Whether you’re on a business trip or a vacation, having to stop and make a police report, call the rental car company and your travel insurance provider, then replace the items that were stolen from your rental car can be even more time-consuming and daunting simply because the area is unfamiliar.
If you’re in a foreign country, the local rules and unfamiliar language may be additional barriers that make the process more difficult.
While the first and most obvious rule is to do everything you can to prevent rental car break-ins and theft, knowing the most popular items to steal from a rental car can make it easier to know what to leave at home or lock in your suitcase at the hotel and what you can safely take with you.
Top 10 Items Stolen from Rental Cars
Recently, a few insurance companies released lists of which items thieves most prefer to steal from cars, including rental cars.
The top items stolen from cars include:
- GPS devices – portable GPS devices are useful when traveling in unfamiliar territory, but even if you put the device itself in your bag or hide it in the car, the mounting device left in the open (or the imprint of the suction cup) can be reason enough to break into the car.
- Laptops – again, even if you store the laptop in a nondescript bag and carefully hide it under the seat, a strap or power cable left in the open can clue a thief in to it’s presence and inspire them to break into the car.
- Car stereos – most rental cars don’t have fancy car stereo systems, but stereos remain one of the most often stolen items from any car because they’re quick and easy to de-install and they’re easy to resell.
- Portable entertainment – lots of families with young children rely on portable entertainment like game devices and DVD players to keep kids quiet on a trip. These devices are also easy to carry and easy to resell, which explains why thieves like them too.
- Music players – most people don’t carry a lot of CDs along with them anymore, but they will carry their entire music collection on an MP3 player or iPod. A pre-loaded music player is a tasty treat for thieves.
- Wallets and purses – we can’t stress this enough, but never store your wallet or purse in the car – keep it with you. Even a closed glove compartment is a hint to thieves that something may be stored in there, and locked glove compartments are very simple to break open with a knife or screwdriver.
- Cell phones – cell phones, especially smartphones, are easy targets for thieves. These days, however, your phone may have a lot more on it than just a bunch of numbers to call. If you do mobile banking or access email, for example, an enterprising thief now has access to that information.
- Cameras – again, these are highly portable, highly re-sellable items that can be converted to quick and easy cash by an enterprising thief.
- Coats and clothing – oddly enough these items are very tempting to thieves, and not for their resale value (which is likely not much). Coats and outer clothing left unattended in a car is valuable not for itself, but for what items may be left in the pockets. Things like keys, money, identification, etc. are often left in pockets and these are valuable tickets to greater rewards.
- Bags of new purchases – shopping bags filled with purchases or souvenirs are especially tempting to thieves because the items are new and they can be resold quickly.
What can you do to protect yourself?
As an insured traveler, you have a few options to protect yourself from financial losses that result from items being stolen from your rental car. Unfortunately, however, neither the rental car coverage with your travel insurance plan nor your credit card travel protection will reimburse you for the loss of personal items stolen from a rental car.
Car rental collision coverage reimburses you for the cost of repairs if your rental car is broken into, but it does not cover items inside the vehicle. See our review of car rental coverage for further details.
There are, however, some alternatives for travelers seeking some protection from financial losses due to stolen items:
- Your baggage coverage will reimburse you for the value of stolen baggage and personal effects anywhere you are during your trip. If your stuff is stolen from a rental car, you’ll have coverage up to the policy limit to get replacement stuff. See our review of baggage coverage for full details.
- Your homeowner’s or special articles policy back home is another option for special articles like electronic gadgets, computers, and cameras. Most homeowner or rental policies allow you to schedule items worth a minimum value on your homeowner’s policy. The best thing about this coverage is that it doesn’t have a lot of exclusions.