Do you know where your car is at this very moment? I hate to sound alarmist, but there’s a decent chance that a thief is taking it for a joyride and is headed toward Fresno.
- Modesto, Calif: the top U.S. metropolitan area for motor vehicle theft (2007)
Most Stolen Cars (2007) 1. 1995 Honda Civic 2. 1991 Honda Accord 3. 1989 Toyota Camry 4. 1997 Ford F-150 Series Pickup 5. 1994 Chevrolet C/K 1500 Pickup 6. 1994 Acura Integra 7. 2004 Dodge Ram Pickup 8. 1994 Nissan Sentra 9. 1988 Toyota Pickup 10. 2007 Toyota Corolla
- 1995 Honda Civic: the most frequently stolen passenger vehicle (2007)
If you drive a small Japanese sedan, coupe or hatchback and live in an inland California city east of the Bay Area … well, let’s just hope you’ve at least got The Club.
According to the FBI, a car is stolen every 29 seconds in the U.S., and the rate of theft in 2007 was an estimated 363.3 per 100,000 people. Property losses in 2006 were nearly $8 billion, for an average of $6,649 per stolen car.
That’s the bad news. The good news is that motor vehicle thefts have gone down every year since 2004. One reason for the reduction is the gradual improvement and proliferation of anti-theft devices, such as car alarms, kill switches and immobilizers.
According to the NICB, many cars that reported stolen were not actually stolen: they are cases of what’s called ‘owner give-up,’ or more generally, insurance fraud. “Owner give-ups are often motivated by economic factors,” wrote the NICB in “Hot Wheels: Vehicle Theft in Third Year of Decline,” their 2006 car theft report. “If a person owes more on a vehicle than it is worth, having it stolen allows the owner to walk away from the debt.”
A good many more, however, are legitimate thefts, and those cars rarely get recovered. While the theft rate has gone down, the recovery rate has as well: the NICB says the recovery rate is at a dismal 59 percent, which means if your ride is stolen, there’s only a slight better than 50/50 chance you’ll ever see it again.
And where do those stolen cars go? In the case of California and other border states, they often go south. Some go to ‘chop shops,’ which, as the name suggests, disassemble the cars for their parts. More sophisticated car theft syndicates will ship cars overseas, where they are resold for a hefty profit.
Given that the 1995 Honda Civic is the most stolen car, does that mean you should you skip buying a Honda Civic? No. In fact, if you buy a late-model Civic, there’s a good chance thieves will leave it alone. Older models with fewer security features dominate the most stolen lists. In other words, thieves are generally a lazy bunch: they like to pick of the easy ones.