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protecting your car from thieves

You shuffle across the parking lot after work, ready to head home and unwind. But your car isn't where you parked it this morning. As you stare at the empty spot, you (gulp!) realize your car has been stolen.

The FBI estimates 721,053 cars were reported stolen in 2012. This is actually a .6 percent increase from 2011. So it's a relatively common crime that's incredibly costly. Upwards of $4.3 billion was lost as a result of stolen vehicles in 2012 alone.

Thief bait: older cars attract thieves

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In 2012, 8 of the 10 most stolen cars listed by the National Insurance Crime Bureau were made in 2000 or earlier. Why? One reason is that older cars have rare parts. And rare parts can often make more money for thieves and chop shops.

The single most stolen car of the past 5 years has been a mid-90s Honda. Part of this has to do with the locks and keys. Older Hondas typically have similar ignitions, making them easy to access if you have the right key or one that's been made to fit. Thieves with one Honda key can shave down that key into a quasi "master" key that fits in a variety of Hondas.

How to keep your car secure

The following safety tips can make your car less appealing to thieves:

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  • Always lock up. It may seem silly to lock your car Alcatraz-style when you're just popping in to pick up a pizza. But taking 5 seconds to do it can save you from weeks of headaches and paperwork.
  • Grab your keys. Leaving your keys in the ignition is like sticking a "Steal Me!" sign on your car. Same for leaving your car idling.
  • Follow the light. Parking in well-lit areas is safer for you and your car. Since light makes it easier for car thieves to be spotted and identified, odds are they'll be less likely to mess with a car that's parked under bright lights.
  • Shut your windows and sunroof. Leaving them open, even just a crack, encourages break-ins. If you're worried that your car will get too hot, invest in windshield sun shades.
  • Avoid leaving valuables in your car. Shopping bags, suitcases, laptop accessories, GPS devices, and smartphones entice thieves. Keep all packages and other valuables in the trunk if you have to leave them in your car.
  • Consider antitheft devices. Car alarms are just one way to deter theft. Steering wheel locks and protective steering columns, as well as car-disabling locks for the ignition, fuel, and other systems, also make theft more difficult. And if your car is stolen, installed tracking systems can help the police locate your car and improve the chances of recovery. (Having an antitheft device could also score you a nice car insurance discount, too.)
  • Use a smart key. When car shopping, look for models with smart keys, which have unique computer chips that can't be duplicated or altered. A driver needs that key, and that key only, to start the ignition.

Consider adding comprehensive coverage

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Comprehensive coverage could help cover the cost of replacing a stolen car. Although this coverage is optional unless a loan or finance company requires it, it's worth looking into if you live in an area where the chance of your car getting stolen is greater than the norm.

What about my personal property?

While comprehensive coverage could help pay for a replacement vehicle, it won't help you replace personal property, like the laptop in the trunk or the designer shades in the glove box. The good news is that these are commonly covered by home or renters insurance. Esurance can help you find an affordable renters insurance or homeowners insurance policy.

What about a rental car?

If you have rental car coverage on your insurance policy, you can use it when your car's stolen and you need to get from A to B.

Handling a stolen car

If you ever do find that your car's not where it's supposed to be, alert the police and then file your claim. If you're an Esurance customer, give us a call at 1-800-ESURANCE (1-800-378-7262) and we'll walk you through the process.

Related links

Antitheft device discounts
Find out more about our money-saving discounts that reward you for protecting your car from thieves.

Your car's just been stolen. Now what?
We'll explain how to handle a stolen car from an insurance company's perspective.

Myth: thieves target newer cars
Find out why thieves are more likely to steal older cars than the shiny new models.