When it comes to preventing car theft, knowledge is power. Fortunately, we have plenty of tip and tricks to help you outsmart thieves and minimize the risk of them stealing your wheels.
First things first, though. You should be aware if you live in a region prone to auto theft. Each year, the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) releases its “Hot Spots” report, listing the 10 areas with the highest per capita vehicle theft rate. In the 2017 report (published in July 2018), Albuquerque, N.M., topped the list with 9,989 reported thefts, while five of the top 10 spots are in California. Overall, vehicle theft is up 4.1 percent across the nation.
Read on for ways you can protect your ride—and yourself—no matter where the road takes you.
Lock The Doors!
It may seem obvious, but locking your car is the simplest way to keep it safe. A recent trend shows that a staggering number of thefts occur because the keys or fob were left inside, dangling in plain sight. According to the NICB, from 2016 to 2018, an average of 209 vehicles per day were stolen in the U.S. because drivers left their keys or fobs in their vehicles, making them an easy and attractive target for thieves. “We can’t stress enough the importance of locking your vehicle and taking the key or fob with you when you leave it,” said NICB President and CEO Joe Wehrle in a press release. “Anti-theft technology works, but only if you use it.”
State departments of motor vehicles recommend parking in well-lit locations. Choose spaces with not just plenty of light, but also plenty of traffic and passersby who are likely to see and report activity around your ride. For overnight parking, avoid low-security lots altogether.
Stash Your Stuff
Always take your garage door opener and valuables with you, even if it’s slightly inconvenient. Keep your vehicle registration in your wallet or purse. Don’t leave it in the car, in case your vehicle does end up getting stolen.
Never Leave It Running
If you live in a cold climate, you may be tempted to warm up the vehicle prior to your morning commute by turning it on and leaving it running while you go back inside for a cup of joe, or to leave it running. Even if you’re just jumping out for a minute, it’s safer—and more fuel-efficient—to completely turn off the engine. It only takes a moment for an opportunistic thief to jump inside and drive off.
Keep An Eye Out
Pay attention to your surroundings when you get out of your car. Being distracted or hurried can leave you vulnerable and forgetful (like remembering to lock your doors).
To further protect your vehicle, get a fast, free, and personalized auto insurance quote from GEICO to see how much you could save.
Read more: 5 ways to hack-proof your car
By Kara Cutruzzula
Originally published March 2017. Updated March 2019.