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Don’t make it any easier for car thieves, read these tips from past car theft victims and police officers.
- Choosing a Car
- Know Your Car
- Suggested Deterrents
- Additional Information

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Choosing a Car

  1. Some cars are stolen more than others.
    • This MSN.com article features the Top 10 Stolen Cars in 2005 list.
    • Ask your local police department about the top stolen vehicles in your area.
  2. When buying a car, ask questions about the security systems or features that come included with the vehicle. Ask about the prices for additional features.
    • Many of the newer cars won't start at all without the ignition key, due to a chip inside the key. Ask the dealer if the car you're considering has this option.
  3. Buying a used car? Ask about its history: was it stolen and recovered? Get the whole story.

Know Your Car

  1. Know your license plate number

    WHN TIP: Know the Number

    The longer it takes you to find your license plate number for the police, the further away your car gets

  2. Know your Vehicle Identification Number
    • Also called "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.)
    • WHN TIP: VIN Number

      Write down your VIN and keep it in a safe location such as a safe deposit box or home safe.

  3. Know the year, make, model and color of your car.
  4. Have insurance? Keep a copy of your insurance information in a safe, protected place in your wallet or purse, as well as at your office and at home.
  5. If your vehicle is equipped with unique after-market items, i.e. custom tires/wheels, add-ons, or stereo, keep these receipts and serial numbers with your insurance information.
    • Keep all of this information in one folder
    • Prepare a Master Information Box which contains copies of important documents and records, photos and contact information.

Suggested Deterrents

  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 roof on convertible.
  6. Don’t hide spare keys in or on your car; thieves know where most people hide keys on cars.
  7. 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.

  8. Don’t leave valuable or interesting items clearly visible in the car.
    • This includes CDs, DVDs, cell phones, purses, cash – go here for the full list.

    WHN TIP: Car Registration

    Consider keeping your car registration form in your wallet or purse or on your person. Your registration form lists your name and home address — if this is kept in your glove compartment, a thief may also have access to that info. Remember, in many states you must provide your registration when stopped by an officer: it is the law.

  9. If you MUST keep something in the car, keep track of what it is.
    • Baby seat
    • Children’s toys
    • Maps
    • Parking change (you shouldn’t keep lots of money in your car)
    • Pet items
    • Racks for bike/skis/surfboard

    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.

    WHN TIP: Riders

    Check with your insurance company if you travel with a notebook computer, 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.

  10. Remove the face plate from your car stereo when not in use.
  11. Warning devices:
    • Be sure the anti-theft stickers/decals are clearly visible on a car window.
    • If the car doesn’t come equipped with anti-theft alarms installed, consider installing one. Ask a dealership what works best with your car.
    • Consider a steering wheel lock or brake pedal lock — they'll slow the thief down or act as a deterrent.
    • Consider audible alarms.
    • Read Tips on Anti-Theft Devices.
  12. Parking
    • 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 other ID form into the pockets of your car doors so police can identify your car.
  13. Don’t leave your car running while you run in a store to pick something up, no matter how quick the errand or how cold the day.
  14. Check the back seat before entering your vehicle and lock all doors immediately after entering it
  15. Keep your garage door opener with you. If your vehicle is stolen thieves can not enter your home.
  16. Always be suspicious of anyone approaching your vehicle. Read Carjacking for prevention tips.
  17. 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.
  18. Read our article 14 Theft Prevention Tips to learn more.

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.

Additional Information

Visit your insurance company’s web site or contact your insurance agent for additional information.

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.


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