Hard times have befallen car thieves. Thefts of automobiles fell 3.2 percent last year, dropping to under 700,000 cars stolen. That is the lowest since 1967, and a 57 percent decrease from 1991, a year in which 1.66 million vehicles were borrowed with extreme prejudice.
This is according to the just-released National Insurance Crime Bureau's (NICB) Hot Wheels: America's 10 Most Stolen Vehicles report, covering thefts reported in 2013.
Still the No. 1 victim of its own popularity is the Honda Accord. In 2013, 53,995 Accords were taken by those who had no intention of returning them. Continuing its long-time run in second place is the ubiquitous Honda Civic, with 45,001 vehicles purloined.
Numbers three, four and five on the list were Chevrolet Silverado pickups, Ford F-Series pickups and the Toyota Camry, respectively. The common link? All five are high-volume, big-selling vehicles for which there is a thriving replacement parts market.
However, these nameplates only include older models, usually pre-model year 1998. For example, although almost 54,000 Accords played hide and seek successfully last year, only 273 were 2013 models, of which Honda sold 367,000 last year. The Honda Accord does not even crack the top 10 stolen vehicles list when the list is limited to 2013 models. The Honda Civic, No. 2 on the list inclusive of all model years, didn't even make the top 25 list of stolen 2013 models, despite putting 336,000 2013 Civics in harm's way.
In other words, not only are car thefts way down in general, but the newer the car, the less likely it will be stolen.
The numbers are different for 2013 models. Most-stolen to least-stolen of 2013's vehicles are: Nissan Altima (810); Ford Fusion (793); Ford Pickup Full Size (775); Toyota Corolla (669); Chevrolet Impala (654); Hyundai Elantra (541); Dodge Charger (536); Chevrolet Malibu (529); Chevrolet Cruze (499); and the Ford Focus (483).
You may ask what factors are most responsible for making car thieves pursue alternative career paths, and the most prevalent reason would be the vast advances in anti-theft technology developed circa 1997.
"The drop in thefts is good news for all of us," said 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."
The NICB recommends four "layers of protection" against theft:
- Common Sense -- Lock your car, take your keys - please.
- Warning Device -- Visible and/or audible warning devices are effective theft deterrents.
- Immobilizing Device -- If your vehicle can't be started, it can't be stolen (unless it is forcibly towed). "Kill" switches, fuel cut-offs and smart keys are among the devices that work best. In fact, it is immobilizing devices that began to become standard equipment in many vehicles since 1998, and they are now factory-installed standard fare on most vehicles today. These devices are probably the single biggest factor in defeating car thieves since the late 1990s.
- Tracking Device -- Newer vehicles incorporate GPS-based tracking devices that emit a signal to police or to a security network, pinning down the progress or location of a stolen vehicle. These systems can also be installed as aftermarket devices with relative ease at moderate cost.