Your Vehicle is Not a Safe

March 11, 2016   |   John O’Neal

I would suggest you leave no vehicle documents in your vehicle except for maybe your vehicle registration and proof of safety/emissions inspections. Vehicles are insured for a reason.  They can be stolen or damaged and are quite movable.  For these reasons it always baffles me when I see people use their vehicles as a de facto filing cabinet.  I have seen mail (with Social Security numbers, dates of birth, and other personal information) left in plain view and I have seen important documents and valuable property on virtual display.  And I have seen more than my share of unlocked, unattended vehicles with these important items—a virtual invitation to thiefdom.

Storing important documents and valuable personal property in your vehicle is an exceedingly poor choice if you are still making payments on the loan associated with your vehicle.  What if your vehicle is repossessed and your documents and/or other personal items conveniently disappear?  I have had potential clients call me about vehicle issues only to tell me that they have no documents for me to review because they were left in the vehicle which is no longer in their possession.

Even if your vehicle has a combination passcode for entry it is not the equivalent of a safe.  There are sophisticated means to bypass locking mechanisms for vehicles.  Do not store your service records, purchase/lease documents, Certificate of Title (NEVER DO THIS!), payment records, or other vehicle-related documents in your vehicle.  I would suggest you leave no vehicle documents in your vehicle except for maybe your vehicle registration card, an insurance card, and proof of safety/emissions inspections.


John T. O’Neal is a practicing attorney in Greensboro, NC who focuses his practice in Personal Injury/Wrongful Death, Consumer Law (includes Auto Dealer Fraud/Vehicle Issues, Lemon Law, and Debt Collection Defense), and various types of Civil Litigation. A long-time NCAJ member and a two-time Ebbie Award winner, he is a former Chair of the Consumer Areas of Practice Section and the Hispanic/Latino Issues Division.