California ranks in the Top 5 for number of car thefts. Even car owners in low-crime areas can fall victim to a car thief if they’re not paying close enough attention. Some criminals also take just the car’s wheels because they’re easier to sell and much less traceable.
You can help reduce your risk of car theft using these 10 tips.
1. Keep Your Car Locked
This should seem like a no-brainer, but it’s easy to fall into the habit of leaving your car unlocked as you drive or park in a relatively safe area. Always lock your vehicle, even if you’re actively driving. This reduces the chance that a thief could try to steal your car at a red light or stop sign.
Some newer cars have a feature where your car will automatically lock the doors if it is driving over 5 miles per hour, or if the car is taken out of the parking gear. It may be a good idea to check the car manual to see if this feature is included in your vehicle.
Ensure that all windows, including the sunroof, are completely rolled up before you exit the vehicle. Lock your vehicle and double-check it’s locked after you park. If you need to enter your vehicle without driving, such as to grab something out of the truck while parked at home, be sure you lock it again after you retrieve what you need.
2. Park Smart
Choose your parking spot carefully. Criminals usually like to work in the dark, so always park in a well-lit area. During nighttime, look for bright parking lots with plenty of other people around or streetlights. In the daytime, try to avoid dark alleyways or back corners of parking garages.
You can also look for security cameras in parking lots and try to park within the line of sight of the camera. This should help deter a thief from targeting your car. If the thief does steal your car, however, this also gives you a better chance to recover the vehicle. You can let the police know you parked in an area visible to the cameras.
3. Avoid Storing Valuables
Never keep valuables in your vehicle. This is an easy way to become a target of crime. In addition to the increased risk of a stolen vehicle, many criminals may break the window and steal your valuables. Your car may be left behind in this scenario, but you’ll still need to deal with a broken window and lost valuables. You can keep your car clean to reduce the clutter visible to thieves. If a thief sees an empty, clean car, they might be less likely to attempt to steal it.
Usually, storing items in the trunk is safer than leaving it in plain sight. However, if you plan to have multiple stops throughout the day, it may be smart to store the items in your trunk before you reach your next destination. Often, robbers are sitting in parking lots, scoping out cars and watching the actions of others. By reducing the amount of times of opening your trunk and exposing your values, this could prevent your car from being a target
4. Turn the Car Off
A quick trip into a gas station convenience store or to pick up your child from school may not seem like it warrants turning off your vehicle. After all, you’re only going in for a second. Thieves are aware people tend to leave their vehicles running in these situations.
A parked car that’s unlocked and still running is a prime target for criminals. Turn off the ignition, take your keys and lock the car, even for a short trip into a store or rest area on a long drive.
5. Use Physical Anti-Theft Devices
Most modern cars come with a range of anti-theft devices. Alarms and locks make it easy to reduce the chance of theft. There are more tools you can use, however, to further decrease your chances of becoming a victim of theft. For example, consider a physical steering wheel lock to make it almost impossible for a thief to drive the car.
Your wheels are even more prone to theft, thanks to their relative ease of removal. Make it harder for a criminal to take them by purchasing a lug nut lock or tire boot. These devices lock the physical ability to remove the tire.
6. Be Aware
Stay alert and aware of your surroundings, even in familiar neighborhoods. You never know when a criminal has come into your neighborhood looking for an easy target. If you see something out of place, contact the authorities to let them know.
7. Avoid High-Crime Areas
Just as you should stay alert in safe areas, you can reduce your risk of theft by avoiding areas of high crime altogether. If you know a neighborhood is notorious for car theft, take a different route to get where you need to go. A few extra minutes of driving could protect your car and save you thousands to replace it.
8. Know Where Your Keys are Located
You probably imagine a car thief as a shady criminal you’ve never met, but a car thief could be someone you already know. Did you give your spare car keys to an old acquaintance to whom you no longer speak? Ask for any spare keys back immediately and take stock of all of the locations of your keys.
9. Turn Your Wheels
Turning your wheels, especially near a curb, makes it incredibly difficult for a thief to take your car or your tires. Turned wheels are more difficult to steal because the fender often gets in the way of removing the lug nuts. If the thief tries to take the entire vehicle, they’ll run into the issue of a locked steering wheel pointing the car right at the curb. The criminals won’t be able to tow the car.
10. Make Sure Everything Works
Your anti-theft alarm and door locks aren’t going to help keep your car safe if they’re not working. Regular maintenance is important to keep your car running smoothly. It can also be a good chance to check your electrical systems. For example, if you have alert lights on your dashboard, such as the check engine light, take the car to a reputable mechanic right away to make sure all systems are working properly.
Understand Your Car Insurance
You can reduce your risk of a stolen car, but it’s impossible to completely eliminate the threat. State minimum car insurance doesn’t cover the theft of your vehicle. Check your policy to see if car theft is covered. If it’s not, you might want to consider adding comprehensive coverage. Comprehensive coverage is optional, but it adds protection against theft and other damages.
Contact an agent to go over your car insurance policy and learn more about your coverage options.