15 Most Popular Items Stolen From Cars

Discover the unexpected allure of the 15 most swiped car treasures.

Thief breaking car window using screwdriver
Updated July 18, 2024
Fact checked

We receive compensation from the products and services mentioned in this story, but the opinions are the author's own. Compensation may impact where offers appear. We have not included all available products or offers. Learn more about how we make money and our editorial policies.

Every time you take your car for a drive, thieves are potentially watching. Many things — both inside your car and on it — are common targets for these criminals.

Here are some of the common things thieves like to steal from cars. Keeping a close eye on these items is a smart way to keep more money in your wallet and prevent crooks from nabbing them.

If you’re over 50, take advantage of massive discounts and financial resources

Over 50? Join AARP today — because if you’re not a member you could be missing out on huge perks. When you start your membership today, you can get discounts on things like travel, meal deliveries, eyeglasses, prescriptions that aren’t covered by insurance and more.

How to become a member today:

  • Go here, select your free gift, and click “Join Today”
  • Create your account (important!) by answering a few simple questions
  • Start enjoying your discounts and perks!

Important: Start your membership by creating an account here and filling in all of the information (Do not skip this step!) Doing so will allow you to take up 25% off your AARP membership, making it just $12 per year with auto-renewal.

Become an AARP member now

Catalytic converter

mipan/Adobe catalytic converter with sensor flue

The catalytic converter is underneath your car and helps to control emissions. It's made of several different types of valuable metals, making it an ideal target for a thief looking to cash in.

You may not see the catalytic converter on a daily basis, but you'll know if it's gone based on the loud noise the car will generate without it.

Electronic devices

kasarp/Adobe wallet mobile laptop on car backseat

Laptops, tablets, and other electronic devices are easy to steal and resell. That's especially true if you leave them in an unlocked car or out in the open, where it’s easy to see them.

Thieves can simply break a window and grab them before anyone notices what has happened.

Purses and wallets

Andrey Popov/Adobe black wallet besides car gear

Leaving a purse or wallet in your car while you pick up food or drop off something is a great invitation for thieves to spring into action.

Resolve $10,000 or more of your debt

Credit card debt is suffocating. It constantly weighs on your mind and controls every choice you make. You can end up emotionally and even physically drained from it. And even though you make regular payments, it feels like you can never make any progress because of the interest.

National Debt Relief could help you resolve your credit card debt with an affordable plan that works for you. Just tell them your situation, then find out your debt relief options.1

How to get National Debt Relief to help you resolve your debt: Sign up for a free debt assessment here. (Do not skip this step!) By signing up for a free assessment, National Debt Relief can assist you in settling your debt, but only if you schedule the assessment.

Try it

GPS device

luckybusiness/Adobe gps navigation inside car

Many newer cars have built-in navigation systems. But thieves might be interested if you have an older vehicle and use a GPS device.

In addition to taking your GPS device out of the car and carrying it with you, take down and hide any GPS mounts so thieves won’t be tempted.

Registration

Roman/Adobe open car glove box compartment

Once a thief is inside your car, they might head right to the glove box to look for your car’s registration.

This document has important personal information that the thief can use to steal your identity.

License plates

romaset/Adobe technician changing car plate number

License plates are easy to take from your car quickly. Thieves may find them particularly useful when trying to move stolen vehicles around town.

Credit cards

Tomasz Zajda/Adobe thief hacking bank account

Credit cards are easy to steal and use fraudulently, which makes them a target for thieves. Never leave credit cards in your car.

Truck tailgate

jaturunp/Adobe open tailgate of pickup car

Truck tailgates are great for getting things in and out of the bed of your pickup truck. But they’re also excellent targets for thieves.

Tailgates can be taken off quickly and resold as replacement parts.

Garage door opener

NIKCOA/Adobe man opening shutter using remote control

Not only can thieves take your car registration — which contains personal information such as your address — but they can also grab your garage door opener while rummaging around your vehicle.

They can then find and break into your home to steal even more things.

Earn cash back on everyday purchases with this rare account

Want to earn cash back on your everyday purchases without using a credit card? With the Discover®️ Cashback Debit Checking account (member FDIC), you can earn 1% cash back on up to $3,000 in debit card purchases each month!2

With no credit check to apply and no monthly fees to worry about, you can earn nearly passive income on purchases you’re making anyway — up to an extra $360 a year!

This rare checking account has other great perks too, like access to your paycheck up to 2 days early with Early Pay, no minimum deposit or monthly balance requirements, over 60K fee-free ATMs, and the ability to add cash to your account at Walmart stores nationwide.

Don’t leave money on the table — it only takes minutes to apply and it won’t impact your credit score.

Apply for a Discover Cashback Checking account today

Stereo equipment

gstockstudio/Adobe young man driving car on road

Unfortunately, an expensive stereo system can be a target for thieves. Getting your car windows tinted or parking in well-lit areas are ways to reduce the risk of theft.

Tires and rims

DedMityay/Adobe lowrider custom tuned sport car wheel

Those expensive tires and rims make your car look impressive, but they could also make the vehicle a target for theft.

Consider tires and rims that aren’t as eye-catching so they won’t attract thieves. Or get wheel locks to protect your tires and rims.

Important documents

Daniel Jędzura/Adobe car thief looking inside car window

Important documents are not safe in glove boxes or center console storage areas.

Don’t leave things like passports, birth certificates, legal documents, or other important papers in your car.

Keys

eliza/Adobe car keys in ignition

Never leave a spare key in your car or start it and leave it running while you're away. Doing so makes it easy for thieves to drive away in your vehicle quickly.

Third-row seats

hanjosan/Adobe luxury SUV third row of seats

Third-row seats can be removed for extra storage or locked in to accommodate additional passengers. But they can also be quickly taken out by thieves, who can resell them.

Cash and change

methaphum/Adobe thief unlocking car door using screwdriver

Cash and change are like a magnet for thieves. Keep cash in your wallet, and don't leave change in your car where it's visible.

Bottom line

Soloviova Liudmyla/Adobe happy family in car on trip

It’s important to use common sense when it comes to where you park and which items you leave in plain view.

In addition, review your car insurance to ensure it will cover you if thieves damage your vehicle while trying to break into it.

  • You could save up to $600 with some companies
  • Compare dozens of providers in under 5 minutes
  • Fast, free and easy way to shop for insurance
  • Quickly find the perfect rate for you

Author Details

Jenny Cohen

Jenny Cohen is a freelance writer who has covered a bit of everything, from finance to sports to her favorite TV shows. Her work has been featured in The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, and FoxSports.com.