In the time it takes to read this paragraph, a thief could boost your car. A car is stolen every 35 seconds in the United States, an annual number that approaches 900,000 total stolen vehicles.
And professional thieves harbor secrets that help them lift a car in less than 10 seconds. Knowing what they know may help you even the playing field.
#1: Cars with excellent resale value make perfect targets
Looking at the annual list of top stolen vehicles, you will find perennial top sellers like the Honda Civic, Ford 150, and Toyota Camry. Former car thief Steve Fuller explains why, “Cars with higher resale value have parts that are always in demand.”
Given that most stolen vehicles are stripped for parts, thieves look for models that generate the best return on their time. The more cars on the road, the higher the demand for parts. And though Hollywood may depict thieves stealing rare cars, this is often the exception to the rule.
#2: The location of your parked car matters
The most appealing spots for criminals are the most secluded. Carports, parking garages, and dark apartment complexes are perfect spots to work. They also look for locations where they can choose from many options, finding the most vulnerable in a group.
“I want to hear if someone is coming,” Fuller said. “All I have to deal with is somebody coming down from their apartment to get into their vehicle, and in the middle of the night, that’s not often.”
#3: Your car might contain a key that you don’t know about
“A lot of people don’t know that their car has a valet key inside the vehicle,” Fuller explained. “A valet key might be found inside the owner’s manual, or in some BMW models, the valet key is found in the tool kit in the trunk.”
A valet key can unlock the driver’s side door and start the car, though it might not unlock the trunk. The key is typically used when someone else operates your car, like a hotel valet attendant. And though you might not know about that valet key, it is the first place a thief will check.
#4: Thieves look for cracked-open windows
A thief only needs the slightest gap to get into your car. And many people like to vent their vehicle on a hot day by leaving the windows cracked just a bit.
So when criminals scope parking lots for targets, they quickly scan for windows that are cracked open. “A window just needs to give me enough room to stick my fingers in,” said Fuller. “I can then get it out of its track by rocking it back and forth. Then I pry the window out of the track and reach my arm down to open the lock.”
#5: Thieves want the path of least resistance
“90 percent of the vehicles I’ve stolen came from scoping out unlocked vehicles with keys hidden inside,” Fuller said. “Glove compartment, center console, door, change tray, under a doormat. You name it, and I’ve found a key there.”
You might think you have an excellent hiding place, or maybe you’ve just been complacent in leaving your chipped key in your car. Unfortunately, thieves know it doesn’t take long to find an easy car to steal.
#6: Thieves are afraid of five things
In this line of work, one mistake has enormous ramifications. For that reason, thieves fear daytime, alarms, noisy neighbors, security cameras, and slow jobs. “I like to work where it’s nice and quiet, with no distractions or people walking around,” said Fuller.
Thieves want to find cars that are easy to boost and capitalize on owner’s mistakes. They want as little attention as possible and pass on most vehicles with a car alarm or visible security camera.
With so many possible targets, you can reduce your threat by simply making your car more difficult to steal than the next car.