Auto theft in Texas: How to prevent it and what you should do if it happens

March 11, 2020

Learn all about auto theft in Texas, how you can prevent it, and what to do if it happens

A thief attempting to steal a vehicle.

For most Texans, our vehicles are more than just another piece of property. We rely on them to get to work, to transport our families, and everything in between. That's why auto theft doesn't just cause financial issues, it tosses a wrench in everything we do. So what steps should you take to prevent auto theft? What do you do if your vehicle has been stolen?  We'll answer those questions and more below!

What are the most stolen vehicles in Texas?

Texans love pickup trucks. Their diverse utility, power, and stylish designs have made many brands a top pick in the Lone Star State. That's why it should come as no surprise that some of the most stolen vehicles in Texas are pickups.  According to a 2018 report from the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB), 4 of the top 5 stolen cars in Texas are pickup trucks:

1) Ford Pickup
2) Chevrolet Pickup
3) Dodge Pickup
4) GMC Pickup
5) Chevrolet Tahoe

But just because pickups are the top targets for auto theft in Texas doesn't mean thieves don't have their eyes on other cars, too. The following vehicles make up the rest of the top 10 stolen vehicles in Texas:

6) Honda Accord
7) Honda Civic
8) Toyota Camry
9) Nissan Altima
10) Toyota Corolla

What steps can you take to prevent auto theft?

If you see your ride on the list above, there's no need to panic or go to the dealership to swap out your vehicle. According to FBI statistics, auto theft is on the decline and has been for quite some time. However, there are still a number of steps you can take to prevent your vehicle from being stolen.

Basic precautions

While some of these tips may seem like common sense, it's important to always keep them in mind and practice them whenever possible.

Keep your keys. Take keys out of the ignition and never leave them in your car.

Lock it up. Lock your car at all times, even if you live in a remote area or in an area considered to be safe.

Keep an eye on it. Park in well-lit areas with high visibility. Not only can this help you keep an eye on your vehicle, but thieves are less likely to try and steal a vehicle if they think they'll be seen in the process.

Hide or take valuables. Avoid keeping valuables in your vehicle if at all possible, or at the very least, keep them out of sight. If a valuable item needs to stay in the vehicle, keep in in your trunk or lock it in your glove box. Take things like smartphones out of the vehicle with you even if you're just popping into the store for a moment.

Install anti-theft devices

Not only can anti-theft devices prevent your car from being stolen, you can often get a discount on your auto insurance for having them. Insurance companies don't want your car to be stolen, either!

Sirens and alarms. Anti-theft alarm systems can go a long way to preventing theft. More expensive alarm systems come with a variety of features, but you don't have to break the bank for basic protection. An alarm can alert you and others when a robbery is in progress, and often act as a deterrent.

Wheel locks. You may have seen a "boot" on a car that's being repossessed, but they can also be used to prevent theft. While it may not be the most practical solution for a vehicle that you use every day, it can be very helpful if you have a car that you only occasionally drive.

Steering wheel locks. Steering wheel locks, or "clubs," are a simple, yet effective, method of preventing theft. Simply put, they prevent a thief from being able to steer and operate the vehicle, which makes it pretty difficult to steal.

Vehicle disabling systems

The idea behind vehicle disabling systems is to prevent your vehicle from running or moving even if a thief has broken into it. While these systems can usually be purchased individually, the often come as an added feature to a larger auto security package.

Smart keys or driver authentication systems. In one way or another, these systems require extra input or authentication before the vehicle will start. Smart keys are an example of a wireless verification system, but there are a number of different solutions that can be put in place.

Remote vehicle disabling systems. These use a device to remotely disrupt systems, like starters, ignitions, fuel pumps, and fuses. When combined with an alarm, you can quickly disable your vehicle, preventing the thief from ever getting out of the parking lot.

Install a tracking system

If all else fails and your vehicle is stolen, having its GPS coordinates can be vital in helping police reclaim it and apprehend those responsible. While manufacturers often advertise vehicle tracking solutions for corporate fleets, there are plenty available for personal use.

Does auto insurance cover theft?

Auto theft coverage

Stolen vehicle. If your vehicle is stolen, a comprehensive coverage, or OTC (other than collision) insurance is usually needed to provide replacement costs. Remember, basic liability insurance only covers damage to other property that you are responsible for. 

Damaged vehicle and vandalism. If your vehicle is damaged during an attempted theft, this typically falls under comprehensive coverage. For example, broken windows, locks, and doors are all generally covered with a comprehensive auto policy. 

Theft of personal items within a vehicle 

Personal items. Unfortunately, comprehensive auto coverage usually won't replace personal items that are either stolen as a result of auto theft or that are individually targeted. For example, if your phone is in a vehicle when it's stolen, or if a thief breaks into your vehicle to steal your phone, it won't be covered by an auto insurance policy.

However, homeowners insurance or renters insurance may cover replacement cost for personal items stolen from within a vehicle or stolen with the vehicle. If this is the case, you'll likely need to file two separate claims - one for the stolen or damaged car, and one for the items within.

Aftermarket additions.  If you've installed any aftermarket devices in your vehicle, like a stereo or navigation system, it's not likely to be covered by your comprehensive auto insurance. Again, homeowners or renters insurance may offer replacements. 

What do you do if your vehicle has been stolen?

Call the police. The first thing you should do if your car has been stolen, or if an attempt to steal it has been made, is contact law enforcement. Not only could this help find the perpetrator and potentially recover stolen property, it is usually required by your insurance company.

The police will likely need your Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) and your license plate, so it's a good idea to have that saved somewhere BEFORE anything happens. They'll also ask you for your vehicle's registration, your insurance card, your driver's license, and a list of belongings inside that may have been stolen along with the vehicle.

Document it. If an attempt to steal your vehicle has been made, take pictures of the damage. This is obviously much more difficult to do if the thief was successful, but it can still be helpful to document the scene and surroundings and look for things like glass fragments or any tools left behind. However, it is important that you only take photos - don't disturb the scene before law enforcement has a chance to investigate. 

File a claim. After getting the police report, it's time to call your insurance company. When you file a claim, your insurance company will want to know much of the same information as the police. Be prepared to answer questions about circumstances surrounding the theft, like where you normally keep your keys and who might have had access to your vehicle.

If you need to replace personal items within your vehicle, remember to file a separate claim with the relevant insurance company (if you have a different provider from your auto insurance). Before calling, prepare a list of the stolen items and their estimated value. 

Insurance payout. After the claim has been filed, the insurance company will evaluate the amount you are to be paid. They typically pay what is called the Actual Cash Value (ACV) of the vehicle, which takes into account the make, model, age, and mileage.

They may also look at other things like the Kelley Blue Book value. If you've ever bought or sold a used car, you might have used KBB to provide an estimate. Before filing a claim, it can be helpful to research this on your own to make sure that the payout is congruent with what the vehicle is worth. 

Rental cars. Many comprehensive auto insurance policies will provide a rental car while your claim is being processed. However, the particulars vary from company to company, so it's always a good idea to check with your company for more information.

What happens if the police find my vehicle after I've filed a claim?

Unfortunately, only about 59% of stolen vehicles are ever recovered. However, it is certainly a possibility. 

Because many stolen vehicles are stripped for parts, even if the police recover your car, it may be a total loss anyway. If you've filed a claim, but haven't received the payment from your insurance company, they'll assess any damage or missing parts and determine if fixing it is an option. 

If your vehicle is found after you've received the ACV, insurance companies will often claim ownership of the newly recovered vehicle. But if you haven't spent the money on a replacement yet and repairing the recovered vehicle is the best option, you can likely return the money. This can certainly be a complicated process and the way it's handled will vary based on your insurance company and their policies.

Plan ahead!

Whether you have a luxury sedan or a car that simply gets you from point A to B, dealing with the aftermath of auto theft can be stressful. But insurance can't protect your vehicle if you don't have the coverage! That's why it's important to get a policy from an insurance company you can trust.

A man committing auto theft in Texas

When you’re filing a claim, great customer service is essential. Since 1896, Germania Insurance has been the Insurance Texans Trust for great coverage and outstanding customer service. But don’t take our word for it! Hear what our customers have to say

To learn how auto insurance can protect you from theft, or for more information about our insurance products, request a free quote online, or reach out to one of our trusted agents today!

Read more: Auto insurance can protect you from theft and more! Read our blog about auto insurance in Texas and learn all about it

by Geoff Ullrich

About the Author

Geoff Ullrich is a writer and Content Marketing Strategist at Germania Insurance.

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