Don't make it easy for them to steal your car

7 Smart Ways to Deter Car Thieves

by Jessica Graham

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Let's face it, thieves are smart. But by following these practical tips, you can outsmart them.

Registration Stickers

A few years ago, a friend of mine got pulled over. She knew she wasn't speeding so she was puzzled. She was even more confused when the officer told her that her registration was expired.

"Expired?" she said. "I just put the new sticker on days ago."

"Did you remove the old stickers and clean the surface before you put the new one on?" the officer asked. My conscientious friend nodded that she did. The officer then said, "That's where you went wrong."

He went on to explain that by cleaning the surface, my friend had made it easy for someone to peel her sticker off her license plate. The officer told my friend how to get a new sticker (it involved a replacement fee and a trip to the DMV) and said that when she put the new sticker on, she should score it lightly with a key or razor blade. By doing so, the sticker would be more difficult (if not impossible) to remove.

My friend told me the story, and I've been heeding the officer's advice for years now with nary a registration sticker stolen.

Your Home Address

Are you one of the many people with your garage door opener clipped to your sun visor? Do you keep your vehicle's registration card in your glove compartment? If you have an in-car navigation system, is your home address programmed into the system under "home"?

If the answer to the above questions is "yes," if someone steals your car, they not only know where you live, but they also have access to your home! (Your home address is printed on your vehicle's registration.)

Program your home address under a different name. Further, instead of using a garage door opener that clips inside the car, upgrade to the key fob type.

Rather than keeping your registration in your glove box, put it in your wallet. If multiple people drive your car and you need to keep the registration in the car, some police departments advise on their websites that you can black out your home address only on your registration. Check with your local police department or their website for additional details.

Smart Ways to Deter Car Thieves

The Car Repair Shop

When you go to get your oil changed or your car repaired and they ask for your keys, do you give them all of your keys? Don't.

Car repair facilities and oil change locations store your home information in their computer's database. If you give them your entire key ring, all that an unscrupulous employee needs to do is steal the key to your house and now they have a way in. Instead of handing over all your keys, just give them the key they actually need, which is the one to your car.

Running Engines

Whether to warm your car in winter or cool it in summer, it's tempting to leave the car's engine running for a few moments before you get in. People often turn the car on to cool it and then go back inside for "just a few moments." That's all the time a thief needs to steal your car. If the engine is running, you need to be near your car.

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On a similar note, don't leave your valuables in your vehicle, even if your car is locked and parked in your own driveway or at your workplace and you've put any items of value out of sight. Thieves ransack cars, and while tucking things out of sight is better than leaving them out in the open, you're still taking a risk. This advice isn't anything you haven't heard before, but the one time you ignore it is the one time your car will be broken into.

The Parking Lot

Many parking lots and parking garages, especially high-traffic ones, have posted warnings regarding vehicle theft and break-ins. These signs inform patrons that they park at their own risk and that the company won't assume responsibility for any loss or damage. If you're parking in a spot with a posted warning, there is a good likelihood that incidents have already occurred here. Try to park in a well-lit spot, be extra vigilant, and if you have anything of value inside the car, put it in the trunk or out of view before you get to your destination. Doing it once you've arrived just invites trouble.  

Repeat Customers

If your neighborhood has been targeted by car thieves and you escaped unscathed, now is not the time to let your guard down. Thieves often hit the same location multiple times. All incidents should be reported to the police and shared with other neighbors. If your neighborhood has one, post to the neighborhood message boards or inform the homeowners association, so that you can reach the greatest number of people. Vigilance is the key to avoiding theft.

Take the Next Step:

  • Correct any 'theft invitations' in your car.
  • Are you taking the necessary steps to protect your home from thieves? Consider implementing these low cost home security tactics.
  • Discover more smart ways to save on auto maintenance and repairs by visiting the auto section of the Dollar Stretcher Library.
  • Reduce the cost of your gasoline with a 'gas card'. Compare them now to find the best one for you.
  • Join those who 'live better...for less' - Subscribe to The Dollar Stretcher newsletter, a weekly look at how to stretch both your day and your dollar! Subscribers get a copy of our ebook Little Luxuries: 130 Ways to Live Better...For Less for FREE!

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