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How common are car thefts? There were 873,080 motor vehicle thefts in 2020 in the U.S., according to the National Insurance Crime Bureau.1 And when citizens are targeted in the most potentially dangerous of these crimes – carjacking – the attacker succeeds in roughly half of all attempts, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.

To find out how to prevent carjacking and car theft read on.

1. Don’t leave valuables in your car

You don’t display your cash, financial statements, and jewelry in your home’s windows, do you? So why would you do the same in your car? Hide those valuables, including purses, computer bags, and the ignition key. You’d be surprised how often people don’t. Two out of five people fail to hide valuables, according to a joint survey from LoJack and the National Insurance Crime Bureau.1 One-quarter leave a purse or wallet inside, and one-third have left bank statements – all of which are appealing to car thieves. One-third say they’ve kept their vehicle running while unoccupied.

2. Park in a well-lit area

Not everyone has a garage. But many have the option of parking on a well-lit street – another deterrent for crooks. Also, etch the vehicle identification number on windows to discourage thieves from stealing the vehicle and selling it to a chop shop.

3. Lock your vehicle doors

The minute you step into an automobile, you’re vulnerable. So lock up right away, before starting the ignition or setting up your music, GPS, etc. (Buckling up is the second “to do.”)

4. Don’t leave your keys in the car

“It’ll just be for a second, I’m only running into the store for a couple things.”

Unfortunately, “a second” is all a thief will need if you leave the keys in the car for them. No matter where you are, or how briefly you’ll be out of your vehicle, always take your keys with you. It sounds obvious, but this is one of the most important ways you can prevent car theft.

5. Stay alert

Staying alert is the best example of how to prevent carjacking. When stopped or slowing down, you increase an opportunity for a carjacker. So at traffic lights, exercise caution. “When stopped in traffic, leave enough space to move forward,” says Brent O’Bryan, vice president of learning and development for AlliedBarton Security Services, a physical security firm.4

6. Know where you’re going

Just as you want to stay in well-lit areas while parking, you don’t want to “hide” in the darkness while driving. “Don’t head into remote or unfamiliar areas,” O’Bryan says. “If you feel like you’re being followed, don’t drive home. Don’t park next to a vehicle such as a van which could be hiding a suspect.”4

7. Install an anti-theft system

If someone does try to break into your car, you’ll want to make it as obvious as possible to anyone in earshot that this has occurred. Anti-theft systems emit loud alarms when they detect some kind of forced entry into your vehicle, alerting anyone nearby and potentially scaring the would-be thief from sticking around. You can also install a GPS tracking system that will show the location of your vehicle if the thief successfully makes off with it.

Having an anti-theft device in your vehicle may earn you a discount on your car insurance.

8. Stay cool during a crisis

Even if you do all the right things, you could still get involved in a carjacking. If so, the safety of you and your passengers remains the top priority. Stay calm – if you panic, it’s more likely a criminal will too. “Never argue; give up your car,” O’Bryan says. “Get away from the area as quickly as possible. Note the suspect’s appearance, and immediately report it to the police.”4

Most commonly stolen cars

You might expect thieves to go for the glitziest, most expensive-looking cars they can find, but the trouble with those vehicles is they stand out in a crowd. No car thief wants to be seen after they make their getaway, so the most commonly stolen cars are some of the most commonly owned models. More Ford F-series pickup trucks and Honda Civics are stolen than any other car in the US for this precise reason. Cars like Civics are also popular because they share parts with other Hondas, making them valuable for stripping and selling.2

What cars are targeted for catalytic converter theft?

Certain vehicles are also being singled out just to steal their catalytic converters. Hybrid cars like the Toyota Prius use expensive metals in the construction of their catalytic converters, making these cars prime targets3 Thieves will steal the catalytic converter and sell it for the value of its metal.

Does car insurance cover car theft?

So, you took all the precautions, but someone managed to make off with your car anyway. Are you covered? Simply put: it depends on your policy. Comprehensive policies will typically cover theft, however, policies like liability insurance do not.

Learn more about what your car insurance will cover in the event of car theft.

1https://www.iii.org/fact-statistic/facts-statistics-auto-theft, Accessed October 2021.
2https://www.motortrend.com/features/most-stolen-cars-america?slide=17, Accessed August 2021.
3https://www.khou.com/article/news/how-to-prevent-yourself-from-becoming-the-latest-victim-of-catalytic-converter-thefts/285-d978572e-c12a-4142-b331-c782201b082b, Accessed August 2021.
4Nationwide Interview with Brent O’Bryan, 2016.

Disclaimer:
The information included is designed for informational purposes only. It is not legal, tax, financial or any other sort of advice, nor is it a substitute for such advice. The information may not apply to your specific situation. We have tried to make sure the information is accurate, but it could be outdated or even inaccurate in parts. It is the reader’s responsibility to comply with any applicable local, state, or federal regulations. Nationwide Mutual Insurance Company, its affiliates and their employees make no warranties about the information nor guarantee of results, and they assume no liability in connection with the information provided. Nationwide, Nationwide is on your side, and the Nationwide N and Eagle are services marks of Nationwide Mutual Insurance Company. © 2021 Nationwide.

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