According to the FBI, over $6 billion was lost to motor vehicle theft in 2018—don’t let a dollar of that be yours in 2020.

It’s a confusing time. Although car theft has been trending downward the last several years, surprisingly, over half of car thefts in 2018 were due to car owners leaving their key fobs in their cars! With so much else going on in the world, it’s easy to get lax about things like locking your car door. But one thing is for sure—criminals aren’t taking a break because of coronavirus or anything else. Read on to find out (or to remind yourself) the many things you can control this year when it comes to protecting your vehicle and its contents.

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1. Make your car a less attractive target

We all have some bad habits we need to break to keep our cars from becoming a beacon for thieves. Just like having a fence around a pool keeps people out, doing the following things keeps petty criminals and brazen car thieves from taking too much notice of your vehicle in their search for an easy target: 

  • Lock your doors. Whether you are heading into class, grocery shopping, or just running into the gas station for a quick snack, make it a habit to lock your doors every time that you leave your vehicle. At the same time (if you don’t have keyless entry), make it a habit to check that your keys are always on you as well.
  • Keep your windows rolled up all the way. Perhaps you can’t imagine someone unlocking your car with just a few inches of space, but they can. Remember that thieves often have the same devices that professional locksmiths have. If you can call upon a locksmith to open your locked car, then believe that anyone else with enough skill and the right tools can too. This is especially pertinent for dog owners who often bring Fido along with them and roll the window down for their pup. The best practice is to leave Fido at home. Of course, you want to protect your pup from the heat, but unless you feel that their breed alone will keep the thieves away, it’s best to run errands without them. What’s worse than losing your ride to a carjacking? Losing your dog, for sure. 
  • Don’t use your car as storage or leave attractive/expensive items out in full view. We’ve all left something out in the open that would attract a passerby with criminal intent. Students leave laptop bags across the backseat, kids leave devices where they sat, and sometimes we’ve been guilty of leaving purses and wallets out in the open. Locking your doors is just the first step in keeping your car and contents safe. Make sure you tuck any attractive items under the seats, in the glove compartment, or in the trunk to keep your car from becoming an easy target. 

2. Park smarter

Think twice before you park your vehicle in a neighborhood or on a side street you aren’t familiar with. And park in well-lit areas. Use United States neighborhood crime maps like this one from adt.com to understand the crime potential for the ZIP codes or actual addresses that you are considering parking in. 

Note: according to law enforcement, even if you live or park in a nice neighborhood, know that break-ins can happen anywhere. That said, it is safer to park your car in a garage than out on the driveway or a street. If you must park your car outside, a car cover is another deterrent that makes your car less attractive to thieves. Finally, when parking at home, you can install a closed-circuit camera outside as an additional deterrent (whether or not it is a working device).

3. Invest in anti-theft technology

According to the FBI, the vehicle theft rate in 2018 was 228.9 per 100,000 people. Investing in anti-theft devices and technology is one way to bring that rate down and avoid becoming a statistic yourself. 

Anti-theft devices can either come from the dealership (in the case of a new car) or be added later. Some common anti-theft devices that vehicles come equipped with include car alarms and OnStar. While a car alarm will sound when a window is broken or a car door is jimmied, hearing a car alarm blare has become all too commonplace. On the other hand, OnStar is an in-vehicle safety and security system that allows subscription-based communications 24/7 with OnStar agents who can assist with emergencies, diagnostics, and navigation. OnStar allows you to lock your vehicle remotely and can provide emergency services with the exact location of your vehicle should it get stolen. 

Buying and installing your own GPS tracking device will serve the same purpose. You should never program your GPS with your exact home address, as a car thief could easily head to your home, open your garage door, and do more damage. Other anti-theft devices include steering wheel locks and similar components that restrict the use of the steering wheel or brakes, for example. You can compare some of the top anti-theft devices of 2020 here, including GPS trackers, cameras, steering wheel locks, brake pedal locks, and wheel locks.

4. Make your car less valuable to thieves

For thieves involved in more professional crime rings, the name of the game is parceling out the valuable parts of your car for money. One way to prevent your vehicle from becoming next in line at the nearest chop-shop is by having its 17-digit vehicle identification number (VIN) etched onto each window. Because the VIN is essentially your car’s fingerprint, etching means more work for the thief who has to dispose of this identification somehow. Dealerships do VIN etching at a cost, while some communities hold free etching events in their efforts to prevent vehicle theft. In some states, like New Mexico, VIN etching can qualify you for a discount on your vehicle’s theft coverage.

5. Keep current on motor vehicle theft trends—like keyless car theft

Car theft practices change and become increasingly complex over time. You can keep on top of crime trends by connecting with your local police department and Googling news stories like this one about keyless car theft, a.k.a. relay theft. Keyless car theft (today’s alternative to hot-wiring) is when the signal from the key fob is intercepted. You can keep your key fobs safe by doing the following:

  • Store your fobs in a signal-blocking pouch (also called a Faraday pouch)
  • Turn off the wireless signal (refer to your vehicle’s instruction manual to determine if this is possible and how to do it)
  • Store your key fobs in your home away from the edge of the house
  • Reprogram your key fobs if they are for a used vehicle

Auto Theft FAQ

Does car insurance cover theft?

Comprehensive coverage will cover theft and damage to your car during a theft, such as broken windows, door locks, and ignition systems. If your car is unrecoverable, insurance companies reimburse you based on the actual cash value of your car (ACV) minus your deductible. Car insurance does not cover items stolen from the car.

Can I save on car insurance if I have an anti-theft device?

Often, having a car with anti-theft technology or an added theft prevention device can lower your insurance rate—especially if your car is a make or model favored by car thieves. But know that this falls under comprehensive coverage only, not a liability.

What car makes and models are most often stolen?

According to the Insurance Information Institute, the three most frequently stolen vehicles in 2018 were the Honda Civic, the Honda Accord, and the Ford Pickup (full size).

How can I compare car insurance quotes online? 

The best way to get the car insurance rates you deserve is to generate quotes from multiple car Insurance providers at once. Head to a car insurance quotes comparison site like Insurify to see how much you could save today, regardless of your driving history or ZIP code. 

Conclusion: How to get the best and cheapest car insurance

Preventing car theft today is a mix of using your common sense, doing your research, and simply paying attention. Keeping up with statistics from the FBI and National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) is not only an interesting way to keep on top of this very real problem, but these sites are also ripe with some very interesting statistics—including car theft rates by holiday. COVID-19 or no, make these five steps a priority each day to avoid losing sleep, that laptop you left in your vehicle, or even your car itself. 

Additionally, here’s what to do in case your car has been stolen.

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Updated September 17, 2020

Jeannette Wisniewski is a technology writer whose passion is encouraging people to engage with technology by making it more understandable and more interesting. Though she enjoys writing business copy for a wide range of subjects, she is most inspired by emerging tech and its applications. She is a graduate of San Jose State University, a Georgia Peach at heart, and happy to call Boise, ID home.