What Do Car Thieves Look For?

Thanks to advancements in security features, car theft rates have been reduced across America. There are plenty of anti-theft features that you can opt for when buying a new car that keep it safe from car thieves.

In spite of this, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that one car is stolen every 45 seconds. This means that over 700,000 cars are stolen annually. Less than half of these are ever recovered.

More car owners are taking a proactive stance by finding creative ways to keep their cars safe and reduce the likelihood of them getting targeted by car thieves. Of course, car thieves are also acquiring more sophisticated tactics to achieve their goals.

Where they once used to smash the window and hot-wire cars, the new breed of car thieves is tech-savvy and employs tactics that do not glaringly look suspicious such as car hacking. So how can you keep your car safe?

What Car Thieves Look For

Here are a few things that could make your car a target:

Make and Model

There are some cars that thieves prefer over others. This may be because they are easy to re-sell or their parts are in high demand. According to the National Insurance Crime Bureau, the most stolen cars in the U.S. are:

  • Honda Civic
  • Honda Accord
  • Ford Pickup full size
  • Chevrolet Pickup
  • Chevrolet Impala
  • Dodge Pickup
  • Toyota Camry
  • Toyota Corolla
  • Nissan Altima
  • Grand Cherokee/Jeep Cherokee

grand theft auto

Old School Vehicles

Older cars are easier to break into because they do not have too many advanced safety features. They do not have engine immobilizers, complex security systems, vehicle tracking devices, or even electronic door locks, making them an easy target.

If your car is no longer in production, its vintage parts also become rare and increasingly valuable. This makes old-school cars very attractive to car thieves who want to make quick money.

So, if you have an old-school car, it is best to install steering locks, alarm systems, GPS trackers, or ignition immobilizers to keep it safe.

Valuables in The Car

The NHTSA estimates that up to 50% of car theft is as a result of owner error. Car thieves are attracted to the valuables in your car if they can be quickly sold. Having visible money, electronic devices, or bags in your car is likely to attract thieves.

Large blankets draped over your car seats also give the illusion of something valuable being hidden from plain view. A car thief will break into your car and drive off with it to make sure they can get away with all your valuables. To avoid this, use the boot to store all your valuables.

Mounted GPS Units

Most vehicles carrying mounted GPS units carry valuable items and may tempt a car thief to break into your car. Suction marks on your windscreen or even an empty mounting device are enough indicators for a car thief to think of stealing or breaking into your car.

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Car Parts

Most car thieves are not looking for a new car. Many of them are looking for cars whose parts have a high resale value, such as vintage cars. If your car has custom wheels, high-end seats, and a custom engine, there is a high likelihood of it getting stolen.

If your car parts are not that valuable, car thieves are also likely to use your car to facilitate a crime. That is why it is important to report to authorities if your vehicle is stolen.

The Type of Car Alarm You Have

Most standard vehicle alarms will not protect you from car thieves because they have sophisticated methods of breaking into your car. Consider installing an after-market alternative to boost security.

Some factors to consider when choosing a car alarm are:

  • Two-way remotes: These give you feedback and respond to remote commands allowing you to control your car from a distance.
  • Glass-break sensors: These respond to the sound of windows breaking, unlike standard door alarms, which rely on the car doors being opened.
  • Motions sensor alarms: Consider these if you have a car that requires you to leave the top down, such as a convertible. They are also ideal for cargo trucks.
  • GPS syncing: This allows you to track your car and sends alerts to a mobile device if your car enters or leaves a pre-programmed area. It also tells the speed at which a car is driving. This is the best option for you if you have a one-of-a-kind vehicle that would be difficult to replace because it increases the chances of recovery.
  • Tilt sensor monitors: These detect motion if you left your car parked. Any attempt to tow, tilt, or even jack up the vehicle will raise the alarm.

stealing a car

Your State

Some states experience car theft at higher rates than others. States such as California, Illinois, Florida, Texas, and Colorado account for the most car thefts by volume. In 2021 Colorado had the highest overall rate, with up to 4,000 thefts per month and annual rates expected to exceed 48,000.


Where you park your cars also matters. A car thief is more likely to break into your car if it is parked in unlit alleys, unmonitored areas, or shady parking garages. These areas give them enough time to break into your car without anyone noticing.

Always park in well-lit spaces. You can also invest in safety technology, such as camera monitoring systems.

Your Car Color

The color of your car can also attract car thieves. A red car is hard to miss, however, if your car has a dull or common color, it can be hard to notice. These colors include:

  • Silver
  • Black
  • White
  • Gold
  • Dark green

The above colors are popular with car owners and account for a majority in car sales. Colors that are common are preferable to most thieves who want to use your car to facilitate a crime.

How to Prevent Car Theft

There are some obvious things that you can do to prevent your car from being targeted by people with malicious intentions.

  • Always lock your car, even if it is parked outside your home or just outside a shop where you need to run a quick errand. Consider double-checking your doors before you leave.
  • Do not leave your car running.
  • Never leave your valuables, such as money, electronics, or handbags, in plain view. Sometimes even a key left on the dashboard can invite a car thief to try and break into your car so they can have access to your home or office.
  • Close all windows when leaving your car, including the sunroof.
  • Park in a well-lit spot
  • Invest in anti-theft systems such as car alarms. Do not rely on the car alarm that came standard with your car, as most thieves already know how to get around them.
  • Invest in an electronic tracking system particularly if you own a high-end model or a collector’s model that would be difficult to replace.

car theft

What To Do If Your Car is Stolen

If you think your car has been stolen, take these necessary steps:

  • Verify that it has not been towed. If you left the car on private property, contact the owner, nearby businesses, or the parking lot attendant to ensure that it was not towed. You can also check websites that allow you to locate towed cars using the license plate.
  • If you can verify it was not towed, contact the police. You will be required to provide certain details, including the VIN number, make and model, year, color, and license plate.
  • Contact your insurance company.
  • If your car is leased, report to the lender.

Final Thoughts

Do not tempt an opportunistic car thief to break into your car or home. Use these tips to raise their risk and deter them or increase the chances of recovering your stolen car.

Made it to the end? Here are other articles you might enjoy:

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