Stealing Gas From Cars: Legality & How To Prevent Gas Theft?

Stealing Gas From Cars: Legality and How To Prevent Gas Theft?

Written by Aaron R. Winston
Last Updated: June 3, 2024 11:07am CDT

Stealing Gas From Cars: Legality and How To Prevent Gas Theft?

No one likes paying for gas, especially when the cost of gasoline and inflation are on the rise.

History shows that when the global prices of fuel rise, so do the criminal incidences of people stealing gas from vehicles (and making fraudulent payments at gas stations).

California, the state with the highest average cost per gallon of gas in the US, has encountered an upsurge of thieves stealing gas from cars, which will likely worsen as we approach the spring and summer months as more people go on vacations and road trips.

In this article, we take a deep dive into understanding the concept of gas theft, how it happens, the laws governing it, and what you can do as a car owner to prevent it.

So, without further ado, let’s examine how people steal gas and the legal implications of doing so.

What Is Gas Theft?

Gas theft is the illegal act of stealing gasoline from a gas station, motor vehicle fuel tank, or pipeline.

Expensive gas at gas station fuel pump

Gas Theft From Cars

Gas theft from cars happens when a thief siphons or extracts fuel from another individual’s vehicle without their knowledge or permission.

Siphoning is the most common method gas thieves use to steal fuel from cars and is typically seen during times of high gas prices, inflation, or economic downturns.

Gas siphon and car

What Is Siphoning Gas From Cars?

The specifics of how criminals siphon gas from cars involve the thief inserting a flexible plastic tube into the vehicle’s gas tank and utilizing the physics principles of air pressure and gravity to transfer the siphoned gas into a container.

Is Siphoning Gas Dangerous?

Yes, even when done legally, siphoning gas is dangerous, posing many safety hazards and severe health risks resulting from inadvertently swallowing gasoline or inhaling its fumes. Gas contains toxic ingredients known as hydrocarbons.

According to the National Library of Medicine, several cases of gasoline poisoning have happened to people trying to suck gas from a car fuel tank using a hose or tube.

Gasoline Poisoning Symptoms 

Gas poisoning can cause many severe and even potentially fatal symptoms in the following regions of the body:

  • Airways and Lungs – Difficulty breathing and throat swelling
  • Eyes – Pain and loss of vision
  • Ears, Nose, and Throat – Pain
  • Stomach, Esophagus, and Intestines – Burns, pain, vomiting, and blood in stools
  • Cardiovascular system – Rapid drop in blood pressure leading to shock
  • Nervous system – Seizures, dizziness, drowsiness, feeling of being drunk (euphoria), headache, and staggering
  • Skin – Burns and irritation

Gas siphon on parking lot pavement

Gasoline is a highly flammable liquid, which also makes the act of gas siphoning hazardous due to the possibility of sparks, fire, or explosions.

Drilling Holes In Gas Tanks To Steal Gas

Most modern cars have various forms of anti-siphoning technology installed, which, while that has made it more difficult for thieves to steal gas, has led to more aggressive methods used to steal gas.

By drilling holes directly into a vehicle’s gas tank, thieves attempt to drain and collect the gas as it spills out.

While this brute force method is quicker than siphoning, it is more destructive, messy, dangerous, and financially costly for the vehicle owner.

Gasoline ignited and car is fire

The high flammability of gas makes drilling holes in gas tanks very dangerous. A simple spark can ignite the leaked fuel, causing an explosion.

How Much Does It Cost To Repair a Hole In Gas Tank?

In cases where gas thieves have drilled a hole in your fuel tank, the repair cost can be quite hefty. The average repair expense for replacing a fuel tank can range between $1,400 and $1,600, including parts and labor costs.

Drilled holes in car gas tank to steal gas damage

Is Gas Theft Illegal?

Yes, stealing gas is illegal and punishable by law in all fifty states and Washington, DC. Using a siphon to steal fuel from someone else’s car’s gas tank is categorized as a larceny offense (property theft, i.e., shoplifting from stores), which is a crime.

Gas theft can result in the following penalties and sentences:

Punishments For Stealing Gas

  • Jail time
  • Probation
  • Fines
  • Restitution

Learn more about larceny offenses in America in our new guide, covering shoplifting statistics and trends with data based on our 2024 survey data focusing on retail theft from the consumer perspective.

Is Stealing Gas a Felony?

The classification of stealing gas as a felony or misdemeanor depends mainly on the value of the gasoline stolen.

In cases where the value of the stolen gas exceeds a certain amount, known as a felony threshold, the crime is upgraded to a felony, leading to harsher penalties for the offender.

Man getting arrested by police officer in parking lot for stealing gas.

The felony thresholds range between $200-2500, depending on the state. New Jersey has the lowest minimum felony amount at $200, with Texas and Wisconsin being tied for the highest thresholds of $2500.

The majority of states have a minimum threshold for felonies between $1,000-$1,500.

Gas theft will typically be charged as a misdemeanor and not a felony offense since the average cost per gallon of gasoline and the inherent size limitations of motor vehicle gas tanks.

How To Tell If Someone Is Siphoning Gas From Your Car?

Detecting gas theft has occurred from your car can be tricky. However, there are certain signs that can indicate someone has siphoned your gas:

  • Unexpected Fuel Level Drop: Keep a close watch on your fuel gauge. If it shows a sudden drop in fuel level without corresponding usage, it might indicate gas siphoning has occurred.
  • Gas Smell: If you notice a strong smell of gasoline around your parked vehicle, it could be a sign that your gas tank has been tampered with.
  • Visible Signs: Look for physical signs like an open fuel cap, scratches around the cap from it being forced open, or puddles of gasoline under your car.

Puddle of gasoline under car

How To Report Gas Theft?

If you’ve witnessed a gasoline theft or suspect that you’re a victim of your vehicle’s gas being stolen, you should report the incident to the police by taking the following actions:

  • Document any evidence and take note of any suspicious activities or individuals in the vicinity. Take photos of the scene (i.e., a loose gas cap and gas drippings on the pavement).
  • Call 911 to provide law enforcement officials with a detailed description of what happened during the incident, including answering their follow-up questions about the gas theft incident.

Woman calling to report gas siphoned from car

How To Prevent Gas Theft From Cars?

There are several automotive security and gas siphon prevention measures you can take as a car owner to protect your vehicle from fuel theft:

Park Strategically To Prevent Gas Siphoning

  • Always park your car in a secured garage whenever possible.
  • Choose well-lit, high-traffic areas for parking your vehicle outside.
  • Position the fuel door side facing a main road instead of towards the middle of a parking lot or a desolate alleyway.
  • For mall parking garages, try to park your car near other motor vehicles or the elevators where people frequently enter and exit instead of leaving it by itself on the garage’s top floor.
  • When possible, aim to park your vehicle in a way that limits access to the location of the gas cap and fuel tank opening (close to a fence), making it tricky for thieves to insert a siphon.

Install Gas Theft Prevention Devices

Invest in anti-gas theft devices like locking gas caps or fuel anti-siphoning devices that can deter thieves and make it difficult to steal your gas quickly.

Turn On or Install a SEER Proximity Alarm System

Turning on or installing a proximity alarm or SEER (smart entry-exit recognition) car security system in your motor vehicle can help prevent fuel theft by detecting when an unauthorized individual comes within a certain distance of the car.

If someone approaches your car in hopes of siphoning gas, the system will trigger the car alarm, drawing attention to the area and scaring off any would-be thief with the noise.

This added layer of auto theft protection makes it easier to catch gas thieves as they approach your car before they can even begin siphoning gas.

Use Security Cameras

Install security cameras in your parking area to record and monitor the location of your vehicle. In general, thieves and burglars tend to avoid areas under surveillance, as they don’t want to get caught.

Security camera monitoring vehicle in driveway

Install Motion Detection Alarm In Driveway

A motion detection alarm is a security device that uses sensors to detect movement in a specific area, such as a home driveway.

When movement is detected, the alarm is triggered, which can activate lights, sound an alert, or even send a notification to your mobile device, thereby providing an early warning of potential intruders or visitors approaching your parked vehicle.

Types of Anti-Gas Theft Devices

Anti-gas theft devices like locking gas caps and fuel anti-siphoning devices can effectively deter potential thieves (for vehicles that do not have fuel cap release buttons installed).

Locking Gas Caps For Fuel Security

A locking fuel cap functions by having a built-in locking mechanism that engages when the key is turned, securing the cap in place and preventing it from being opened without the key.

Locking gas cap and key

Not only does it help protect your car or truck from gas theft, but it also protects against other types of tampering, like people inserting foreign objects into the fuel tank without you knowing it, which can seriously damage cars.

Local stores like AutoZone sell lockable gas caps.

Anti-Siphon Devices

Anti-siphoning devices like the Gas Bandit Blocker, manufactured by Stanco Metal (for older cars that do not have anti-siphon filler necks), are designed to prevent the insertion of a siphon tube into the gas tank.

They can be a worthwhile investment to safeguard your motor vehicle against gas theft. The installation of the device only requires a long-head screwdriver.

How the Gas Bandit Blocker Prevents Gas Theft [Video]

The Gas Bandit Blocker is sold as a two-pack and can be purchased for $9.95 (excluding shipping and handling) on the official product website.

The same two-pack costs $19.99 on Amazon, which includes the cost of shipping.

In Summary: Preventing Gas Theft Head-On

In conclusion, thieves stealing gas continues to be a significant challenge for businesses and individuals with a litany of economic and safety implications.

Remember, staying aware of the risk of gas theft and taking preventive measures can help protect your vehicle and your wallet. Stay alert, track your fuel levels, and report any suspicious activities to law enforcement.

Cars and vans at gas station

Lastly, we want to briefly explain who we are and what we do as a company.

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We give them immediate cash, helping them cover their expenses, like paying for vehicle repairs after a car crash or for the cost of pumping gas, as they need a working car to get to their treatment, whether that be getting steroid injections for pain or attending physical therapy.

Call us or apply online to learn more about how legal funding from us can help you stay financially afloat and move forward in your life while your injury attorney represents you in your lawsuit.

About the Author

Author profile
Strategy Director at Express Legal Funding | Author Website

Aaron Winston is the Strategy Director of Express Legal Funding. As "The Legal Funding Expert," Aaron has more than ten years of experience in the consumer finance industry. Most of which was as a consultant to a top financial advisory firm, managing 400+ million USD in client wealth. He is recognized as an expert author and researcher across multiple SEO industries.
Aaron Winston earned his title "The Legal Funding Expert" through authoritative articles and blog posts about legal funding. He specializes in expert content writing for pre-settlement funding and law firm blogs.
Each month, tens of thousands of web visitors read his articles and posts. Aaron's thoroughly researched guides are among the most-read lawsuit funding articles over the past year.
As Strategy Director of Express Legal Funding, Aaron has devoted thousands of hours to advocating for the consumer. His "it factor" is that he is a tireless and inventive thought leader who has made great strides by conveying his legal knowledge and diverse expertise to the public. More clients and lawyers understand the facts about pre-settlement funding because of Aaron's legal and financial service SEO mastery.
Aaron Winston is the author of A Word For The Wise. A Warning For The Stupid. Canons of Conduct, which is a book in poetry format. It consists of 35 unique canons. The book was published in 2023.
He keeps an academic approach to business that improves the consumer's well-being. In early 2022, Aaron gained the Search Engine Optimization and the Google Ads LinkedIn skills assessment badges. He placed in the top 5% of those who took the SEO skills test assessment.
Aaron's company slogans and lawsuit funding company name are registered trademarks of the United States Patent and Trademark Office. He has gained positive notoriety via interviews and case studies, which are a byproduct of his successes. Aaron R. Winston was featured in a smith.ai interview (2021) and a company growth case study (2022).
In 2023, Aaron and Express Legal Funding received accolades in a leading SEO author case study performed by the leading professionals at WordLift. The in-depth data presented in the pre-settlement funding SEO case study demonstrate why Aaron Winston maintains a high-author E-E-A-T. His original writing and helpful content continue to achieve unprecedented success and stand in their own class.

Aaron was born in Lubbock, TX, where he spent the first eight years of his life. Aaron attended Akiba Academy of Dallas, TX.

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