When you head out on a trip in your rental car, you never expect to deal with a break-in. Unfortunately, it can happen. Which is why it’s important to take a few easy steps to protect your rental car from theft and keep the vehicle safe.
Of course, you can do everything right and still find yourself in a bad situation. Which is why it’s also good to know what to do when someone breaks into your car. That way, you’ll follow the right steps and move on with your trip quickly. A little foresight and knowledge is worth the potential stress.
Avoid unsafe areas
Some cities have higher break-in rates than others. One way to prevent car rental break in is to do research beforehand and get an idea of crime rates in different areas. If you’re in a city with high break-in rates, make sure to park in a safe spot and be more aware of your surroundings. You can ask the hotel staff or your accommodation host for the best areas, whether it’s street parking in a safe neighborhood, or a spot in a nearby parking garage.
Remove important belongings
Once you’ve parked, be sure to remove any important belongings from the car. Take your luggage out of the car and make sure you’ve got laptops, phones, or cameras with you, as well as any important documentation like passports or IDs. If you can’t grab your luggage from the car yet, remove any valuable items from your bags before locking up the vehicle. That way if there is a break-in, you won’t lose anything too important.
Keep luggage and bags out of sight
If you have to leave your luggage in the car (maybe you can’t check in to the hotel yet), do your best to keep it out of sight. Put suitcases in the trunk instead of the backseat, or in areas of the vehicle with tinted windows. You can also hide big bags with a blanket and hide smaller items under the seat or the floor mats.
Keeping your luggage out of sight also means keeping the trunk closed. Try not to open up the trunk and show off all your bags when you’re parking, especially if you’re leaving them in the car. You never know who’s watching.
Keep accessories out of sight
Like we said before, grab those expensive electronics to prevent theft of items in a rental car. That also includes any accessories you have lying around—stuff like cords, chargers, headphones, or cell phone mounts for the car. Even if you don’t have the actual device in the vehicle, if a thief spots an electronic accessory, they may go snooping around for the real stuff.
Make it look local
Thieves are more likely to snag something out of your vehicle if they know you’re traveling. Tourists tend to have more of their belongings in the car, or don’t have the city smarts of a local. So make your car look like it does at home—but a little cleaner!
You can put a local newspaper in the front seat, or a travel mug in the drink holder to make it look a bit more lived in. Or, add something like an air freshener to the rear view mirror. And definitely remove any visible tourist documents like your rental contract, hotel reservations, airline tickets, travel guides, or passports. You probably want to keep those with you anyway.
It may seem obvious, but if you want to prevent rental car break-in, the first step is to lock the car doors. Make sure your windows and sunroof are up and the trunk is closed too. If you rented a convertible, make sure it’s closed up. Then double check everything before you head out.
Don’t leave the car unattended too long
More time away means more opportunities for theft. So try not to leave your car unattended for too long. If you do have to leave it for a few days, do your best to come back to the vehicle once in a while to make sure everything is in order. And if you can’t (say you’re heading up into the mountains on a backpacking trip), make sure it’s good and locked.
There’s no better way to protect yourself than with insurance.
Travel insurance is a great bet for any trip, no matter how far the journey. Many travel insurance packages include what’s called baggage coverage, which covers lost or stolen bags in case of emergencies. If you have baggage coverage, you can get reimbursed for any stolen bags from the vehicle. That way, you’ll have some extra cash to replace your belongings for the trip.
Baggage coverage does have its limits though. Make sure you fully understand your coverage before heading out.
In terms of what to do when someone breaks your rental car window, it’s good to have collision and rental coverage. Whether it’s through your own insurance or the rental company’s, this should cover damages related to theft. This won’t cover the cost of any stolen items, but depending on your policy, it should cover repairs to the window or any other damaged parts of the vehicle.
What to do when someone breaks into your rental car
Sometimes you do everything right and someone still breaks into your car. If that happens, here’s what to do:
Asses the damage
First, avoid touching the vehicle. You want to fully assess the damage without interfering and creating additional problems.
Then, take pictures of the vehicle. Document everything on the outside and everything you can on the inside without getting into the vehicle. Try to capture as many details as possible.
Call the police
As soon as you’ve assessed and documented all the damage, call the police. Hopefully they’ll come directly to the car to assess the damage and file the report, but you may have to hitch a ride to the police station.
Contact the rental company
Once you’ve filed the police report, contact your rental company. Give them all the details of the incident, as well as the police case number. They’ll need this number to process their own report.
File an insurance claim
Now you have to file an insurance claim. If you purchased insurance with the rental company, they should handle all that on their end. But if you’re using your own insurance, you’ll need to give the insurance company a call. The damage should be covered, but any stolen items are probably not going to be covered.
Some credit cards offer rental insurance when you use them to book a rental car. If you went the credit card route, you’ll need to give the credit card company a call and file a report with them.
Bonus: many of these steps are great to follow if you’re wondering what to do if someone breaks into your car, even if it’s not a rental.