Do Manual Transmissions Really Deter Thieves From Stealing Your Car?

Editorial

Or is this just a funny myth?

Getting your car stolen sucks. Modern cars are becoming increasingly harder to steal, but you would be amazed at how many people fail to do simple things that can help prevent their car from being stolen. Other than leaving the keys in the car and removing all valuables, there is one thing that we have constantly been told will stop criminals from stealing your car. The rumor is that most thieves can not drive a vehicle with a manual transmission and will fail if they attempt to steal one. We decided to see how true this rumor was.

It didn't take long before we found dozens of stories from around the United States that depict a thief being unable to steal a car with a manual transmission. Basically, the criminals forced their way into the car, and were later caught because of their simple incompetence with a stick shift.

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This myth is mainly based in the United States, where less than 4% of new cars are sold with a manual. In other parts of the world, manual transmissions are very common, but in the US hardly anyone knows how to drive them anymore. This is good news for those who drive a manual transmission. Since manual transmissions represent only 4% of new car sales, it is very difficult to find data that proves that they are stolen less frequently. Speaking with Edmunds, Frank Scafidi, director of public affairs for the National Insurance Crime Bureau, which tracks car theft trends, said that he has not seen any data that could prove or deny this claim.

Scafidi went on to say that "many thieves possess varying levels of intellect." This means that less experienced thieves are "just not that swift and therefore resort to stealing older, easier targets." If this older car happens to be a manual, they may be in for a bit of rotten luck. However, there are quite a few more experienced criminals who don't have a problem stealing any type of car. Cars with stick shifts being "harder" to steal may simply be a reflection of the people who are trying to steal them. For example, if someone was trying to steal a diamond, it would be much more difficult if the diamond weighed 6,000 pounds. Likewise a TV would be more difficult to steal if you had to solve a puzzle to unplug it.

Car guys like to claim that the stick shift is better for a variety of reasons, whether it be driving pleasure, speed, fuel economy, cost, simplicity, or the fact that it'll keep your car from being boosted. We love a good manual transmission, but unfortunately there isn't really any data that proves that they are stolen less frequently. In some cases, if the thief was smart, the car could be put in neutral and pushed away. (Don't get any ideas, criminals.) We will continue to prefer manual cars whether this myth is true or not, but for now we can simply point out that this myth has not been confirmed as fact.

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