car thief

Top Stolen Cars: How to Protect Them

You love your car, so you don’t want to lose it. Still, cars are stolen every day. Not only are they stolen every day, many are stolen per day. It's estimated that car theft occurs every 46 seconds, every day of the year. That adds up to a whopping 700,000 cars in the last year for which statistics are available.

So, which are the top stolen cars in the U.S.? Forbes reports that they are, in order of frequency of theft (number of vehicles stolen in the last year for which statistics are available follow the make and model):

  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

Why are cars stolen?

If, like most car owners, you want to save your car from theft, the list raises an issue. Should these models be avoided because they are particularly attractive to thieves? Why are cars stolen? The top 10 group, after all, contains some of the most popular mainstream cars in the U.S., such as Honda’s perennially popular Accords and Civics, plus Chevys and Fords.

The cars on the list above are likely popular with thieves just because of their popularity with the American public. Many cars are stolen to go to a chop shop—an illegal garage that strips the cars of parts and resells them. Because Accords, Civics, and Chevys are widely owned cars, parts from them are perennially popular, and the market is robust.

Chop shops are one of the reasons it’s so hard to get a stolen car back. According to the NHTSA, almost 45% of cars remain missing and never found.

It is worth noting that these lists change according to the parameters used to compile them. The NHTSA put together a top stolen car list that confined the number of vehicles to the model year in which they were stolen. (The numbered list above is the total number in one year’s reporting period, regardless of the model year of the car.) Car thieves who grabbed a car in the year it rolled off the assembly line went for these makes and models:

  1. Mercedes-Benz CL-Class
  2. Mitsubishi Eclipse
  3. Mazda 6

The Mercedes-Benz-CL-Class is a luxury car. Forbes notes that new cars stolen are not usually stripped by a chop shop; instead, they are sold as is, with the paperwork forged. But you won’t usually find the car driven by a joy-riding teenager in your neighborhood (or any other); Forbes indicates that “higher-end sports cars typically shipped abroad for resale.”

It should be noted, also, that both chop shops and sell-abroad organizations are sophisticated and operate in the more densely populated states. (The top 3 for car theft, according to the NHTSA, are California, Florida, and Texas.)

Protecting yourself against car theft

So if the most common reason cars are stolen is a sale, either of parts or the whole, how can you best protect yourself?

The answer is not to be found in avoiding any particular make or model.

The most important protective method is to be vigilant. The numbers are stark: almost 50% of cars are stolen because the driver was careless and made it easy (NHTSA). They may have left their keys in a parked car; left the car running as they ran into a convenience store or dropped something off; or left the keys in a locked car, but in plain sight.

As far as car thieves are concerned, any of those scenarios is an engraved invitation. Lock Your Vehicle. It’s the first line of defense.

It is also highly advisable to have an anti-theft device installed. There are devices that will lock an ignition, so a vehicle cannot be started. A GPS device that can track a car is also a very good idea.