How do thieves legally steal a car from a dealer?

Do you seriously think you can legally steal a car from a dealer? Even if you mean to take back your repossessed car from the dealership, that will be stealing because the registration is in their name, not yours. But since you’ve asked, stealing a dealership car may appear easy but getting caught is even easier. Every day, vehicles are stolen from dealership lots, with thieves stealing high-performance vehicles, for example, at Ohio car dealerships, as reported by Nexstar Media Inc. However, for many reasons, dealership vehicle theft is less rampant, compared to casual street theft.

How to legally steal a car from a dealer

The average thief is thinking “I walk in there, smash a window, jimmy the lock, hot-wire the car, then get out!” But it can be a bit tougher than it appears.



A thief accepts the possibility that they might get caught. The owner, the police, or another car thief may even pull the trigger if they were detected. Otherwise, they deserve a Darwin award if they do not consider the possibility of getting caught.

Secondly, they tend to operate quickly and have some understanding of how locking and anti-theft mechanisms work. Some even visit junkyards, pick a part, and buy components to use for practice at home. Sophisticated thieves, prior to entering the dealerships, may have attempted to exploit technology stores to develop stuff to aid their illegal quest. VATS, sidebar, and dimple keys were very popular in the past. Many pieces of equipment are available for purchase, but some may prefer to create theirs due to cost-effectiveness.



With proper self-composure, a thief can blend in with the surroundings. Otherwise, they’d stand out, and even dogs can pick up on their nervousness and start barking.

For example, if they entered a gated dealership and mobile security drove past, they’d just wave at them like someone with no ill intention, and the personnel may wave back while moving on. Another instance is if approached by a group of Dobermans, they’d just manage to pet one of them, which will keep the others under control until they eventually disperse.

First visit to the dealership

Let’s present the scenario as a movie about a car heist. The thief walks into a dealership, perhaps, with a friend, and asks to hear the engine purr. While the dealer is demonstrating the engine and answering questions, the thief makes a clay copy of the key for a late-night robbery, hacks the onboard diagnostics port, or fakes the owner’s key fob signal.

Manipulating the key fobs

In one recent nighttime video, a burglar was recorded nonchalantly entering a red Corvette at a dealership, starting it with a tool meant for locksmiths, and then speeding off. Dealers claimed that it was a significant issue. According to Karianne Thomas from the Zeigler Auto Group, “We see the bad guys getting their hands on those, utilizing them to start vehicles, then re-keying them with new key fobs,” ABC7 Chicago.


Making away with the dealership car

Having made a duplicate key from the clay copy, the thief will return, perhaps at 1 am with a bag packed with supplies, a petrol can, fake license plates/tags, etc., and may even wait until around 3 am. The smart ones will do a ton of silly, pointless things to see if they can spring any trap by the dealership undoubtedly waiting for them. Once the coast is clear, the thief simply gets in the car and drives off.

That’s it, a car has just been stolen from a dealership. As mentioned earlier, this is just the typical car heist movie scene that looks easy to pull but is tougher in reality.

A word of advice: If you really want that feeling of adrenaline from taking cars, there’s a way to go about it legally, and that’s by training to be a repossessor. Just learn to drive a stick shift and an automatic while earning your Class A professional drivers license with endorsement. Become a motorbike rider. Consider taking a course in mechanics, electronics, auto body, and locksmithing.

Do dealerships leave keys in cars?

There’s no one-fit-all answer regarding whether dealerships leave keys in the car or not. Different dealerships often operate differently. Generally, however, keys and original car documents stay with the car at the stockyards of dealerships. That means that the car keys are with the stockyard in charge.

Most dealerships are also heavily equipped with surveillance cams and rooms with a secure cabinet of hooks to hang the keys or special boxes used to store keys safely. Some dealerships may even use computerized lockers encrypted with unique passwords for key storage.

Why stealing from a car dealership is a terrible idea

It appears you just want to repossess a financed car back or just to take one for a joyride, also called Unlawful Driving Away of an Automobile (UDAA) and Unauthorized Use of a Vehicle. Joyriding is a criminal wrong.

The police

Police are skilled at recognizing cars without license plates, and cars parked in a dealer’s yard that are without license plates.

Selling problem

Selling new cars on the open market is very challenging because many of the title-washing tricks used by thieves are difficult to get away with, especially with high-end cars.

As most people in the parts industry can tell the difference between a used part and a new part that was purchased at a used part price, it becomes difficult to part out a brand-new car stolen from a dealer. Moreover, someone up the supply chain might become suspicious and a majority of individuals don’t need or require parts for new cars (parts stolen off of older vehicles are more valuable).

Dealership security

Dealers use a number of security measures to protect their cars from theft, including lighted parking spaces. Dealership entrances and exits, or simply a piece of the new car and used car lot, can be gated off for 24-hour security and surveillance. The most significant vehicles are parked inside the dealership, either on the showroom floor or in the service area. Usually, only recent trade-ins or other back-lot cars parked inside fenced-in areas are the most likely to be stolen.

It’s a risky business

The relative risk and difficulty of stealing a car from a dealership are higher than those of stealing a street-parked car. Dealership automobiles will still be stolen, but it’s just simpler to steal anything else first.

Read also: landlords not allowed to take the parking space


Dealerships should be aware that thieves can pose as someone else, sign the paperwork, and then leave with the car. It’s identity theft and a serious offense.

To the reader looking to pull the straw, you could make even more money doing repossession business and take other people’s cars with less risk and without being caught up in the legal system.

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