Auto Dealership Security Basics

by | Sep 26, 2022

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Motor vehicle theft is a major problem everywhere we find cars and trucks. The speed and ease with which it can happen—combined with the large potential payout for the thief—means vehicles go missing at an alarming rate. In 2020, there were 810,400 reported cases. That’s about 2,220 stolen vehicles each day or 1.54 each minute. Thieves especially target locations with a large number of cars and trucks, such as dealerships and car lots. For dealership owners, auto dealership security needs to be a top priority.

Auto Theft by the Numbers

Let’s take a closer look at what your dealership has at stake.

While motor vehicle theft has trended down since 1990, we actually experienced an 8% increase between 2020 and 2021. Why? It’s hard to say for certain, but the 35% increase in used car value over the past two years isn’t helping.

Stealing a car can be very lucrative. According to the FBI, Americans lost $7.4 billion to vehicle theft in 2020. The average loss per theft was $9,166. Your chances of having a stolen vehicle returned to you? Only about 50%.

Luxury vehicles and sports cars will, of course, attract attention, but the top ten most stolen vehicles in 2021 are garden varieties. Chevrolet pick-up trucks, Ford pick-up trucks, Honda Civic, Honda Accord, and Toyota Camry are the five most popular targets. According to the National Insurance Crime Bureau’s annual auto theft report, Chevrolet, Ford, and GMC full-sized pick-up trucks accounted for a full 14% of stolen passenger vehicles in 2021.

The United States has a large, booming auto market. In 2020, motor vehicle and parts revenue topped $1.2 trillion. That only reflects legitimate sales at dealerships and doesn’t include the bustling (and sometimes shady) secondary market. There were nearly 15 million passenger vehicles sold in the US in 2021. Again, that’s only counting legitimate sales. So, millions of vehicles are manufactured and sold each year, with even more trading hands on the sidelines. And with 229 million licensed drivers in the US alone, there are plenty of buyers that are hungry for cheap cars and parts, whether or not they’re obtained legally.

It’s big numbers, big money, and big risks. As an auto dealership owner, you need to secure your entire lot in addition to each car itself. Protect your lot, protect your inventory, protect your business.

Essential Auto Dealership Security

Your dealership is an attractive target. Picture it from the perspective of a car thief: You have dozens, maybe hundreds of new vehicles sitting around, plus privately owned cars waiting for service and repairs. And all those parts in your service department. Thieves see possibilities and dollar signs.

Auto dealership security is about limiting access, increasing risk, and eliminating opportunities.

Thieves can and will make off with entire vehicles, but they might also target expensive tires, rims, and catalytic converters. A comprehensive security plan protects the vehicles and their parts.

Lights, Camera, Action!

An auto dealership covers a lot of ground. The last thing you want to do is leave some areas of it dark or out of sight from passers-by. Would-be thieves look for the cover of night and protection from prying eyes when selecting a target. Don’t give them either.

The easiest improvement to your auto dealership security is providing adequate lighting both inside and outside. A well-lit showroom and lot are big disincentives. Floodlights—especially motion-activated ones—throw a literal spotlight on criminals trying to avoid attention.

Additionally, you’ll want several well-placed business security cameras at entry points and sections of your property not easily seen from the road. Cameras are not only a powerful deterrent—possibly preventing the crime before it happens—but also provide invaluable video footage to assist law enforcement should a theft occur. Automotive dealership live video surveillance adds an extra layer of protection by making sure a trained professional is watching your property when no one else is around.

And if trouble strikes, a high-decibel alarm triggered by unauthorized entry is sometimes all it takes to scare off intruders.

So light it up, get it on camera, and make some noise.

Access Control

Fences, gates, sturdy locks, and keycards are mighty tools in controlling who has access to vehicles, spare parts, keys, financial records, and other confidential information. They keep your inventory and data in while keeping ne’er-do-wells out.

Both access control and territorial reinforcement are pillars of crime prevention through environmental design, a system of design strategies to make a property as unappealing as possible to criminals. Giving your property unmistakable boundaries that are difficult to cross discourages illegal behavior.

What’s more, fences and locks make it abundantly clear that an area is not a public space. Few things stick out more than someone climbing over a fence or cutting through a lock. Thieves don’t want to stick out. They want to blend in. Don’t let them.

Key Security

Having lots of vehicles means having lots of keys or fobs. Understandably, it can be easy to misplace or lose them. It can also be easy for troublemakers to steal them.

To combat these problems, implement a sign-in-sign-out system to track all vehicle keys and fobs. And keep them in a safe, locked location both during and after business hours.

A key left hanging on an unsecured peg board, out on a counter, or in an unlocked office—or worse, left in the corresponding vehicle—is an open invitation to car thieves to grab it and drive off. Don’t make it that easy.

Vehicle Security

It sounds obvious, but make sure every vehicle on the lot is locked.

Consider using additional measures like steering wheel, tire, and pedal locks. Anti-theft devices are plentiful these days.

If present, activate the vehicle alarm every night.

Many new cars and trucks arrive with factory-installed GPS trackers, third-party services like LoJack, or remote kill switches. These allow law enforcement to track and recover stolen vehicles with relative ease.

Finally, make use of strategic placement and parking practices for the vehicles on the lot. Box expensive models in, turn all wheels sharply to the right or left (to make towing that much more difficult), and engage parking or emergency brakes at the end of the day.

Consider Using Security Guards

Security guards are potent crime-stoppers. Static or mobile security personnel on-site can deter criminals, engage with them as necessary, and assist police after the fact.

Hiring security guards can be very expensive, of course. And the larger your lot, the more guards you’ll need. But when a single theft can cost you $10,000 or more, it might be worth it. A recent coordinated theft got away with more than $500,000 worth of luxury cars from a dealership in Pittsburgh, and a Dodge dealership in Detroit was out $359,000 when four vehicles were stolen off the lot in September. Can your business sustain that kind of loss?

Live security guards can cost a lot. But so can a single theft. It’s up to you and your budget to determine whether the expense should be part of your auto dealership security plan.

Best of the Rest

Car dealership security is not a one-and-done situation. It’s ongoing and proactive.

To that end, remember to:

  • Perform thorough background checks on current and prospective staff
  • Periodically change alarm codes and passwords
  • Keep the lot and showroom tidy and well maintained
  • Create and enforce an end-of-day closing routine to ensure nothing is overlooked

The Deep Sentinel Solution for Auto Dealership Security

Deep Sentinel is proud to offer auto dealership security with video monitoring, a comprehensive security solution for car dealers.

Wireless or Power-over-Ethernet business security cameras with 2-way audio and high-decibel sirens are just the beginning. What sets Deep Sentinel apart from other security providers is the system’s unique combination of predictive AI and live surveillance guards. The trained professional guard team has eyes on your dealership every time someone steps foot on the property, well before any criminal activity starts.

How? By integrating digital and traditional security practices.

  • As soon as motion activates a camera, the onsite AI processor evaluates the situation and dismisses animals, passing cars, and every other non-threat activity.
  • The system alerts the Deep Sentinel guard team about suspicious or unknown behavior within seconds, allowing the guards to assess the situation.
  • Surveillance guards can intervene with an individual via 2-way audio. This is often enough to prevent a crime and send intruders away.
  • As necessary, guards can notify the police of a crime in progress in as little as 30 seconds, staying on the line to provide real-time updates.

Cameras detect. Guards watch and engage. Law enforcement gets notified only if necessary and never for a false alarm. All that, plus the fastest response time in the industry at a fraction of the cost of hiring security personnel. Real guards, real eyes, real protection. See Deep Sentinel in action in this live crime stop video at a Cleveland car lot.

Auto dealership security is a modern problem, and it requires a modern solution. Let Deep Sentinel be that solution.

Need a Solution that Prevents Crime?
Deep Sentinel is the only security technology that delivers the experience of a personal guard on every customer’s home and business. Visit or call 833-983-6006.

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