Last Updated on August 31, 2023 by Michael

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Nobody sets out to let a thief break into a rental car, but you may be unaware that you’re driving in a city that has a break-in problem.

For example, San Francisco has had a long history of rental car break-ins and theft. At one point, thieves were stealing multiple ZipCar rental cars every day in the City by the Bay.

Happily, according to the San Francisco Police Department, car break-ins are becoming less common. City-owned garages have seen a drop in break-ins thanks to more cameras, fencing, and routine police surveillance—a combination that has proven more effective than restricting barcodes on rental cars and requiring rental car companies to warn visitors of San Francisco’s crime rate.

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It’s not always easy to predict which city might have a car theft problem. According to a 2017 report from the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB), an industry-supported nonprofit dedicated to preventing fraud and theft, the U.S. city with the highest number of car thefts is Albuquerque, New Mexico. The next in line are Anchorage, Alaska, and Pueblo, Colorado. Who knew?

How to Avoid a Rental Car Break-In

No matter where your rental car takes you, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of hassle. Here are a few basic safety practices to prevent becoming a target.

  • Avoid parking your car in remote or poorly lit areas. This includes dark corners of parking garages and, if you returning the rental car after hours, in the rental car company’s own lot.
  • Don’t leave your car unattended for long periods of time.
  • Keep your car doors locked.
  • Roll up your windows completely.
  • Remove valuables from the car or at the very least hide them out of view or put them in the trunk.

What to Do if Someone Breaks Into Your Rental Car

If you experience a rental car break-in, here’s what to do next.

Assess and document the damage.

If you return to your car and discover a broken window or a picked lock, do not touch the car. Instead, document the details of the break-in from the outside. Take photos of any visibly damaged areas of the car’s exterior. Also, make a written list of damages to the car as well as anything missing from the vehicle. Use your smartphone’s notepad feature to do this if you don’t have paper and pencil. The more specific you can be, the better.

File a police report.

This must be done quickly. After you have a clear idea of the damage, call the police. You might be asked to come to a station to file a report or they might send an officer to assess the situation on-site. If you are told to go to the station, do not drive the rental car to get there. Instead, take a taxi or public transportation. If you have another person with you, one person can stay with the car.

Notify the rental car company.

Important: Do not call the rental company until you have filed a police report. The rental car company will ask you for the police case number in order to process their own report.

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Contact your credit card companies if necessary.

If your credit or debit cards were taken during the break-in, immediately alert your bank and card issuers.

File a claim with your insurance.

After you have filed a police report and called the car rental company, it’s time to file a claim with your insurance. If you purchased the LDW from the rental car company, you are covered for the vehicle’s damage. If you are relying on your own insurance, notify your personal insurance companies. Keep in mind that car damage, including broken windows, will likely be covered by your personal auto insurance, while stolen personal items would be covered through homeowner or renter’s insurance.