The best ways to prevent car theft

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says that a vehicle is stolen every 44 seconds in the United States. And it’s not just the expensive models that are targets of thieves.

Drivers may not realize they are making obvious mistakes that can make their vehicles targets for potential thieves. Guarding against car theft comes down to avoiding common pitfalls, using common sense and making vehicles less attractive to thieves.

• Lock doors. This may seem like a no-brainer, but giving thieves easy access to vehicles increases the risk of theft. Always lock the vehicle, even if you’re only running into the house or a store for a few minutes.

• Keep valuables hidden. Don’t leave purchases, cell phones, money (even loose change), expensive sunglasses, or electronics within sight in the vehicle.

• Exercise caution with spare keys. Do not hide a spare key under the vehicle or in an obvious spot. Car thieves are wise to these tactics. Also, if you’ve lent a spare key to someone, ask for it back promptly.

• Invest in a car alarm. Car alarms can deter thieves because they draw attention to the vehicle. Car alarms that also prevent the vehicle from being started or driven away (kill switch) can be helpful.

• Use various locks. Manufacturers make steering wheel locks and brake locks that render cars undrivable unless they are removed.

• Be visible when parking. Choose highly visible parking spots when out and about. These include spaces that are close to building entrances, near security cameras and in well-lit areas. Cars that are more visible are less likely to be targeted by thieves.

• Don’t leave it running. According to the safety resource Safewise, nearly half of all auto thefts occur as a result of not performing reasonable precautions — such as failure to turn off the vehicle after exiting. More than one-third of all thefts occur near the car owner’s residence. Resist the urge to “warm up” the vehicle by leaving it running with the keys in the ignition.

• Get VIN etching. Etching the VIN on windows makes it more expensive for car thieves to resell a vehicle or its parts without having to make replacements.

• Buy a tracking system. In the event a car is stolen, GPS tracking devices can help cops recover the vehicle more rapidly.

Car theft can be a serious concern, but exercising caution can prevent vehicles from being targeted.