Nathan Lee Carver was described as already having a "truly terrible record" for burglary when he took the 2022-plate VW Tiguan from the house on Springfield Rise in Horsforth.
Prosecuting at Leeds Crown Court, Jonathan Foy said that 27-year-old Carver had been contracted in May as part of a two-man labouring team to work on the property's back garden.
They were given access to the house to use the kitchen and toilet.
On May 21, the owner told the workers she was going out and asked the men to simply close the back door before they left for the day.
They left the property when they finished at 3.30pm, but Carver booked a taxi to take him back to the house as soon as he got to his own home in Broadlea Hill, Bramley.
He let himself in through the unlocked door and took the keys to the Tiguan as well as an unknown quantity of cash from a box near the door.
Nearby CCTV cameras caught him getting out of the taxi and the Tiguan being driven off.
He was arrested but claimed he was not responsible during questioning by police. He later admitted a charge of burglary and theft.
Carver has convictions for burglary in 2010, 2012, 2014 and two in 2018 for which he was sentenced to more than five years in jail.
He was released on licence when he committed these latest offences and was returned to prison following his arrest.
Mitigating, Keith Allen said Carver had spent much of his early life in care, but was close to his mum who died about a month before he committed the crimes.
He said: "He turned to drink and drugs and was in a poor place, mentally. He was not thinking."
But Judge Simon Batiste discarded the mitigation about his mother's passing, saying: "If this was a one-off, it might have some weight to it, but he has done it so frequently in the past."
Jailing him for four years, the judge told Carver: "You have a truly terrible record for offences of burglary.
"It was a carefully-planned operation and it's clear you have not learned a lesson from your previous sentences, so a lengthy sentence must follow."