Choosing a Car

Some cars are stolen more frequently than others. According to the National Insurance Crime Bureau, the Honda Accord topped the list of the most stolen cars in 2015. Want to know what cars are targeted by thieves in your area? Check with your local police department.

Buying a car? Ask about security systems or features that are included with the vehicle and what it costs to have additional features installed. Be sure the anti-theft stickers/decals are clearly visible on the car window.

Here are some to consider:

  • Anti-theft alarm. (Ask the dealership what works best with your car.)
  • Steering wheel lock or brake pedal lock to slow down or deter the thief.
  • Read 3 Types of Anti-Theft Vehicle Devices

New technology — Many newer cars have chips installed in the ignition key. No key? The car won’t start, foiling thieves who are planning to hotwire the vehicle and take off.  Ask the dealer if the car you’re considering has this option.

Buying a used car? Ask about its history: was it stolen and recovered? Get the whole story. (How to Avoid Buying a Stolen Car has tips on purchasing used cars.)

Once you’ve purchased your car, follow these tips to protect it from car thieves.

The Car

The Numbers

Once you get your new plates, make a note of your license plate number. The longer it takes you to find your license plate number to provide it to the police, the farther away your car gets.

While you’re at it, know your Vehicle Identification Number (VIN). It’s usually found on the dashboard near the steering wheel and also on the engine. (Can’t find it? Ask a friend or trusted mechanic.)

Input both numbers in your phone and log them in a safe place at home.

The Description

Know the year, make, model and color of your car. Is it a two-door or four-door? Hardtop or convertible?

What about unique after-market items: custom tires/wheels, add-ons, security system or stereo? Keep the receipts and serial numbers for these items with your insurance information.

Photograph your car — inside and out — including the trunk if you have items you store in it. These can help support your insurance claim if the car is stolen.

The Insurance

WHN TIP – Ask for Info: Visit your insurance company’s website or contact your insurance agent for additional information.

According to the Insurance Information Institute, “Auto liability insurance is compulsory in the District of Columbia and all states except New Hampshire. State laws set the minimum amounts of insurance or other financial security that drivers must pay for the harm caused by their negligence if an accident occurs.”

Keep a copy of your insurance policy in a safe, protected place in your wallet or purse, as well as at your office and at home. Most policies also provide a wallet card with information about policy and the number to call in case of an accident.

WHN TIP: Riders: Check with your insurance company if you travel with a laptop or mobile devices, expensive camera or other highly prized items. You may want to take out a “floater” or “rider” policy to cover these items when they are taken out of your home or office.

The Deterrents

While thieves are always on the hunt for “free wheels,” there are steps you can take to make it harder for your car to disappear.

WHN TIP – Car Registration: You may be provided with two copies: one with your home address and one without. Keep the latter in your glove compartment. Remember, in many states, you must provide your registration when stopped by an officer: it is the law.

  1. Be smart, be safe.
  2. Don’t leave your keys in the car EVER. Always take them with you.
  3. Close car windows.
  4. Lock car doors.
  5. Close the roof on a convertible.
  6. Don’t leave your valuable or interesting possessions in clear sight. This includes shopping bags, cell phones, purses and cash. Download our Car Inventory Checklist for a handy list.
  7. Don’t forget about everyday items: baby seats, toys, pet items or racks for bike/skis/surfboard.
  8. Keeping change for parking and tolls in easy reach? Keep the dollar value relatively small, especially if you routinely valet-park your vehicle.
  9. Don’t hide spare keys in or on your car; thieves know where most people hide keys on cars.
  10. Remove the faceplate from your car stereo when not in use.

WHN TIP – Spare Key? Sometimes a manufacturer might place a spare key inside the car’s manual, which is often kept in the glove compartment. Be sure to remove this key – thieves will know about this option for certain cars.

WHN TIP – Think Empty: Don’t leave purses, wallets, bags, etc. in the car even if they’re empty. It may cost you a broken window for the thief to find that out.

The Parking Tips

  • Use your parking brake. Cars are harder to tow with the brake on.
  • Have a garage? Park the car in it; remove valuable items, lock the car. Then lock the garage and entry doors. Don’t leave your car keys in the garage.
  • Street parking? Park in a well-lit area and turn your wheels toward the curb. Remove valuable items, lock the car.
  • Lot parking? Find a lot with an attendant. Remove valuable items, lock the car, leaving only the ignition key with the attendant.
  • No parking lot attendant? Park near stairs, an elevator or a well-lit area – any high traffic area. Remove valuable items, lock the car.
  • Valet? Leave only the ignition key with the attendant.
  • Drop a business card, address card or another ID form into the pockets of your car doors so police can identify your car.Don’t leave your car running while you run into a store to pick something up, no matter how quick the errand or how cold the day.
  • Check the back seat before entering your vehicle and lock all doors immediately after entering it
  • Keep your garage door opener with you. If your vehicle is stolen thieves can not enter your home.
  • Always be suspicious of anyone approaching your vehicle. Read 21 Tips for Preventing Carjacking for prevention tips.
  • Never go home if you suspect you are being followed. Go to the police station or a well-populated area and draw attention by honking the horn.
  • Read 14 Theft Prevention Tips to learn more.

WHN TIP – Advice from Experts: Listen to this podcast for more tips!

Need more? Contact your local police department (call the nonemergency number: you can usually find this in the phone book) and ask about car theft in your area, how often it happens and what you can do to protect yourself.


Thank You …

A special thank you to the industry professionals, lawyers, insurance agents, first responders and people who gave us their time, insight and real-life advice.