How To Prevent Vehicle Theft

You may be more prone to them in certain places, but no one is ever safe from car thieves

A vehicle is stolen every 33 seconds in the United States. And many of those thefts could be prevented.

That's a pretty sobering thought, especially given that only about 57% of those vehicles end up being recovered. Drivers need to be ever vigilant in protecting their car from thieves.

Amazingly, a large number of thefts come from stupid owner behavior. Some 40% to 50% of thefts were the result of driver error, like leaving keys in the ignition or leaving the doors unlocked.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recently released a trove of statistics from 2008 regarding vehicular theft in the United States. Much of the information can help drivers ensure that their car doesn't become one of the nearly 1 million that were reported stolen three years ago.

Certain Vehicles And Areas More Prone To Car Theft

The NHTSA statistics show that certain models of cars are stolen more than others. Interestingly, instead of fancy sports cars or expensive SUVs, most stolen cars – 72% in fact – are run-of-the-mill passenger cars. In 2008, the top ten stolen vehicles were: the Dodge Magnum, Pontiac Grand Prix, Dodge Charger, Mitsubishi Galant, Chrysler 300, Hyundai Azera, Chrysler Sebring, Chrysler Pacifica, Chrysler PT Cruiser and Hyundai Sonata.

And though no one is safe from vehicle theft, the statistics show that living in certain places could make you more prone to having your car stolen. According to the data, the top ten states for vehicular theft are: California, Florida, Texas, Illinois, Georgia, Nevada, Maryland, North Carolina, Arizona, Missouri and New Jersey.

Both NHTSA and Consumer Reports couldn't comment about why certain states and vehicles are prone to theft, so we are left to speculate on the reasoning behind these trends.

Thieves Want Your Parts, Too

Given that thieves can make tons of money by selling off individual parts, it's no surprise that they will often target a car simply for its components. And we're not talking just radios and wheels. NHTSA describes certain car components as "hot parts," which are parts that thieves are particularly interested in. The list includes air bags, batteries, catalytic converters, GPS units, DVD entertainment systems and items left visible in your car such as iPods, computers and purses.

NHTSA has instituted a parts-marking system to help deter component theft. These federal rules require automakers to place a vehicle's VIN on certain parts so they can be more easily tracked in the case that they are stolen. However, these "hot parts" do not fall under NHTSA's regulatory responsibility, thus they don't have any identification markings that could make them easier to recover. So, odds are that if you have a "hot part" stolen, you're not going to see it again.

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How to Prevent auto theft

Use Common Sense

Above all else, NHTSA recommends simply using common sense as a defense against car theft. When parking and exiting your vehicle, try to run through a short checklist in your mind:

-Do I have the key?
-Are the doors and windows shut and locked?
-Am I parked in a well-lit area?
-Are there any valuables that could be seen?

Additionally, NHTSA urges drivers to park in their garage, not the driveway, whenever possible and to never, for any reason, leave the area while a vehicle is still running.

Bottom Line: No one is safe from vehicular theft, but you could be more prone to it if you live in certain places or drive a certain car. Use common sense when parking or leaving your car for the night. Make sure you lock up, hide your valuables and never leave the area while your car is running.

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