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9 Simple Tips for Preventing Car Theft

Oct 05, 2023|

According to the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB), there were over one million stolen vehicles in 2022 alone. The same year, catalytic converter thefts—a growing concern among vehicle owners—rose to a whopping 64,701.

These shocking statistics show just how prevalent vehicular crime is. The fact is, no one is immune to auto theft.

But there are things you can do to deter and even prevent these criminals from targeting you and your vehicle. Let’s talk about 10 smart car theft prevention tips that every vehicle owner should know.

Man attempting to break into a car.

1. Never leave your car running unattended

It’s tempting to leave your car idling. Sometimes you just need to run inside quickly, and it seems easier to just leave your car running. But this seemingly innocuous practice leaves you vulnerable to carjackers.

An idling car is practically an open invitation to car thieves. When you leave your car running and walk away, it makes their job a whole lot easier.

Take the extra time to turn your car off and lock it the next time you need to leave it unattended. Those extra few moments it takes to turn it back on are well worth it to keep your car safe.

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2. Always lock your car

Most car thefts are crimes of opportunity. Unlocked cars are easy targets—all thieves need to do is try the car door and jump inside.

The great news is that almost all cars nowadays come with remote keyless entry. Some even lock automatically once the car no longer detects the signal from the key.

While the convenience factor is nice, the downside of this technology is that it makes it easier for a car thief to steal your car if you accidentally leave your keys inside of your vehicle. One report found that one in eight cars were stolen because key fobs were left inside the car.

Regardless of if your car has a smart key fob or not, it is important to remain vigilant about locking your car and taking the keys with you.

What about when your car is in the garage? Many people don’t lock their car when it’s in the garage, but doing so can help prevent car theft. This is especially true in warmer months when people tend to leave their garage doors open.

Make sure you keep your spare key hidden as well. In the event your home is ever burglarized, a spare car key in plain view can provide an easy getaway for a burglar.

3. Park in safe places

Safe parking is another important part of preventing car theft. Car thieves look for opportunities that allow them to get in and out as fast as possible and without being noticed.

Whenever possible, look for safe areas to park your car. This includes:

  • Well-lit areas
  • Lots equipped with security cameras
  • Lots that have a security guard
  • Busy areas

At home, the safest place to park your car is inside a garage, with car doors locked. If you have a driveway, make sure your car is clearly visible from the house. You may even consider installing a security camera.

If you don’t have a garage or driveway, the best option is a parking garage or lot that has good security. If that’s not an option, look for on-street parking that has good lighting.

Of course, common sense can go a long way. If something about an area doesn’t feel safe, look for another place to park your car.

4. Install high-quality outdoor security cameras

Outdoor security cameras help you keep an eye on your vehicle and deter theft.

Burglars don’t like to call attention to themselves or leave evidence behind. According to one study, 83% of burglars check for surveillance cameras before attempting a break-in.

Outdoor cameras also help prevent car theft because many people park their cars on the street or in the driveway. One survey found that 25% of people with a two-car garage don’t park their cars in the driveway at all, while another found that 30% only park one car in the garage.

When your car isn’t parked in the garage, it isn’t covered under the same protections that your home security system offers, like smart locks, burglary detection, and an alarm. However, an outdoor camera can help prevent crime:

  • By offering a visual deterrent. When a would-be burglar sees a surveillance camera, the risk of getting caught often deters them.
  • By providing valuable footage to law enforcement. Police departments are more likely to capture thieves if they can identify who they’re looking for.

When choosing an outdoor camera to help prevent car theft or vandalism, look for features that include:

  • High resolution for a clear picture. A security camera with blurry, faded images won’t help identify a thief. Choose a camera with 1080p HD resolution for the best possible video quality.
  • Night vision. Although car thefts can take place any time of the day or night, they tend to occur most often at night. That’s why night vision is an important feature to look for in an outdoor camera.
  • Auto-recording. Cameras with auto-recording features record when a person enters their field of view, so you don’t have to sift through hours of footage to find what you need.
  • Wide-angle lens. To capture as much of your yard or driveway as possible, a wide-angle lens with a large field of view is a must-have.

Vivint’s Outdoor Camera Pro is a great outdoor surveillance camera, with high resolution, night vision, motion-activated lights, auto-recording, and a wide-angle lens. What sets it apart is its seamless integration with the Vivint smart home, offering 360-degree protection.

5. Utilize steering wheel locks

A steering wheel lock or immobilizer is an anti-theft device that, when put on a steering wheel, prevents people from using it even if they manage to break into your car.

These anti-theft tools are easy to install and serve as a visual theft deterrent to anybody passing by your vehicle.

6. Secure your car keys

Car thieves are all about the easy route—and stealing your keys is by far the easiest way to get into and drive off with your vehicle.

Block their attempts by paying special attention to your keys. Avoid leaving your keys in plain sight, both at home and in public places. When out, keep your keys secure in your purse or securely attached to your belt.

7. Disable wireless key fob signals

Keyless entry vehicles use wireless key fobs that send a signal to your vehicle to start it with the touch of a button.

As convenient as keyless entry is, it does raise some security concerns. The fob constantly emits a signal, which some car thieves have cloned to start and take cars without the owner’s knowledge.

To counter this tactic, some vehicle manufacturers allow you to switch off your key fob’s signal while not in use. You can also purchase signal-blocking pouches or boxes to store your key fob when you’re at home.

8. Invest in window etching

Window etching is a strategy for car identification. It uses a chemical solution to etch a permanent, unique number onto each window of your car. That number is entered into a national database along with your name, address, phone number, and the vehicle identification number.

This practice makes your car more identifiable, which makes it less appealing to car thieves. In addition, it helps law enforcement recover your car and return it quickly if it ever does get stolen.

9. Be cautious with sharing information

The more personal information you share, both in person and online, the more vulnerable you are.

For example, avoid sharing details about your car, such as color, model, and license plate number. This, paired with social media posts about an upcoming vacation, can give professional thieves all they need to target your vehicle while you’re away.

What are the benefits of having a security system in your car?

In addition to the vehicle theft prevention tips we’ve discussed, consider a few of the benefits of investing in a vehicle security system:

  • Theft deterrence. Many thieves will avoid security systems and opt for an easier target.
  • Vehicle protection. If a thief attempts to steal your car, it will trigger an alarm, warding off the thief and protecting your car.
  • Insurance discounts. Your car insurance company may offer special discounts on your insurance policy when you provide proof of a security system.
  • Remote monitoring. Check on your car from anywhere, right from your cell phone, using a mobile app.
  • Tracking and recovery. If your car is stolen, a tracking system allows you to track your car’s location from your mobile app. Pass the information on to local law enforcement to assist in the recovery of your vehicle.

Car theft FAQs

Let’s now consider a few of the most frequently asked questions about car theft.

What is the most common method of car theft?

Most thieves use special tools, such as relay devices and key programmers, to enter and start the vehicle. This allows them to steal it with little to no damage.

Where are most cars stolen?

California is the state with the most car thefts in the U.S.

What cars to avoid due to theft?

Kias and Hyundais, primarily those produced between 2015 and 2019, pose the highest risk for motor vehicle theft. This is because these models don’t include an anti-theft device called an immobilizer, which is used in other cars to prevent thieves from using unauthorized keys or key fobs. In fact, these vehicles are so prone to theft that some auto insurance companies refuse to insure them.

What is the best protection against car theft?

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, audible and visible anti-theft devices are the best way to protect yourself against car theft. This includes audible car alarms as well as visible deterrents, such as wheel locks, window etching, and security system window decals.

Protect your car with Vivint

Car theft happens all over the country every day—one statistic estimates that it happens every 32 seconds—but it doesn't have to happen to you. These car theft prevention tips, along with anti-theft devices, can give you extra safety and peace of mind.

Find out how Vivint can make your home more comfortable and convenient. Call us at 855.822.1220 for a free consultation today.

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