NICB: “Puffing” Your Vehicle Could Cost You


Car on icy road
Credit: alexfan32/Shutterstock

Ever run out and start your car to get it warmed up during the winter, then go back inside for a few minutes? Well, you should rethink that plan according to the National Insurnace Crime Bureau. The NICB calls it “puffing” and warns that if you leave your car unlocked and unattended while warming it up, it could become a target for theft.

The NICB says more and more states and municipalities are passing laws banning “puffing,” making it illegal to leave a vehicle running and unlocked—even in your driveway. The NICB says if you start your vehicle and scrape off snow or ice from your windshield, you should be just fine. However, if you leave only for a minute, it could cost you a hefty fine in some areas of the nation.

Warming-up your vehicle could cost you - More and more states and municipalities are passing laws banning 'puffing,' making it illegal to leave a vehicle running and unlocked - even in your driveway.

One solution the NICB suggests is to use a remote starter, to start the engine while keeping the vehicle safely locked up without the presence of a key or fob.

NICB Theft Study

Last May, NICB published a report on vehicle thefts with keys or fobs left with the vehicle, and the numbers are eye-popping. The FBI reported that there was a total of 747,841 vehicle thefts in the United States in 2018. NICB found that in 2018 a total of 81,911 vehicles were stolen with the keys or fobs left in them. That’s 11% of the national total, and the real number could be much higher.

“We always warn consumers about the dangers of leaving a vehicle unlocked and not taking the fob or key with them, but leaving the car running with a key or fob in the vehicle is a prime target for an opportunistic thief,” said NICB Chief Operating Officer Jim Schweitzer.

Thousands of vehicles are stolen each year with the keys left inside. Many of those cars are not insured against theft and the owner is footing the bill for a new vehicle. As we begin the new year, we encourage you to contact your insurer or agent to make sure you have the appropriate coverage in case the unthinkable happens.

Most importantly, we can’t stress enough the importance of locking your car and taking the fob or keys with you.

NICB advises drivers to:


  • Lock the vehicle, set the alarm, and take all keys or fobs.
  • Do not leave the garage door opener in the vehicle.
  • Take a picture of your registration on your cell phone, and do not leave the registration or other papers with personal information in the vehicle.
  • Never leave a car unlocked and running to warm it up or while stopping for a quick cup of coffee. It only takes a moment for the opportunistic thief to jump inside and drive off.
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