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, the player must often take the time to shatter a window of a road vehicle if it is locked (larger vehicles, except for helicopters, however, are unlocked 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.
Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars implement a hotwiring minigame in order to steal an unoccupied vehicle. The minigame consist of three different types; hotwiring an old or low end vehicle will require a screwdriver, hotwiring a middle end vehicle will require the player to manipulate and bypass the ignition cables, and hotwiring a luxury vehicle uses the in-game PDA to hack the immobilizer.
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 it with a weapon or another vehicle, waiting until the alarm stops, and then breaking into it.
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, 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 GTA San Andreas, Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories, Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Stories, GTA IV and GTA 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 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 "carjack" them. If one aims a gun at the driver of a vehicle (or passenger), they will sometimes say something, and then get out and run away, or, they will back up and drive away, trying to avoid the player. NPCs, when carjacked, 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, especially female drivers. Curiously, Michael 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 reason.
Interrupting a Carjack
It is possible to interrupt a carjack in Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, Grand Theft Auto IV (including its episodes) and Grand Theft Auto V. This can be done on all versions of the specific game, for example, by flicking the analog stick/pressing the key "W" before the character gets into the car. This is useful if you've carjacked the wrong car. However, if the player waits too long before getting in, there's a chance that the driver may re-enter the car and/or start attacking the player.
Repercussions of Carjacking
Carjacking is not without its dangers. From Grand Theft Auto III onwards, 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 are usually depicted with such behaviors. 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 is 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 GTA 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.
If the player attempts to steal an occupied car belonging to a gang member, other gang members of the same gang nearby will chase the player on foot and in car, usually using firearms such as pistols or SMGs to stop the player to retrieve their gang car back. It is very difficult to outrun a car chasing you, 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 CJ still gets in normally as if the car was stopped, making for a good boost of speed after taking full-control of the vehicle (especially a ZR350 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.
- 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 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 will attack both male and female drivers. This is presumably due to his psychopathic personality.
- If 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: Liberty City Stories
- In GTA 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
- The LCPD in GTA IV can legally commandeer vehicles belonging to the public. However, if they do enter a non-law enforcement cars, the icons will disappear on the radar and they can still use megaphone to call the player to stop.
- When the player has a Wanted Level, Niko will not take time to tug on the door handle of an unoccupied car. Instead he will simply smash the window and get in. This also occurs in GTA V.
- 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
- In GTA V, Franklin 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.
- In GTA V, 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, nearby Families member will start to attack the one who is being carjacked.