Roughly 800,000 to one million cars are stolen in America every single year. Many of the same models are on the list every year but it’s not just because they’re the most popular vehicles.
It’s primarily because they have parts that don’t change much from year to year – and most cars are stolen for the parts, not to drive around, explained Geoff Keah, a special investigator for eSurance. So, thieves who steal a 1994 model, for example, could sell the parts to use in models for 1995, 1996, etc.
That’s why you’re not going to find BMWs or Mercedes-Benzes on the list. Sure, they get stolen, but they’re not on the most stolen list.
Plus, it’s a lot easier for a thief to slip under the radar driving around in a 1991 Toyota Camry than say a brand new Mercedes, Keah explained.
The recession and soaring gas prices haven’t changed the cars that are on the list — you won’t find the fuel-efficient Prius on the list, for example. What the down economy has done, though, is it’s made more people want to repair their cars than buy a new one. That means they need new parts — and car thieves have a recession-proof business.
Most of the cars on the list are a few years old — in some cases more than 10 years old — because older models don’t have theft-detection systems, which makes them easier to steal, Keah said.
However, new license-plate recognition (LRP) technology is catching more car thieves. Cameras with LPR technology are being mounted low on tow trucks and other vehicles and scan 28 million plates a month. Another way: baiting thieves by planting laptops or other desirable electronics in the car that have a GPS-tracking device implanted.
Here are the 10 most stolen vehicles in America.
Source: The National Crime Bureau’s most stolen vehicles list for 2009, the most recent year for which data are available.
Trade-In Value*: $11,100
Original Price in 2009: $15,910
New Car Value (2011): $17,400
The Toyota Corolla is one of the “best loved cars in America” according to Kelley Blue Book. It rates high on maintenance and resale value — and it gets decent gas mileage. The 2011 had just “minor cosmetic changes,” which means parts from prior year models can be used in the newer models, which makes the car very attractive to car thieves.
* Based on the Kelley Blue Book value, assuming the vehicle is in good condition
Trade-In Value: $4,350
Original Price in 2002: $27,775
New Car Value (2011): $30,000
The Ford Explorer is one of the most popular SUVs on the market. People love the vehicle because it has the functionality of an SUV but also has style and comfort. Because they’re so popular, Ford hasn’t made too many changes in subsequent models, except for improvements to safety and roominess. You know what that means — thieves love them for the parts.