7 Ways to Avoid Getting Your Car Stolen

Most of us don’t think about car theft prevention until it’s too late. But the fact is, learning how to prevent a car theft is knowledge you need.

Consider this: a vehicle is stolen every 44 seconds in the United States according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). While 50 percent are recovered, that somewhat encouraging figure doesn’t tell the whole story.

As a police officer, I helped reunite victims with their stolen vehicles on a regular basis, and rarely was it a joyous occasion. That’s because it only takes moments for a criminal to strip down your car for parts, crash it during a joy ride, or ditch it while fleeing law enforcement. The car you get back looks nothing like the one that was once parked in your driveway.

If you don’t want a criminal sitting behind the wheel of your car, you need to educate yourself on how to prevent car theft. Drawing on my experience as a law enforcement officer, I’ve put together this car theft prevention guide as a starting point for doing so.

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1. Keep track of your keys

If your vehicle is missing, one of the first questions a police offer will ask is “do you have all the keys?” Many people make the mistake of hiding a spare key under the wheel-well or some other place under their car. The problem is, just like hiding a key under your front door step, criminals have caught on to this trick. Getting locked out of your car is inconvenient, but can’t touch the hassle you’ll go through if your car is stolen. Also, if you have given a spare car key to someone who no longer needs it, ask for it back immediately.

2. Secure your vehicle

Whenever you park your car, even in your own driveway, close and lock the windows/doors to help prevent car theft. This seems like a basic security tactic, but we all know how easy it is to become complacent. Although it makes the first moments you enter your car a tad uncomfortable, resist the temptation to leave windows cracked during the summer. If there’s a teenage driver in your household, pass this valuable car theft prevention tip along.

3. Park intelligently

Parking in a well-lit area will help deter criminals, but parking close to building entrances and near parking lot security cameras adds extra layers of protection. Parking garages are often considered safe places for parking your car so it won’t get damaged, but parking in an isolated garage could compromise your personal safety. If you do use a parking garage, try to park as close to the attendant or a security camera as possible.

4. Don’t keep valuables in your vehicle

The number of times a victim told me they left their purse or other valuable item in their vehicle is disheartening. Take note: something like an iPad sitting on the passenger’s seat of your car is eye-candy to a criminal. Sadly, even loose change is enough for some people to break in. Once he’s smashed a window to snatch your iPad, he might just decide to go all the way and take your car. If you absolutely must leave a valuable item in your car, put it in the trunk. But beware, the bad guy may be watching you do so. Help prevent car theft by thinking ahead and leaving valuables at home.

5. Use a physical anti-theft device

Roughly 40 percent of insurance companies offer a premium discount for vehicles that have an antitheft device. That’s because these devices go a long way toward car theft prevention. Thieves are looking for an easy target, one they can conquer quickly without drawing attention to themselves. Physical anti-theft devices include vehicle immobilizer systems that prevent thieves from hotwiring your car. California, Florida and Texas are the nation’s leading car theft states, according to NHTSA data. If you live in one of them, researching anti-theft devices could save you some money on car insurance and spare you the aggravation of a car theft.

6. Don’t leave your car running

You need to know that nearly half of all auto thefts could have been easily avoided if the vehicle owner took reasonable precautions, such as turning the car off when not in use. We've all started our car on a wintry morning, then headed back inside our home to top our coffee. But did you know that more than a third of all vehicles occur near the car owner's residence? Leaving your car running not only invites theft, it's also illegal in many states. If you're not behind the wheel, help prevent car theft by turning your vehicle off.

7. Take advantage of a tech-based auto recovery tool

If despite your efforts the worst happens, employing an auto-theft recovery tool could help you get your car back before it’s ruined. Systems like OnStar use GPS technology to pinpoint your vehicle and transmit that information to law enforcement. OnStar can also remotely block your car’s ignition and can work in tandem with police to send a signal to your vehicle that makes it slow down safely.

Keeping your vehicle out of the hands of a criminal is easier when you outfit your home with a professional security system that includes outdoor cameras, motion detectors and even mobile security alerts. Discover the security system that will keep your car and your family safe with our top picks for the best home security systems in the country.

Related pages on SafeWise

Alexia Chianis
Written by
Alexia Chianis
Wanderlust junky and mom of two, Alexia is a former police officer and U.S. Army Captain who draws on her experiences to write about a myriad of safety topics.

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  • Tom Tomas

    My sons Saab will be embalmed for as long as he Owns it against thieves vandals for 4 sq miles at all times 24/7 it will be embalmed in fire super panic attack nervous breakdown the entire street where he lives will be embalmed and the parking lot of the pharmacy from now on sealed

    • Tom Tomas

      It will start now it will megs intensify everyday nightfall from now on those already plotting will be judged this instant

  • Tom Young

    I think we all at sometime leave our car running to run to return back to the house for something. Here is a tip learned in my fire academy training in Oakland California.
    Car trunks are the safest place to put items because car trunk lids are designed not to open in the event of an accident. I’ve watched big men try to axe through a trunk lid. The only thing that works is the jaws of life tool. So don’t leave anything out you may leave a dollars worth of change and loose a $300 window.