8 Dumb Mistakes That Make Your Car an Easy Target for Thieves

thief stealing a car
Photo by haveseen / Shutterstock.com

Leaving car doors unlocked or keys in the ignition are invitations to theft. Everyone knows that.

But there are a host of less obvious mistakes that also might make your ride easy prey for thieves.

Following are some dumb moves that put our cars — and the contents inside — at risk.

1. Leaving valuables in sight

Leaving valuables visible inside your car is like creating a store display for thieves. If they see what they like during a little “window shopping,” it takes only a moment to smash the glass, grab what they want and flee.

Even if you are only wandering from the car for a few minutes, always lock your valuables in the trunk, says the Los Angeles Police Department. If that’s not an option, hide them under the seats, in the glove box or in other compartments.

However, remember that some items just shouldn’t be left in an unattended vehicle under any circumstances, as we detail in “Never Leave These 9 Things in a Car.”

2. Thinking crooks won’t target your ‘old’ car

On the surface, this makes sense. Why would thieves pass by a gleaming, late-model sports car just so they can get their hands on your junker?

Marc Hinch, an auto theft investigator and creator of stolen911.com, explains to Reader’s Digest:

“In the 2000s, most vehicles started to come equipped with more advanced ignition systems such as chipped keys that need to be in proximity to the dash for the car to start. Many of the vehicles prior to this time are easy to start if you know how to manipulate the ignition.”

Your friends and family may make fun of that old rust-bucket, but car thieves know better. That’s why they have targeted cars like the 2000 Honda Civic.

So, don’t lower your guard just because the mileage on your ride is a bit high.

3. Buying cars with cloth tops

If you love your convertible or jeep, this might be a tough one to swallow. But thieves view cloth tops as a prime target. As Nationwide Insurance says:

“Obviously, it’s easier to break into a ‘rag top’ than a sheet of reinforced metal. For a thief, convertibles can be an easy target.”

A heavy-duty knife can quietly cut through a cloth top like butter. From a criminal’s perspective, what’s not to love?

4. Parking on dark, quiet streets

As with cockroaches, thieves like to do their dirty work in the dark. Whenever possible, park your car in a well-lighted place with lots of foot traffic.

Choosing the right parking space is also important for your personal safety. According to the police department in Boulder, Colorado:

“Avoid parking near trucks, vans, dumpsters and other objects that obstruct visibility and provide hiding places. Avoid parking or walking near strangers loitering or sitting in vehicles. Check that no one is hiding around your vehicle before you get out.”

5. Keeping your car running unattended

If you’ve ever spent a winter in a city like Boston, Minneapolis or Buffalo, New York, you know the temptation to leave the car running unattended on a subzero day while you wait for it to get nice and toasty.

But doing so — even if you have a spare key and you lock the doors — can turn your car into the easiest target a thief will ever find.

Don’t believe us? One week last December, Minneapolis police reported that about 82% of car thefts involved vehicles that were left running.

6. Imagining parking lots are a safe zone

Having dozens or hundreds of cars surrounding your vehicle in a giant parking lot might give you a feeling of safety. What are the odds that a car thief will choose your vehicle?

But thieves love parking lots. Seeing all those vehicles — near a store, at the airport or outside a stadium — is enough to evoke a Pavlovian response from shady car crooks.

In recent years, there has been a rash of incidents where thieves in San Francisco stole catalytic converters and wheels from scores of cars parked in lots associated with the area’s BART public transportation system. And that tale plays out countless times in lots across the nation.

So, remember that there is no reason to think your car won’t end up in a crook’s crosshairs.

7. Hiding a spare key inside the car

Think you found a great place to hide a spare key? Maybe you tuck it deep into the glove compartment, bury it in the center console or slide it into a change tray.

Steve Fuller — a former car thief — is aware of all those tricks. And he’s used them to his advantage. As ABC News reports:

“Fuller said 90 percent of the vehicles he’s stolen came from him just scoping out the vehicle, finding the keys, and taking the vehicle.”

8. Making things easy for you — and thieves

Are you a driver who likes to back into spaces so it’s easier to drive away later? Remember that the same thought occurs to thieves looking for vehicles that offer them a quick getaway.

So, reconsider backing into that spot. Also, when you park on the street, turn your wheels in toward the curb. It may sound silly, but every little thing you do to make your car less appealing to thieves can save you major headaches.

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.

Read Next
5 States Where Drivers Pay the Most for Car Insurance
5 States Where Drivers Pay the Most for Car Insurance

Auto insurance will cost you more than three times as much in one state compared with another. Here’s how to lower your rates no matter where you live.

8 Things I Always Buy at Target
8 Things I Always Buy at Target

I grew up shopping at the original Target store and am a lifelong fan. Here are my favorite purchases.

7 Kitchen Gadgets That Make Healthy Cooking a Breeze
7 Kitchen Gadgets That Make Healthy Cooking a Breeze

These small appliances and cooking aids make healthy eating easy — and they’re all available on Amazon.

7 Ways Coupons Waste Your Money and Time
7 Ways Coupons Waste Your Money and Time

Here’s why I hung up my scissors and quit clipping coupons.

5 Surveys For Money Sites To Get Paid For Your Opinion
5 Surveys For Money Sites To Get Paid For Your Opinion

Yes, you can earn extra cash by taking online surveys. But some websites are better than others for this. Here are a few of our favorites.

View this page without ads

Help us produce more money-saving articles and videos by subscribing to a membership.

Get Started

Most Popular
11 Senior Discounts for Anyone Age 55 or Older
11 Senior Discounts for Anyone Age 55 or Older

There is no need to wait until you’re 65 to take advantage of so-called “senior” discounts.

20 Things That Are Actually Worth Stockpiling
20 Things That Are Actually Worth Stockpiling

You don’t need a year’s supply of toilet paper to survive an outbreak, but consider stocking up on these items.

Can a Twice-Divorced Woman Claim Social Security Survivors Benefits?
Can a Twice-Divorced Woman Claim Social Security Survivors Benefits?

Understanding survivors benefits rules is the key to getting the most from your benefit.

9 Things You’ll Never See at Costco Again
9 Things You’ll Never See at Costco Again

The warehouse store offers an enormous selection, but these products aren’t coming back.

These Are the 10 Worst Cars for Depreciation
These Are the 10 Worst Cars for Depreciation

Two types of vehicles are especially likely to see steep plunges in value.

Never Buy These 10 Things With Your Credit Card
Never Buy These 10 Things With Your Credit Card

Credit cards offer many conveniences and protections, but sometimes it’s simply smarter to keep the plastic tucked away.

13 Amazon Purchases That We Are Loving Right Now
13 Amazon Purchases That We Are Loving Right Now

These practical products make everyday life a little easier.

10 Things I Always Buy at Trader Joe’s
10 Things I Always Buy at Trader Joe’s

From snacks to sweets to side dishes, stock your cart with these time-tested favorites on your next TJ’s run.

8 Surprising Household Items You Can Sell for Fast Cash
8 Surprising Household Items You Can Sell for Fast Cash

Sometimes, the humblest household items are worth the most money.

19 High-Paying Jobs You Can Get With a 2-Year Degree
19 High-Paying Jobs You Can Get With a 2-Year Degree

There are easy high-paying majors available in the U.S. — and no bachelor’s degree is required. We’re here to help you find easy degrees that pay well.

Cut These 11 Expenses Now If You Hope to Retire Early
Cut These 11 Expenses Now If You Hope to Retire Early

Like the idea of financial independence? Part of the FIRE equation is cutting costs.

5 Ways Social Security Will Change in 2021
5 Ways Social Security Will Change in 2021

These adjustments will affect both workers and retirees in the new year.

Stop Buying These 19 Things Online
Stop Buying These 19 Things Online

The internet has changed how we shop. But for some things, you’re still better off buying the old-fashioned way.

15 Products You Need — Even If You Didn’t Know It
15 Products You Need — Even If You Didn’t Know It

Discover some must-have products on Amazon that you didn’t even know you were missing.

3 Ways to Get Microsoft Office for Free
3 Ways to Get Microsoft Office for Free

With a little ingenuity, you can cut Office costs to zero.

7 Tips for Building an Emergency Food Supply
7 Tips for Building an Emergency Food Supply

A pandemic or natural disaster could leave you reliant on your existing emergency food supply. Is your pantry well-prepared for emergencies? Knowing what to stock up on for emergencies can be a difficult task and we’re here to help.

These Are the 4 Best Medicare Advantage Plans for 2020
These Are the 4 Best Medicare Advantage Plans for 2020

Medicare Advantage customers themselves rate these plans highest.

Seniors With COVID-19 May Display This Unusual Symptom
Seniors With COVID-19 May Display This Unusual Symptom

Largely asymptomatic seniors may experience a symptom not commonly associated with the coronavirus.

8 Things You Should Buy at Restaurant Supply Stores
8 Things You Should Buy at Restaurant Supply Stores

You don’t have to be a chef or a restaurant owner to shop here.

View More Articles

View this page without ads

Help us produce more money-saving articles and videos by subscribing to a membership.

Get Started

Add a Comment

Our Policy: We welcome relevant and respectful comments in order to foster healthy and informative discussions. All other comments may be removed. Comments with links are automatically held for moderation.