These 5 Features Make the Tesla Model 3 and Model Y Nearly Impossible To Steal

Car thefts are on the rise. Nefarious actors keep targeting vehicles that are incredibly easy to steal despite the authorities announcing intensified crackdowns on those with such intentions. Sadly, the phenomenon might not stop anytime soon, especially since the economy is looking weaker each quarter. If you're worried about motor vehicle thefts, you might want to explore owning a Tesla Model 3 or Y. Here's why.
Multiple Tesla Model Ys in a Showroom 29 photos
Photo: leonlikethewind on Reddit | Edited
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Waking up to discover that your car isn't in the driveway any longer is not something anyone employed or running a legitimate business wants to experience. Sadly, it's an increasingly common occurrence. A recent report uncovered that in the first half of 2023, thieves stole over twice as many vehicles as in the same period in 2019.

In some cities like Chicago, it's even worse. Police received 139% more stolen vehicle reports this year than in 2020.

One of the catalysts for the continued growth of this angering phenomenon is social media. Short videos showed that some cars can be stolen pretty easily. No key fob defeat device is needed, and no meticulous planning is required to get behind the wheel of a Hyundai or Kia without an immobilizer.

Seeing that all you need to turn on a relatively new or slightly used car is a USB or a simple screwdriver prompted those willing to take a gamble on not being apprehended by Police to engage in illegal activities. Some have been caught, and others managed to get away with it.

"Hacked" Hyundai
Photo: Fox 2 Detroit on YouTUbe

No peace of mind

These auto thefts also raised other kinds of worries. People with severe criminal intents can steal a vehicle, accomplish their plans, and abandon the unit before escaping justice.

And not just Hyundai or Kia thefts are on the rise. For example, Range Rover owners from London have a hard time finding insurance for their posh SUVs because they're too easy to steal by people who know their way around technology.

But even Toyota Prius owners from the US had to endure the boldness of those ready to put their freedom and safety in danger for a catalytic converter.

In some North American cities, mobile crews of bandits use rocks, sparkplugs, a punch-type tool, or other devices to break car windows and steal whatever is left inside. If they can't see anything, they do away with the driver's door window and pop the trunk to claim whatever was left there.

Car Wizard Cutting Through a Catalytic Converter
Photo: Car Wizard on YouTube
It's a widespread phenomenon that's very hard to stop. It's also one of the reasons why insurers have upped their premiums for those living in urban environments.

But there are vehicles out there that aren't targeted as often or by many thieves. Last week, for example, we learned that Tesla's cheapest EVs – the Model 3 and Model Y – champion this specific segment.

So, what makes them so hard to steal? Let's see!

No traditional ignition system or start-stop button

Most cars on the road today require a physical key fob to unlock and turn on the engine. Owners must put it in the ignition system or carry it around if the vehicle has the keyless start system enabled. Some automakers also implemented turning on a vehicle through a smartphone app, but that's still a novelty.

Apple Digital Key for iPhone on BMW
Photo: BMW
The Model 3 and Model Y do not need such an accessory. Owners of this EV and other Tesla-made cars or crossovers have a card that acts as the key. To enter the car, they must tap it on the B pillar. After entering, the card must be placed onto the center console. Otherwise, the vehicle will not start.

If Tesla owners don't want to carry the key card around, they can use the smartphone to open the vehicle and drive.

Since these two types of connections don't have a wide field of communication, they're pretty complicated to replicate. It's not impossible, but it's much more of a hassle than just copying a key fob's signal.

But as if enjoying those safety perks wasn't enough, the owners can also set a custom PIN that has to be entered every single time before going for a drive. And no, thieves cannot guess the number sequence based on fingerprints left on the screen because the PIN pad changes after every use.

The phone-as-a-key system

A significant advantage of using your phone to lock, unlock, drive, and control the car remotely is that it's pretty safe. Tesla also fine-tuned the system over the years. Someone would have to steal your device to gain access to the EV.

Car thefts
Photo: Google Creative Commons (Fair Use)
However, even then, it could be impossible. Nearly everyone has set up some sort of identification that requires either a camera scanning your face, sensors recognizing your fingerprint, or a PIN.

Newer models come with Bluetooth. Thus, you don't have to take the phone out of your pocket to get inside the car. That can be a great advantage in some scenarios. A quick ingress can save someone from being burglarized or worse.

However, it is also a weakness. If someone does steal your phone and knows the car's close, they can very easily get inside the vehicle and start driving. Fortunately, the solution is simple – turn Bluetooth off when you're not using the car and make sure the preferred access method is not easy to guess. That means it would be wise not to set up a "1, 2, 3, 4" PIN.

No engine or gas tank

Let's imagine for a minute that we're thieves who know nothing about all-electric cars. We target a Tesla Model Y. We steal the owner's preferred access method or discover his PIN and successfully get on our way.

Tesla Model 3 and Tesla Model Y
Photo: Kia Hyundai Channel on YouTube
The car's zippy, silent, inconspicuous because it's just another Tesla, and we're happy with what we've done.

But after a few miles, we notice the battery's low. Now, it must be replenished, and it's not as easy as just filling up. Where do you fast-charge a Tesla for free and without letting the owner discover your whereabouts and share that detail with the Police? It's nearly impossible.

Plugging into a Supercharger is seamless for those with a Tesla account and who have established a payment method. But once the owner sees the charge for hooking the EV to a DC stall, they'll know our location.

Besides, Tesla's cars can also be tracked via the same official app. Newer models with the updated Sentry Mode even allow owners to see in real-time what the vehicles' cameras are recording, both inside and out.

Car thefts
Photo: Google Creative Commons (Fair Use)
So, it's not at all convenient to steal a Model Y or any other all-electric vehicle for that matter. There must be some very strong reasoning behind the decision to deal with all the hassle of leaving a Tesla customer without their zero-tailpipe emission commuting appliance.

No important parts

On average, an internal combustion engine-powered car has 100 times more parts than a battery-electric vehicle. Some of those parts are quite valuable. For example, the catalytic converter, the alternator, the fuel pump, the transmission, the engine block, and even the airbags or the bumpers can cost a pretty penny.

A Tesla Model Y only comes with one of those pricey parts – the airbags. The high-voltage battery is also valuable, but what can you do with it? It's not like shops have trained electricians who know what to do with them. Plus, handling such an energy storage unit without the proper tools is even dangerous.

But even if someone replaces the high-voltage battery, making any real use of it will be complicated. The Texas-based EV maker is known for banning Tesla owners who have repaired their cars outside the brand's service network and attempted to use a Supercharger.

Tesla family
Photo: Tesla
These vehicles are also minimalistic. Their steering wheels are not worth much and don't pique thieves' interest as much as a BMW M part would. Not even the 15-inch touch-sensitive center screen is important because there's not much that can be done with it.

Sentry Mode

A breakthrough feature when it first appeared, Sentry Mode is guaranteed to discourage people from messing with your Tesla. All the cameras remain active when this feature is turned on. If they detect someone being too close for comfort, the car will flash its headlights and display a message on the center screen notifying anyone near the EV that it has started recording.

When the owner returns to the vehicle, they can review and download the footage.

If the situation gets out of hand, the car will sound the alarm. When the threat is serious, the vehicle also sends a notification to the owner's phone. That's how they can act in due time.

Tesla family
Photo: Tesla
Sentry became such a fantastic and desired feature that it inspired other automakers like Rivian to create Gear Guard, a similar surveillance suite.

But it's not just the Model Y or the Model 3 that are not particularly popular with thieves. Other Tesla EVs come with the same "drawbacks." But a Model S or Model X could become the target of a would-be nefarious actor a tad bit more often just because they are part of the more premium lineup and look more expensive.

Sadly, however, that doesn't translate into lower insurance premiums. Battery-electric vehicles are often totaled and scrapped (or sold unlawfully to people living in other countries) after a minor accident. They're also expensive to fix. Insurers must deal with higher costs, making some people pay more.

But if you are willing to put up with Tesla's tracking and Safety Score, you could benefit from a lower premium.
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About the author: Florin Amariei
Florin Amariei profile photo

Car shows on TV and his father's Fiat Tempra may have been Florin's early influences, but nowadays he favors different things, like the power of an F-150 Raptor. He'll never be able to ignore the shape of a Ferrari though, especially a yellow one.
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