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.
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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.
10. 2009 Toyota Corolla
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
9. 2002 Ford Explorer
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.
8. 1994 Acura Integra
Trade-In Value: $625
Original Price in 1994: $16,695
New Car Value (2011): N/A
The Integra makes the stolen list because it was a popular vehicle that Honda made from 1985 to 2007 that people liked to buy and soup up “Fast and Furious” style with everything from engine modification to enhanced suspension and blinged-up wheels, Keah explains.
What makes them even more desirable for car thieves is that they were easy to steal and the same parts were used from year to year.
7. 1994 Chevrolet Pickup
Trade-In Value: $1,200
Original Price in 1994: $16,322
New Car Value (2011): $20,800
Pickup trucks like the 1994 Chevy S-10 are extremely popular, particularly in Texas and the south. In Texas, for example, they’re often stolen and then driven across the border into Mexico where they’re harder to recover.
6. 2000 Dodge Caravan
Trade-In Value: $1,450
Original Price in 2000: $21,905
New Car Value (2011): $24,800
The Dodge Caravan is a popular minivan that is a big hit among soccer moms in places like Michigan and, as a result, thieves, who steal them for their parts. Thieves love the older models because they lack anti-theft devices and they have valuable parts like airbags and catalytic converters. The Caravan is so popular in Michigan, that five of the top 10 most stolen vehicles in Michigan are Caravans (the 2000, the 1999, the 1998, the 1997 and the 1996).
5. 2004 Dodge Ram Pickup
Trade-In Value: $5,050
Original Price in 2004: $22,295
New Car Value (2011): $20,100
Pickup trucks like the Ram are stolen for valuable parts such as the wheels and tailgates, Keah said. Tailgates can often get mangled in an accident and the new ones are expensive to replace since they often have cameras for backing up in them. (A tailgate with a camera can set you back $1,000 to $1,500.) Plus, the older ones are easy to steal, he said.
4. 1997 Ford F-150 Pickup
Trade-In Value: $1,200
Original Price in 1997: $17,480
New Car Value (2011): $22,600
Ford has been making its best-selling F-series pickup trucks since 1948 and for most of that time the F-150 has not only been the best-selling truck in America but the best-selling vehicle in America. That means there will always be a market for parts — and for thieves, who love those older models. 1997, incidentally, marked Ford’s first redesign of the F-150 since 1980. It was also the model where Ford introduced the rounded nose, a risky move given the F-150's popularity. To give buyers time to adjust to the change, Ford began selling the 1997s in January 1996, right alongside the 1996 models.
3. 1991 Toyota Camry
Trade-In Value: $700
Original Price in 1991: $14,513
New Car Value (2011): $19,900
The top three cars are all popular sedans, including the 1991 Toyota Camry. What makes them attractive to thieves is that these makes and models are easy to steal and the parts don’t change much from year to year. The Camry is known for its quality and reliability and great resale value. As a result, it’s a popular target for thieves all across America, from Delaware to Florida, Kansas, California and Hawaii.
2. 1995 Honda Civic
Trade-In Value: $1,100
Original Price in 1995: $11,970
New Car Value (2011): $17,400
The Civic gets great reviews and is one of the best-selling compact cars. People love them for their great fuel efficiency, reliability, repair history and resale value, according to Kelley Blue Book. It’s also pretty roomy inside, despite being a compact. Thieves love them for their parts. Cars like the Camry and Civic make the most-stolen list just about every year though the model year generally goes up one.
1. 1994 Honda Accord
Trade-In Value: $975
Original Price in 1994: $15,430
New Car Value (2011): $20,200
And the winner of the Most Stolen Vehicle contest is … the Honda Accord! The model year is 1994, the year that NAFTA was established, skater Nancy Kerrigan was clubbed in the knee with a pipe and O.J. Simpson took the entire nation on a high-speed chase.
The Accord is loved by both drivers and thieves and is universally stolen all over America. Drivers love it for its quality and refinement. It handles well, rates high on safety and maintenance and has a roomy interior. Thieves, of course, love them for their parts, which don’t change much from year to year, and for their lack of anti-theft technology.