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Car theft is a scary situation. In an ever-changing and evolving world, it’s hard to know what you should or shouldn’t do to protect your car from thieves. Whether they’re after only what’s inside or the whole car itself, proper precautions are necessary to prevent theft. If you can’t park your car inside, you’re at risk essentially wherever you are. Thankfully, Reader’s Digest compiled a list of an expert’s observations on what car thieves look for so you can make your best effort to protect your car from getting stolen!

Know if your car is at exceptionally high risk for theft

Thief breaks into car late at night with a crowbar
Thief breaking into a car | Loop Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Thieves like certain cars. Often, you’ll find that they are older cars because they are easier to steal. Modern technology has made it more difficult for thieves to steal cars. Although, some technology makes it easier on thieves. So, there is a handful of modern cars in the mix, too. Here are some cars that are prime targets for thieves:

  • Honda Accord (1997)
  • Honda Civic (1998)
  • Ford Pickup (full size) (2006)
  • Chevrolet Pickup (full size) (2004)
  • Toyota Camry (2016)
  • Nissan Altima (2015)
  • Dodge Pickup (full size) (2001)
  • Toyota Corolla (2015)
  • Chevrolet Impala (2008)
  • Jeep Cherokee/Grand Cherokee (2000)

Most of the time, thieves don’t want the whole car, just what’s inside it

Marc Hinch from states that break-ins are more common than all-out car theft.

Leaving valuables in your car puts you the most at risk for this type of theft. This is especially true if valuable items are plainly visible.

So, it’s best practice to take anything of value inside. This includes laptops, cameras, GPS units, and more. Additionally, don’t leave bags in your vehicle, either, as some thieves may break in just to see if there’s anything of value in the bag.

Car thieves hate stickers

Ford truck with many bumper stickers, highlighting things that lower the resale value of a car
Bumper stickers on a Ford truck | Lindsey Nicholson/Education Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

A somewhat surprising deterrent to car theft is stickers.

Any obvious and identifiable stickers, paint, or markings on your car will make it easier for police to verify your car. So, if thieves try to make a stealthy getaway, it will make them stick out like a sore thumb.

So, go ahead and buy that “honk if you love blueberry muffins” bumper sticker, or put that big obnoxious windshield banner on that you’ve been eying. It’ll deter thieves!

Planned parking pays dividends

A car drives through a parking lot.
A car drives through a parking lot. | Tim Boyle/Getty Images

Though it seems to make sense to park under a street light to deter thieves, the opposite may actually be true. However, there are still plenty of safe parking tactics that can help prevent thieves from stealing your car.

Parking with the front end of your car up against a wall (like in a parking garage) or something else immovable makes it harder for thieves to take your car if they can’t start it. Some car thieves use tow trucks or tow dollies, so making it difficult to get on one of the two is beneficial.

Additionally, using a parking boot or steering wheel lock to make your car immobile will also deter thieves from even bothering to try.

Remove your valet key

Your car may have an extra key in it that you don’t even know about.

Many cars include a key in the owner’s manual for valet use. Though you likely won’t find it in older cars, it’s important to check your glovebox and owner’s manual just in case. I

If you do have a valet key, be sure to remove it from your car and store it somewhere safe.

Thieves don’t steal your car to drive it

News headlines and movies often depict criminal organizations that steal high-end luxury and sports cars, exporting them for sale to other countries. While that does indeed happen, the majority of car thefts are not to sell the stolen cars but to sell the parts.

A vehicle’s VIN makes it virtually impossible to resell a stolen car in the U.S. However, most components on a car don’t have the VIN on them. If you’ve heard the term “chop shop,” you might see where this is going.

Stolen cars are torn apart, and valuable parts are sold off. Then, most of the time, the remainder of the thieves typically either abandon or destroy what’s left of the vehicle’s chassis.

So, keeping these things in mind is essential. Using this info to deter thieves from your car could save you from potentially never seeing your car again!


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