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.

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.

Related posts

Find out what all those numbers mean: VIN Defined
See the National Insurance Crime Bureau’s list of most commonly stolen cars.

24 Responses to “Warning: Summer is Car Theft Season”

  1. Ken
    September 17, 2013 #

    Did all the right things and yet my 2010 Ford Fusion was stolen in broad daylight from in front of my mother's house. Car was recovered, insurance company totaled car. Insurance company spent total with rental car over 12k to repair car that i can't trade. Why?

  2. rob
    September 17, 2013 #

    1987 Buick Regal Grand National stolen with column lock, kill switch, shaved locks, and a screamer ( car alarm ). Its VERY easy to get around all of these " deterrents ". If a thief is dedicated enough and given a small amount of time, no vehicle is safe, regardless of the measures taken. My car was also in the garage and in daylight.

    • SJC
      December 26, 2013 #

      WOW! Guess what? We also had a 1987 Buick Gran National equipped with a factory-installed theft deterrent system. It got stolen in broad daylight from work parking lot…right across from the guard shack. Bitter pill to swallow.

  3. Ficken Falschung
    September 18, 2013 #

    My Jeep was stolen before I got it and never fixed. It looks like it's stolen so a thief won't steal it. They don't know if it was used in a crime such as killing a cop and the gun may be under the seat.

  4. Fassil
    September 20, 2013 #

    My Nissan Maxima 1998 was stolen three times. First time, it was at night and I didn't have any deterrent. Second time in broad daylight when I was at a hospital in a shady neighborhood. I had hesitated to put a break lock thinking it's daytime. Third time, I parked my Maxima on a drivewaybefore I went for a 2 and half month long vacation. I had out on break lock but still could not stop it. It's all a devastating experience!

  5. Degreed Whiteguy
    September 21, 2013 #

    No information generalized repeat of other old articles. Waste of internet space.

    • Chris
      January 20, 2014 #

      Right

  6. Steve Hunter
    October 6, 2013 #

    In our area, 66% of all robberies occur due to unlocked cars. Take the easiest step to prevention and just lock the door. Second, don't leave valuables visible in the car or boxes, etc that might contain things.

  7. Lynn
    October 26, 2013 #

    The main point, common connection is: If the thief wants it bad enough,he will get it. Building a better mouse trap? (alarms, bells and whistles) what will this get you……a smarter mouse.
    Point is whether it is a car or personal information….there is always that smarter mouse just waiting.

  8. shelley
    November 26, 2013 #

    I had a 1973 super beetle that i had been working on for 5 years. Finally got the car up and running but it vapor locked on me one day so had to leave it parked on side of road for a couple hours.went back that evening with my boyfriend to get my car and it was gone.police found it 3 months later stripped down and burned in the desert.only thing locks keep out is honest people anyways.if someone wants your stuff they will take it.locks wont stop them.

  9. Doc
    December 3, 2013 #

    Prius has Smart Key. Although it can't be driven away, you can tow it or flatbed it to steal it. Otherwise it's bullet proof.

    • Johnathan
      December 7, 2013 #

      I don't think anybody would steal such a car. Gang members like something that catches their eye or is just an easy target. People that can afford a Prius don't want to buy it. Only people that really care about saving money buy it. Or rich people that need to create an image that they care about the environment while being materialistic and flying personal jets around the world to their island.

  10. Girly
    December 7, 2013 #

    My dad's 2012 Cadillac Escalade was stolen in a hotel parking lot in a poverty stricken area. The thieves took the whole car! They never found it but my dad got a brand spanking new one.

    • IReadTooMuch
      April 26, 2014 #

      I thought they only wanted half!

  11. Sean
    December 9, 2013 #

    After reading everybody's comments the only thing I can say is if a thief wants your vehicle bad enough he or she can find a way to take it.

  12. joe
    January 9, 2014 #

    Once a thief always a thief.

  13. Austin
    March 23, 2014 #

    So my 2001 Jeep Wrangled was stollen 3 different times within a 9 month period, all from the same parking lot. Each time it was found, stripped of the backseat, doors, roof, and anything else that could be removed quickly. After the 3rd time of being stollen, my car insurance totaled the car and sold it for parts. With my new jeep, I put in a very sophisticated alarm system and a turn key lock in the back door because that is where a jeep is most vulnerable. So even if they had a key, the key would just turn forever and never unlock the car

  14. nik
    April 8, 2014 #

    I just disconnect the battery ir remove a fuse

  15. Rick Driesner
    April 23, 2014 #

    What a bunch of freakin whiners!

  16. ron
    May 3, 2014 #

    I had the same car stolen twice. Both times I had a steering wheel locking device. This was in 2000. Don't waste your money buying a steering wheel lock. Invest in an aftermarket alarm. The standard alarms these days are not a deterent. Invest in a compustar alarm. I have never had any issues since then. Best investment for my car and a valentine 1 radar detector.

  17. Jim
    May 20, 2014 #

    Steering wheel locks are a joke , dont waste your money. Thieves simply cut your steering wheel and slide lock off. The wheel is very easy to cut and bend which makes the lock a worthless piece of hard metal.

  18. TeriDavisNewman
    June 20, 2014 #

    My 1886 Camaro was stolen SEVEN TIMES from the hospital parking lot and I got it back every time with various amounts of damage. My next car had Lo-Jack and was never stolen. I also owned a limo service for a number of years with Lincoln Town Cars which are difficult to steal as they have coded keys and won't start without the $150 key that has to be re-coded at the dealer so losing the key is a disaster requiring ID, the title and a lot of other hoops. I haven't had a Town Car go missing though, so it's worth the hassle.

  19. stopher
    June 23, 2014 #

    f250 are so easy to steal, because thier door locks are easy to break. Ford never fixes the faults in the their vehicle, just like GM.

  20. Dave the Dude
    June 26, 2014 #

    Thieves….Call, I'll give you the address, maybe you want a 97 Plymouth Voyager, that has a miss in engine that chrysler cant find.

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