If car theft were a legitimate business measured by stock analyst firms, it would instantly become a Fortune 500 company. There’s a lot of theft going on and, despite the fact that thieves aren’t the most reliable guys on the planet, auto theft is well organized. These days discriminating thieves don't simply steal anything they can get their hands on. They're stealing for economic gain, so they pick and choose. If you own a vehicle that’s popular with car buyers, odds are it will be popular with thieves too.
All this might sound a bit challenging. You certainly don’t want your car to be stolen, so what can you as an individual do to protect yourself from the huge and ever-more-organized hazard that can strike at almost any time?
The happy news is that doing something meaningful is both possible and not all that difficult. Your basic goal is to make your vehicle a tough target, one that will encourage the thief to move on to the next car. Remember, the more time the thief is forced to take to steal a car, the more likely he is to get caught, so if you make grabbing your car hard for him, it will usually pay off. Here are some helpful suggestions to do just that:
1. Lock your car. Approximately 50 percent of all vehicles stolen were left unlocked.
2. Take your keys. Nearly 13 percent of all vehicles stolen had the keys in them.
3. Never hide a second set of keys in your car. It might seem like a good idea, but thieves know all the hiding places.
4. Park in well-lit areas. Over half of all vehicle thefts occur at night, and thieves don’t like the spotlight.
5. Park in attended lots. Auto thieves don't like witnesses either.
6. When you park in an attended lot, leave only the ignition and door key. Don't give the attendant easy access to your glove box and trunk. (If you use the same key for your trunk and glove box as for the door, have one of them changed.) Upon returning, check the tires, spare and battery to ensure they are the same as those you had when you parked.
7. Never leave your car running unattended, not even if you'll only be gone for a minute. Vehicles are commonly stolen at convenience stores, gas stations and ATMs. Many vehicles are also stolen on cold mornings when the owner leaves the vehicle running to warm it up.
8. Completely close car windows when parked. Don't make it easier for the thief to enter your vehicle.
9. Don't leave valuables in plain view. Why make your car a more desirable target to thieves?
10. Park your vehicle with wheels turned toward the curb. Many car thieves use tow trucks to steal vehicles, so make your car tough to tow away. Wheels should also be turned to the side in driveways and parking lots so the vehicle can only be towed from the front.
11. If your vehicle is rear-wheel drive, back into your driveway. Rear wheels lock on four-wheel drive vehicles, making them difficult to tow. Front-wheel drive vehicles should be parked front-end first.
12. Always use your emergency brake when parked. In addition to ensuring safety, using the emergency brake makes your car harder to tow.
13. If you have a garage, use it. Parking your vehicle inside protects it from thieves as well as from Mother Nature.
14. When parking in a garage, lock the garage as well as your vehicle door. By locking both the garage and vehicle doors, you greatly improve the chances of deterring a thief.
15. Never leave the registration or title in your car. A car thief will use these to sell your stolen car. File the title at your home or office and carry your registration in your purse or wallet.