Car safety tips: Stop car break-ins before they happen – CNET

This story is part of Tips at homeCNET’s collection of practical tips for getting the most out of your home, inside and out.

If you’ve ever experienced a car break-in, you know that sinking feeling of returning to your vehicle and finding the doors open and contents scattered across the seats — or finding your car completely gone. Unfortunately, it happens more often than you might think: More than 700,000 motor vehicles were reported stolen in the US in 2019, according to the FBI. The number of people who have had valuables stolen from their cars is harder to measure as it is often under-reported – but it is likely much more common than car theft.

However, by taking a few simple steps, you can protect your car and the items inside it from theft. Here’s how.

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Keep your car doors closed and windows closed

One of the easiest ways to protect your car is to lock the doors and close the windows whenever you are not in the vehicle.

Property crimes are often crimes of opportunity: Open windows and doors can easily attract thieves, or give them the opportunity to strike quickly and keep a low profile. If would-be thieves can’t get into your car quickly, they’ll often just keep driving.

Secure your car keys

Having access to a key is the easiest way for a thief to steal a vehicle — during one month in 2020 in Austin, Texas, for example, 72% of 322 stolen cars had their keys hidden nearby .

First, never leave your keys in your vehicle, even if you’re running to a convenience store or other location for a minute or two. Second, be careful where you keep your spare key. Keeping your spare key on the outside or inside of your car can make it easy for thieves to steal your car. And thanks to the push-start features the new vehicles have, a thief wouldn’t even have to find the key in the vehicle to make off with it — the key would just be there.

Park your car in safe areas

Be careful where you park your car. When possible, park your car in a secure garage that does not have public access; this could be your garage, or a company garage that requires a fob to enter.

When you have to park outside, be selective about where you leave your car. First, look for well-lit areas that might deter a thief. Avoid remote areas where a thief might try to get into your car without anyone seeing. Finally, especially in the case of car parks, look for points below a CCTV camera or other security device. Just the prospect of being caught on camera can be enough to deter a thief.

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Remove valuables from the car

Valuables that are visible inside a vehicle can be attractive to would-be thieves. Avoid leaving your purse, phone or any other valuables in your vehicle. Also avoid leaving shopping bags or other luggage in your car, as they signal the presence of something new or valuable, even if they are empty or just holding a few groceries.

Alternatively, try leaving your belongings in the trunk of the car. If you have a cargo area in your truck or SUV, consider using a cargo cover as well.

Avoid leaving your purse, phone or any other valuables in your vehicle.

Craig Cole/Roadshow

Protect your car’s wheels

You may be surprised to learn that your car’s wheels may also be at risk of theft. In fact, one estimate found that approximately $1 million worth of tires are stolen each year. Why? They can be easily removed quickly and have high resale value, especially if they are expensive models.

Protecting your car’s wheels not only makes it harder for a thief to steal the wheels themselves, but it can also prevent them from making off with your vehicle. Devices that can be used to secure your car’s wheels include lug nuts and wheel chocks — although the latter is probably only worth it if you leave your car unattended for a longer period of time, or if you are in a particularly high crime area.

Activate your car alarm

Most cars today come with a built-in alarm system. When your alarm is activated, often by someone opening the car door or trying to start the car while the alarm is activated, the car makes a loud noise. This noise can often be enough to deter a burglar, as they won’t want the attention the alarm brings.

If your car doesn’t have a built-in alarm or you don’t think it’s enough, you can also buy an aftermarket alarm to keep your vehicle safe.

Install safety devices

In most cases, simple precautionary steps like locking the doors, closing the windows and parking in safe places will be enough to prevent thieves from breaking into or stealing your car. But for those who want extra protection, there are some devices you can use.

First a vehicle immobilizer prevents a thief from starting without the key, which can prevent hot-linking. Newer vehicles usually have these built in, but you can buy aftermarket immobilizers for older vehicles.

Another device you can buy is a steering lock. This type of device attaches to your steering wheel and stops it until it is unlocked. A steering wheel lock can deter thieves, as it would be more work to steal your car, creating more risk of getting caught.

Properly insure your vehicle

The seven tips above can help you keep your vehicle and your belongings safe and prevent thieves from making off with your car. Unfortunately, some precautions are completely fail-safe, and it’s important to have a backup plan. A comprehensive auto insurance policy will ensure that if your car is stolen or damaged, you will be compensated for your loss.

Hundreds of thousands of people are victims of auto theft each year, and even more have their vehicles damaged or items stolen from their vehicles. Just a few simple precautions can help deter thieves and protect your vehicle. To learn more about keeping your belongings safe, visit our library of home security articles or read more about secure remote ignition of your car.

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