The Ford Escape tops a new list of the most-stolen SUVs and crossovers, according to a study by the National Insurance Crime Bureau. The NICB — an insurance-supported nonprofit in Des Plaines, Ill. — combed through vehicle thefts from Jan. 1, 2008, to June 30, 2012, on 2009, 2010 and 2011 model-year cars.
Of nearly 20,000 reported thefts in those parameters, the Escape topped the list: 1,014 were stolen. Other hot SUVs included the Chevrolet Tahoe (856 thefts), the Toyota RAV4 (801), the Ford Edge (739) and the Dodge Journey (721). California, Texas and Florida experienced the most thefts, but New York City, Los Angeles and Detroit had the highest thefts for specific metropolitan areas.
The list suggests the Escape, Tahoe, RAV4, Edge and Journey may be the most-stolen vehicles in total. But like many stolen-vehicle lists, it gives little sense of how much theft risk you incur when buying a particular car.
Consider this: Car thieves purloined the 2009-to-2011 Escape 1,014 times in NICB's sample. But from October 2008 to September 2011 — a 36-month period when new Escape sales would have mostly included 2009, 2010 or 2011 models — Ford sold 582,792 new Escapes, according to Automotive News. Presuming that's a rough indication of 2009-to-2011 Escapes on the road, new owners incurred a risk of theft roughly equal to one in 575, using NICB's figures.
The second-place Chevy Tahoe, by contrast, had a much higher theft risk — one in 257 cars — because fewer 2009, 2010 and 2011 Tahoes were in circulation, using the same sales math. And a Cadillac Escalade shopper would have been wise to invest in a good security system: Theft risk of an Escalade, using NICB figures and sales data, was one in just 175.
Per-car thefts would "be a more accurate gauge, but we don't have those figures," NICB spokesman Frank Scafidi told us. "This isn't that kind of report. This is just raw numbers in a limited model-year run."
There were some other interesting nuggets, however. NICB found that some 15% of SUV thefts are "unrecovered" — dismantled for parts, exported or VIN-switched and resold. Apparently that's a regular occurrence for Toyota Highlander heists. Of the 10 most unrecovered vehicles (again, just raw numbers), Toyota's family crossover went unrecovered 30% of the time.