After two years of decline, auto theft rose in 2020, with the number of stolen cars in the United States jumping 9.2% compared with the previous year. The National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) notes that the pandemic, economic downturn, loss of juvenile outreach programs and public-safety budget and resource limitations may have contributed to the uptick. And, as in years past, one Northwest state – Washington – ranked in the top 10 for auto theft. Full-size Ford pickups and Honda Civics were prime targets.
Fortunately, there's a lot you can do to take the bullseye off your car, whether that's for car prowls, catalytic converter thefts or theft of the entire vehicle:
1) 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.
2) Lock doors, close windows completely and take the keys.
The NICB notes a growing trend of unlocked vehicles being stolen with keys that were left inside. In a snapshot study that compared 2013-2015 and 2016-2018, unlocked/key-in thefts jumped 56%.
3) Never leave a car running unattended.
Not only is it illegal to leave your car warming up in the driveway, it's a favorite among thieves. This reformed Spokane car thief explains how he used to "shop" neighborhoods, looking for warmups.
4) Keep your car cleaned out.
Opportunistic thieves may interpret a coat slung across the backseat as cover for something valuable. As one PEMCO member learned, spare change and a backpack left inside an old truck are all the enticement a thief needs to burglarize your car. When at the mall, never drop off packages in your car and go back inside to continue shopping. A car prowler could be watching.
5) Choose well-lighted, busy parking areas.
If possible, pick a spot likely to be in view of security cameras to discourage car prowlers. In addition, these steps can help deter catalytic converter theft.
6) Guard against a fob job.
Although relatively rare, organized car-theft rings have gone high-tech and use the key fob inside your home to gain access to your car outside. This news video from Canada shows how thieves managed to steal three cars from the same family, even after they took precautions.
7) Invest in anti-theft technology.
Luckily, most thieves aren't terribly ambitious and prefer uncomplicated targets. They tend to move on if they see a car alarm and an old-fashioned steering wheel lock like the Club. You also may consider adding a GPS tracker to your car that connects with your smartphone (meaning you can tell the police where to find your car if it's stolen; but never attempt to recover it yourself). And here's a bonus: You'll get an auto discount on your PEMCO auto insurance for having a car alarm.
And if you're unfortunate enough to have your car 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. Your local PEMCO agent or a representative at 1-800-GO-PEMCO can help you decide if adding it makes sense for you.