How to Keep Your Vehicle Safe from Thieves

Car security

Car theft is on the rise. Stop your vehicle from being stolen with these tips and strategies. 

No question about it: cars are a vital part of our daily grind. They’re the trusty sidekicks that help us zip through our day-to-day routines, whether it’s the daily commute or running errands. 

But what would happen if your car suddenly disappeared? Unfortunately, this is an all-too-familiar story for vehicle owners in the US. 

In 2022, the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) reported that almost a million motor vehicles valued at over $8.9  billion were stolen.

“We are seeing vehicle theft numbers that we haven’t seen in nearly 15 years, and there is very little deterrent to stop criminals from committing these acts as they are just property crimes, like shoplifting,” according to David J. Glawe, the President and chief executive of the NICB.

What’s more worrying is the upward trend in the number of drivers falling victim to this crime.  The FBI estimated an 8.6 percent  increase in vehicle thefts and an 8.1 percent rise in car jackings from 2021. 

 So, how do you help protect yourself from becoming part of the dreaded statistics? Stay on top of car security and take proactive steps to keep your ride safe.

Whether you’re parking or driving outside or at home, here are Spacer’s simple precautions that can help prevent your car from being stolen. 

How to prevent auto theft when parked or driving outdoors

1. Always lock your doors

Thieves love easy pickings and unlocked doors make your car an easy target. 

Afterall, theft is a crime of opportunity. And the quicker a thief can steal your car, the more attractive it is to burglars. Locking your doors is the easiest way to deter professional car thieves or joy-riders. 

With that said, get into the habit of checking if your car doors are locked, even while driving. Make sure to double check your car is locked even when filling up or you’re parked. Don’t forget to also check you haven’t left any windows or the sunroof open.

Spacer safety tip: Make sure to lock your vehicle properly if it has automatic folding wing mirrors. Criminal gangs target vehicles with mirrors left out, as it’s a sign the vehicle is unlocked.

2. Don’t leave your keys in the ignition

Leaving your keys in your car for a quick errand in a store may seem harmless, but it’s more dangerous than you think. 

The NICB cautions against leaving your car running unattended because a running vehicle is an easy mark for a thief – especially if it’s unlocked. 

If your key is in your car, a thief can easily get in (if it’s not locked) or break a window and just drive off with your vehicle. 

It’s recommended to always take your keys when you leave your car. Also, make sure the windows are fully closed to prevent a thief from trying to open the door from the inside.

Spacer safety tip: While you may think it’s a life hack to keep a spare key under the car in the glove box fin the event you get locked out, experts say thieves are getting smarter. They typically know all the nooks and crannies on where to check for an extra key. 

So although getting locked out of your car is a hassle, think about the bigger potential pain of getting your vehicle stolen. 

3. Invest in a steering wheel lock

Steering wheel locks were all the hype back in the 1990s, but this old-school anti-theft device is making a comeback to stop high-tech car crimes.

It’s particularly effective against relay theft, also known as ‘keyless car theft’. Here’s how this scheme works: thieves use two devices – a relay transmitter and an amplifier. Working together, these gadgets trick the car into believing the key fob is nearby. This allows the thieves to unlock the, start, and drive away with ease. 

And with these devices selling for as low as $80 to $100 online, it’s no wonder car theft incidents are on the rise across the country. 

A car steering wheel lock is a straightforward yet effective way to protect your vehicle from getting stolen. Typically, it includes a locking mechanism and an outer structure that clamps onto the steering wheel, making it immobile and discouraging potential thieves from trying to steal your car.

Steering wheel locks also act as a visible deterrent and a physical barrier against potential car theft- basically meaning it makes your car look harder to steal.

However, most experts don’t advise viewing wheel locks as the perfect anti-theft device. This is because it’s expected that a determined thief is likely to carry tools to override it.

For example, drilling a hole into the keyhole can disable most steering wheel locks in less than a minute. At most, it’s safer to view it as an additional layer of protection. 

But not all steering wheel locks are made equal. Before investing in one, make sure it has features that can offer higher levels of protection and is made of sturdy materials. It should also fit a wide variety of different brands of cars and of course, it has good anti-drill and anti-pick lock protection. 

Spacer safety tip: The sight of a steering wheel lock is enough to deter anyone looking for an easy target, but other people may use power tools to remove it. To be on the safe side, investing in a couple of deterrents and pair steering wheel lock with another anti-theft device such as a brake, or tire lock. 

4. Choose a safe parking location 

When it comes to preventing your car from being stolen, location is key. Avoid parking in places that are dim or areas that are not immediately visible to people. 

If possible, park in a well-lit area, preferably where there’s plenty of foot traffic. After all, most thieves would want to risk being seen committing a crime. 

It’s also advisable to park your vehicle in a locked/secure garage with security features such as security cameras and patrolling security personnel. 

Do your research before leaving the house. Even if it adds some time, it’s also best to avoid known high-crime areas. 

To remove the uncertainty of finding a safe and secure parking spot, consider using parking apps like Spacer.

Book a spot before even leaving your home or office and have the peace of mind that your car will be tucked away in a busy, well-lit area. 

And with locations from the East Coast to the West Coast and across major cities like Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York, San Diego, Seattle and more, you’ll never run out of cheap and convenient parking options.

Spacer safety tip: Parking lots are more dangerous than you know. Check out our 7 Smart Tips For Staying Safe In A Parking Lot

5. Don’t leave high-value items in your car

One simple way to reduce the risk of car theft is by not leaving valuables in your car.

Leaving items like laptops,cell phone, or purses in plain sight within your vehicle makes your vehicle more attractive to thieves. 

And don’t underestimate what can be considered valuable. This includes loose change, phone chargers, or anything else that you might not consider valuable. Remember, you never know what might motivate a car thief.

 It’s recommended to leave anything that is valuable but you won’t need when you go out. But if you must have a valuable item with you, keep it out of sight and consequently, out of mind of thieves. 

Spacer safety tip: Put your valuables in the truck before you get to your destination. Experts warn thieves scout parking lots for people who are moving items to their trunk. In busy parking lots, thieves will usually wait for the victim to leave the vehicle before breaking into the trunk to steal whatever you’ve locked away. 

 6. Install an audible and visual anti-theft system

New vehicles usually come with an anti-theft system,which are visible or audible devices which alerts thieves that your vehicle is protected. 

But if your car did not come with an anti-theft system, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, recommends installing an audible car alarm system and using a visible anti-theft device. 

Installing an audible alarm system, which triggers a loud noise typically from the car’s horn, serves as an effective theft deterrent. 

According to the NHTSA, the attention drawn by the loud noise can deter thieves from continuing their attempt to enter the vehicle.

And while there are plenty of car alarms available on the market, you may need to have a mechanic or an alarm technician install it for you if it requires working with the car’s wiring system. 

 Spacer safety tip: Don’t be complacent with your built-in alarm systems. Some car models are easier to hack than others and if your vehicle is at a higher risk of theft, consider investing in a more secure aftermarket alarm system. 

7. Invest in a vehicle immobilizer system

Hot-wiring refers to bypassing a car’s security system to start the engine without a key and is a common method used by professional thieves to steal vehicles. 

To prevent your car from being ‘hotwired’, the NHTSA recommends using a vehicle immobilizer system. This anti theft system makes it almost impossible for thieves to hotwire your car by disabling the vehicle. 

But how does it work? Imagine it like a secret handshake between your key and your car. A chip hidden inside your key fob sends a special code to the car.

 If the code doesn’t match, the engine won’t start, even if someone tries to hotwire it. This makes it much harder for thieves to steal your car.

 If your car is older and doesn’t have this feature, you might consider having an immobilizer system installed for extra protection. 

No security system is foolproof, and push-to-start ignitions are proving that. These convenient features are becoming increasingly common in newer cars, but unfortunately, thieves are catching on.

The bad news? Stealing a push-to-start car can be surprisingly easy for tech-savvy criminals. All they might need is a key programmer, which can be found for sale online, and access to the car’s diagnostic port. With a quick plug-in, they could be bypassing the security system and driving off with your car.

Spacer safety tip: Consider installing an ignition kill switch to add another hurdle for thieves. Even if they manage to bypass the immobilizer, they’ll still need to locate and deactivate the kill switch to start the car. This extra step can deter theft or at least buy you more time if your car is stolen.

8. Invest in security window etching

Window etching involves etching all a vehicle’s windows with your unique 17-digit, globally standardized VIN (vehicle identification number).

VIN etching discourages thieves in two ways. First, it makes stolen vehicles with etched parts harder to sell whole. Discernible VIN markings on windows are a big red flag for potential buyers, making the car less attractive.

Second, even if a thief dismantles the car for parts, the etched VIN on individual components becomes a major risk because they can be traced by law enforcement.

And the data shows it works! Etched vehicles are estimated to be 45% less likely to be stolen and 50% more likely to be recovered than non-etched vehicles. 

True, it may not deter everyone who wants to steal your car, but some thieves will not take the risk and just walk away if they see your car is etched. 

Spacer safety tip: You can do it yourself! Another plus is it’s affordable. Just be sure to wear gloves when using the glass etching kit.

9. Install a tracking system and a dash cam

Don’t underestimate the power of a dashcam. Having a dash camera installed in your car can provide valuable video evidence in case of an accident, attempted theft, or vandalism. 

Dashcams record the road ahead (and sometimes behind) while you drive, capturing important details like license plates and surrounding events. This footage can be crucial for claims for insurance companies, police investigations, and protecting yourself legally.

In the worst case scenario that your car is stolen, you can still fight back with a secret weapon: installing a vehicle recovery system, also known as a tracking system. 

While professional installation might be needed, these devices can be a game-changer if your car is stolen.

 When a thief takes your car, the tracking system uses GPS or wireless technology to send a signal to the police or a monitoring service, revealing your vehicle’s location. This can significantly boost the chances of your car being recovered. 

Spacer safety tip: If you’re investing in a dashcam, you might as well buy one with a parking mode feature. These can automatically switch to a low-power recording mode when your car is parked and detect motion or impacts, potentially capturing evidence of vandalism or hit-and-run incidents.

10. Be careful with sharing information

Keeping your car safe goes beyond just locking the doors or adding a visual deterrent. Sharing too much personal information online can make you a target for thieves. 

It might seem harmless, but details like your car’s description such as color, model, and license plate number and upcoming trips or your daily routine can be a recipe for trouble. 

Professional car thieves can piece together information from various sources and use it to their advantage.

Spacer safety tip: Take advantage of social media privacy settings! Restrict who can see your posts, especially those that might reveal your location or travel plans. Consider creating a separate “close friends” list for sharing personal updates.

6 simple steps to prevent your car from being stolen at home

Unfortunately, car thefts happen not just in secluded areas, but also in driveways and home garages– right under the noses of car owners.

And while a garage offers a layer of security for your car, complacency can be a thief’s best friend.  Garages themselves can sometimes be vulnerable. They can be a target for break-ins, granting thieves access to your car and potentially other valuables.

In addition to the tips we’ve provided, here are simple ways to protect your car from being stolen at your home.

1. Close your garage door and service door 

Double down on security by keeping your garage door closed. After all, it’s the first line of defense against theft, not just for your car but the inside of your home as well. 

Consider installing an automatic garage door opener, It takes the worry out of remembering to close the door. Plus, it offers the added benefit of easy access, especially in bad weather.

For a more hands-on approach, consider installing a sensor on your garage door that triggers an alert when it’s left open. This allows you to monitor its status remotely and take action if needed.

Make sure to cover all your bases and also keep your service door, the door between your home and your garage, locked. Remember to also upgrade your locks if they are outdated, don’t work properly.

2. Park closer to home

If you’ve decided to maximize your space and convert your garage into a new living area, parking can be an issue. 

In a recent article for Porch, Michael Rosenbaum, Spacer’s CEO and founder, explained how turning a garage into a living space impacts the parking situation for the property and its owners. 

“If you own a car, transforming your garage into an extra room or separate living area will mean sacrificing a parking spot. It can also mean limiting having friends or family over due to a lack of available parking spots.” 

He added that while street parking is an option, it does carry risks. “When you park on the street, you’re taking a chance with your car’s safety. There’s a higher risk of it getting broken into or vandalized since it’s out in the open.

“Plus, if you accidentally park in the wrong spot or forget to pay the meter, you might end up with a hefty fine or even find your car towed away,”  he explained.

If you don’t use your garage for storing your cars, parking close to the door creates a physical barrier against forced entry from either side. 

3. Install surveillance devices

If it still feels like your car is a sitting duck if you’re parking outside your garage, technology can offer additional security layers at affordable prices.

Consider installing motion detector lighting to deter nighttime activity and a security camera with night vision capabilities that cover the area around your home. Not only do these devices provide protection, they also have the ability to record vital footage.

Cameras are no longer a luxury, and the peace of mind they offer is well worth the investment.

4. Angle your wheels towards the curb

If you have no other option but to park in the street, one simple but effective trick to protect your car from being stolen is to turn your wheels into the curb or towards another vehicle.

This will make it a lot more difficult for thieves to make a quick getaway in your car. 

In the event they manage to break in and get the engine started, they’ll still need to straighten up or potentially do some reversing or maneuvering, giving you time to call the police and note their description.

5. Cover your windows

If your garage door has windows, keeping them covered when it’s closed adds another layer of security. 

This makes it harder for potential thieves to see what’s stored inside and discourages them from targeting your garage. You can achieve this with frosted window film, curtains, or even replacing the windows with solid panels.  

6. Install a garage security alarm system

Consider installing a security alarm system in your garage for an extra layer of protection. Choose a system with features like a loud siren, motion detection, and potential integration with your home security system for a comprehensive security network.

Don’t let your car be a sitting duck! 

From simple habits like locking your doors and parking in well-lit areas to installing advanced security systems, these precautions can significantly reduce the risk of your car becoming an attractive target to thieves. 

But what if you live in a place with limited parking, or simply don’t have a garage? Here’s where Spacer can help. Spacer is a platform that connects drivers with safe and affordable parking spots across the US.

 Whether you need a monthly parking spot near your home, work, or anywhere in between, Spacer has a wide variety of options to choose from. Plus, you can choose the security features you need,  so you can have peace of mind knowing your car is parked in a safe and secure location. 

So don’t let the fear of car theft prevent you from enjoying the freedom of your car! By following these tips and using Spacer for your parking needs, you can keep your car safe and sound.

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