Can You Steal a Tesla?

Tesla cars use cutting-edge technology to reduce theft. There are still ways for motivated thieves to get their way. Can you steal a Tesla? It is possible. But it’s difficult.

In this article, we’ll dive deep into the risks and statistics of Tesla car theft. We’ll show you how they stack up against other cars. Plus, we’ll review the steps available in each Tesla to safeguard the valuable vehicle.

How To Steal Tesla

To spot problems, experts have tested the limits of Tesla protections. And these are the various methods known that it is possible to steal a Tesla.

Relay Attack

One of the most discussed issues with Tesla cars is the possibility of a relay attack. This technique involves getting a device close to your existing key fob or card. Then it relays the encoded message to another device used to open your car.

This isn’t easy as the device that reads your existing key must be very close, usually within a matter of inches. And it requires sophisticated technology with at least two people working together. It’s also worth noting this can work on many vehicles with a similar key fob.

Enroll New NFC Card or Key Fob

Another way a thief may be able to steal a Tesla is by creating a new key card or fob. This involves three steps:

  1. Get access to your existing fob or card
  2. Clone it to a blank fob or card
  3. Enroll the device with your specific vehicle

There is a specific vulnerability in Tesla vehicles that makes this technique easier. When you use a card, there is a 130-second period to start the vehicle. During this time, you can also enroll a new fob or card without any other input.

This means a valet or someone else with your key could add another key to your system. It is not an easy process. But since adding the key during this 130-second time doesn’t need your approval, it is possible.

Rewrite Firmware

Another sophisticated method for stealing a Tesla involves rewriting the car’s firmware. They must hack into your vehicle’s computer and change the code so they can get access and use the vehicle.

This requires advanced knowledge of the Tesla systems. And as a result, isn’t likely a possibility for the majority of potential car thieves.

Through Online Permissions

The Tesla app or online portal offers another possible way for people to steal a Tesla. They could either log into your account with your username and password. Or they could somehow get added as a driver.

Both of these methods should involve input from you. They use a two-step verification process. In theory, it should be impossible for this to happen without your approval.

But motivated thieves can sometimes overcome this. They may use phishing schemes or social engineering. Brute-force methods can also break through security. Tesla recommends avoiding third-party apps that use your credentials to reduce theft. 

Open Another Tesla By Mistake

When using the Tesla app, owners may accidentally provide access to someone else. If you are near your vehicle and turn on the phone key function, it will allow anyone to open it. The car will think it is the owner since it granted permission through the app.

There was an instance in Canada where two owners of similar Tesla vehicles gained access to each other’s cars. They both used the Tesla app to open the vehicle, thinking they were getting into their own. But in fact, they were simultaneously getting into the wrong car. The worst part is that they were able to drive off after getting inside.

Tesla Theft Situation and Theft Rate

Tesla does a great job at deterring and avoiding theft. The company also improved its key fob cryptography and added a ‘PIN to Drive’ feature in 2018. It goes far beyond many other manufacturers to prevent theft.

The trust is, Tesla cars have an amazingly low rate of theft. 

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) ranks vehicle theft. Tesla cars are among the least stolen vehicles. The Model S and Model X ratings are 11 and 12. This compares to an average theft frequency of 100. In other words, these Tesla models have a fraction of the same chance of theft.

You can find some luxury cars with similar low-theft rates. The BMW 3 Series has a rock-bottom rating of 4 and the Buick Encore is at 15. 

The Dodge Charger HEMI and Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat have much worse ratings. They are 544 and 529, or many times more likely to get stolen than other cars.

Tesla Recovery Situation and Recovery Rate

Even if the worst is to happen and someone does steal a Tesla, they have an industry-leading recovery rate. Owners and police can track the cars to get them back.

According to the National Insurance Crime Bureau, 112 of 115 stolen Teslas from 2011 to 2018 were recovered. Other reports show that in 2016, Tesla cars had a 100% recovery rate.

The industry average is a 34% recovery rate, according to an NICB analysis. This is for vehicles reported stolen within the first 24 hours. When compared to Tesla’s high recovery rate, there’s no doubt that Tesla cars come out ahead.

Why Tesla Is Hard To Steal

The IIHS attributes part of the low theft rate of Teslas parked in garages and indoors. They are all battery-electric vehicles (BEVs) that many people charge overnight. But some BEVs have higher rates of theft than Tesla, so this doesn’t explain everything.

Others say the difficulty in stealing a Tesla is due to the features in each Tesla model. These are more advanced electrical security measures rather than simple mechanical ones.

Tesla Security Features

Here are some of the primary Tesla security features:

  • GPS Tracking: The real-time location is available through a SIM-card network.
  • Sentry Mode: The vehicle’s cameras record surroundings at all times. It can notify the owner in case of suspicious activity with live video feed.
  • PIN to Drive: Once inside the vehicle, a PIN code is necessary to drive the Tesla (if enabled). The PIN pad even shifts to avoid fingerprint smudge readings.
  • Security Alarm: Each Tesla has an alarm. It will sound if unauthorized access or start attempts happen.
  • Intrusion Sensors: Specific devices are in each Tesla. They identify when someone has entered the vehicle without authorization.
  • Tesla App: Owners can watch and control their vehicles from anywhere.

What Should You Do if Your Tesla Is Stolen?

If you are in a rare situation where your Tesla is stolen, you need to take immediate action. This can help increase your chances of recovery. It also helps to ensure you receive adequate insurance coverage.

Call the Police

The first step should be to notify the police. If you can provide any Sentry video footage, GPS data, or other details of the thieves, that would be helpful. At the least, you want to file a police report and get a case number, so you can provide it to your insurance company.

Check Your Tesla App

Once you’ve noticed the vehicle is missing, open your Tesla app and see if you can locate the vehicle. The GPS location should always be available.

Some thieves can remove or destroy the SIM card that this system relies on.

Call Your Insurance

You’ll also need to immediately notify insurance. They’ll want to confirm many details about the theft and will also want to know that you’ve reported it to the police. Be prepared to let them know how it happened, where the keys are, and other crucial details.

They may also ask what personal belongings are inside. But sometimes these aren’t covered by auto insurance policies. You might be able to make a homeowners or renters insurance claim for these items instead. So you need to notify that insurance company as well.

Unfortunately, insurance companies are unlikely to assist with the recovery. But if you have the coverage, they will compensate you for the stolen car. 

Our Verdict

Tesla cars have one of the lowest rates of theft and highest recovery rates out of any vehicle. This is thanks to their sophisticated technology. But you should always be vigilant and keep your key in sight and only with trusted parties.

Want to know more about your Tesla vehicle? Check out our article that has everything you need to know about the Tesla VIN.

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