicle even when you are not near it.

Let us take a look at how you can protect your vehicle from being stolen.

Stepping out for a quick bite? Get Carwatch to keep an eye on your vehicle

CarWatch is essentially the eyes you need when you’re not near your vehicle. The CarWatch feature detects unauthorised car movements that can cause crashes even when a thief is taking your vehicle from where it is parked. The feature can be accessed on the Cartrack app and the Cartrack 24-hour control room will receive the alerts and reach you to confirm the loss of your vehicle and immediately dispatch to find your vehicle.


The Geofence feature uses GPS to trigger alerts when your vehicle leaves the geographical boundary that you may have created for where you often drive your vehicle. In the case of fear of vehicle theft, you can create high-risk zones that can alert you when your vehicle enters these areas and prevent your vehicle from being stolen. The GPS tracking device that works with geofencing allows you to see which areas your vehicle has been in thus increasing the chances of the vehicle being recovered.

Stolen vehicle recovery with GPS tracking

Stolen vehicle recovery is when vehicles are located after vehicles have been illegally taken from their owners without their permission. Tracking vehicles through Global Positioning Systems (GPS) is one of the most important pieces of stolen vehicle recovery.

Installing a GPS tracking device increases the chances of your vehicle being recovered should it be stolen. The chances of recovering a vehicle fitted with a Cartrack tracking unit are high because Cartrack GPS tracking units have triggers that send alerts when tampered with.

Contact Cartrack for a free quote and to find the best package for your vehicle and needs. Visit our website to see how you can gain control of your safety.

Roadblock etiquette: Know your rights as a driver

One of the main objectives of vehicle theft is to illegally resell vehicles for profit and it is essential to be aware of your rights when stopped at a roadblock. The Road Traffic Management Corporation is governed by the provisions of the National Land Transport Act 93 of 1996 (NRTA), the PFMA, the Companies Act 71 of 2008 (CA) and the Procedure Act 51 of 1997 (CPA) enforces mandates that are imperative to driving the safety of drivers in South Africa. Abiding by these mandates reduces the chances of finding yourself in the wrong lane of the law.

The RMTC and NRTA provide the national principles, requirements, guidelines, and standards that drivers should abide by. This means that procedures like roadblocks are protected by the NRTA and are required by the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa to be performed to ensure that drivers are indeed following all safety regulations on the road.

Knowing what to do when pulled over by the police, what type of roadblock you are stopped at as well as the laws that protect your rights when pulled over is vital to your safe arrival to your destination.

The difference between an informal roadblock and a K78 roadblock

Finding yourself at a roadblock can be challenging, especially when you have multiple places to be. There are two types of roadblocks in South Africa that help to keep the streets safe: informal roadblocks and K78 roadblocks.

Informal roadblocks are mainly carried out to prevent drunk driving, speeding, and vehicle roadworthiness. They are also done to check for outstanding traffic fines and a warrant is required for police to search your vehicle.

A K78 roadblock is one approved by the National Police Commissioner and carried out to find a specific person. This is when a warrant is out for a driver and their vehicle and may be believed to be a criminal on the police radar. These roadblocks are vital for situations like human trafficking and kidnapping and are needed to help those who may be in life-threatening danger.

What to do when stopped at a roadblock

Being stopped by the police may seem daunting, especially if you are a law-abiding driver, but in most cases, it is for safety purposes. Some roadblocks are meant to find drunk drivers, and others may be to catch crimes like human and drug trafficking syndicates. The safety of civilians is the priority for law enforcement. With fake police officers threatening the safety of drivers, knowing your rights on the road may protect you against vehicle theft.

Here is what you can do when you are pulled over at a roadblock:

  1. Pull over when stopped by the police: Avoid escalating the situation by staying calm. Driving off may result in arrest, should they be real police officers.
  2. Provide your license and also ask for the police officer’s identification: Providing your license allows officers to identify you. You may also consider asking the officers for their identification to verify their authenticity.
  3. Avoid driving vehicles deemed unroadworthy or with outstanding fines: If officers stop you and discover your vehicle is unroadworthy or has outstanding fines, they may refuse to let you drive it as it may pose a danger to other vehicles on the road.
  4. Do not refuse a breathalyser test: According to Section 65 (9) of the NRTA, refusing to take a breathalyser test can result in arrest.

It is important to abide by the law at all times to avoid fines and jail time. Police officers are there to protect you and maintaining a calm manner of speaking allows you to assess situations easily. Make sure that you drive within speed limits and avoid drinking and driving.

Answering your motor vehicle theft questions

  1. What can I do if I witness a vehicle being stolen?

    Do not approach the assailants, this will put you in danger. Call the police to report the crime with as much information as possible, from what the criminals look like to the vehicle plates.

  2. Can the colour of my car be the reason it was stolen?

    Some car colours are more high risk than others. White vehicles have the highest stolen vehicles with silver vehicles coming in a close second. This is mainly because there are a lot of people with white and silver vehicles on the road. This makes vehicles easy to blend in when stolen.

  3. What to submit to insurance should my vehicle be stolen?

    Should your vehicle be stolen, you will need to submit documents like a certified copy of your ID, a copy of the vehicle registration, a picture of the police report, your case number from the police, and a form that grants the insurance provider access to the police records. You might need to provide more information that will help your claim like vehicle mileage, dents, or distinct markers on your vehicle.

  4. How many vehicles are stolen in a year in South Africa?

    A total of 104 vehicles were reported stolen in South Africa per day, and over 2754 vehicles were reported stolen between July and December in the year 2023.

Prevent vehicle theft with Cartrack GPS technology. Contact us to protect your car.