How to Protect Your Car From Theft or Report it Stolen 

About a million vehicles are stolen each year in the U.S., which is nearly one every 30 seconds. Summer is the most likely time for car theft, says the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

A car is a big investment for most people, as well as an extension of their identity. We spend so much time driving that our cars are part of us; they are the places where we take important calls and have significant conversations with friends and family members. Losing our vehicles to theft is a terrible situation: there’s lots of red tape involved with insurance companies and inconvenience getting to our daily activities. Protecting a car is the best way to prevent car theft. Read on and find out how.

Tips for Car Theft Prevention

Here are some key tips for car theft prevention that you can implement easily for maximum security.

Keep Your Car in a Secure Area

Where you live and work are important contributors to the security of your car, but they are also difficult variables to control. If you’re in a high-theft area and have a vehicle that is sought after, you may feel stressed just going about your daily business.

According to the National Insurance Crime Bureau, the hardest places to prevent car theft in the US are as follows:

  1. Bakersfield, California
  2. Denver-Aurora-Lakewood, Colorado
  3. Pueblo, Colorado
  4. Albuquerque, New Mexico
  5. Portland-Vancouver-Hillsboro (Oregon/Washington)

Yet a car theft can happen anywhere, anytime. Just because a community isn’t on the high theft list doesn’t mean someone won’t steal your car if they have an opportunity to do so. Many law enforcement jurisdictions saw spikes in thefts when a theft technique was shared on TikTok.

Use Car Theft Prevention Devices

Car theft prevention is a matter of making it a tiny bit harder for a thief to break into and steal your car than the one next to yours. If you have visible cues that make a thief think twice, you may escape the aggravation of a stolen car. Try things like:

  • Removing the stereo or any other valuable components.
  • Downgrading the wheels to something nobody wants.
  • Install an alarm with a visible blinking light that warns people when it’s armed and a loud, blaring horn when it’s disturbed.
  • Use a simple steering wheel lock that prevents the car from being driven away even if the engine is hotwired.
  • Install a hidden kill switch that disables the engine.

Leave Keys in a Secure Place

If you’re in the habit of hanging your keys on a rack by the door when you’re at the gym or leaving it on the bar when you’re out with friends, you could be inviting trouble. Be more cautious about your keys, which can be copied or mimicked, allowing your vehicle to be stolen without the key.

In isolated incidents, sophisticated thieves have been able to steal the transponder code from electronic ignition keys left hanging by the door of a house – without needing access to the house. By relaying the electronic signature of the key to a special frequency reader they can open the vehicle door and start the engine. Put keys in a drawer or similar spot away from obvious spaces where a key rack might be hung to prevent car theft.

Lock The Car

The simple act of ensuring that doors are locked and windows are up is a theft deterrent. If you can, make it a habit to click the lock on your key fob when you’re stepping away from the vehicle. If you have a smart vehicle, you should be able to set an automatic lock feature that kicks in within a minute of the vehicle stopping and the engine turning off. Soon, car theft prevention will be part of your daily routine.

Track Your Car

An AirTag, LoJack, or similar tracker left in your vehicle will help you find it if it is stolen. Depending upon what a thief finds attractive about your car, they may just want to joyride for a while and then leave it alongside the road. Others may speed to a chopshop that wants to tear out and resell the stereo, airbags, wheels, doors, and other components. Either way, being able to direct police to the vehicle’s location quickly will save a lot of time and aggravation.

Take Valuables Out of the Vehicle

Some cities, like San Francisco, are plagued by car thieves who look for easy items to pick up and walk away with, such as packages left on porches and valuables in vehicles. If you remove any enticing items from your car, including a gym bag, car seats, or grocery bags, they will be less likely to break a window to take that item. These precautions will also prevent car theft.

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What to Do After Car Theft

Being the victim of car theft is stressful, but there are steps you can take to recover and minimize the damage. Here's a crucial guide on how to react and what actions to prioritize after your car was stolen:

Call the Police

Don’t delay calling authorities if you discover your car was stolen. Police will enter the vehicle details into their database so that patrol cars and other locations equipped with license plate lookup devices (at bridges, intersections, and in parks) may pick up its location before it is taken out of town.

Local police will also enter the vehicle information into stolen car databases for surrounding states, multiplying the number of officers looking for it. You will need a copy of the police report to send to your insurance company (it may take a few days to weeks for it to be completed).

Contact Car Theft Insurance

Your insurance company may have an arm dedicated to stolen vehicles. Call the general customer service number to find out about your options for a rental car to use while yours is unavailable, as well as any paperwork needed to declare it stolen so that a replacement can be purchased.

While there isn’t a specific car theft insurance, if you have the right level of insurance (usually called comprehensive), you may be reimbursed for the actual cash value of your car. There’s usually a 30-day waiting period for insurance companies to approve reimbursement.

Reach out Local Authorities

Your homeowners' association may have camera footage that you can provide to the police to find the person who stole your car. Information about your experience can be turned into information for local residents seeking to prevent car theft, including tips about parking in lighted areas, locking vehicles, and removing valuables. Teaching car theft prevention to others can turn an unhappy episode into something positive.

Contact the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV)

The State Department of Motor Vehicles may be contacted to cancel your registration in case the thief tries to pass the vehicle off as their own. They will help regardless of your driver’s license status (suspended or revoked).

How to Report a Car Stolen?

In order to report your car stolen, you should assemble the following information, then call the police. Use 9-1-1 if you saw the car pulling out of your driveway within minutes; if it’s been hours or days, you may instead call the local police department’s business number. These are the documents to have in hand:

  • Car title with license plate number and VIN (Vehicle Identification Number), as well as make, model, and year.
  • Registration information, including your full name and home address.
  • Information about the car’s color and other identifying marks (stickers, unique attributes, etc.).
  • Location where the vehicle was parked when it was stolen.

Car Theft


Now that you’ve learned how to report a car stolen, you’ll never want to go through it. The best way to prevent car theft is deterrence, including locking your car and leaving it in well-lighted areas where there may be video surveillance. When a car is stolen, it’s a major headache for the owner. It’s important to approach the situation as realistically as possible, understanding that law enforcement officers have lots of work to do but will use their resources to track down the vehicle. Be prepared with documents and descriptions.


Does Car Insurance Cover Theft?

Car insurance may cover theft if you have the right level of insurance, but it’s unlikely that anyone offers a specific car theft insurance product. Most companies call car theft insurance “comprehensive” or “replacement” insurance, which carries a higher premium than the minimum level of insurance. Your deductible will also be subtracted from the amount that is paid out after a car theft. What you’ll be left with is approximately the actual cash value of the car.

How to Get a Car out of Anti Theft Mode With a Key?

If you have an after-market anti-theft device (an alarm or kill switch) installed, pay attention to the directions for disabling it. There may be a switch you need to toggle or a button on a fob that should be pressed before accessing the car. Sometimes it’s enough to open the door locks with the usual key fob but an after-market device may involve additional steps.

What Are Anti-theft Devices for a Car?

Anti-theft devices for a car can be any number of devices, including:

  1. A hidden kill switch that prevents the motor from starting.
  2. A steering wheel lock that prevents the wheel from turning even if the car is started.
  3. An alarm that sounds, including blowing the horn, if a window is broken or a door is opened when an anti-theft device for the car is enabled.
  4. Learning about how to report a car stolen will help you remember to lock your vehicle and remove valuables, turning you into an anti-theft device for your car.