Lock Your Car
It may seem obvious, but it bears repeating: An unlocked car is an easy target. It’s normal to get complacent when you're comfortable with your surroundings, but if you let down your guard and don't bother locking the door, you're inviting thieves to strike.
Related: 7 Surprising Items Burglars Want to Steal from You
Don’t Leave Your Car Running
You may be tempted to leave the car running while you dash up to the ATM or whip into the gas station for a quick cup of coffee, but resist. A thief can just jump in and drive away. Many car thieves actually lie in wait at places where you’re likely to keep your car running to capitalize on a quick opportunity. And while it might seem like a smart winter trick to start the car and let it warm up for a few minutes while you're getting ready to go, you might as well simply hand the keys over to a thief. Don’t do it.
Related: 10 Low-Cost Ways to Improve Your Home Security
Be Smart About Where You Park
Cars get stolen in dark alleys for a reason. Thieves look for spots that are protected from view, giving them time and space to do their work. Always park your car in a well-lit, public place that gets regular foot traffic. If you park in a garage, don’t go to the far corner. Instead, pick a spot close to the entrance, where security cameras will be watching. At home, if you have the option to park in your garage, do it. It’s safer than leaving your car in the driveway or at the curb.
Related: 7 Ways You're Ruining Your Car
Don't Leave Valuables Inside
Again, this might seem obvious, but don’t leave valuables in plain view when you park your car. Take your portable devices with you, and don’t even leave change in the cupholder. You’d be amazed by how little it takes to attract a car thief.
Related: 15 Genius Tricks for Keeping Your Car Clean
Lock Your Steering Wheel
Devices like The Club and The Wrap will lock your steering wheel so the car can’t be driven. Their mere presence is a visual deterrent. And while these devices can be foiled by thieves, they slow them down enough to make your car a less attractive target.
Related: 10 Things You Never Thought to Keep in Your Car
Engrave the VIN on the Windshield
The VIN (Vehicle Identification Number) is a special identifier that's unique to your vehicle and that can be tied to you—and this is public information. If you engrave the VIN on your windshield and other windows, your car becomes much less valuable on the black market for parts. No thief wants to steal a car that is easily identifiable as stolen.
Related: 13 Hacks Every Car Owner Should Know
Wikimedia Commons via Molly Treece
Install a Kill Switch
A kill switch cuts the flow of electricity to the ignition switch or battery and disables the fuel pump. Installing a hidden kill switch is a great way to frustrate thieves and prevent them from actually stealing your car even if they've succeeded in breaking into it. Many new cars come with a kill switch installed, and cars that don't already have one can be easily retrofitted.
Related: 10 Ways to Burglar-Proof Your Home for Under $100
Remove Spare Keys
You might have an extra key in your car that you’re not even aware of. Some cars have valet keys stashed inside the owner’s manual or in the tool kit in the trunk. If you do have one, take it out. Thieves know exactly where to find these spares, and once they break in and find a key, the car's as good as gone. Also, don’t keep an extra key under the bumper or beneath the floor mat. Thieves routinely check those places as well.
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Close Your Windows
You might think leaving the windows open a crack couldn't do any harm, but even that little bit is enough for a thief to slide his fingers or a tool inside to knock the window off its track and get the door open. You might as well leave your car unlocked.
Related: 11 Ways You May Be Inviting Burglars Into Your Home
Install a Tracking Device
As a last line of defense, install a GPS tracking device on your car so that in the event it does get stolen, police will have some help finding it.
Related: The 10 Best Accessories You Can Buy for Your Car
Leaving your phone on the seat or letting your car idle for a few minutes might not seem like a big deal, but in a split-second you could be regretting that decision. Be cautious and don’t make these lazy mistakes. You’re better off being safe than sorry.
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