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Vehicle thefts have fallen steeply since the early '90s, when thieves stole nearly 2 million cars a year. Case in point: Fewer than 800,000 vehicles were stolen in 2017. But one type of vehicle theft has nearly doubled in the past few years.
In 2018, thieves stole 81,911 vehicles from drivers who had left their keys or fobs inside. This type of theft has increased 88% since 2013, according data released in March by the National Insurance Crime Bureau. It comes despite advances in anti-theft technology that have driven down car thefts overall. (Learn which states experience the most car thefts.)
"We can't stress enough the importance of locking your vehicle and taking the key or fob with you when you leave it," said NICB president and CEO Joe Wehrle. "Anti-theft technology works, but only if you use it."
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Thefts occurr most often in colder months, when many drivers warm up their vehicles before getting in. NICB advised drivers to never leave their vehicles unlocked and running, whether they're warming them up or running into a coffee shop or gas station.
It also said to always lock your vehicle, set the alarm and take the key, fob or garage door opener with you.
Car insurance policies may cover theft, while homeowners or renters insurance may reimburse you for possessions inside a stolen vehicle. If your car is stolen, you should report it to police as soon as possible. It helps to know your car's make and model, your license plate number, your vehicle identification number and any details about your GPS or tracking system. Report the theft to your auto insurance provider as well.
If you only have liability coverage, auto insurance won't cover the theft. Comprehensive coverage — which also covers damage that happens to your car when it's not being driven, like from weather, fire or vandalism — does cover theft and your insurer will pay to replace the car if you have it. However, it may not reimburse you for what you paid for the vehicle. (Learn more about how insurance covers stolen cars.)
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