Keyed Car and Other Vandalism Prevention Tips

Vandalized car with broken window parked next to the sidewalk

FotoSleuth / Flickr / CC BY 2.0


If you were to ask a car owner to name the most typical reasons for filing an insurance claim, they're probably going to say car theft or accident-related damage. Many people overlook the potential for vandalism.

Maybe it's because we tend to associate vandalism with a misbehaving neighborhood kid breaking a side mirror with a baseball bat, throwing eggs, or snapping off an antenna—things that are small and annoying but relatively cheap to fix. The fact is that auto vandalism is a very big problem, and it often results in hundreds and even thousands of dollars in claims and repair costs.

Most of these tips might seem pretty obvious, but given the millions of dollars paid out annually in vandalism-related insurance claims, they're good to keep in mind. 

Key Takeaways

  • Auto vandalism is a big problem, and it often results in hundreds or even thousands of dollars in claims and repair costs.
  • Keeping spare keys hidden, parking your car indoors if possible or in a well-lit place, and installing a (real or fake) car alarm can help deter thieves and vandals.
  • Other tips for preventing vandalism include hiding your valuables, installing an immobilizer, being friendly with your neighbors, and using common sense.

Don’t Leave an Obvious Spare Key 

You’d be surprised how many people leave a spare key tucked into a wheel well or under the floor mats. Keep it in a lockbox, or insert it in your wallet if you need a spare key. 

You also shouldn’t leave your car unlocked, even if you’re only leaving it unattended for a few minutes. You’re just asking someone to mess with your belongings and the interior of your car. 

Park It Inside

You might want to clear out some of that old junk in your garage and put your car in there at night. Keeping your vehicle in a locked garage works as a great deterrent to vandalism, because most vandals are simply looking to cause a little trouble. They're not interested in exerting a lot of effort to do it.

If some young delinquent wants to key a car, and the choice is between breaking into a locked building or simply walking down the street to accomplish the task, what choice do you suppose they're going to make?

If parking in a garage isn't an option, you can take some other precautions that are easy and effective also.

Light It Up

If you have to park outside at night, you'll want to avoid drawing attention to your vehicle, but you might want to consider taking some steps that draw attention when necessary.

Try to park in an unobstructed, well-lit place. If you're on the street, park your car under a street lamp, if possible. Install the brightest motion-sensor light you can find if you're parking in a driveway. When it comes to illumination, drawing attention to your car also draws attention to anyone who comes near it—like a vandal.

Install a Car Alarm (or a Fake One)

Consider installing a quality motion-activated car alarm, one that doesn't go off when it's hit by a slight breeze but makes a big racket when it does go off.

Some owners think that car alarms are useless, because most people just ignore them, but a vandal who's lurking near one that's blasting at 120db won't be standing there for long.

Unfortunately, the best car alarm systems can be expensive, so you might want to consider a fake alarm. Install a little wireless blinking red light on your dash. There's a good chance that if a thief or vandal sees that little blinking light, they'll just move on to the next car.

If you don't have the cash for a fake alarm either, consider investing in a security system decal, preferably one for a real security company.

Hide Your Stuff

Make your car less attractive to thieves and vandals. Don't leave anything of value in plain sight or on the seats, even if they’re tucked under a concealing jacket or blanket. If you have a garage door opener, and you park outside, take the garage door opener inside with you. Lock your valuables in the trunk or glove compartment, hide them under a seat, or take them with you. Don't give a thief any incentive to break your window.

Install an Immobilizer

An immobilizer is an electronic device that prevents your car from being hotwired. It requires a special key or a token to start the car. Studies have shown that installing immobilizer devices are up to 50% effective in reducing vehicle theft.

Be Friendly

It doesn't hurt to be on good terms with your neighbors. First of all, they'll be more likely to look out for you and your car. And second, it's much less likely that one of them will want to vandalize your property if they actually like you. Sometimes, even that isn't enough—kids will be kids. But you might be able to work the insurance claim out with the parents and help the kid at the same time.

Use Common Sense

Here's the most important tip of all: always use common sense. Don't park in a bad neighborhood if you can avoid doing so. Don't leave your car unattended for long periods of time. Common sense might not let you avoid all of the bad people out there, but it could possibly deter the ones who are out there right now.

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  1. Federal Register. "Exemption From Vehicle Theft Prevention Standard."

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