Carjacking is a basic act available in all Grand Theft Auto games, where the player possesses the ability to steal an occupied or unoccupied vehicle. It is a fundamental feature in the games, and an inspiration for the "Grand Theft Auto" name, which is a legal slang term for a vehicle theft.
Carjacking is committed with a simple stroke of a key or button when the player character is close to a targeted vehicle. If the player character isn't already next to a front door of the vehicle (passenger's or driver's side), the player character will automatically walk or run towards the aforementioned door. Once the player character is already in the driver's seat, the name of the vehicle will flash on the bottom right of the screen (in GTA V, the vehicle's name will flash even if the player enter's the car via the passenger door and seats on the passenger seat but is not yet on the driver's seat).
Stealing an Unoccupied Vehicle
If a vehicle is unoccupied, the player may simply break in, start the engine, and drive/ride/fly away. In Grand Theft Auto IV and Grand Theft Auto V however, often times the player must take the time to shatter a window of a road vehicle or helicopter if it is locked (larger vehicles and boats, however, do not have locked doors to begin with) and hot-wire the vehicle before they can start the engine. If the player interrupts the carjacking by pressing any other button or key in Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, GTA IV, or GTA V, the player character will simply open the vehicle's door, but will not enter the vehicle. Entering a convertible will result in the character simply jumping in without interacting with any doors. But if the character exits, however, they will open the door and get out, possibly inferring that the character unlocked the door from the inside.
For Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars, the act of stealing an unoccupied car is significantly more complicated, with each car featuring any one of three different lock-cracking minigames that the player must successfully pass in order to finally assume control of the vehicle; these include lock picking by twisting a screwdriver on the ignition lock (for old vehicles and trucks), hot wiring by screwing open a wire panel and twisting two wires together (for average cars), and matching the code of an immobilizer using the PDA's hacking software (for luxury vehicles).
In certain cases, road vehicles will automatically trigger an alarm when intruded, attracting police attention. This can be averted by tripping off the alarm by hitting the vehicle with a weapon or another vehicle, waiting until the alarm stops, and then breaking into it.
For GTA Chinatown Wars, a vehicle alarm will only go off if the player fails to start the car engine within an allocated time or leaves the vehicles before the car is unlocked; vehicles with immobilizers do not impose a time limit given the act of decoding the immobilizer may take considerably more time.
In Grand Theft Auto 1, certain vehicles may also be armed with a bomb, which is activated once the vehicle has been broken into, serving as a deterrence to carjacking attractive vehicles parked in the game.
In GTA IV, if the player shoots the car window and enters the car, the alarm may be disabled. It is unknown if this is a glitch or a bug.
Stealing an Occupied Vehicle
If a vehicle is occupied by a driver, the player must pull the driver in question out before they can enter and drive away. If the player enters via the passenger's side, the player character simply forces the driver out from inside the car; if the passenger side is also occupied, the player character will pull the passenger out before entering (In GTA San Andreas, Carl Johnson will slam the passenger's head to the dashboard before pulling him/her out, though in some sports cars, he will kick the passenger to the head. Stealing an occupied tractor depends on which side he is stealing it from, wherein he will punch the driver if carjacked from its left side while if he is stealing a tractor from its right side, he slams the driver's head to the steering wheel as he would do when stealing a 2 or 4-seater car from its right side if the passenger seat is occupied). If the player interrupts the carjacking by pressing any other key in GTA San Andreas or GTA IV (for motorbikes and low sports cars only in GTA III and GTA Vice City), the player character will simply pull out the first occupant, but will not enter the vehicle.
Whereas most games simply depict the player character pulling its occupants out, player characters in Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories, Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Stories, Grand Theft Auto IV and Grand Theft Auto V employ violence to obtain a vehicle. In these games, punches and kicks (common in lower vehicles such as sports cars and classic cars) may be used against an occupant. If the player character in GTA IV and GTA V is wielding a firearm, he may threaten the occupant at gunpoint. In addition, GTA V the character can break the window glasses and hit the driver with a gunstock, if he's holding an Assault Rifle. In GTA IV, Niko Bellic may slam the head of the driver into the steering wheel if they appear hostile towards him. In GTA IV, it is also possible to steal a vehicle without having to directly "carjack" them. If one aims a gun at the driver of a vehicle (or passenger), they may exit a vehicle in fear and flee on foot, or back up their car and drive away, trying to avoid the player. NPCs who fall victim to vehicle theft in GTA IV may also end up calling the police for help. By the other hand, some characters like Trevor Philips will just verbally threaten a driver to get out of the car without harming them. Curiously, Michael De Santa always opens the door and the driver casts himself out of the car, without being threatened before.
For boats, the player may simply jump aboard the boat, triggering its driver to leave the controls and flee. Carjacking an occupied aircraft may be done in multiplayer modes, but is otherwise difficult in single player mode, if not impossible, as occupied aircraft are often not within reach to the player.
If the player has already saved a police vehicle, and an officer arrests a criminal, he will get into your car with the criminal in the back and you can carjack your car back and you will not receive a wanted level (it is unclear whether this is a glitch or not; it can also be done if you aim a weapon at the officer and you still won't get a wanted level). It is possible that the police vehicle that you had saved before is claimed as yours and the officer can be pulled out, as if a thug had stole your car, however, often times, policemen can also get into your car and drive your parked police vehicle off when out of sight as they consider police vehicles theirs. Using cheats and spawning a FIB Buffalo in GTA IV, the police will also get in, but unlike most vehicles spawned with cheats, it will not disappear when another vehicle cheat is used. This is most likely the game identifying it as a police vehicle from traffic rather than one from cheating. Street Criminals are known for carjacking pedestrians' vehicles, and even the player's vehicle.
In Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, if the player enters the passenger door while holding the sprint or the jump key, it will push the driver out and kill them instantly for unknown reasons.
Since Grand Theft Auto III, NPC criminals have the ability to carjack other NPC vehicles and including the player's own vehicle. These criminals do not ever gain attention of the police. Criminals do not distinguish the type of vehicle the player is currently in. It is possible to allow them to hijack the player's helicopter if it is stationary on the ground, but the criminals do not have the intelligence to fly them and will simply stay put in the helicopter.
In Grand Theft Auto IV and Grand Theft Auto V (including Grand Theft Auto Online), police officers have the ability to commandeer other vehicles if there are no police vehicles nearby. They do not discriminate which vehicle to commandeer, and this includes vehicles the player has parked in the parking area, and they can even be seen pulling civilians out of their cars to pursue perpetrators. Police commandeering civilian vehicles do not appear on the radar, making them hard to distinguish. Despite not being in a police vehicle, an officer driving a civilian vehicle can still use a megaphone to shout at perpetrators. In Grand Theft Auto Online, the police will not commandeer any personal vehicles.
Repercussions of Carjacking
Carjacking is not without its dangers. From Grand Theft Auto III and onward, certain drivers will react aggressively towards the player if their vehicle is stolen, dragging the player out, either re-entering their vehicle to drive away, or picking a fight with the player. Taxi drivers and gang members typically exhibit such behavior. Generally, pulling out a firearm will cause the attacker to run away in fright; however if the other person also happens to have a gun, he will simply pull out his gun and begin a shootout.
As expected, carjacking, as well as being in the possession of a vehicle with a triggered alarm, will attract police attention if a police officer is within the line of sight of the crime, often resulting in the player attaining a one-star wanted level. In Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, however, it is possible to entirely avoid police attention during a carjacking. If the player is in the process of pulling an occupant out of a vehicle and notices an officer nearby, they can just interrupt the carjacking. This is because the police officer will only respond if the player gets in the stolen vehicle; simply pulling an occupant out will not earn a wanted level.
Normally, should the player attempt to steal an occupied car belonging to a gang member, other gang members of the same gang nearby will chase the player on foot, usually using firearms such as pistols or SMGs to stop the player to retrieve their gang car back. In GTA IV, nearby gang members will also give chase in their cars, which tend to be very difficult to outrun as they act like police officers on a 6 star wanted level, attempting to box the player in and gun them down. This can also happen when carjacking normal non-gang members, but isn't as dangerous. In this case, normal unarmed pedestrians (such as homeless people, old women, and people who do not look gang affiliated) will attempt to protect/defend the one who is carjacked (who may or may not join in), but as they are usually unarmed, they pose no immediate threat, unless gang members join in.
If the player attempts to carjack a vehicle just as it begins to move and accelerates, the player will inevitably be thrown off, emphasizing the need to carjack only when a car is traveling in low speeds or is in a complete stop, however, in GTA San Andreas, if the player enters the passenger side of the vehicle, the driver may panic and begin to drive away, but the player character may still enter normally as if the car was stopped, making for a good boost of speed after taking full-control of the vehicle (especially a ZR-350 or an Infernus); likewise, any NPC attempting to drag the player out of their car may be met with the same experience if the player manages to bring their vehicle's speed up. In GTA IV, the proliferation of ragdoll physics allows for both the player and NPCs to be dragged along the road while clinging to a door handle after a failed attempt carjacking a vehicle which is beginning to accelerate in speed.
Carjack odd jobs
Many quests and side features in the GTA series revolve around, or at least require, the stealing of a car, and some optional missions require the 'collection' of many cars. Some of the optional missions include:
- Import/Export: The car-theft side-mission in GTA III.
- Sunshine Autos Import Garage: The car-theft side-mission for Sunshine Autos in GTA Vice City.
- Exports and Imports: The car-theft side-mission in GTA San Andreas.
- Car-azy Car Give Away: The car-theft side-mission in GTA Liberty City Stories.
- Civil Asset Forfeiture Impound: The car-theft side-mission in GTA Vice City Stories.
- Exotic Exports: A car-theft side-mission for Brucie in GTA IV. This mission series is triggered by emails, and differs from most car-theft side-missions in that it employs a mini-map tracking icon, and precludes the player taking on other missions until the car is acquired and returned to Brucie.
- Stevie's Car Thefts: A car-theft side-mission for Stevie in GTA IV. This mission series is triggered via cell phone messages.
- Angus' Bike Thefts: A bike-theft side-mission for Angus in The Lost and Damned. This mission series is triggered via cell phone calls.
- If timed correctly when stealing a motorbike from the front in the 3D Universe, the protagonist will jump over the handle bars in a flying kick-like move.
- In some GTA games, when hijacking a vehicle with a passenger, they will start screaming in fear. They will stop screaming if the vehicle stops and they exit it.
- In GTA IV and GTA V, when the player has a Wanted Level, the protagonist will not take time to tug on the door handle of an unoccupied car. Instead, they will simply smash the window and get in.
- In HD Universe, the protagonists will only attack male drivers, while they will simply pull out female drivers. This is done to avoid depictions of violence against women, however in GTA V, Trevor Philips will attack both male and female drivers. This is presumably due to his psychopathic personality.
- If a female character is chosen in GTA Online, she will still attack male drivers.
- If the player steals a motorcycle in the HD Universe (excluding The Lost and Damned) but did not immediately drive away, the player will wear a helmet. If the player alights from the motorcycle, he will discard the helmet instantly.
Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas
- It is impossible to steal an occupied Police Car from its passenger side as it is locked by default regardless if the passenger seat is occupied or not, causing player to earn a Wanted Level in the process.
- If the player carjack from the passenger side and quickly drives off, the driver will instantly dies.
Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories
- Sounding the horn immediately after stealing a vehicle with a driver will result in a one-star wanted level, but it will disappear after 5 seconds.
Grand Theft Auto IV
- When Niko smashes the window to unlock the car, the majority of the glass will shatter outwards as if it were punched from the inside of the car. In real life, most of the glass will be inside the vehicle.
Grand Theft Auto V
- Franklin Clinton is sometimes able to carjack a vehicle without smashing the windows using a lock pick more commonly known as a slim jim. This may be because Franklin has more "Street Smarts" and is more familiar with cars since he is a car repo. However, when a Wanted Level is gained, Franklin simply smashes the windows on all the cars.
- In GTA Online, when carjacking or stealing a vehicle with or without a passenger, sometimes the player will receive a text saying that you have messed with them for jacking their ride and that you'll regret it. Another text message is then sent to the player giving them a bounty between $1000 and $9000. Killing the NPC will not avoid this event.
- The animation when starting the engine only depicts the protagonists pressing a button instead of hot-wiring (unlike GTA IV). This may imply that most cars in GTA V were equipped with a start-stop ignition button, a popular feature in most modern cars during the late-2000s.
- If Franklin were to carjack a car within Families territory, a nearby Families member will start to attack the one who is being carjacked.
- Sometimes if the player presses the carjack button repeatedly near a moving car, the driver will stop the car for no reason, as if they're giving the player a chance to hijack their car.