Auto theft in the United States rose 17% between 2019 and 2021, according to the National Insurance Crime Bureau’s (NICB) just-released Hot Wheels report. Last year, a car was stolen every 34 seconds!
Full-size Chevrolet and Ford pickups topped the list of most-stolen vehicles. Sedans from the 1990s (the last models built without anti-theft tech) continue to make list and, for the first time, Jeep Cherokees were in the top 10.
Soaring used-car prices are among the factors driving the surge in thefts, according to NICB. Used car prices have climbed 35% during the pandemic, and not just in the U.S. Stolen cars may be shipped overseas for resale or broken down for valuable parts here at home.
How can I make my car a harder target for thieves?
- Park inside a locked garage. It’s the single biggest thing you can do to deter every type of car-related crime. If your garage is too packed for your car to fit inside, here’s how to declutter it and make room.
- Lock doors, close windows completely and take the keys. Whether your ignition is keyed or keyless, leaving your keys and fob in the car makes it extremely easy to steal. (NICB reports that thefts of cars with the keys left inside have jumped by more than 50% since keyless ignition has become standard.)
- Never leave a car running unattended. Not only is it illegal to leave your car warming up in the driveway, but running cars are favorites among thieves. This reformed Spokane car thief explains how he used to “shop” neighborhoods, looking for telltale plumes of steam coming from tailpipes on cold mornings.
- Choose well-lighted, busy parking areas. If possible, pick a spot likely to be in view of security cameras to discourage car prowlers.
- Keep your car cleaned out. Almost anything left in a vehicle can become a target for thieves. Don’t leave coats piled in the back, packages on the seat or spare change in the console. When at the mall, never drop off packages in your car and go back inside to continue shopping. A car prowler could be watching.
- Use alarms or deterrent devices. Most thieves prefer uncomplicated targets and, while alarms or devices like steering wheel locks can be defeated by a persistent thief, they may be enough to encourage them to pass by in search of an easier mark. You’ll get a discount on your PEMCO auto insurance for having a car alarm.
- Activate manufacturer-based subscription services. Programs like General Motors’ OnStar or Toyota Connected Car Services can help law enforcement locate your car geographically. They may also allow you to lock or disable your car remotely to prevent thieves from taking it farther. Check with your car manufacturer to see what options are available for your car.
- Add a GPS tracker like LoJack to your car. If that’s not in your budget, iPhone users may consider a cheaper, although less precise alternative, the Apple AirTag. It’s simple to use and batteries last about a year. Although the device’s anti-stalking feature will alert the thief to the AirTag’s presence if they have an iPhone (or the device itself may emit an alert), neither will sound right away. That gives you time to notify the police of your car’s location before the thief can disable the AirTag. Remember: Even if you know where the car is, never attempt to recover it yourself.
- Consider shields and VIN engraving for catalytic converters. The presence of an aftermarket shield or engraved VIN encourages thieves to leave your catalytic converter alone. Shields take time to remove. VINs make converters harder to sell. It may also be possible to adjust your car alarm to sense vibrations caused by sawing.
- Take your garage-door opener, registration and proof of insurance out of your car. Keeping them separate from your car won’t stop thieves from stealing it, but it will keep thieves from learning your home address – printed on the registration and proof of insurance – and then using your garage door opener to gain entry to your house. The law requires only that you have them with you when you drive. We recommend you treat them the same as your driver’s license: Safeguard and carry them with you, but don’t leave them in your car.
How can I recover my car faster if it’s stolen?Report the crime immediately. When thefts are reported to police within the first 24 hours, 34% of cars are recovered, according to NICB. If you see the theft happening, call 9-1-1. If not, you can use a non-emergency phone number or report the theft online. Keep a copy of your crime report – particularly the number – so you have it for your insurance claim. If you have a subscription service like OnStar, alert the company immediately, too, to assist law enforcement.
Can PEMCO help if my car is stolen?You’re protected when you choose Comprehensive coverage on your PEMCO auto policy. While lenders typically require you to carry it as long as you have a car loan, it’s an optional coverage otherwise. If you’re not sure you have it, check your account at pemco.com, talk with your local PEMCO agent or a representative at 1-800-GO-PEMCO.
PEMCO has partnered with the National Insurance Crime Bureau. Learn more.
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