Which Cars Thieves Prefer–and How to Protect Yours

Car Thief

After traveling approximately 820,000 miles commuting to work during my career, my attitude toward my vehicles has always been pretty pragmatic–occasionally veering into the phlegmatic when broken down on the highway.  But when the National Insurance Crime Bureau reported the Top 10 Vehicle Make/Model Thefts recently, I found myself thinking about my car differently. 

Surprising Car Theft Facts

The top ten most stolen makes/models include three pickup trucks, one van, and six sedans. Here are some statistics about vehicle theft from the National Insurance Crime Bureau that may surprise you:

  • From 2009 to 2012, nearly 4,000 sports cars were stolen, BUT almost five times that number of compact and subcompact cars disappeared during the same time period!
  • Compact cars have a 92% recovery rate, while sports cars are only recovered 14% of the time.
  • California (mostly the Los Angeles area), Florida and Texas have the highest rate of car thefts.
  • Cars are most likely to be stolen during the months of July and August.
  • Once at a chop shop, your stolen vehicle can be completely stripped in less than 30 minutes.  Often the value of the individual parts is 2-4 times more than the value of the car.

What About High-end Vehicles?

Brand new vehicles are usually stolen to be re-sold intact, and luxury cars often make the “top 20 list.”  But the statistics on new car thefts vary according to what the stolen car market will bear.  In 2010, when the economy was drooping, only two high-end cars made the NHTSA’s top 20 list:  the Mercedes Benz CL and the BMW 7 Series.  Luxury cars often come with extensive theft-deterrent equipment, which goes a long way in keeping those theft stats low.  Even if they are stolen, recovery rates are fairly high.

Easy Theft-Prevention Tactics

Whether your car is your “baby” or just a means of getting from one place to another, there are things you can do to reduce the chance of having your vehicle stolen.  Here are just a few from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration:

  • Never leave your car unlocked, running or with the keys in the ignition.  Really. Never do this.  A large percentage (40 – 50%!) of car thefts are linked to this type of behavior.
  • Park in well-lit areas – in a garage if possible.
  • Don’t be less vigilant just because you park in your own driveway.
  • Never leave valuables in your vehicle, especially in plain sight.  And leaving your laptop and smart phone in the car is just icing on the cake for thieves.
  • Audible (loud alarms) and visible devices (like steering wheel locks) are great deterrents to car thieves.
  • Immobilizing devices such as fuel cut-off devices, kill switches and ignition disablers render your car inoperable for thieves.
  • Vehicle Recovery Systems and window etching help the police to locate your vehicle if it is stolen.


Theft of your vehicle is covered under your personal automobile insurance policy if you carry comprehensive (sometimes called “Other than Collision”) coverage.  If you’re not sure whether you have this coverage, contact your agent and ask.  A deductible may apply.  Most auto insurance policies will pay the depreciated value of your car if it’s stolen, but some offer an option to insure for replacement cost or agreed value.

If it’s Stolen

If your car is stolen, notify the police immediately.  They’ll ask you for details, including your car’s

  • year
  • make
  • model
  • vehicle identification number (VIN)
  • license plate number
  • any identifying characteristics

Then contact your insurance company as soon as possible.

Even if you’re not in love with your car, it’s a real hassle to be without it.  So take precautions, buy the right insurance coverage, and take good care of your “baby.”

About Sharon Kimmel

Sharon Kimmel is the Quality Assurance & Compliance Officer of Willis Personal Lines. As part of national opera…
Categories: Auto

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