How to get your car stolen
Every 26.4 seconds, a vehicle is stolen in the U.S.* If you want yours to be one of those vehicles, just follow these simple guidelines and the thief will be driving away in your nice set of wheels before you can say “follow that car.”
1: Own one of the top 10 most stolen cars in America
A report put out by the NICB in 2007 lists the following cars as the most stolen in the nation (the list varies slightly by state, go to the NICB to find your specific area). No surprise to learn that the ever reliable Honda tops the list, again.
1: 1995 Honda Civic
2: 1991 Honda Accord
3: 1989 Toyota Camry
4: 1997 Ford F-150 Series Pickup
5: 2005 Dodge Ram Pickup
6: 1994 Chevy C/K 1500 Pickup
7: 1994 Nissan Sentra
8: 1994 Dodge Caravan
9: 1994 Saturn SL
10: 1990 Acura Integra
If you’re wondering where all the fancy cars are (Mercedes, Hummer, Porsche etc), just put yourself in the position of a thief. These cars are top-dollar items and are much more difficult to “get rid of.” The good old ’95 Civic is everywhere. It hardly draws attention to itself.
2: Live in California
6 of the top 10 cities for car theft are in California (if you live in Modesto and own a ’95 Civic, the odds are really running high that you'll be the victim of a car thief). Here’s how they rank:
Rank** Metropolitan Statistical Area Vehicles stolen
1 Modesto, CA 7,071
2 Las Vegas/Paradise, NV 22,465
3 Stockton, CA 7,586
4 Phoenix/Mesa/Scottsdale, AZ 41,000
5 Visalia/Porterville, CA 4,257
6 Seattle/Tacoma/Bellevue, WA 33,494
7 Sacramento/Arden-Arcade/Roseville, CA 20,268
8 San Diego/Carlsbad/San Marcos, CA 28,845
9 Fresno, CA 8,478
10 Yakima, WA 2,212
**Ranked by the rate of vehicle thefts reported per 100,000 people based on the 2000 Census. *Source: National Insurance Crime Bureau
3: Leave the keys in the ignition while you run an errand.
Any cop will tell you that car theft is usually a crime of opportunity. A good friend of mine recently fell victim to this. Her husband started up the car to let it warm up, went inside to grab the kids for school, came back outside literally 1 minute later and the car was gone. The same can happen if you pop to the ATM or check the mail. Leave the keys in the car and you’re just asking for trouble.
4: Park at the back of the lot at malls, sporting arenas or even at work.
I know a few people who park way at the back of the lot. They have their reasons, too: it’s good to walk further (fair enough), there’s always a spot at the back, and the favorite is that they’re much less likely to get a dent or ding. That’s all well and good, but thieves like it nice and quiet, away from the crowds. And your shiny, ding-free car just looks even more tempting now. The back of the lot is a car thief’s equivalent of being a kid in a candy store.
5: Don’t get LoJack
Most cars these days come with a factory-installed alarm. It may deter a few criminals but most professional car thieves know how to disable the alarm…and they’re exceptionally quick at it, too.
LoJack however is a different story. It’s linked directly to law enforcement, it can be installed in any number of places on your car, and over 90% of cars stolen with a LoJack system are recovered within 24 hours. If your car isn’t recovered in that time, you get a complete refund of the MSRP of the car. You also get insurance discounts. That’s basically a good way of knowing that these things really do deter thieves. If you’ve got LoJack, car thieves will almost always move on; it’s just not worth the risk.
6: Don’t keep your car in the garage
Sadly, I’m one of these people. We ran out of storage room in the house, we don’t have a basement and so we spilled over into the garage. I park outside now and thus run a much higher risk of having my car stolen. Not only is it more easily accessible, it’s also advertising itself to thieves. “Out of sight, out of mind” is true in this case. If your car is nicely hidden in a locked garage, only a very determined thief (who knows what’s in there) will attempt to break into the garage and then the car.
7: Keep a spare set of keys in the car
How about in some place the thieves would look first, like above the sun visor, in the center console or, better still, in the glove box. That way, if the thief does get into your car, he won’t have to hotwire the car but can instead make an even quicker getaway.
8: Leave your car unlocked
It works every time. Car thieves will often just work their way down a row of cars parked on the street, trying the handle of each one and moving on. And if yours is unlocked, bingo, they’re in. The Arizona police informed me that if you leave your car unlocked, you have a 1 in 30 chance of having it stolen. Those are pretty good odds, right? Combine this with number 6 and you’ve handed your car to the thief on a silver platter.
9: Leave your valuables clearly visible in the car
Give the would-be thief a reason to break the window or jimmy the lock. Once they’re in and rummaging around for jewelry, money, personal information and credit cards, they may just decide to take the whole car. One crime leads to another.
10: Park in a dimly-lit area
Street lighting; overhead lighting in parking lots; the glow from late night stores; all of these areas illuminate the car thief while at work. Better to park in an area with no lighting, so that the criminal can get to work under cover of darkness.
These are my top ten tips for improving your chances of getting your car stolen. Don’t follow them and hopefully you won’t be calling to report a stolen car any time soon.