Can A Tesla Be Stolen (And How Hard Are They To Steal)?


Tesla is here to stay and keep fighting for the electric car revolution

Elon Musk

The electric car revolution was and continues to be spearheaded by Elon Musk. And Tesla hasn’t just changed the way that we think about the automobile, it’s also transformed car theft and made it exponentially harder for thieves to steal and drive away in a vehicle that doesn’t belong to them. 

And the reputation that electric cars have for being far harder to steal than their gasoline-fueled ancestors is, for the most part also thanks to Elon Musk and Tesla, the car that has constantly proved to be an incredibly hard nut for any would-be thieves to crack. 

During 2016 and 2017, according to the HLDI (Highways Loss Data Institute), the car that thieves tended to avoid the most was BMW’s 3 Series, but the second and third least popular options for thieves were Tesla’s Model X and S. 

While insurance companies and investigators are keen to point out that electric cars tend to be less popular among the criminal fraternity due to the fact that they have to be parked in either garage or on the pathway of their owner’s homes so that they can be charged from home-based EV stations.

The security technology that Tesla uses to discourage any would-be thieves has contributed greatly to their fearsome reputation among criminals. 

How Hard Is It To Steal A Tesla? 

While it’s undeniably difficult to steal a Tesla, it isn’t impossible as 115 of them were stolen between 2016 and 2017.

However, due to the tracking software that Tesla uses, 112 of the vehicles (of 115) that were stolen were found and returned to their owners.

And being caught with a stolen car tends to send an incredibly powerful message to anyone who might be tempted to do so, that maybe it isn’t worth the risk.

So, why are Teslas so unappealing to thieves?

It’s a combination of three things, the aforementioned GPS Tracking software that makes them relatively easy to locate when they are taken without the owner’s consent, and the Sentry Mode and Pin To Drive systems that are installed in every car.

In order to steal, and successfully get away with a Tesla, a thief needs to find a way to either hack or bypass all three, and that’s a lot easier said than done. And to prove that point, we’re going to explain how the three systems work, and what makes them such an effective criminal deterrent. 

1. It Doesn’t Matter How Far You Go, They’ll Find You – GPS Tracking 

When any new owner picks their Tesla up from the showroom, they’re encouraged to download the relevant app for the model that they’re going to be driving around in and pair it with their car.

From that point on, as long as their car is moving, it sends real-time data to the app that includes its current location and speed.  

That means that as soon as a Tesla is stolen, it’ll start to transmit where it is to its owner’s phone, and all they have to do is phone the police department, let them know where their car is and an officer can be dispatched to intercept and arrest the thieves. 

The system, however, is reliant on the car being in motion, and if it isn’t, it will only transmit its last known position to its owner’s phone. 

The only way for a thief to bypass the system and prevent the owner of the car from being able to track their Tesla is by removing the SIM card from the vehicle before they drive away with it, or stopping during their getaway and then removing the SIM.

Both of which are reliant on a thief either having a working knowledge of or being familiar with Teslas. 

2. Elon’s Watching – Sentry Mode 

As long as the car’s owner switches Sentry Mode on whenever they park up, if someone gets too close to their car, the front and side cameras will automatically switch on and start recording, and capture whoever it is that decided to take a closer look at the vehicle on film.

And while the cameras are recording, the car also notifies its owner that Sentry Mode has been activated, so they can take whatever action they deem to be appropriate given the circumstances. 

Being featured as the star in their very own Tesla production while the owner of the car is speaking to the forces of law and order is, more often than not, enough to change any thief’s mind and make them walk away.

But if they don’t and they are caught behind the wheel of the car (which thanks to the GPS tracking system, they almost certainly will be) the police will have all the evidence they need to charge the suspect on the car’s hard drive. 

3. It’s All About The Code – Pin To Drive 

If being tracked and caught on camera isn’t enough to stop any determined thief in their tracks, then they’ll still have to deal with the Pin To Start system.

As the name suggests, it’s a digital display that pops up on a random part of the car’s screen (which prevents a thief from being able to guess the combination by using the owner’s fingerprints) and requires the driver to enter the right combination of numbers before it’ll start the car.

And too many invalid guesses will disable the car. It’s almost bulletproof, and the only way a thief can get around it is if the owner of the car hasn’t actually enabled it.

There’s No Way To Getaway Apart From Human Error

Theoretically, any potential thief could hack Tesla’s security systems and access the owner’s account, but are they really going to bother? Besides, even if they did, they’d almost certainly be caught by the tracker or cameras.

This is probably why most car thieves regard Teslas as an impossibility that it’s in their best interests to avoid at all costs.  

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