Carjacking is a basic act available in all Grand Theft Auto games, where the player possess 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 term for carjacking.
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.
Stealing an unoccupied vehicle
If a vehicle is unoccupied, the player may simply break in, start the engine and drive/ride/fly away. For Grand Theft Auto IV and Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars, the player must often times take the time to shatter a window of a road vehicle if it is locked (larger vehicles, however, are unlocked to begin with) and hotwire the vehicle before they can start the engine. If the player interrupts the carjacking by pressing any other key in GTA San Andreas in GTA IV, the player character will simply open the vehicle's door but will not enter the vehicle.
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 activated when it has been broken into, serving as a deterrence to carjacking attractive vehicles parked in the game.
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. If the player interrupts the carjacking by pressing any other key in GTA San Andreas in 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 and GTA IV employ violence to obtain a vehicle. In both games, punches and kicks (the latter common in lower vehicles such sports car) may be used against an occupant, and if the player character in GTA IV is wielding a firearm, he will threaten the occupant at gunpoint.
For ships, 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.
Repercussions of carjacking
Carjacking is not without its dangers. From GTA III onwards, certain drivers will react aggressively towards the player if their vehicle is stolen, dragging the player out, and either reenter their vehicle to drive away, or pick a fight with the player. Taxi drivers are usually depicted with such behaviors.Also if your timing is good,you can restart before the former owner of the car pulls you out(before he opens the door)and this will result in the poor guy being caught with his hand in the car's handle.The unfortunate pedestrian will be dragged by "your" car for several meters and then will leave the handle,but will leave it also if you crash him into an object(very satisfying).This will occur only in GTA IV,and also Niko can(rarely)be dragged away(for example,at the starting point of a mission for Phil Bell ,he will drive away,with his car locked,so if Niko Bellic tries to open it he will be comically dragged away,and after a while,will leave his hold.
As expect, 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.