Vehicle Theft Prevention

​​​​Updated: January 25​, 2023

In the United States, a vehicle is stolen every 39 seconds. Over 800,000 vehicles were stolen in 2020.

  • Half of all vehicle thefts could be prevented by following simple steps such as locking your doors and removing your keys from the ignition
  • Only 56% of all stolen motor vehi​cles were recovered in 2020
  • Summers are typically the worst season for vehicle theft

​In addition to the vehicles themselves, thieves target vehicle parts - catalytic converters, engines, transmissions, wheel covers, radios, GPS units - and personal valuables, such as cell phones, tablets, laptops,​ and purses inside the vehicle.

To help reduce theft of and from vehicles, the ​Wisconsin Office of the Commissioner of Insurance has the following tips. 

Use common sense. Lock your doors and remove your keys from the ignition. Close your windows completely and park in well-lit areas. Don't leave valuables in your vehicle, especially if they can be seen from outside the vehicle. Never leave your car running and unattended. 

Use a visible or audible warning device such as an alarm or steering wheel lock, brake lock, or window etching or Micro Dot marking to indicate to would-be thieves that your vehicle is protected.

Install a vehicle immobilizing system or device such as smart keys, fuse cut-offs, kill switches, starter or ignition disablers, or wireless ignition authentication.

Equip your vehicle with a tracking system that emits a signal to the police or monitoring service when the vehicle is reported stolen. Some systems employ “telematics” which combine GPS and wireless technologies to allow remote monitoring of a vehicle. If the vehicle is moved, the system will alert the owner and the vehicle can be tracked by computer. Be sure you understand how a company plans to use and protect your personal data before purchasing their product.
  • Contact police immediately to file a stolen vehicle report. You will need a copy of the police report and/or a case number to provide to your insurance company. You may also be asked to provide the following information:
    • License plate number
    • Make, model, and color of your vehicle
    • Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) and any identifying characteristics

  • Contact your insurance company to file a claim within 24 hours of your vehicle being stolen.
    • Even if the loss is not covered, reporting the crime will protect you if the automobile causes harm to others after being stolen.
    • If possible, be prepared to share the vehicle's title, the location of all keys before the theft, a thorough description of the vehicle, and any personal property that was stolen with the vehicle.
      • Your auto insurance policy may not pay for stolen personal property or may pay only a limited amount. However, if you have a homeowners or renters insurance policy, your personal property may be covered under that policy. ​​

  • If you find your vehicle before authorities do, contact the police and your insurance company immediately.
  • Know what your insurance coverage will cover. Comprehensive coverage pays if your auto (or parts of it such as a battery or tires) are stolen. Learn more about comprehensive coverage on page 5 of our Consumer's Guide to Auto Insurance.

  • ​Your homeowners or renters insurance policy may cover personal property (clothing, luggage, gifts, etc) that were stolen or damaged while in your vehicle.

  • Understand cancellations and nonrenewals of auto insurance policies. Insurance companies may choose to non-renew your policy if they determine your vehicle is at high risk of loss. Repeated incidents of auto theft may result in a nonrenewal. ​Learn more about nonrenewals here.

  • Wisconsin consumers have a lot of choices for coverage in Wisconsin’s auto insurance market, but if you are unable to find other coverage, you would most likely be able to get insured through the Wisconsin Automobile Insurance Plan (WAIP) ​ . This is a plan created by Wisconsin law to provide automobile insurance to those who cannot secure coverage from standard market sources.​
  • Keep in mind that any reported insurance claim for a stolen vehicle may increase your auto insurance premiums.

  • If you live in a high-crime area, you may also pay more for car insurance due to the increased likelihood of vehicle thefts.

  • Insurers use a variety of factors in determining rates. Those factors and underwriting practices must correlate to the risk and may not be unfairly discriminatory.

  • Learn more about auto insurance premiums and costs here.​