Avoiding car theft when you get a ride home

Out drinking for the evening? It’s always best to get a ride home instead of driving yourself after a night out.

Parked cars

Getting a ride - whether it's with a friend, a taxi or a ride-sharing service - sometimes means leaving your car overnight in a public location. The National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) recommends that drivers follow four "layers of protection" to guard against vehicle theft: 

First, use common sense. You're probably already planning to remove your keys from the ignition (we hope so) and lock your doors and windows. The windows, especially, can be easily overlooked when you're with a  group of friends or rushing to get to a reservation on time. 

One you might not think about when you arrive, especially if you get there when it's still light out - park in a well-lit area. Look for lighting that will come on later, so your car won't be left alone in a dark area. 

The second layer is a warning device. This is something you'll need to install in advance. It could be something a potential theft would see or hear when they get close to your car that would deter them from breaking in. Here are some examples: 

  • Audible alarms (your car may come with this installed)
  • Steering column collars 
  • Steering wheel/brake pedal lock 
  • Brake locks 
  • Wheel locks 
  • Theft deterrent decals 
  • Identification markers in or on vehicle 
  • VIN etching 
  • Micro dot marking 

Third, consider a device that prevents thieves from bypassing your ignition and hot-wiring the car. This might be a computer chip in your car keys, or it might be a device that requires a hidden switch or button to be activated before electricity or fuel can flow to the engine. Examples include of immobilizing devices include:  

  • Smart keys 
  • Fuse cut-offs 
  • Kill switches 
  • Starter, ignition, and fuel pump disablers 
  • Wireless ignition authentication 

Finally, the fourth layer is a tracking device. This is available in a lot of newer cars and emits a signal to police or a monitoring station if the vehicle is stolen. Tracking devices are proving very effective in helping to recover stolen vehicles. If telematics are installed, this can allow remote monitoring of a vehicle as well. 

Find out if you're in an area that is one of the "hot spots" for vehicle theft at https://www.nicb.org/