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
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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.

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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.

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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.


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.

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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.


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.

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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.