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How to protect your car when parking in the city

Updated on December 1, 2012

Growing up in a small town, I never had to worry about parking. There was always plenty of safe parking available. We would even leave our cars unlocked.

Then I moved to a large city (population: 1 million) and realized how naïve I was. By simply parking downtown, I was leaving myself open to dings, dents, break-ins, and more. My partner had someone kick a dent into the side of his truck (we know it was a kick because the shoe print was still visible when we saw the dent). I had my car broken into, and I didn't event have anything inside my car - they looked through the car and took nothing!

As great as insurance can be (though I haven't used my insurance yet because the deductible is just too high), it can be better to try to prevent any damage to your vehicle by being more careful about where you leave it.

Here are some tips I may suggest:

  • Park in well-lit areas.
  • Lock your car.
  • Don't park near vehicles that are parked grossly out of the spot. If they can't drive into the spot cleanly, do you think they can get out without scratching your car?
  • Park near cameras so that you can try to use footage to track down who caused damage to your car. You may be able to see a face or license plate.
  • Park where there is a lot of foot traffic. Thieves don't want to risk getting caught and will target vehicles where there is less activity taking place, such as the deep dark corners of lots or garages. I try to park somewhat near the doors and stairs/elevators in garages, and along well-frequented streets. Try to stick to the lower levels of a garage where more people are coming in and out more often.
  • At the same time, I avoid parking along narrow, busy streets where people are driving fast. It's easier for them to swipe your car and commit a hit-and-run. I had my car sideswiped, with my rearview mirror ripped off completely, and there was nothing I could do but pay for a new mirror.
  • Try to avoid parallel parking. Drivers can easily sideswipe your vehicle, and can back into it when trying to parallel park.
  • Take valuables out of your car. I try to keep as few things in my car as I can, even in the trunk and glove compartment.
  • If your car has visible damage, try to get it repaired as soon as you can. Thieves may target vehicles that appear less cared for because they think the vehicles are less likely to have alarms or security systems.
  • If you need to have your vehicle parked for an extended period of time, make sure you move it at least once every three days or so. Cities often have vehicle abatement laws that can result in your vehicle being towed after a certain number of days of just sitting.
  • Check the area around your vehicle when you are leaving. There may be glass bottle and other items in the way that you can run over and that can cause damage.

If you do have damage to your car, file a police report as soon as you can so you can use it to file an insurance claim if necessary.


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