Last updated: June 2023

9 Commonly Stolen Car Parts & Items: How to Theft-Proof Your Vehicle

Whether you drive a brand new vehicle or your trusty old car from the early 2000s, there’s one thing every driver should be watching out for – theft! In addition to searching for vehicles they can safely steal, thieves also target specific car parts and certain items if they can get inside your car. This could mean something might be missing, even if you don’t realize it immediately. Here are nine commonly stolen car parts or items and tips to prevent theft so you don’t become a victim.

1. Tires and Wheels

If you’ve bought new tires and/or wheels recently, you know they can get expensive. Unfortunately, thieves have this same knowledge. With the proper tools, it doesn’t take long to remove your cars’ tires and wheels. In fact, a spokesman for the National Insurance Crime Bureau told that thieves can remove your vehicle’s rims in a matter of minutes. With these parts being hard to track, it makes them much easier to sell on to someone else.

Anti-Theft Tip: Try wheel locks, parking close to the curb, and turning your wheels at a sharp angle if you have to park on the street. This should make it harder for thieves to remove your wheels.

2. Tailgates

It may seem unlikely, but a quick search will reveal countless results for strings of tailgate thefts across the country. Certain truck models, like the Toyota Tacoma, seem to have easy-to-remove tailgates, making them a prime target for criminals. 

Anti-Theft Tip: Invest in a tailgate lock to stop thieves from removing this valuable part of your vehicle.

3. Batteries

If you’ve ever changed your own car battery, you probably know that with a few tools and a few minutes of time, a battery is relatively easy to remove. So, if a thief can find a way to pop your vehicle’s hood, there’s a good chance they’ll take your battery.

Anti-Theft TipSecurity Latest has a few tips, including using security cables and padlocks. But for a simpler solution, they recommend putting a small window alarm under the hood. If it vibrates, the alarm should go off and scare the thieves away.

4. Catalytic Converters

You walk out to the street, start your car, and are greeted with a terrible noise. Uh-oh, someone has removed your catalytic converter. This part from the underside of your car is made of several different metals that thieves want because metal recyclers might pay anywhere from $20-$200 for these metals, according to Edmunds.

Anti-Theft Tip: Consumer Reports has several ways to prevent catalytic converter theft. Among them is the recommendation for a security device attached to the converter, making it harder to steal. Some police departments also encourage etching identifying info on your catalytic converter making it easier to track.

5. Airbags

Airbags can be stolen in a matter of minutes and can be sold illegally for a nice price, according to HowStuffWorks. This makes them a prime target for thieves.

Anti-Theft Tip: Follow general anti-theft tips and consider purchasing a steering wheel lock that makes it harder to access your driver’s side airbag.

6. Third Row Seats

One thing to love about modern vehicles is how easily they can be manipulated to meet your needs. Entire rows of seats can be folded down or removed to give you more room. But since seats aren’t locked in like they once were, particularly in SUVs, thieves can now steal those adjustable back row seats you love so much.

Anti-Theft Tip: If you want to keep your third-row seats safe, the Los Angeles Police Department recommends using a bicycle lock to keep them safe or removing them when not in use.

7. Registration

When we think about car-related theft, our minds go to many of the parts we’ve already discussed. But if thieves are particularly crafty, they might steal your identity. By taking important documents, like your vehicle’s registration, they’ll have access to all sorts of personal information. The thief can register stolen vehicles with the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) or possibly even have a duplicate key for your car made, according to Experian. Scary!

Anti-Theft Tip: Don’t leave these important documents inside your car. Keep digital copies on your phone, and if you want paper copies, keep them in your purse or wallet.

8. Garage Door Openers

Sometimes, car-related theft doesn’t stop at cars. If a thief is able to lift your garage door opener, you might not notice right away, and before you do, it could be too late. That thief will have access to anything in your garage and anything in your house if you leave the door behind the garage unlocked. 

Anti-Theft Tip: Much like the important documents we mentioned above, don’t leave your garage door opener in your car. If thieves know your address and have your garage door opener, you could be in for an unpleasant surprise.

9. Other Items of Value

Thieves will steal anything valuable, but the most common items stolen from cars tend to be electronics, personal information, and accessories. If you leave a wallet, cash or coins, a smartphone, sunglasses, keys, or anything else of value in your vehicle, a thief will probably take it if they can get into your vehicle.

Anti-Theft Tip: Remove all valuables when exiting your vehicle. If you have to leave something valuable inside, make sure it is hidden out of sight. But the best move is to never keep anything of value in your vehicle, even if it’s hidden. Thieves can actually use Bluetooth scanners to detect electronics, according to Wired.

Best Ways to Prevent Theft from Your Car

We shared some specific tips above for certain parts, but here are some general ways to avoid becoming a victim of car-related theft:

  • Park in safe, well-lit areas whenever possible: If you have access to a garage, use it. If you’re forced to park on the street, try to pick an area with lots of light and lots of visibility. Thieves don’t want to be seen when they’re at work.
  • Always lock your car: Don’t make it easy for thieves. Sometimes, thieves have no intention of actually forcing their way into cars. They simply search for ones that were left unlocked.
  • Don’t leave valuables in your car: Don’t entice someone to break in. When you’re leaving your vehicle, remove any valuables, or at least hide them from view.
  • Consider a window tint: If thieves can’t see what’s in your car, they might not try to break in. If you do tint your windows, make sure to follow state laws.

Does Car Insurance Cover Car Theft?

What happens if you are the victim of car-related theft? Does your auto insurance policy cover stolen car parts? Does car insurance cover theft of personal items? Let’s take a closer look and break it down by a couple of coverage types.

Does liability car insurance cover theft?

No, liability insurance is not designed to protect you or your vehicle if someone breaks in, steals parts, or takes the car itself.

Does comprehensive car insurance cover theft?

Generally speaking, yes, it does. If you have comprehensive insurance on your auto policy, this type of coverage can help you out in the event of theft and even help cover repair costs from break-in damage. Often called “other than collision coverage,” comprehensive insurance should help pay for stolen or damaged vehicle parts, like a missing battery or catalytic converter. You’ll probably have to pay for your agreed-upon deductible, but after that, comprehensive coverage should come to your aid.

However, there are some limits to comprehensive coverage when it comes to car-related theft. For example, comprehensive coverage wouldn’t pay to replace personal items, like an iPod or watch, stolen from your vehicle. You would be responsible for paying to replace them unless you have a homeowners insurance policy or renters insurance policy that provides protection for these personal items. Comprehensive coverage would only pay to replace pre-installed car parts that were damaged in the break-in, like a shattered window.

Protect yourself from the financial consequences of theft with coverage from Direct Auto!

Theft can happen to anyone, and that’s why it’s important to be prepared. Give Direct Auto a call or stop by one of our locations to learn how we can protect you from automotive-related theft.

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