Warning: Summer Is Car Theft Season

July and August are the peak months for car theft. Find out how you can keep your wheels from becoming hot.

Ahhh, summer. There you are, returning to your car after sunning at the beach, enjoying that CGI-tastic blockbuster, or shopping for souvenirs on your road trip. You walk over to where you parked and the space is … empty.

In addition to the horrible thought of your beloved “Joan Jetta” or “Forester Gump” in the hands of some larcenous creep, you suddenly have a serious problem. How will you get yourself to work, home, school, or even the grocery store without your wheels?

Every 44 seconds, a car is stolen somewhere in the U.S. (Tweet this.)

It happens year-round, but especially in July and August because thieves are on the lookout for cars with windows cracked, garages with doors ajar, and relaxed vacationers who aren’t as vigilant as they might normally be. Here’s how to keep from being a victim of car theft.

Don’t make assumptions

You might think luxury cars are most attractive to thieves, and in fact, the Cadillac Escalade was America’s most stolen new car for 9 years running, according to the Highway Data Loss Institute (HDLI). Escalade owners often trick out their vehicles with expensive rims and other accessories that thieves love. But large pickups are popular targets too. This year, the 10 vehicles with the most insurance claims for theft were American-made large pickups or SUVs. The Ford F-250 took the number one slot, while the Escalade dropped down to sixth place.

Does this mean older, smaller, or imported cars are immune to theft? Unfortunately, no. While the HDLI’s list covers the last 3 model years, other most stolen lists (which aren’t limited to new cars) routinely feature Honda and Toyota models from the ‘90s. Older vehicles are attractive because they lack the theft prevention or tracking features found in many newer models. And though an older vehicle may have a low resale value, its parts might still be worth a lot individually — especially since models like Camrys and Accords tend not to change much year to year, so their parts are more interchangeable.

“Wait, what? Parts?” Yep. We hate to be the ones to tell you, but your missing “Silver Sled” may be headed for a chop shop. Thieves have become increasingly sophisticated, and most stolen vehicles are stripped for parts, which are then sold. This is one reason why only 52 percent of stolen vehicles are ever found.

Related: The 10 Most Stolen Cars (and How to Prevent Yours from Being One)

Use common sense

Nearly half of all car thefts are the result of driver mistakes like leaving the doors open or the keys on the seat. So be sure to lock your car, roll up your windows, and take your keys with you. Park in a brightly lit area so thieves can’t work under cover of darkness. Take valuables with you (you don’t want to give thieves a reason to choose your car). And never leave your car running, even if you’re just popping in the house to grab a jacket.

Make your vehicle less appealing

We don’t mean leaving it unwashed, littered with fast-food wrappers, or tuned to the polka station. We’re talking about visual deterrents that let would-be thieves know your car won’t be an easy steal and anti-theft systems that keep them from driving your vehicle away. These include:

  • Locks on your steering wheel, brakes, or wheels. A thief would have to break these superstrong locks to drive off, so just the sight of them is often deterrent enough.
  • Etching your windows with your car’s vehicle identification number (VIN). Some law enforcement agencies offer this service for free.
  • Ignition disablers. Standard equipment in many vehicles, these devices prevent the car from starting during a theft attempt (such as hot-wiring).
  • Smart keys. Also standard in some models, these keys contain special coded chips or radio-frequency transponders. The car won’t start unless it recognizes the key code.
  • Audible alarms. You may hate them when they go off at 3 a.m. (I certainly do), but motion-activated car alarms are an effective deterrent to car theft and burglaries.

Not only will a theft-deterrent system help keep your car from getting boosted, it can also score you discounts on your auto insurance policy.

It seems wrong that the sunny days of summer would bring out shady characters like car thieves. But the best way to protect yourself is to take precautions and make sure you have adequate car insurance coverage.

Weigh in about car theft

Have you ever had your car stolen? What types of precautions do you take? Tell us in the comments below.

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41 Responses to “Warning: Summer Is Car Theft Season”

  1. Avatar for Ellen Hall
    June 1, 2015 #

    I had a new honda accord which i loved. I parked in a private ofc garage during the day. Ny boyfriend used the car sometimes so i'd leave the keys on the floor, door unlocked. Mistakes one & two. It was stolen and taken foe joy ride to the other side of Oahu. When found bucket seats, battery etc were missing plus they banged it up outside. It was recovered. I felt like the poor accord had been pillaged. I repaired it and sold it to a friend,who knew but didn't have the emotional feelings had for that cute car. Don't ever leave car unlocked w keys inside no matter how safe you think it is. Two other cars were stolen that same day– a cadillac and a BMW. They were found just in time, being shipped to Hong Kong!

  2. Avatar for Ellen Hall
    Ted Roberts
    June 29, 2015 #

    I have had two cars stolen, both from repair shops…a jag while getting the convertible top replaced, done but they kept it another day to "inspect it", and a 63 split window corvette when it was back to the paint shop to fix an imperfection. Beware leaving your car overnight for repair.

  3. Avatar for Ellen Hall
    michael fitzgerald
    July 4, 2015 #

    I had burglars put their loot in my car while we slept. The car was parked in our locked garage and the keys in a cupboard.

  4. Avatar for Ellen Hall
    July 10, 2015 #

    Our 2000 Honda CRV was just stolen over the weekend! Car was hot wired, small rear window was shattered, they cut the passenger seatbelt, stole our air compressor and the folding table that came with the CRV for tailgating! Car was recovered! The CRV is not easy on the eyes it's full of ding and dents…etc! They took it for a joy ride! On top of that within 12 hours our second car was totaled while we were parked in a parking lot to purchase football cleats for our son! Needless to say we had to go buy a new car unexpectedly just so my husband could get to work! We are going to repair the CRV…but needless to say we will never have the mind set of who would steal this car again!!!

    • Avatar for Ellen Hall
      Rachael Heller
      July 16, 2015 #

      Hello Apryl,

      Having a loss like that on your vehicle can be stressful for sure. We’re happy to hear that nobody was hurt.

      Thanks for reading.

  5. Avatar for Ellen Hall
    Sean Lee
    August 1, 2015 #

    I had my 1999 Acura Integra type R stolen. It was parked five feet from my front door. I had a viper esp 500. Lojack, window etching, and also a switch that shuts off the fuel pump. It was found 4 days later 50miles north in palm beach. Rims still on interior intact. They of course took engine transmission, exhaust ,ecu. I took me over five years to get that car how I wanted it, not to mention all the work I personally did. I bought the car while I was in college, honestly one of the worst days of my life when I walked outside and it was gone. Sadly there was nothing I could have done they wanted it.. Turns out security footage shows that They put the car on these rollers and rolled it into a trailer. So parts are a huge motive for car thieves.

  6. Avatar for Ellen Hall
    eazy E
    August 17, 2015 #

    I've had my Honda Accord stolen rims and stereo system just installed. Never found it. And a Nissan altima with rims also. Smdh

  7. Avatar for Ellen Hall
    August 17, 2015 #

    Bought a brand new '91Honda Accord 5 speed stick. It drove beautifully and purred like a kitten. Unfortunately I think someone put a curse on it. In the morning of April '93 we found out that it was stolen. After a week we get a call from police to pick up the car . Someone used a screw driver to start car took it for a joy ride, abandoned it at a restaurant parking lot taking only took the tool kit and a pair of shoes. Car was otherwise fine after a couple of weeks someone steals the stereo, few weeks after stole my son's car seat. Someone would hit it now and then, in time it got a lot of scratches, dents, it would break down ,after we fixed 1 problem, another would go wrong. In Aug '97 it got stolen again, with another one of my son's car seats. I said if we get this car back we are going to sell it asap! We got it back from police impound on the morning of Dec 25th !!! Yes!! With no more dents, scratches and detailed. The new owner jacked it up and made it fully loaded. After a couple of years it got stolen again this time it came back totally stripped in Mexico.

  8. Avatar for Ellen Hall
    still pissed
    September 21, 2015 #

    I had a 1987 Monte Carlo stolen a few years ago, they used a flatbed tow truck went straight to the scrap yard, they got $300 for a $10,000 motor (dz302), I found him he's in jail car was shredded. If they take cars on flatbeds it's larceny they have to drive it away for grand theft.Yes you can steal a lambo with a tow truck and if you get caught it's the same as taking a tv from someone's porch

  9. Avatar for Ellen Hall
    Rick Ryan
    April 7, 2016 #

    I am shocked that mercedez is not on that stolen list

  10. Avatar for Ellen Hall
    April 27, 2016 #

    So we can send a vehicle to Mars, build reusable spaceships, brag about the most advanced, cutting edge electronics in cars but we can't simply shut down the engine / electronics / brakes when a car is stolen? We can find an iPhone in a landfill, reverse track a GPS to see where a car has been but can't find a stolen car – seriously how stupid are we? Then again what real incentive is there for auto manufacturers to build cars that can't be stolen? Every stolen car has to be replaced, which is to their benefit. Imagine if auto manufacturers, as part of their warrantee, had to replace any stolen car wirth a new one free of charge. In a heartbeat we would see the birth of the unstealable car.

  11. Avatar for Ellen Hall
    Never Rice
    May 10, 2016 #

    People are sharing their theft experiences with cars that I would never own for those reasons. Hondas, Nissans, Toyotas, and other imports are the targets for punks and criminals and generally easy to steal and sell the parts from them. I have owned, enjoyed and never had any American company product stolen, stripped or joy ridden in 40 years of ownership. Mostly Ford's and Mercury's and one Lincoln and most had nice wheels, sound systems and performance parts or engines. Some had factory security systems and one aftermarket. I have no use for cars targeted by thieves and am smart enough not to own one of them.

    • Avatar for Ellen Hall
      May 19, 2016 #

      That's because american cars for the most part suck – sure there are a few good ones but all in all imports from Japan have longevity – fit and finish and resale value domestics cannot match – and even though thieves suck they know what cars are quality believe me they'd go after a civic or integra before a Pontiac or Plymouth

  12. Avatar for Ellen Hall
    May 19, 2016 #

    My Acura integra was stolen when I lived right behind the state capital which was regularly patrolled by state police . My car was found sans engine – seats – stereo etc. back in the 1800's they'd hang horse theives the law needs to be tougher on the scum bags that commit car thefts – my car was so clean and well cared for it was locked in my carport , I saw a special about high end cars being stolen and put in containers and shipped overseas mainly to Africa it's got to stop . My current car I use the club and have a loaded sigsauer .45 at the ready .

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