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Learn More About Car Theft Prevention

Kathy Simpson

Was Your Car Broken Into?

Do you ever leave your key fob or keys in your vehicle? If so, you’re among a growing number of drivers getting accustomed to leaving their cars unlocked with their keys inside.

Although FBI data shows total vehicle thefts were down 3.1% in the first half of 2018*, the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) reports a total of 229,339 vehicle thefts occurred in which keys or fobs were left in vehicles between January 1, 2016, and December 31, 2018. The 2018 total of 81,911 thefts represents an 88% increase in this type of vehicle theft since 2013, when 43,643 such thefts occurred.

FBI data reports the average dollar loss per stolen vehicle to be $8,407. According to the NICB, on average, 209 cars with their keys/key fobs inside were stolen each day during the 2016-through-2018 time frame.

In addition, new technology may have contributed to the rise in car thefts. For example, a remote car starter with push-button technology can make it easier for car owners to forget their key fob inside when leaving the car, allowing criminals easy access to it.

The good news is that there are car theft prevention techniques that will safeguard you from this type of headache. In addition to ridding themselves of their own bad habits, car owners can take basic precautionary measures and use a few simple, affordable devices to help prevent car theft. Here’s how you can avoid helping crooks steal your car.

Car Theft Prevention Techniques

Remote car starter

Use a Remote Car Starter

Freebie thefts are particularly common in the fall and winter months, likely because many car owners tend to start their cars to warm them up, before running back inside to grab their coffee or lunch, leaving the vehicle on with the keys in the ignition. Sitting in a cold car on a frigid winter morning is certainly unpleasant, so it’s understandable that someone might want to warm their car for a few minutes before hitting the road.

But, given the very real risk of having your car stolen if you do that, it makes sense to consider a more secure alternative for raising the temperature inside your car, such as a remote car starter system. It allows you to warm up your car without having to put the key in the ignition or even unlock it. This eliminates the risk of leaving your car unattended and unlocked with the keys inside, preventing you from having your car broken into while you’re getting ready to leave your home.

How does a remote car starter work? It’s basically a transmitter that connects to a receiver attached to your car’s starter mechanism. When activated, it starts the car, including the temperature controls. If you set the temperature prior to turning off the vehicle the evening before, the car will warm to that temperature the next morning once the remote car starter has been pressed.

Install a Remote Kill Switch for Your Car

Another way to thwart car thieves is to install an auto kill switch, which prevents someone who is not aware of it from starting the car. A remote kill switch is a low-tech device with an on/off toggle that can be connected to the ignition circuit, the fuel pump, or the battery. You can install a remote kill switch yourself, but if you don’t know your way around your car’s electrical wiring, have a professional mechanic do it instead.

An auto kill switch is a very effective deterrent to car thieves, so long as it is placed somewhere inside the car where thieves will not be able to see it, such as in the glove compartment, under the dashboard, or under a seat. Once installed, you can turn on the remote kill switch for your car before leaving your car, disabling the engine and preventing thieves from starting the car without first turning off the kill switch.

For Car Theft Prevention, Park Your Car in Safe, Well-Lit Areas

In addition to installing new equipment, there are a few car-theft prevention tactics that you can do to keep thieves away from your car. If you have a garage, park in it and keep it locked. (Obviously, avoid using your remote car starter if your car is parked in your garage, as this can cause a dangerous build-up of carbon monoxide in your home and garage.)

If you don’t have a garage, be sure to park your car in a location that will make it a less attractive target for criminals. This means parking in safe, well-lit areas, as thieves are much less likely to try to break into a vehicle that is easily visible to passersby.

Top five states for theft with key fobs left in vehicle

The worst offenders—when it comes to leaving keys or fobs in vehicles—are in warm-weather states.
According to the NICB, from 2016 to 2018 the top five states for this type of theft were:

  • California (31,185)
  • Florida (17,300)
  • Texas (15,511)
  • Ohio (12,596)
  • Nevada (11,391)

To Avoid Getting Your Car Broken Into, Take Valuables Out of It

Another precaution to help avoid getting your car broken into is to take all valuables out of the car, as these might entice would-be thieves. It is also a good idea to implement a steering wheel lock if safer parking spaces aren’t available.  This includes items such as cell phones, laptops, purses, and wallets. Also, avoid leaving your car’s title in the car itself. Having that and your car’s registration would make it easy for the thief to sell your vehicle before they’re caught. Prevent your car from being stolen by implementing any of the above anti-theft devices and you may avoid having your car broken into and you can avert having to file an insurance claim.

What Car Theft Means for Your Insurance

Sometimes, even when we plan and prepare, the unthinkable can happen and you can have your car broken into. Was your car broken into? Was it stolen? You’ll have to report the theft to the police—but that isn’t all.

If you have comprehensive coverage, you’ll also have to file a claim with your insurance company. While you wait for the claim to be processed, you’ll probably need to rent a car. The rental car that you end up with  might not have the same features as your stolen car. This will depend largely on the type of coverage you have.

If, for example, you have only basic Transportation Expense coverage, you might not be able to rent a vehicle that is comparable in class, size and options to the one you lost, unless you’re willing to pay for any additional expenses yourself.

And before your insurance company will payout for the stolen car, you will have to pay your deductible, which depending on your policy, might be substantial.

Furthermore, if your car is stolen, you might face some additional—and quite substantial—expenses. If for example, you still owe money on the car’s loan or lease, part of the money you receive from your insurer will go toward paying off the loan or the lease.

Note that the insurer will not pay the entire purchase price of the vehicle, but only the current cash value of the vehicle, after factoring in your deductible and your car’s depreciation. If the cash value of the stolen car is less than what you owe on the car, you will have to pay the difference out of your own pocket.

Is Car Theft Covered by Homeowners Insurance?

6.	Is car theft covered by homeowners insurance

Do you know what type of insurance you need to protect yourself if your car is broken into or stolen? Although some car thefts can be avoided by taking a few precautions, it’s best to have the appropriate insurance coverage in order to protect against an unwanted scenario. Two types of insurance coverage are particularly useful should you find yourself the victim of car theft:

Is car theft covered by homeowner’s insurance? In some ways, yes, in others, no. Homeowner’s insurance that includes personal property coverage may cover the possible items that are stolen from your car, but not the stolen car itself. Your auto insurance policy, depending on how much coverage you have for your vehicle, will be the policy that you will rely on if your car is broken into or stolen.

Gap insurance. If the amount you owe on your car is greater than the current value of your car, you may find yourself unable to pay off the loan and afford a replacement car. But if you have gap insurance, it can help cover the difference between what you owe and what the insurance has paid out.

New Car Replacement insurance. With new car replacement insurance, your insurance company will replace the car so long as the theft happens before you reach a set number of miles or a set period of time.

Just remember that you need to have these coverages in place before the theft occurs, so it pays to plan—in addition to taking your keys and locking your car.

Are you looking for more tips to help you understand the different types of insurance coverages available to you and which you should have for your vehicle?  You can find them in our monthly newsletter.

*This is the most recent year for which car theft statistics are available.

53 Responses to "Learn More About Car Theft Prevention"
    • Arthur Taylor | November 17, 2017 at 1:24 am

      Do you have a list of accepted security systems for both home and car. I don’t want to purchase a system and have be unaccepted.
      Thank you,

    • Lisa Gross | November 18, 2017 at 3:28 pm

      What safety tips do you have for carjacking?

    • Aurora | November 18, 2017 at 11:29 pm

      Thank you for the heads up. I didn’t realize that my truck is a desirable theft object. Ill take steps to make it safe.,

    • Bobby | November 21, 2017 at 12:36 am

      Any advice for hybrid owners? I don’t think anyone can steal it without the fob but I’m probably wrong.

    • Marina | January 7, 2018 at 9:15 pm

      It is said that, 2 am and 5 am are the likeliest times a thief will visit. And they have been at my place at those times. I pushed rubber spatula heads down inside the gap at the bottom of the windows after a thief used a wedge and tried to detail the windows so that they could get in and steal my truck. I blocked the hood latch with metal plates, too so that the hood cannot be popped either. I found a welder which is going to set up covers for my windows and wheels that, unless the doors are unlocked, there will be no entering my vehicle any other way nor stealing the tires with original rims which are in good condition.

    • roger brenneman | January 17, 2019 at 2:54 pm

      don’t leave your keys in the ignition when you are pumping gas.

      • Extra Mile Staff | January 17, 2019 at 5:41 pm

        Great suggestion, Roger!

    • robert j barrilleaux | January 17, 2019 at 7:07 pm

      you might include in your next newsletter to lock your doors when exiting the vehicle with the switch located on the inside if the door. Using the remote signal can be picked up with special equipment by a would-be thief and can record this signal with which to open your vehicles door.

      • Extra Mile Staff | January 18, 2019 at 12:55 pm

        Thank you, Robert!

    • Carolyn | January 17, 2019 at 11:29 pm

      Also, when exiting your car, lock it with the inside button on your door and not your fob button on your keyring after you exit. Thieves are sitting outside and have equipment to gather your info from your fob and can unlock your car, steal things and steal the car.

      • Extra Mile Staff | January 18, 2019 at 12:56 pm

        Great additional piece of information. Thank you, Carolyn.

    • Lorraines | January 18, 2019 at 3:17 am


      Where do you live? I think it’d be cheaper for you to buy/rent a garage!

    • Sue | January 19, 2019 at 4:14 pm

      Also heard about thieves will open door and steal while a driver is distracted while fueling the vehicle…so lock doors when fueling etc

      • Extra Mile Staff | January 22, 2019 at 1:48 pm

        Great addition Sue, thank you!

    • J. Hicks | January 19, 2019 at 5:07 pm

      Speaking from 30+ years as an auto damage appraiser
      – Cars aren’t always stolen for their resale value. Sometimes they are, and sometimes they are stolen just so the parts can be stripped off, but a substantial number of car thieves are simply looking for a ride somewhere – be it across town, or across the country.

      – Hondas and pickups in general are popular targets because they have been (traditionally) easier and quicker to break into, and drive off with. They also blend well with the other cars on the road, so the thieves can remain anonymous longer.

      • Extra Mile Staff | January 22, 2019 at 1:49 pm

        Great feedback, thank you for providing these ideas.

    • Robert Goehring | January 19, 2019 at 6:13 pm

      All great suggestions! However, until and unless the criminal justice system gets serious about establishing real consequences for car thieves, we will continue to green light this behavior. Law Enforcement is not the problem – its the courts and the jails that seem to have a “catch and release” attitude and car more about the rights of the criminals than the victims that are the problem. “Criminal Justice” is really a conflict in terms because more and more there is less justice for the victims of crime. The police put their lives on the line every day and do a great job, but the courts and jails can’t seem to do their part.

    • Fay | January 19, 2019 at 7:08 pm

      Took out car ins. and was told in 2yrs we would see a decrease in total amt for our 3 cars. Never happened , keep getting different people when we call in. Told all other different kinds of stuff of why it keeps going up and our cars are older. That is why I am not going to cover our house with you …….it just keeps going up up up and no discount for safe driving like we use to get

    • Raul | January 19, 2019 at 7:53 pm

      Thanks. Great advices.

      • Extra Mile Staff | January 22, 2019 at 1:53 pm

        Thank you, Raul!

    • Flan & Pepsi | January 19, 2019 at 7:53 pm

      A friend of mine went for gas and left his car running at the gas pump and went in the station to pay for his gas when he came out of the station to pump the gas his car was stolen.The next time he saw the car and the last time he ever saw the car was on the gas station video tape. The moral of my comment is never leave your car running unattended at a gas pump or for that matter anywhere.
      Food For Thought

      • Extra Mile Staff | January 22, 2019 at 1:53 pm

        Great insight, thank you for sharing!

    • Barbara B. Othon | January 20, 2019 at 2:18 am

      These are very helpful tips. Thank you very much. I do try to be very careful.

      • Extra Mile Staff | January 22, 2019 at 1:57 pm

        Thanks for your feedback, Barbara!

    • EMW | January 20, 2019 at 3:47 am

      Very informative information. Thank you so much. I will try to be careful, my car is silver.

      • Extra Mile Staff | January 22, 2019 at 1:59 pm

        Thank you!

    • Chris | January 20, 2019 at 6:39 pm

      I drive a Honda and went and had a security system put in it that immobilized the vehicle if someone tries to steal it. I told my mechanic about it and he told me that a good thief could cut a few wires and take it even with a good alarm system. He advised me to continue to put a club on the steering wheel.

      • Extra Mile Staff | January 22, 2019 at 2:01 pm

        Thanks for sharing your experience, Chris.

    • Linda | January 20, 2019 at 6:49 pm

      I have LoJac. What do you think of that protection?

    • Carol G. | January 20, 2019 at 7:03 pm

      Great information . I will take some of the tips to make my car more difficult to steal

      • Extra Mile Staff | January 22, 2019 at 2:02 pm

        Thanks for your feedback, Carol!

    • Eva Smith | January 28, 2019 at 10:37 pm

      I have OnStar and remote start. Can someone steal my car?

      • Rebecca Woodland | December 19, 2020 at 11:22 am

        The best deterrent is to own a car with manual transmission (stick shift). Even if a thief breaks in they won’t get far because hardly anyone knows how to drive a stick! How do I know? It happened to a good friend. Her car was stolen but found a block away because the car stalled and the thief had no experience driving a stick so he fled. The police told my friend that the typical thief does not know how to drive a stick.

    • daniel ferrari | March 26, 2019 at 2:26 pm

      My 2009 Audi A4 was stolen from my driveway, I had both remotes with me, I’m automotive technician and I was convinced that it was impossible to steal this car without the key…I guess I was wrong. They must use some kind of electronic device…this happened 3/22/2019 I’m still looking.

      • Extra Mile Staff | March 26, 2019 at 4:51 pm

        Sorry to hear about your car, Daniel.

    • Don Rizzo | April 12, 2019 at 6:00 pm

      Thank you for the tips.

      • Extra Mile Staff | April 12, 2019 at 7:03 pm

        Thanks for reading, Don!

    • Sarah Packer | July 17, 2019 at 1:08 pm

      My son just got a new car, so I wanted tips on ensuring he’s safe at all times. I didn’t know the Honda Civic was the number one car stolen, as well as the Honda Accord, in 2017. My husband and son drive a Honda Accord, so I’ll make sure they take precautions with their cars like having extra keys if you lock themselves out of the car and other car issues! https://www.jerrys24hrlocsmith.com/services

    • SUSAN JOYCE SABO | December 7, 2019 at 8:40 am

      Question: a few years ago I went Xmas shopping and put some parcels into my trunk. It was parked in a safe, well lit area. Car doors were both locked with key fob. After I had gone home I discovered that some parcels were missing. Car, windows, etc. were intact. There was a cigarette butt on the floor on driver’s side (I am a non-smoker). I surmised that I had been followed and a thief stole signal from key fob to enter vehicle; open trunk , steal gifts and locked back up. Can wrapping key fob in aluminum foil block the signal from being stolen?

    • Jon Bryan | February 27, 2020 at 7:08 pm

      Another low-tech option is to own a manual shift vehicle. It’s also serves as an effective in-progress car-jack fail. Esp if your kids are in the car during the attempt.

    • Michael Kruszynski | February 27, 2020 at 8:09 pm

      Thank you for the valuable information!

    • Chris Bacon | February 28, 2020 at 3:49 pm

      Has anybody done a study about how people actually use the electronic fobs that many newer cars come with? If you get out of a car that uses this system with the fob in your pocket, while the engine is running (say to get your mail or open a gate), the horn blares at you. This encourages the habit of leaving the fob in the car when one needs to step out for a moment to avoid getting ‘blasted.’

      I do not know if the horn warning is a government requirement or an industry mandate but either way it is a consequence of somebody trying to force things to work contrary to the way many people think and behave. In other words, poor human engineering. I think if they just stopped doing this, or gave an alert in a less obnoxious way, there would be a noticeable drop in fob-left-in-car thefts.

    • robin yarnell | February 28, 2020 at 4:00 pm

      I never leave keys in my car…

    • Doug | February 28, 2020 at 4:09 pm

      I still cant believe people are stupid enough to leave their car unlocked and with the keys in it!!! “That’s called the law of loss” you leave anything out, unprotected………………………………………………it WILL be stolen. It’s a law!

    • Ken in Baltimore | February 29, 2020 at 3:53 pm

      Why are insurance companies paying out for a car that was stolen with the keys left inside the vehicle? It seems to me that when the owner enabled to car to be borrowed by leaving the keys in it that is not theft and no claim should have been paid out. I suspect these former car owners were unhappy with their car purchase and wanted an easy way to get a new car partially funded by the insurance company. No wonder rates are so high! Never insure these people again and pass on the savings to us!

    • Patrick A Cantrell | February 29, 2020 at 5:07 pm

      I saw a place in your article with advice to “not” leave your vehicle title and registration in the vehicle. Reason because a thief can steal the vehicle and sell it quickly before you can stop it.

      Problem with that in most states is that if an office were to stop you, the first thing they want to see is 1) license, 2) Registration and 3) Proof of ownership.

      How to I show them, if those documents are not in my vehicle?

    • Virgie E. Mangham | February 29, 2020 at 6:23 pm

      Thanks for the tips.

    • J. Fischer | February 29, 2020 at 7:43 pm

      With all of the unwanted but prebundled gewgaws and doodads that came on my 2013 Edge like a mapping system that didn’t even show the local hospital in an emergency, why is there no prevention against remote starting the car in a closed garage?? Preferring to turn my head to look before backing up, I don’t use (or trust) backup cameras. And I don’t cotton to Bluefang fone falderals interrupting my eight-track. But since these ofttimes dangerous add-ons are there, why aren’t such failsafe mechanisms built into them??

      Oh, and while they’re at it and I apparently can’t be trusted with a good old-fashioned key that doesn’t need to be wrapped in foil, at least include something truly useful like a way to use one fob to find the other one!! I’m 79 and do tend to forget where it is…like, maybe left in the car!!!?? And if I’m forced to have remote locking then at least close the sunroof when I’m on the unlucky 13th floor and a typhoon is approaching!! How about that, eh?


    • LOUIS TYNDELL | March 2, 2020 at 1:05 pm

      Some very good ideas,I am considering adopting some of them

    • RJS | March 2, 2020 at 11:46 pm

      Most newer cars have some type of security built into them, Coded Key, Engine Immobilizer, Key FOB or a Manual Kill switch, Ant-Theft club – We must all remember, Locks are for Honest people. I have even heard about a Tow Truck picking up a vehicle and Steal it that way

    • Liane Uppinghouse | November 7, 2020 at 12:00 am

      I have noticed that over the course of constructing a relationship with real estate entrepreneurs, you’ll be able to come to understand that, in every real estate financial transaction, a fee is paid. In the end, FSBO sellers don’t “save” the commission rate. Rather, they struggle to win the commission simply by doing the agent’s job. In doing this, they commit their money plus time to carry out, as best they will, the jobs of an adviser. Those responsibilities include displaying the home by way of marketing, delivering the home to willing buyers, creating a sense of buyer desperation in order to prompt an offer, preparing home inspections, taking on qualification check ups with the mortgage lender, supervising maintenance, and facilitating the closing of the deal.

    • Carole in Alaska | December 19, 2020 at 11:50 am

      I sewed small zippered bags interlined with the special reader blocking fabric for my key ring and fobs. One is attached to my handbag, where my key ring/fob is kept while shopping; the other is at home housing the extra fob. Copies of my vehicle docs are carried in my handbag and not left in the vehicle. Short of a physical mugging, I hope my vehicle is safe. If I put photos of vehicle docs on my iPhone, would that be any safer and would photos be acceptable to any law enforcement personnel? I’m assuming I don’t lose my phone…………

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