Jacked, Chopped and Shipped Overseas: the Most Stolen Cars Aren’t Always Expensive Ones
Owning a 1984 Honda is no guarantee that you won’t get that sinking feeling when you don’t see it on the street where you parked it last night. Car theft economics is about a lot more than steal-and-resell. Parts from older cars may be quite valuable and make your ’84 Honda a target for theft and destruction. No one wants to be stuck waiting for their midlife crisis Porche 911 to show up in an impound yard reeking of a hard night partying. Or even worse, your restored project car ends up reenacting the plot of Gone in 60 Seconds, and there’s no Detective Castlebeck to save the day. Stolen cars disappear in lots of ways, but insurance companies and police have kept track of which makes and models keep disappearing.
The cars that make the top lists usually account for ten thousand or more vehicles stolen in a year. Finding out what’s disappearing in volume gives owners information, the most important tool in the war against car theft. For some of these popular targets, the question “why?” is still unsolved. What do you think?
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On a car discussion forum, a user posted “is it worth getting an Acura Integra, or will it just get stolen?” The situation is just that sad, and it has been ongoing for years. Integras are still a top target — but they haven’t been made since 2001. There are a few cars that get stolen more often, and they’re all on this list you’re reading: check for Accord, Corolla, Silverado, Civic, Camry. Two theories about why Integras are still targeted: they’re all around strong, sporty, quality cars which last, and they’re made with many Honda parts, so they’re a good source of great engines and other components. Apparently, the Type R is at much higher risk. Just keep an eye on yours.
Over 44 million Corollas have been sold globally since 1966, so having high theft numbers compared to other vehicles may be tempered a bit by the sheer volume of Corollas on the road. They are, however, popular for many reasons and those can make them targets specifically. They tend to have long lives, they are easy to sell used, there are plenty of sporty models and ways to mod them for a flashy result, and they tend to be easy to maintain. What’s not for a car thief to love?
The 1986 Olds Cutlass got on the top list for cars stolen in 2003. This is another mystery to be solved, clearly. Getting on the list means thousands of them were stolen, chosen over other vehicles by thieves active in that year. Looking at the lists published by sources such as Esurance, this statistic doesn’t even fit in. Most vehicles are either Japanese models or larger domestic vehicles like SUVs and pickup trucks. Car experts did note one driving force: many Oldsmobile parts remained the same over many of the production years, increasing their value when stripped for parts.
16Dodge Ram Pickup
Pickup trucks and SUVs make frequent appearances on top ten vehicle theft lists. Durable, practical, and very visible on the street, the Dodge Ram shows up on most stolen lists, year after year. For some reason, the 2004 Dodge Ram has been popular with thieves for years.
The Ford Explorer is another SUV which keeps showing up on top theft lists, at least in part because it has been popular with new vehicle buyers for years, even before the current crossover/SUV market focus. Older late 90s/early 2000s models have been popular targets as recently as 2011 when more refined vehicles with better fuel economy have been available. Simple and basic must appeal to some thieves.
Popular among families as well as with corporate fleets and rental companies, the Ford Taurus has many ways to make the top theft lists. Like the Corolla and the Accord, one factor in the popularity of the Taurus as a theft target is surely that many people would be glad to have one, they have a universal appeal.
13Ford F-Series Pickup
For parts, as a workhorse, to move locally or ship overseas, the F-Series Pickup from Ford has so many potential directions to travel once it gets stolen. It’s a well-known, long-lived model which unfortunately keeps showing up on top theft lists; the Super Duty trim even more so. Ford does provide theft deterrent systems, but aftermarket providers say the F-Series keeps them very busy.
The Camry does the Carolla one better in that it’s popular, long-lived, reliable, but it’s also a bit more solid and luxurious, so it carries a bit more value over time. It’s not just older Camry cars which get stolen, though: the 2016 model has already made it onto the top theft list, like some kind of rock star.
The GMC Sierra jumped right to the top vehicle theft list in 2017, even though Ram, F-Series, and Silverado were way ahead in volume that year with F-Series over four times Sierra’s number. Still, there are many factors such as opportunity and ease of theft which factor into who wins the theft medals.
Another simple, long-lived, popular car which gets lifted by thieves a lot even as it ages. Forbes reports nearly 50,000 1998 Civics went involuntarily to new owners in 2016, neck and neck with the Accord. It’s hard to tell what might help with these, theft deterrent, basic protection like a steering wheel lock, location, and recovery systems, or just posting a guard while you’re in the grocery store.
One specific year, 1996, made Esurance’s 2014 and 2012 lists for most stolen vehicles. The Maxima is a higher-end Nissan with plenty of luxury features, and probably more of them are well cared-for even more than a decade later. As Esurance notes, which seems to be the case with many older cars on these lists, theft deterrent technology just doesn’t seem to keep on deterring years later. Whether the cars are stolen to sell whole or meant to be parted out, the longer life of higher-end cars makes it more worthwhile.
Both recent and older models of the Altima have made it onto most stolen lists, specifically the 1997 Altima and the 2013. The 1997 we can assume became easier to steal due to theft deterrent system hacks, but it’s a puzzle why 2013 hit the list in 2014. The Altima does also show up as a “most stolen new car” in a 2015 list, so it may just be that popular among thieves.
This one is a puzzler: the 1994 model made it onto the 2006 most-stolen list. Saturn’s aren’t made anymore, so this is more of a curiosity, but they were basic GM cars styled with a mostly plastic body and popular with loyal fans but — why? More than ten years later? This would also be about three years after the last SLs left the production line, too. Saturn fans seem to be a wholesome bunch, so it doesn’t seem likely that they got greedy, but something has been going on that, like theft itself, just feels wrong.
A basic commuter Nissan, the 1994 model year apparently got hot for theft and carjacking in 2011. It does seem to have some attraction for basic tuning and styling, and there may be that outdated theft prevention thing going on again. Looking at the other entries here, it’s strange to see so many getting attractive to thieves at about the same advanced age.
Once again, about 16 years after production these cars show up on theft lists, in this case, the Cherokee and Grand Cherokee 2000 were getting jacked in 2016. These would not be a good choice for carjacking, because problems with the throttle position sensor could make them unreliable when it’s time to make a getaway.
The Honda Accord is so, so popular on these lists. Vehicles from the mid-90s show up involuntarily changing hands quite often in the 2000s, but even though Honda Accords still sell well, they stay put more. In 2016, reports CNN Money, less than 500 were reported stolen. Anti-theft technology has significantly improved — but we’ll see if the pattern continues and the theft rate picks up about 16 years from now on these.
A popular family and tradesman’s vehicle, the basic Dodge Caravan and the Grand Caravan are Chrysler’s longest-lasting vehicle nameplate. In fact, there’s a Caravan in the Smithsonian, honoring the company’s invention of the minivan. Happily, the one in the museum hasn’t been stolen, but the Caravan, in general, seems to be a target for older-model theft such as 2002s hitting the list in 2015.
2Chevrolet C/K 1500 Pickup
Chevy C/K 1500s from 1994 were flying out of parking lots and curbside parking spots in 2006, but 2005 Dodge Rams and 1997 F-150s were popular theft targets around that time also. Looking at the current construction boom, perhaps something was going on in the early 21st century which created a demand for these pickup trucks and similar models. It’s not always the model which creates theft demand due to popularity or ease of theft; sometimes it’s the need for a specific type of vehicle.
In 2017, the 2008 Impala and similar years showed up on many states’ most stolen lists. It was number one in Michigan, of all places. It’s a big, powerful car with plenty of room for passengers which could be attractive, and a quick search online reveals plenty of videos and instructions showing how to disable the theft deterrent system for those years so that might be one reason a ten-year-old car is on so many hot lists. A big, colorful steering wheel lock could keep thieves away from your Impala, especially in states like Michigan where it’s a popular target.