Whether you’re in the hustle and bustle of a busy city or live in a quieter community, cars and their personal property inside offer up a ripe opportunity for theft. Philadelphia, Chicago, and Washington D.C. are among the cities that have seen a sharp increase in carjacking incidents this year, and vehicle thefts are the highest they’ve been since 2008, according to the National Insurance Crime Bureau.

Given the current climate, protecting your car is incredibly important, especially as the holiday season approaches. (That said, it’s never smart to try and resist a carjacker—remember, cars can be replaced, you cannot.) Would-be thieves know we’re all in a rush these days and that trunks and backseats might be stocked with expensive gifts. But beyond ensuring your car is locked at all times, what else can you do to keep your car (and the things inside it) safe? 

1. Never leave your car running

This may be stating the obvious, but we’re all guilty of the “quick” run inside to grab something we forgot. Or maybe we turn the engine on to warm up the car when the cold weather hits, and huddle indoors until the interior is toasty. Thieves don’t require a long window of opportunity to strike. This year, the New York Police Department warned locals about this issue when car thefts began to skyrocket, stating that more than half of cars being stolen were left running or with the key fob inside. It only takes a few seconds for someone to hop into a running vehicle and drive off, so don’t risk it.

2. Keep your car clear of items

Throwing your laptop bag in the backseat after a long day or using your car as a hiding spot for holiday presents—it’s tempting to treat your car as another storage space. Seeing these sorts of items in plain sight can be an all-too-easy opportunity for thieves to break in, leading to not only lost goods but also expensive repairs like a smashed window. If it’s not possible to avoid these scenarios, put items in a locked trunk or under your car mats when you can. 

3. Location is key

If you have a garage, take advantage of parking inside, even if it seems easier to just park in the driveway and call it a night. Those in the city with a parking garage nearby might want to take advantage of these often monitored and secure spaces. The nightly patrol, lighting, and video security systems associated with parking garages will discourage even the most ambitious of burglars. If a garage isn’t an option for you, seek out a well-lit, open area to park, or install a driveway security light—most thieves will be deterred by anything that (literally) puts a spotlight on them.

4. Invest in an alarm or anti-theft system

If your car doesn’t already have one, see about investing in an anti-theft system. An audible alarm, most often one that involves the car horn, will scare off many thieves. This will oftentimes require expert installation, but can be worth it if it means avoiding a stolen vehicle. If your car already has its own security system, think about going a step further and adding a steering wheel lock. The visual alone will deter many from even approaching the car given the hassle these devices present.

While taking these steps won’t guarantee thieves steer clear of your car and any valuables inside, it can help lower your risk and, ideally, avoid any unnecessary calls to your insurance company. 

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