5 Tips to Help Prevent Car Theft

A layer of safety devices and smart thinking can keep you from becoming a victim.

Hooded man trying to break into a car with a screwdriverShutterstock

Article QuickTakes:

According to the National Insurance Crime Bureau, car thefts were up almost 17% nationally from 2019 to 2021, with some spots like Colorado and Wisconsin experiencing 70% increases. As the U.S. Department of Transportation explains, that means more than 800,000 car thefts per year, costing drivers more than $7 billion.

Here are five car-theft prevention measures you can combine to help prevent you from turning into a statistic–and avoid the ordeal of recovering or even replacing your beloved automobile.

Consider Safety When Parking

Sure, you might save a few bucks by avoiding an expensive parking garage, but is a dark spot on a bad-looking street worth it if your car is gone when you come back? Choose only well-lit, well-traveled areas, or pay extra for a secured lot with an attendant. Also, remove or hide any personal items, as those can also be a draw for smash-and-grab break-ins.

Go Old-School With Physical Theft-Prevention Techniques

Do you associate "The Club" with vintage late-night TV ads? A bolt-on steering wheel lock is still a high-visibility way of immobilizing your vehicle. There are dozens of competitors on the market, some of which even cover the entire steering wheel. Alternatively, you can even boot your own car with a personal tire lock. While none of these physical devices are entirely impenetrable, they can at least serve as a psychological deterrent to thieves and be part of a layered approach to safety.

Explore Additional Ways to Identify Your Car

Dealers and aftermarket shops offer VIN (vehicle identification number) etching as a theft prevention measure. Your vehicle’s unique ID number is permanently etched onto window glass – though you can also get a do-it-yourself kit to achieve the same result. Another passive option is adding a GPS tracker to your vehicle, most of which sync up with your phone. That’s why some owners have hidden Apple AirTags in their cars to offer an additional way of helping the police track a missing vehicle.

Add an Alarm System or Upgrade Your Existing One

While most new cars are already factory-equipped with key fob-activated alarm systems that combine remote start and “panic button” functions, you can also explore the options for an aftermarket system that will do the same. Legacy brands such as Viper still do the same job of super-loudly alerting the neighborhood with a high-decibel alarm, flashing headlights, and immobilizing your car at the same time if someone breaks in.

Be Vigilant With Your Keys

The oversized electronic keyless remote fobs found on almost every new vehicle are a great convenience, but they are still a big problem concerning car theft. Absent-mindedly leaving them in your car when you pop into a store means your vehicle can be unlocked and driven away in seconds. Even worse, police in Ontario, Canada, discovered well-organized car thieves were able to electronically boost the signal of owners’ remote fobs left near the front doors of their homes and drive off in dozens of Toyota and Lexus SUVs. Keep your keys with you when you park and safely store your keys a considerable distance from your garage at home.

This site is for educational purposes only. The third parties listed are not affiliated with Capital One and are solely responsible for their opinions, products and services. Capital One does not provide, endorse or guarantee any third-party product, service, information or recommendation listed above. The information presented in this article is believed to be accurate at the time of publication, but is subject to change. The images shown are for illustration purposes only and may not be an exact representation of the product. The material provided on this site is not intended to provide legal, investment, or financial advice or to indicate the availability or suitability of any Capital One product or service to your unique circumstances. For specific advice about your unique circumstances, you may wish to consult a qualified professional.
author photo
Andy Stonehouse
Andy Stonehouse literally fell into the world of auto writing while working as a ski-town journalist, and has not looked back since. A childhood spent dealing with the eccentricities of a 1976 MG Midget has made any subsequent auto experience a more safe and reliable drive. He has been blessed with nearby mountain trails and snowy roads in Colorado to do TV-adventure-styled test drives on a weekly basis.