If you have never had your car broken in to, you may not realize that this can cause a huge hassle after it happens. You’ll be dealing with broken windows, stolen property, insurance claims, and a potentially strong feeling of unease knowing that someone was able to so easily break into your car and go through your belongings. Many of us spend a great deal of time in our cars, and that can make them feel like an extension of home. If your mini home-on-wheels gets violated, you might feel unsafe and afraid to leave your car alone again.

Car break ins can happen for a huge list of reasons. Sometimes it’s something obvious, like a nice stereo system that you installed yourself. Other times, you’ll find your window broken and your car alarm blaring just because a bored thief saw the loose change in your cup holder. With all that in mind, you need a few tips for protecting your car from break ins.

Remove or Hide Valuables

The biggest reason that cars are broken into is for the valuables inside. Stealing cars is harder than you’d think, because they are easy to track. But the items inside the car? Those are easy to tuck into a pocket and walk away with. That is why it’s important to not carry a lot of items with you in your car, or to take what you do carry with you inside whenever you get out of the car.

If you can’t keep items out of your car, then your next best step is to cover them. Thieves will often want to know what they are stealing so that they can ensure it’s of high value. Everything from bags in the backseat to jewelry hanging from the rear view mirror can attract unwanted attention. The spare pair of shoes you keep in the floorboard, or the name-brand coat slung over the passenger seat can be targets too. But something like a candy bar probably isn’t worth the risk. So if you can cover your items, yes thieves will still see that something is in the car – but they won’t know what it is, and they may be less likely to risk it in this case. Either use a towel or blanket to cover items, or store items in the trunk or glove box to keep them out of sight.

Park in Well-Lit Areas

Breaking into a car and stealing items from inside must be done extremely quickly to avoid attracting suspicion. Most car thieves operate on a timeline of seconds – in, out, and away from the car before you’d even know they were there. But this requires lucky timing and no attention being put on the car at all to be successful. If your car is parked in the shadows, it is much easier for thieves to just break in quickly. Parking in well-lit areas on busy streets is a good way to deter thieves. If you can, park in a garage as much as possible. This puts your car in the safest possible place from random break ins. If you have the option to park in a monitored parking lot (a lot where all entries are recorded), this can also help deter break ins. If you don’t have a choice, park as close to a place with people as you can. For example, park a little further down the street by a park, rather than right in front of your apartment – this at least offers the chance that someone else will witness any attempted burglary.

Install a Security System and Advertise It

Car alarms have come a long way lately. You can get a car alarm now that sends a notification to your smart phone, so that you know if your car alarm has been activated no matter where you are. Many car alarms now feature sensors that will go off for unauthorized entry into the car, hood, or trunk. Be sure that you put the sticker for the car alarm on your car, because this deters thieves who don’t want the attention of a car alarm. If you can’t afford a car alarm, consider just getting a dummy sticker to make it appear that your car is protected. This action is better than nothing, and who knows? It might deter a thief or two and keep your valuables safe.

Tint the Windows or Block Them

If thieves can’t see into your car, they won’t be likely to take the chance that there is something valuable inside. You can tint your windows, or put up window shades to block the view, if you want to protect your car from break ins. Be sure to check the regulations on window tinting in your area. You can find window tint that you can install yourself, or you can have the pros put this on for you. This helps keep your car warmer in winter and cooler in the summer, helps reduce glare from other drivers on the road, as well as acting as a thief deterrent.

Make the Stereo Less Attractive

Stereos are a very common item that gets stolen in car break ins. There is a thriving black market for stereos that make them a good choice for thieves who want to make quick money. That means that your car is at risk for being broken into if you have a nice stereo. One thing you can do is to remove the faceplate and keep it in your glove box or home. A missing faceplate makes radios less valuable, so it’s less likely that thieves will try to steal it from inside your car. Another option, if you want to go this far, is to remove the stereo and put it in the glove box if you will be parked somewhere for a long time. Additionally, if a professional stereo installer tries to put a decal on your car with the stereo brand, decline. This is a target for car thieves, who see it as a sign that there will be a pricey sound system inside.

Lock the Doors

Finally, it’s important to lock your car doors. In most cases, lifting items from a car is done so quickly that thieves look for unlocked cars to make the job even easier. There’s an old myth that says if you leave your car doors unlocked, it will prevent your windows from being shattered, because thieves are going to find a way even if your doors are locked. However, most say that this is wrong; car thieves are looking for money that is easy and quick to make. They don’t want to try to pick a lock or break a window if they don’t have to, because more time spent at the car makes it more likely that witnesses will be able to place them at the scene. By locking the door, you prevent these types of criminals from gaining access to your belongings.

Use These Six Tips to Stay Safe

If you live in an area that is plagued by car break ins, you know that the best possible defense is to make your car as unattractive as you can. Keep the doors locked, but keep nothing inside. Keep the stereo basic but install a nice security system. Do what you can to prevent loss, and you’ll find that it’s much easier to tackle the annoyance of broken windows and insurance claims when you haven’t also lost something valuable.

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