No one wants to think about their car getting stolen, but a lot of car thefts can be prevented by taking some precautions in advance. Here are 10 ways to keep your car out of thieves’ hands that you can put into practice almost immediately.

1. Know what’s hot – and drive what’s not. – This is fairly straightforward and all it really requires is to know what’s on the hot cars list (see the National Crime Insurance Bureau site for listings of what’s hot and what’s not). Then, make sure that what you buy (or lease) and drive isn’t on that list. If you just have to have a car that thieves find perpetually enticing, since it appears on the most-stolen cars list year after year – like Honda Civics, for example, with its easily interchangeable parts, know that you’ll need to take other precautions to keep your car away from would-be thieves.

2. If you have a garage, park in it. – Easy access to your car is a thief’s best friend. Don’t make it a no-brainer by leaving your car out on the driveway or the street by your house. If you do have a garage, use it for the purpose it was intended. Too cluttered with stuff to park there? Have a garage sale, rent a storage unit, or give the unwanted accumulation away. Besides, if your car is parked inside the garage, you’d at least hear thieves trying to gain entry and may be able to alert the police in time to stop the theft.

3. Check insurance rates before you buy. – If a car carries a high auto insurance premium for comprehensive, there’s likely a good reason behind it. That may very well be due to a large number of claims for theft. Be safe instead of sorry. Check out what insurance you’d have to pay on any vehicle before you plunk down the money or sign a finance or lease contract.

4. Lock all the doors. – How simple is this one? But it’s amazing how many people neglect to do so. Whether you’re just leaving the car for a minute to dash into the store or think it’s safe at your friend’s house, take the time to lock all the doors before you exit the vehicle.

5. When traveling away from home, park where your vehicle is visible. – On the road for work or vacation? Staying in a hotel or motel? Scout out the parking place where your vehicle is clearly visible at all times – if the hotel or motel doesn’t have secured parking patrolled by guards or equipped with security cameras that work.

6. Park in well-lit areas. – Sometimes thieves attempt to waylay unsuspecting drivers in dark or obscured areas. To help avoid becoming a victim this way, park in areas that have bright lighting, no broken or missing lights. Thieves don’t want to be seen, and tend to lurk in areas where they have the upper hand.

7. Invest in a security system. – If you buy a new car, it may come equipped with an onboard security system for a certain period of time, such as OnStar on new GM vehicles. You may also opt for a dealer-installed accessory system from Chrysler’s Mopar called EVTS. There are also aftermarket security systems such as LoJack. Being able to have your vehicle tracked and located, should it be stolen, will ease your mind – and get your car back quicker.

8. Change your route of travel. – Don’t be a creature of habit. If your car is targeted, it is likely that thieves have been watching your comings and goings. Vary your route of travel to keep things off-balance for crooks. It also helps if you can stagger your travel times so they’re not always the same.

9. Keep valuables out of plain sight. – It may not be your car thieves are after but what you’ve left visible inside. Prevent theft and damage to your car by locking things of value away or taking them with you.

10. Be aware of your surroundings. – Finally, it always pays to be fully aware of where you are and what’s going on around you. If you see strangers hanging in the vicinity, don’t park and get out of your car. If someone is tailgating and/or following you for miles, don’t go to your home or office. Drive to a police station or a well-lit and populated area with many passersby and summon help. Being aware is a personal responsibility that can help keep your car out of thieves’ hands – and keep you safe in the bargain.

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