Cars have long been signifiers of wealth, social mobility, and personal freedom. However, for large segments of America’s less affluent, they’re much more than a symbol of success. For them, owning a car is not only a means of supporting their careers and families—it’s a key way of escaping poverty. In fact, studies have shown that, over time, households with an automobile earn more and are able to gain access to greater economic opportunity.
For these reasons, auto theft is a particularly harrowing concern for low-income drivers. Not only do they stand to lose much more in the event of a vandalized or stolen car, but they will often have a much harder time recovering from the loss of their vehicle as well.
The conditions of poverty often amplify the difficulties associated with auto theft. The following are a few of the factors that have made low-income drivers much more vulnerable to this type of crime.
Less flexible lifestyles
Having a car stolen is a major inconvenience for anyone. Not only must you take the time to file a police report, but you also have to find some way to get to work, shuttle kids around to various school activities or daycare, take care of shopping, and do everything else you rely on a car for. However, compared to more prosperous segments of society, it’s even tougher to tackle these difficulties for those with less income. Why? Primarily because the lower-wage work most available to them may offer less flexibility and time off. For example, unskilled laborers can be replaced more easily, giving employers little incentive to accommodate an employee who cannot make it to work due to the loss of a vehicle.
Even if they can find the time, it may still be difficult for many lower-income individuals to recover their stolen vehicle. According to one government survey, 47 percent of Americans can’t manage a $400 surprise cost. This means that if the vehicle has been recovered from a chop shop, for example, and needs repairs, their insurance deductible may be out of reach. Unfortunately, because not having a vehicle potentially means losing wages they need, borrowing the money to pay for repairs may be their only option.
Less access to public transportation
Lack of adequate public transportation is a common complaint in many neighborhoods. However, there are several reasons why this is especially true for low-income and minority neighborhoods. For instance, despite the greater necessity for public transportation, poor communities are often the last to get new services, as it’s more common for them to be left out of community planning initiatives and to be prioritized below other projects, such as building new roads and highways, that benefit cars.
The effect of this is to further isolate low-income individuals and families that don’t have access to a vehicle of their own. By having to rely on inadequate or even non-existent public transportation, for instance, a once-manageable commute may turn into a longer ordeal that tips the balance and pushes the theft victim out of the workforce.
High insurance rates
Even if a low-income driver has the money and time to replace a lost vehicle, they still face setbacks based solely on where they live. Auto-insurance providers use a variety of factors to determine individual plan rates, such as age, driving record, and credit history. Among those factors, location is the one most liable to raise insurance costs for the poor. Even a driver with a perfect record and excellent credit history may have to pay more than usual simply by living in an area with a higher than average rate of unemployment. This is primarily due to the fact that a greater unemployment rate may mean more uninsured drivers—and thus more expensive accidents. Similarly, insurance companies may also be inclined to increase costs for those living in neighborhoods with poor road conditions or reduced public safety services.
Helping Low-Income Drivers Prevent Auto Theft with a Layered Approach
The LoJack® Stolen Vehicle Recovery System helps law enforcement recover thousands of stolen vehicles each year, often within days or even hours after the theft. This not only minimizes the disruption a stolen vehicle causes in a driver’s life, but also reduces the chance a returned vehicle will have been significantly damaged. That’s why a LoJack System can be particularly beneficial to lower-income drivers.
To help out these victims of auto theft, LoJack is working with law enforcement agencies and donating Stolen Vehicle Recovery Systems in select cities across the country. As part of National Vehicle Theft Protection Month (NVTPM), LoJack is also trying to raise awareness of auto theft by providing tips to help prevent your car from being stolen. For instance, to make your vehicle less desirable to thieves, LoJack recommends a layered approach that combines common-sense safety tips—such as rolling up your windows and locking your car—with more advanced theft-prevention and tracking systems.
Stay up to date on our NVTPM campaign by following #NVTPM on social media.