5 Tips to Protect Your Vehicle from Theft

Most of us never give our car or truck a second thought. We depend on them to get us where we need to go — and we always expect them to be right where we left them.

But thieves can shatter that expectation. If your vehicle suddenly disappeared, would you know what to do?

By better understanding the problem ─ and possible strategies to prevent it, you may be able to protect yourself. And, should the worst occur, you might be better prepared to deal with an incident. Let's take a closer look.

How common is vehicle theft?

More than a million drivers each year fall victim to this crime — and that number is on the rise.1

Vehicle theft is a big business, attracting both common thieves and organized crime rings.2 In 2022, a motor vehicle was stolen every 32 seconds in the United States. Remarkably, about half of those were due to driver error.3

Fortunately, there are some simple strategies that you can take to reduce the chances that you'll experience vehicle theft.

What are the 5 savvy ways to prevent your vehicle from theft?

Experienced thieves can steal any vehicle, but you can make it harder for them by using these five tips.

  1. Lock your doors, close your windows

    Motor vehicle theft is often a crime of opportunity.4 For instance, a large percentage of recently stolen vehicles in the San Antonio area were left unlocked,5 making them easy targets for theft. Locked doors and closed windows are a barrier to access, limiting opportunity for your vehicle to be targeted.

  2. Remove your key from the ignition and take all keys and fobs out of the vehicle

    Leaving keys or key fobs visible gives car thieves easy access to your car or truck. Yet in the midst of running errands, it's easy to make a mistake and forget to take them with you. That’s why the National Insurance Crime Bureau advises drivers to take all keys or fobs with you when exiting the vehicle.6

  3. Park in well-lit areas

    Parking your vehicle in a well-lit, highly trafficked area may deter thieves. If you can, keep exterior lights on at your home. Darkness offers thieves cover to work unnoticed, even in your own driveway.

  4. Install and maintain an alarm system

    Alarm systems can have both an audible and a visual component, such as a horn alarm and flashing lights. These devices bring attention, which makes it harder for thieves attempting to steal or enter a car or truck. Other visible anti-theft devices such as steering-wheel locks may also deter thieves.

  5. Don’t leave valuables in your car or trunk

    Having valuables in plain sight can make your vehicle a target. For this reason, it is often recommended that you take valuables with you when you leave your car.7 If you are in a situation where you do need to hide something of value in your trunk, do so before you arrive at your destination since thieves may stake out parking lots, watching for people who move items into hiding.8 As soon as you leave the vehicle, they may break into the trunk.

Are there times of year when a vehicle may be more vulnerable to theft?

Vehicle theft increases in the summer, spiking in July.9 The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) also holds its anti-theft campaign — National Vehicle Theft Prevention Month — annually to call attention to the problem. But you should remain vigilant year-round: “warm-up thefts10 can be common in winter months, even in Texas.

Which vehicles are most attractive to thieves? Why?

Nearly three-quarters of all motor vehicles stolen are passenger cars. Each year, the National Insurance Crime Bureau releases “Hot Wheels”,11 its annual auto theft report. This report lists the most stolen vehicles.

In recent years, the top five vehicles have frequently included:

  • Chevrolet Pick-Up (Full-size)
  • Ford Pick-Up (Full-size)
  • Honda Civic
  • Honda Accord
  • Toyota Camry

The vehicles’ popularity with drivers and availability may help make them popular targets.

What should you do if your vehicle is stolen?

Should you become a victim of vehicle theft, the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles provides a good outline of steps to take.12 Naturally, you should immediately contact the police to file a report. When you meet with the officer, you'll need to provide your Vehicle Identification Number (VIN), which may help law enforcement locate your car. Unsure where to locate the VIN of a missing vehicle? Review your insurance policy or loan documentation. If you cannot locate the VIN easily, consider reaching out directly to your insurance company or the financial lender who provided your car loan. They likely will have it on file for easy retrieval.

After meeting with law enforcement, you'll want to report the theft or burglary to your insurance provider. Reporting a theft immediately can protect you if the thief uses your automobile to cause harm to others while in possession of it. For claims support, you’ll need to contact your insurance carrier directly using contact information on your vehicle policy or website.

>> Tip: Although no one anticipates vehicle theft, consider storing essential information such as the VIN, your license plate number and your insurance carrier's customer support number on your phone for easy reference. Own more than one vehicle? Store all of the relevant info in a single file and share it with drivers in your household.

The takeaway

Although vehicle thefts are on the rise, taking a few simple precautions might make your vehicle a less desirable target for thieves.

And, remember: when it comes to protecting your vehicle with auto insurance, RBFCU Insurance Agency can serve as your advocate, guiding you through multiple insurance carriers to be sure you've got the coverage you need at a good price. Contact us today, or request a quote or a policy review online.

Questions? We’re here to help.
To learn more about auto insurance coverage options, request a quote or have us review your existing policy for added peace of mind,
reach out to us today.

Last updated October 2023

Information in this article is general in nature and for your consideration, not as financial advice. Please contact your own financial professionals regarding your specific needs before taking any action based upon this information.

RBFCU Insurance Agency LLC is a wholly-owned subsidiary of RBFCU Services LLC. RBFCU Services LLC is affiliated with Randolph-Brooks Federal Credit Union (RBFCU). Insurance products are not deposits; are not obligations of the credit union; not NCUA insured; and not guaranteed by RBFCU Insurance Agency LLC, RBFCU Services LLC or RBFCU.

RBFCU Insurance Agency is an independent insurance agency. It is the role of the RBFCU Insurance Agent to obtain quotes from multiple carriers and offer comparisons to determine adequate insurance coverage.

Insurance coverage, discounts and other features are subject to individual eligibility and availability.


The following sources were accessed July 2023

1“Vehicle Thefts Nationwide Surpass One Million for the First Time since 2008.” Nicb.org, https://www.nicb.org/news/news-releases/vehicle-thefts-nationwide-surpass-one-million-first-time-2008.

2“Prevent Auto Theft.” Nicb.org, https://www.nicb.org/prevent-fraud-theft/prevent-auto-theft.

3“Vehicle Theft Prevention.” NHTSA, https://www.nhtsa.gov/road-safety/vehicle-theft-prevention.

4Ncpc.org, http://archive.ncpc.org/resources/files/pdf/celebrate-safe-communities/NCPC-autotheft-101.pdf.

5Webber, Katrina, and Azian Bermea. “San Antonio Area Seeing a Troubling Trend When It Comes to Stolen Vehicles.” KSAT San Antonio, 23 Mar. 2023, https://www.ksat.com/news/local/2023/03/23/san-antonio-area-seeing-a-troubling-trend-when-it-comes-to-stolen-vehicles/.

6“Thefts of Vehicles with Keys Left inside Continue to Rise.” Nicb.org, https://www.nicb.org/news/news-releases/thefts-vehicles-keys-left-inside-continue-rise.

7,12“Motor Vehicle Crime Prevention Authority.” Txdmv.gov, https://www.txdmv.gov/motorists/consumer-protection/auto-theft-prevention.

8“Prevent Auto Burglaries.” Fremontpolice.gov, https://www.fremontpolice.gov/crime-prevention/auto-burglary.

9Geiger, Jennifer. “July Is a Hot Month for Car Thefts.” Cars.com, 21 June 2021, https://www.cars.com/articles/july-is-a-hot-month-for-car-thefts-437313/.

10Anschutz, Caroline. “AAA Reports That Warming Your Car in the Winter May Not Be a Good Idea.” Usnews.com, 16 Dec. 2022, https://cars.usnews.com/cars-trucks/features/aaa-says-dont-warm-your-car-up.

11“Chevrolet and Ford Full Size Pick-Ups Most Stolen Vehicles for Second Year in a Row.” Nicb.org, https://www.nicb.org/news/news-releases/chevrolet-and-ford-full-size-pick-ups-most-stolen-vehicles-second-year-row.