While those driving the flashiest sports cars and poshest luxury models are justifiably vigilant – if not downright obsessed – when it comes to protecting their precious rides, it’s actually the familiar family car that gets stolen far more frequently.
That’s according to the most recent “Hot Lists” of both new cars and vehicles from past model years compiled by the National Insurance Crime Board (NCIB) in Des Plaines, Ill.
You won’t see the likes of a Chevy Corvette or Mercedes-Benz SL on either list, but both contain models that would otherwise blend into a crowded parking lot like the Toyota Corolla and Nissan Altima sedans, and the Ford F-150 pickup truck. In fact, top-selling older cars are stolen far more often than brand new cars; such models are typically taken to so-called “chop shops” where they’re quickly dissected into replacement components (water pumps, alternators, engine blocks, etc) that are subsequently marketed on Internet sites and/or sold to unscrupulous auto-parts dealers.
The most stolen car last year was a used Honda Accord from various model years, with 53,995 units registered missing according to the NCIB; by comparison, the top 2013 new car pilfered last year – the Nissan Altima – accounted for just 810 units. New cars tend to be more often taken and resold intact, usually with doctored paperwork, with higher-end sports cars typically shipped abroad for resale. Also, recent-model cars are more difficult for casual car thieves to “hot wire” and drive away, thanks to the proliferation of computer-chip-coded keys and built-in engine immobilizers.
Fortunately for all car owners, the Federal Bureau of Investigation says car thefts are back on a downward trend after seeing a slight increase in 2012. The FBI predicts its final 2013 statistics (to be pasted later this year) will see a 3.2 percent reduction, registering just under 700,000 units; that would account for a 50 percent drop since the crime’s peak year in 1991.
“The drop in thefts is good news for all of us,” says NICB president and CEO Joe Wehrle. “But it still amounts to a vehicle being stolen every 45 seconds and losses of over $4 billion a year. That’s why we applaud the vehicle manufacturers for their efforts to improve anti–theft technology and pledge to continue to work with our insurance company members and law enforcement to identify and seek vigorous prosecution of the organized criminal rings responsible for so many of these thefts.”
Here’s the list of the 10 most stolen cars from all model years taken during 2013, according to the NICB, with total units cited:
1. Honda Accord, 53,995
2. Honda Civic, 45,001
3. Chevrolet Silverado, 27,809
4. Ford F-150, 26,494
5. Toyota Camry, 14,420
6. Dodge/Ram Pickup, 11,347
7. Dodge Caravan, 10,911
8. Jeep Cherokee/Grand Cherokee, 9,272
9. Toyota Corolla, 9,010
10. Nissan Altima, 8,892
And here’s the top 10 list of new vehicles (from the 2013 model year) stolen last year, also based on NICB data:
1. Nissan Altima, 810
2. Ford Fusion, 793
3. Ford F-150, 775
4. Toyota Corolla, 669
5. Chevrolet Impala, 654
6. Hyundai Elantra, 541
7. Dodge Charger, 536
8. Chevrolet Malibu, 529
9. Chevrolet Cruze, 499
10. Ford Focus, 483
For its part the NICB warns consumers take a “layered” approach to help deter car thieves.
For starters, heed common sense precautions like never leaving the keys in the ignition when the vehicle is unattended, closing the windows and sunroof, keeping the car in the garage instead of leaving it in the driveway and parking it away from home it in a well-lit and well-traveled area. These may sound elementary to the point of being insulting, but the truth is that many thefts occur because owners make it far too easy for thieves to steal their cars.
In addition, the NICB recommends using an antitheft device, which will often also warrant a discount on your car insurance. A steering-wheel lock like the popular “Club” is simple, inexpensive and can be as effective as costlier alarm systems. A thief wants to get a vehicle as quickly as possible, and anything that might slow him or her down can be enough of a deterrent to instead choose another model on the block.
The NICB also advises installing a simple ignition kill switch or fuel cutoff device in a hidden location to make it that much more difficult for a crook to start a car or truck and drive it away.
We’d also suggest having your car or truck’s vehicle identification number (often called a “VIN,” it’s found on the driver’s side of the dashboard at the bottom of the windshield, as well as on the model’s title) etched on the windshield and major components to make them more difficult for chop shops to sell as replacement parts.
Beyond that, consider having a tracking device installed that leverages GPS telematics to afford remote monitoring of a vehicle via a smartphone or personal computer; the NICB says such devices are particularly effective in helping the police locate a car after it’s been stolen.
[Full story: The Most-Stolen New And Used Cars In America]
[Related video: 5 reasons why auto thefts dropped in a city notorious for stolen vehicles]
- sports cars
- Nissan Altima