8 Things That Make Your Car an Easy Target for Thieves

Table of Contents Sponsored: Find the right financial adviser1. Leaving valuables in sight2. Thinking crooks won’t target your ‘old’ car3. Buying cars with cloth tops4. Parking on dark, quiet streets5. Keeping your car running unattended6. Imagining parking lots are a safe zone7. Hiding a spare key inside the car8. Making […]

Leaving car doors unlocked or keys in the ignition are invitations to theft. Everyone knows that.



a close up of a person wearing a costume: Editor's Note: This story originally appeared on Porch. Despite perceptions of rising crime, theft has become far less common in recent years than it used to be, and property crime rates declined even more sharply during the pandemic. That said, there are still hotspots where break-ins and burglaries are far more common than in the typical American neighborhood. While approximately 400 burglaries and 1,700 larceny-thefts per 100,000 people annually have been the national norm over the past five years, there are cities in the United States that report rates double or even triple those numbers. As with anything, an understanding of what burglars are after and where they are active can help keep the trend heading lower. Over the last decade, the number of larceny-thefts fell nearly 20% from 6.3 million to 5.1 million, and the number of burglaries was cut in half from 2.2 million to 1.1 million, according to FBI statistics from 2015 to 2019.  And it’s not a new trend. Since 1993, property crimes declined dramatically — by 55% to 71%, depending on which source of stats you look at, Pew Research found. Looking at the past five years of crime data, burglars were about twice as likely to target a home than a business or other building, and nearly half of all burglaries occurred during broad daylight. Once in, thieves were often after two items in particular: money and jewelry. Together, those valuables were worth more than the remaining top categories of stolen goods combined. Of those other items, office equipment, electronics and clothing were common targets. To find out which cities were hotspots for theft, researchers at Porch analyzed data from the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting Program between 2015 to 2019 and then calculated the average number of burglaries and larceny-thefts per 100,000 residents. Here are the large U.S. cities (350,000 or more residents) with the most burglaries. It’s not the usual blah, blah, blah. Click here to sign up for our free newsletter. Sponsored: Find the right financial adviser Finding a financial adviser you can trust doesn’t have to be hard. A great place to start is with SmartAsset’s free financial adviser matching tool, which connects you with up to three qualified financial advisers in five minutes. Each adviser is vetted by SmartAsset and is legally required to act in your best interests. If you’re ready to be matched with local advisers who will help you reach your financial goals, get started now.


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Editor’s Note: This story originally appeared on Porch.

Despite perceptions of rising crime, theft has become far less common in recent years than it used to be, and property crime rates declined even more sharply during the pandemic.

That said, there are still hotspots where break-ins and burglaries are far more common than in the typical American neighborhood. While approximately 400 burglaries and 1,700 larceny-thefts per 100,000 people annually have been the national norm over the past five years, there are cities in the United States that report rates double or even triple those numbers.

As with anything, an understanding of what burglars are after and where they are active can help keep the trend heading lower. Over the last decade, the number of larceny-thefts fell nearly 20% from 6.3 million to 5.1 million, and the number of burglaries was cut in half from 2.2 million to 1.1 million, according to FBI statistics from 2015 to 2019.

And it’s not a new trend. Since 1993, property crimes declined dramatically — by 55% to 71%, depending on which source of stats you look at, Pew Research found.

Looking at the past five years of crime data, burglars were about twice as likely to target a home than a business or other building, and nearly half of all burglaries occurred during broad daylight. Once in, thieves were often after two items in particular: money and jewelry. Together, those valuables were worth more than the remaining top categories of stolen goods combined. Of those other items, office equipment, electronics and clothing were common targets.

To find out which cities were hotspots for theft, researchers at Porch analyzed data from the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting Program between 2015 to 2019 and then calculated the average number of burglaries and larceny-thefts per 100,000 residents.

Here are the large U.S. cities (350,000 or more residents) with the most burglaries.

It’s not the usual blah, blah, blah. Click here to sign up for our free newsletter.

Sponsored: Find the right financial adviser

Finding a financial adviser you can trust doesn’t have to be hard. A great place to start is with SmartAsset’s free financial adviser matching tool, which connects you with up to three qualified financial advisers in five minutes. Each adviser is vetted by SmartAsset and is legally required to act in your best interests.

If you’re ready to be matched with local advisers who will help you reach your financial goals, get started now.


But there are a host of less obvious mistakes that also might make your ride easy prey for thieves.

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Following are some dumb moves that put our cars — and the contents inside — at risk.

1. Leaving valuables in sight

Leaving valuables visible inside your car is like creating a store display for thieves. If they see what they like during a little “window shopping,” it takes only a moment to smash the glass, grab what they want and flee.

Even if you are only wandering from the car for a few minutes, always lock your valuables in the trunk, says the Los Angeles Police Department. If that’s not an option, hide them under the seats, in the glove box or in other compartments.

However, remember that some items just shouldn’t be left in an unattended vehicle under any circumstances, as we detail in “9 Things You Should Never Leave in a Car.”

2. Thinking crooks won’t target your ‘old’ car

On the surface, this makes sense. Why would thieves pass by a gleaming, late-model sports car just so they can get their hands on your junker?

Marc Hinch, an auto theft investigator and creator of stolen911.com, explains the appeal of older cars to Reader’s Digest:

“In the 2000s, most vehicles started to come equipped with more advanced ignition systems such as chipped keys that need to be in proximity to the dash for the car to start. Many of the vehicles prior to this time are easy to start if you know how to manipulate the ignition.”

Your friends and family may make fun of that old rust-bucket, but car thieves know better. That’s why they target cars like the 2000 Honda Civic.

So, don’t lower your guard just because the mileage on your ride is a bit high.

3. Buying cars with cloth tops

If you love your convertible or jeep, this might be a tough one to swallow. But thieves view cloth tops as a prime target. As Nationwide Insurance says:

“Obviously, it’s easier to break into a ‘rag top’ than a sheet of reinforced metal. For a thief, convertibles can be an easy target.”

A heavy-duty knife can quietly cut through a cloth top like butter. From a criminal’s perspective, what’s not to love?

Related: 10 Bad Money Habits That Are Robbing You Blind

4. Parking on dark, quiet streets

As with cockroaches, thieves like to do their dirty work in the dark. Whenever possible, park your car in a well-lighted place with lots of foot traffic.

Choosing the right parking space is also important for your personal safety. According to the police department in Boulder, Colorado:

“Avoid parking near trucks, vans, dumpsters and other objects that obstruct visibility and provide hiding places. Avoid parking or walking near strangers loitering or sitting in vehicles. Check that no one is hiding around your vehicle before you get out.”

5. Keeping your car running unattended

If you’ve ever spent a winter in a city like Boston, Minneapolis or Buffalo, New York, you know the temptation to leave the car running unattended on a subzero day while you wait for it to get nice and toasty.

But doing so — even if you have a spare key and you lock the doors — can turn your car into the easiest target a thief will ever find.

Don’t believe us? A couple of winters ago, Minneapolis police reported that about 82% of car thefts involved vehicles that were left running.

6. Imagining parking lots are a safe zone

Having dozens or hundreds of cars surrounding your vehicle in a giant parking lot might give you a feeling of safety. What are the odds that a car thief will choose your vehicle?

But thieves love parking lots. Seeing all those vehicles — near a store, at the airport or outside a stadium — is enough to evoke a Pavlovian response from shady car crooks.

For example, thieves in San Francisco have stolen catalytic converters and wheels from scores of cars parked in lots associated with the area’s BART public transportation system. And that tale plays out countless times in lots across the nation.

So, remember that there is no reason to think your car won’t end up in a crook’s crosshairs.

7. Hiding a spare key inside the car

Think you found a great place to hide a spare key? Maybe you tuck it deep into the glove compartment, bury it in the center console or slide it into a change tray.

Steve Fuller — a former car thief — is aware of all those tricks. And he’s used them to his advantage. As ABC News reports:

“Fuller said 90 percent of the vehicles he’s stolen came from him just scoping out the vehicle, finding the keys, and taking the vehicle.”

8. Making things easy for you — and thieves

Are you a driver who likes to back into spaces so it’s easier to drive away later? Remember that the same thought occurs to thieves looking for vehicles that offer them a quick getaway.

So, reconsider backing into that spot. Also, when you park on the street, turn your wheels in toward the curb. It may sound silly, but every little thing you do to make your car less appealing to thieves helps.

Sponsored: Find the right financial adviser

Finding a financial adviser you can trust doesn’t have to be hard. A great place to start is with SmartAsset’s free financial adviser matching tool, which connects you with up to three qualified financial advisers in five minutes. Each adviser is vetted by SmartAsset and is legally required to act in your best interests.

If you’re ready to be matched with local advisers who will help you reach your financial goals, get started now.

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