How to prevent car theft

Car thieves have many methods at their disposal, from simple "smash and grab" techniques to stealing keyless cars using sophisticated technology. Whether the car itself or items inside, preventing car theft is best accomplished by making your car an undesirable or difficult target. Thieves will move on and look for a better target if it's too much work or too risky.

4 min to read

Explore Progressive Answers' auto editorial guidelines to find out why you can trust the car insurance information you find here.

Car theft prevention: the basics

Most car theft prevention advice applies to all scenarios and vehicles and drivers. These basic strategies are your first line of defense and include common-sense approaches and some less obvious car theft prevention tips. Strategies include:

Securing doors and windows

The best way to prevent car theft is to lock your doors and roll windows up when you leave the car. Leaving the windows open, even a small crack, can be enough to let a crook slip in a tool to open the door. This is especially true for car doors with T-shaped lock mechanisms, which wire tools and similar devices can grab.

Removing identifying documents

Many people keep car titles and registrations in the car for easy access if law enforcement stops them. However, these documents usually contain personal information that a thief can use — like a home address. The information in those documents can even help the thief sell or dispose of the car once they've got it.

Removing valuables from the car

If a thief can see something worth stealing — a cell phone, computer, musical instrument, or other valuable objects — they have more incentive to try and break in. If you must leave something in the car, cover it with a blanket. Thieves are less likely to risk being caught if they don't know what they might find.

Parking in a safe area

You may want to park in a well-lit area with good sightlines, especially at night. This can discourage thieves, who avoid places that are easy to see.

If you have a garage, use it — and be sure to lock the garage and the car door. If you don't have a garage, park in your driveway with the drive wheels away from the street — that makes it harder for thieves to tow a car away. If you park on the street, turn the wheels toward the curb, making it more difficult for the thief to maneuver the car quickly or tow.

If you're worried about catalytic converter theft, try to park with your exhaust pipe near a wall, making it difficult to access with tools.

How to protect your car from theft with added security measures

If you worry that the basic car theft prevention tips won't be sufficient, products and services are available for every budget for increased protection.

  • Vehicle security stickers: Consider adding stickers to the window that say the car is protected by an alarm or security service -- whether your car has an alarm or not.
  • Tracking device: A GPS tracker can help you find the car if someone steals it — add a decal or sticker alerting thieves to the device.
  • Etch the windows: Thieves often need to scrub the vehicle's identifying information before selling it to a chop shop. Etching the vehicle identification number (VIN) on the windows makes this more difficult and time-consuming.
  • Install an alarm or anti-theft device: More advanced alarm systems can be integrated into the car's wiring, triggering your car's horn to honk, etc.
  • Install a dashcam: Look for a dash camera with a parking mode. These cameras can activate and start recording if the car is disturbed. Learn more about the insurance benefits of dash cameras.
  • Get comprehensive insurance: Adding comprehensive car insurance coverage can help you get back on track if someone steals your car. Learn more about how car insurance covers theft.

How to prevent keyless car theft

Modern keyless entry fobs make driving easier and more convenient than ever. They also make cars more challenging to steal using more traditional methods. Keyless fobs work by broadcasting a signal, which unlocks the car and allows you to start it with the push of a button. Thieves can use a "relay amplifier" to copy or duplicate the signal from the key fob if they can get close to it.

Fortunately, this method is easy to foil by keeping the key fob away from windows and outer walls when you leave it in the house or at night.

Quote car insurance online or give us a call

Learn more about car insurance policies.