Your car can practically be your home away from home if you drive for business or leisure. Therefore, you will want to take some precautions to protect it and your possessions inside. Ideally, you wouldn’t leave anything valuable at all in your car, but the reality of travel is that your car is going to serve as much like a safe deposit box or luggage storage closet besides as transportation. The following are a few tips to help you protect your car and everything in it while traveling. Click here for the latest in vehicle security safes.
Keep your keys safe – even when you are at home
- Today’s factory and after-market car alarms have made it harder for thieves to steal cars. For some thieves, they have found an easier way by breaking into someone’s home for the sheer reason of stealing someone’s car keys. That way the thief can simply come back later and drive off with the car.
- When you are home – keep your keys safe. Don’t leave them in the car, in your handbag, or sitting on an entrance table or bench in the house. Secure them in an out of the way place such as a drawer or somewhere safe that is out of sight.
- Don’t leave your keys in the car while you are putting gas in your car at the gas station, or when you go inside the station to pay. This is another way for thieves to outwit car alarms – just jump in the car and drive away.
- Don’t go back into the house during winter while you let the car warm up. Yes, we understand it is freezing cold but thieves take advantage of this time of the year. And don’t leave the car running but lock it with the spare key – a thief is most certainly going to forgo the cost of replacing the window to smash it when they’ll have possession of your car. Put your coat, gloves and scarf on and stay with the car!
- When parking in airport lots, park in view of the exit toll booths or parking office if possible, or just as well within view of a shuttle pickup location or kiosk. The increased foot traffic and eyeball count will discourage potential thieves. Well-lit areas are next best; most airport lots have surveillance cameras in place, so making it easier for an attendant to see your car on a grainy camera will help.
- Be careful when you park your car at a sporting or entertainment event such as a football game or concert. These cars are a dead giveaway to thieves that you’re going to be away from your car for a set period of time. Never leave ticket or event information in the car that would indicate to a thief how long you’ll be gone.
- Park “trunk out.” If you are storing items in your trunk, you will want to point the trunk out into the lot aisle, where more people can see anyone trying to break in. Don’t give thieves the opportunity to use your car as cover while ripping you off.
- When parking on the street, try to park within sight of a busy store or hotel entrance, under a street lamp, near a busy corner or out in the open away from things that might provide shelter to a thief (like thick or low-hanging trees). The busier the street, the better.
- When you park your car in a pay parking lot – take your parking ticket with you when you leave the car. That way, even if a thief gains entry into your car if they have to front up for a lost ticket they’ll be getting themselves noticed even if they do have the cash (which they probably won’t).
- Self park when you can -most attendant or valet parking garages are safe on the whole — but if you make it too easy, the temptation to steal can be too great for a person working at or near minimum wage.
- Make sure your car doors are locked. The below video shows a great example of how skilled some thieves are. Watch the below video of a thief who unlocks a rear door of a car right before the owner gets out and locks the door. A laptop was stolen – and a very expensive lesson was learned.
When in doubt, use a parking garage
- Parking on the street is the most vulnerable place to be, so if you are uncomfortable with your street parking options, by all means use a parking garage instead. Although you are safer in a parking garage, that does not mean that you are invulnerable; certainly enough travelers get ripped off by garage personnel everywhere. Remove or lock up any really valuable items — GPS and radar units, accessories for your cell phone or MP3 player, a loose E-ZPass apparatus to remove temptation. All of the same precautions above apply; no matter where you park, make it as difficult and uninspiring to potential thieves as possible.
Load and hide your stuff before you reach your destination
- By the time you pull into a hotel lot, valet queue, parking garage or any parking spot, everything you plan to leave in the car should already be well stowed and hidden. To pull into your spot, and then take your most valuable items and pack them in the trunk, is to broadcast to anyone within view exactly where to focus their attentions if they want to rip you off. The best approach is to put your things in the trunk or other safe compartment before you even get in the car at the beginning of your trip.
Don’t leave ANYTHING visible in the car – even with an alarm – Do we need to tell you again!
- If you leave your GPS or radar detector attached to the windshield, your cell phone in the front console, or your handbag on the seat, then do not expect sympathy when it gets stolen. A car alarm will not, ever, protect from a smash and grab. It takes a thief 5 seconds to smash the glass, grab the item, and be around the corner. Even with your alarm sounding he’s gone.
- It’s not just valuables that thieves break into vehicles for. Don’t leave empty gym bags, shoe boxes, shopping bags or anything in the vehicle. If a thief sees a bag in a vehicle, they might the bag contains something of value and smash your window. Nothing of value may be stolen, buy you are left behind with the cost and hassle of replacing window glass and door locks
Unload your stuff away from your parking spaces as well
- If you are planning to return to the same parking area, you will want to take your stuff out of the car away from the lot if possible. If you open the trunk and take out all the good stuff each time you return to your car, eventually someone will notice. Best case is to be able to pull over somewhere safe away from either your home base or destination, and get your stuff then.
Make your car look protected
- A huge part of the job an alarm does is to give a visual warning to a thief that the car has security measures. Make sure you put the alarm warning stickers on the window and the LED warning light in the dash is fitted. (And if you don’t want to get an alarm you can buy these little extras separately.)
A neat car is less likely to get robbed
- A car that is filled with jackets or beach towels that appear to be covering items of value, or that has wires sticking out here and there suggesting that electronic devices may also be stowed, are much more likely to attract interest. If a potential thief sees nothing but car upholstery, he or she is less likely to be curious about what might be hidden in the car.
Don’t leave your keys in an obvious place
- Do you walk in the front door and throw your keys on the side table? Alarms and immobilizers are so good now thieves will often break into your house to get the keys and remote rather than try to bypass the system. Don’t leave them somewhere they can be spotted from outside or where someone can open a door or window and grab them.
Look after spare remotes
- Rolling code remotes will get out of sequence if the button is pushed too many times while out o range of the car. Make sure spare remotes are not in a draw full of junk where the button can be held down or it may not work when you need it.
Lost your remote? Delete it!
- If you have lost a remote of had it stolen make sure you delete it from the alarms memory otherwise anyone can use it to access your car. If you don’t know how take the car to your local installer.
Check for your valuables as soon as you return to your car
Notwithstanding our second rule above, if you have any suspicions, you will want to make sure nothing was stolen before you pull out. If your car does get ripped off, you want to figure it out at or near the location it was robbed, in case you have to file a complaint. When surveying your vehicle, keep in mind that thieves know what to take — often items you won’t notice until you are long gone. For example, a common tactic is to take a camera out of a camera bag, but leave the bag behind; it looks like it was undisturbed so you won’t figure it out for hours or days.
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