Don’t be a puffer – how warming your car can empty your pockets

It’s early on a cold winter morning. Your breath visibly billows out in front of you as you make your way to your car. When you arrive, you fumble with the keys in your gloved hands, but finally manage to unlock the doors. The car hesitates when you try to start it, but it reluctantly comes to life after a time. Rather than wait several minutes for the car to warm, you switch on the heater and return to the warmth of your home. This is a scene that plays out across the country on bone-chilling days, and it can cost vehicle owners hundreds or more if the wrong person finds the unoccupied car.

The act of starting a car, keeping the doors unlocked with the keys inside and the engine running, then leaving the car unattended is called puffing. It’s illegal in some cities and states, and can attract car thieves like magnets. While it’s usually not a good idea to leave a car running unattended under any circumstances, it’s more obvious in winter conditions when anyone can spot the exhaust from idling cars.

Criminals thrive on easy opportunities. When they spot a puffing car, they see a no-hassle way to get a free ride. Don’t give thieves the chance to steal your valuable possession.

Stay with a vehicle while it’s warming up in frigid temperatures. You should also remain with your car during the summer while waiting for it to cool down. Your presence deters would-be puffing vehicle thieves, and it also keeps local police from issuing you a puffing parking violation. Saving the cost and hassle of an insurance claim or parking ticket, depending on who finds your puffing vehicle first, is worth waiting with your car for a few short minutes in your 24-hour day.