Pass on ‘puffing’ your car


Owen Richards/Getty Images

The National Insurance Crime Bureau says it’s illegal for drivers to warm up their parked vehicles, known as “puffing.” Photo courtesy of Owen Richards/Getty Images

Leaving your car running with the keys inside to keep it warm is illegal. Not only can this lead to theft, but it could result in a fine, the National Insurance Crime Bureau (or NICB) warns.

Warming up an unlocked car while it is parked — known in the industry as “puffing” — makes the car an easy target for a car thief: 1 in 8 cars that had the keys (or key fob) left inside were stolen in 2015, according to NICB data.

Public safety issues

Several states and municipalities have passed laws against this, notes the NICB. Law enforcement officers say it is a public safety issue when thieves try to make a quick getaway from the auto owner’s driveway, thus putting pedestrians and other motorists in danger. These laws do, however, typically allow the use of remote starters, since in those cases, the car is safely locked and keys are left in the possession of the owner.

“Getting a warning or a ticket is preferable to having your car stolen,” says NICB President and CEO Joe Wehrle. In previous reports, he says 57,000 vehicles were stolen in one year with the keys left inside.

“That’s one every six-and-a-half minutes. And when you add up the costs of replacing those vehicles, it’s hundreds of millions of dollars. Many of those cars are not insured against theft and the owner is left holding the bag and paying for a new car.”

RATE SEARCH: Comparing car loans? Check interest rates now at Bankrate.

Tara Baukus Mello writes the cars blog as well as the weekly Driving for Dollars column, providing both practical financial advice for consumers as well as insight into the latest developments in the automotive world. Follow her on Facebook here or on Twitter @SheDrives.