It’s something you hope never happens to you. You walk out to a parking lot or the street and realize something’s missing. With a sudden drop of your stomach, you realize it’s your car. It’s not where you left it. Someone has taken it.
Now you’re without a way to get around, you’re missing whatever belongings were in your car, and most of all, you’ve just lost what is likely one of your most valuable possessions. Car theft is the kind of thing most people think will never happen to them, but statistics from the Insurance Information Institute say that in 2019, more than 721,000 cars were stolen. These thefts resulted in $6.4 billion in losses in the aggregate.
So what can you do to protect yourself against auto theft? With a few simple steps, you can reduce your risk of falling prey to car thieves and hang on to your beloved ride.
This one seems obvious: Locking your doors when you leave your car will make it more difficult for would-be thieves to break in. But we all know how routine things like locking the car can fall through the cracks in the course of daily lives. Make it a point to check your doors to ensure they’re locked when you leave your car. It might take an extra second, but it will pay off when a thief tries—and fails—to break in. Along the same lines, always close your windows before you leave your car.
Again, this seems obvious, but we’ve all gotten in our car only to realize we’ve forgotten something and run back inside our home or office, leaving the keys in the car. It only takes a second for someone to walk by and help themselves to your waiting vehicle while you’re inside. Do yourself a favor and take your keys with you every time you exit your car.
This is a good idea for many reasons when it comes to staying safe. Park in a well-lit area and preferably one that is well-trafficked. Lots of passersby will deter thieves from attempting to steal your car, and you’ll feel safer walking back to it if it’s properly illuminated.
Use Anti-Theft Devices
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recommends using a car alarm system with an audible alarm and using a visible anti-theft device such as a steering wheel lock. If your car did not come with an alarm system, you can have one installed after the fact. Visible locks and theft deterrents are also effective because they show thieves that your car is not an easy target. If a thief sees one of these devices, they’re more likely to decide your car isn’t worth the risk of being seen while trying to circumvent the lock.
Avoid leaving valuable possessions in your car. If you have a laptop, phone, tablet, or another high-value item (like a purse or wallet) lying in full view in your car, you’re giving a thief extra motivation to steal your car. Never leave valuable items in your car, or if you absolutely can’t avoid doing so, hide them thoroughly or place them in the trunk so that thieves don’t see them.
This tip is more useful if your car has been stolen than as a prevention tool, but you’ll be glad you have a vehicle recovery system if your car suddenly vanishes. Professionals must install these systems, which use wireless or GPS technology to track your vehicle, sending a signal of its whereabouts to police or a monitoring service. This may not prevent theft, but it will make recovering your property much easier in the event that your car is stolen.
Check with your motor vehicle insurance provider to ensure that your policy covers theft and vandalism. Liability insurance won’t cover you if your vehicle is stolen, so having a comprehensive policy that includes full coverage is your best bet at complete protection (and peace of mind.) In addition, most car insurance policies don’t cover any valuables stolen from your car, so check with your renters’ or homeowners’ provider to ensure you’re covered there, too.
While it’s easy to think that car theft is something that will never happen to you, it’s not something that should be left up to chance. Our vehicles are valuable above and beyond the dollar amount we pay for them because they’re our primary method of getting to work, driving our families where they need to go, and taking care of the simple day-to-day things necessary for modern life. With a few simple prevention tips, you can protect yourself from this crime, saving yourself time, money, and a lot of headache.