Contrary to what some folks might believe, the most stolen cars in America aren’t flashy sports cars or luxury models, but older and nondescript vehicles that, so to speak, are worth more as the sum of their parts.
Likewise, a motorist may actually suffer a greater proportionate risk of having a vehicle purloined in a less-densely-populated area than within a bustling big city.
That's according to two annual reports issued by the National Insurance Crime Bureau in Des Plaines, Illinois.
The organization's annual "hot list" of the most frequently stolen vehicles in the U.S. shows that older models — mainly family sedans and pickup trucks — are most often targeted by thieves. These include high-volume cars like the Honda Accord and Civic and full-size Ford and Chevrolet pickup trucks from previous model years that had yet to be fitted with so-called "smart key" technology that prevents a car’s engine from starting unless it recognizes a computer chip embedded within a key or a keyless start key fob.
Older cars and trucks are typically driven or towed to a "chop shop" where they're dismantled into components — airbags and catalytic converters are especially valuable in this regard — that can be passed off to unscrupulous vendors and sold to consumers and repair shops.
On the other hand, when they are stolen, new cars are more often taken and resold intact, usually based on doctored paperwork, with higher-end sports cars typically shipped abroad.
And though major metropolitan areas tend to suffer the most stolen cars overall, some otherwise sleepy, smaller burgs are actually responsible for higher theft rates relative to their population.
Albuquerque, with just more than 10,000 vehicles stolen, topped the nation last year in terms of purloined rides per capita, according to the NICB's annual "Hot Spots" list. Otherwise, the Golden State leads the U.S. in car thefts, with California cities both large and small occupying six out of the NICB's top-10 hot spots.
As always, the NICB recommends owners take the usual precautions to ensure their cars aren’t driven away and/or dismantled and sold off for parts. These include keeping the windows and sunroof closed and taking the keys from the ignition when the vehicle is unattended — around 57,100 vehicles were reported stolen with the keys left inside them during 2015.
If away from home, park it in a well-lit and well-traveled area. Finally, use an antitheft device, however basic, which might be enough of a deterrent to convince a crook to instead choose another car on the block.