In reality, car thefts can occur anywhere in the country, no matter your state, city or community. Parking on the street, in a public lot or any place with sparse traffic may put you at risk for theft, regardless of your car's quality or appearance. In fact, in the United States, a car is stolen every 43 seconds, making just about any vehicle a target.
If you want to protect your ride (and reduce your risk of having to file a police report and submit an insurance claim), these tips can help you lower the chances of auto theft happening to you.
Hit the Locks
An unlocked car is an easy target. No matter where you're going or what you're doing, always be sure your car is locked, even when driving. In parking lots, do not unlock your vehicle until you are in immediate proximity of your destination. If possible, only unlock the driver's side door if you are alone. Never leave your keys in your car or on your tires. And be sure to close all windows and the sunroof before exiting.
Store Valuables Elsewhere
You never know what kinds of materials thieves will target, so it's best to play it safe. Avoid bringing valuables or other items worth stealing into your car (other than to transport them from store to home). This includes jewelry, purses, electronics, clothing, accessories, sporting equipment or any confidential information from work or school.
If you must carry these items with you, keep them out of view in your trunk. This includes auto titles and registration, too – if a thief is in your car and can't produce these documents if pulled over, police are far more likely to realize something is amiss.
Park in Well-Lit Areas
The dark corner may seem safer since thieves can't see your car. But if you want to deter theft, brighter areas are better. Park close to entrances and around as many other cars as you can. If possible, park directly under street lamps or outdoor lighting.
If you have your car parked by a valet, leave nothing but the ignition or valet key with the attendant. Remove personal information from your keyring, such as house keys or loyalty cards that could reveal your identity.
Many cars come with an alarm system. But don't assume this is enough. To truly enhance security, go above and beyond the built-in options to keep your car protected.
Add-on security options are available for your vehicle, such as ignition locks and steering-wheel locks (also known as clubs, collars, or j-bars). These devices can prevent the use of the ignition or the steering wheel when you're away from your car. While some burglars can work around these devices, many will be deterred by the sheer effort alone, choosing instead to move on to an easier target.
If you do have a car alarm, be sure it's engaged every time you leave your vehicle, even if only for a few seconds.
While there's no true way to prevent theft, vigilance is important. Keep a close eye on your vehicle and your surroundings, especially in high-crime neighborhoods, in empty garages, or near automated teller machines (ATMs). While carjacking is significantly less common than car thefts – there are 49,000 instances occur each year in the U.S. – it is certainly a possibility. If someone confronts you with a weapon, surrender your car and file a police report immediately. A vehicle is replaceable. You aren't.
Auto safety is an important part of car ownership, especially if you want to keep your insurance claims as low as possible.