The holiday shopping season can be fun and fulfilling, but it is also a time when cars become treasure troves for thieves.
Here are a few car safety tips to help you get through the holiday season with all your gifts — and sanity — intact.
Lock Shopping Bags in the Trunk
You know this one: Items left in plain view are more likely to get stolen. If your vehicle has a trunk, make sure that's where you put the shopping bags.
Use a Cargo Cover
Many crossovers, SUVs, hatchbacks and wagons have exposed cargo areas. The fix, of course, is a cargo cover. If you don't have one or have lost it, order one from the dealership. If you do have one, make sure you use it — always.
Drop Off Gifts at Home
If you've purchased a big-ticket item or have completed a big shopping trip and need to go somewhere else, make a detour home to drop off your purchases. A few minutes of your time could save you a ton of money and lots of holiday disappointment.
Use Compartments That Keep Things Out of Sight
Many more modern cars have excellent storage compartments. It is not uncommon to find vehicles with two gloveboxes, an extra storage bin in the dash and a large center console. Some crossovers have a hidden storage area underneath the cargo floor.
Park Far Away From the Store Entrance
Parking far from the store or mall entrance has a number of benefits. First, you won't have to stress out or fight someone for a parking spot. Second, you will minimize the chances of your car getting dinged from a stray shopping cart or carelessly opened door. If you're shopping at night, make sure you're in a well-lit location. Be aware of your surroundings when approaching the car.
Use Remote Driver Door Unlock
Most car key remotes have a two-stage unlocking process. The first press unlocks the driver's door only, while the second press unlocks the rest. Make sure to use this function if you are traveling alone to minimize the chances of someone jumping in the passenger side.
Use Valet Keys and Valet Mode
If you don't already carry a valet key with you, this is the season to start. Whether you're valet parking at a mall for convenience or having dinner after shopping, this key will keep a prying valet or larcenous passerby from accessing the trunk of the car. If you want to keep your infotainment data private, a number of newer models from Ford and GM offer a valet mode for their systems. Valet mode locks the screen until a PIN code is entered. Read our article on car technology and privacy for more tips.
Use Back-Up Cameras and Mirrors When Parking
Holiday parking lots are a nightmare. Having a back-up camera can help you spot a child who might be in your blind spot. It's also handy for avoiding stray shopping carts. Don't make the mistake of only using the camera, however. Keep using your mirrors, and use the back-up camera to get a full picture of what is around your car.
Use Hands-Free Devices To Avoid Distracted Driving
The holiday season means driving in foul weather, putting up with kids shouting about what they want you to buy them and relatives texting you to pick up some last-minute gift. You can't do much about weather, kids and bossy relatives, but you can minimize handling the phone. Make sure your phone is synced via Bluetooth to take calls. If your car doesn't have Bluetooth, there are a number of aftermarket solutions. If you really need to reply to a text, pull over. Or, the next time you're car shopping, consider a vehicle that has a text-to-speech feature, which can read messages to the driver and understands the replies. Other systems let the driver scroll through several preset response messages.
Better yet, put the phone in the glovebox or trunk. Enjoy the peace and quiet. You'll need it before you hit the mall.
To find a dealership that knows how to treat shoppers right, please visit Edmunds.com's Dealer Ratings and Reviews.