Friday, November 2, 2018

"The 10 most stolen cars in America"

That's the title of an article in the Minnesota Post-Bulletin.  It looks at the most frequently stolen vehicles in the USA during 2017.  I'll leave you to read the details for yourself at the link.

What I'm curious about is, why those particular vehicles?  What is it that makes a car or SUV or pickup more or less likely to be stolen?  I can think of several factors, but there must be more:
  1. Local popularity - if there are more of a given make or model of car in a given location, it's more likely to be stolen by sheer weight of numbers.
  2. User demand - if there are lots of small businesses or independent contractors or farmers who need pickup trucks, more of them are likely to be stolen, because there's a ready market for them.
  3. Ease of theft - if a given vehicle model is easier to steal because of deficiencies in its security system, it'll be stolen more often because of that.
  4. Target of opportunity - if youngsters congregate in bars or nightclubs, and a particular car is popular with that social set, it's logical that more of them will be stolen from such concentrations of vehicles.
  5. External demand - luxury vehicles in particular are often "exported" to other countries in shipping containers.  I can therefore see that expensive cars are more likely to be stolen to meet that demand.

What other reasons contribute to a vehicle being more or less likely to be stolen?  Can one "thief-proof" oneself to a certain extent by buying a vehicle not as frequently stolen as others?  Can anyone offer an informed opinion?  I'm curious.



drjim said...

Many get stripped for parts for their equally popular brethren, or as sources of "hot rod parts" for those models with certain engines, transmissions, and other factory-installed options.

The 1982~85 Toyota Celica Supra was an extremely popular target because they had the best seats in ANY production car of the time, and they also carried an equally impressive factory installed stereo system, along with beautiful alloy wheels and good tires.

"Stolen To Order" was also a popular option for overseas buyers.

And some get stolen for joy riding, for use as get-away cars, or any time an unscrupulous person just needed a ride.

I'm sure Well Seasoned Fool could comment on this as he used to be heavily involved in the auto retail industry.

Well Seasoned Fool said...

Stripped for parts especially tires, sound systems and engine control modules. Compounded by low to non existent law enforcement interest.

The weekend Mile High Flea Market, Commerce City, CO had a better parts selection than a NAPA store.

Sherm said...

A standard transmission can help keep your car your car.

Rick T said...

Exotic cars aren't nearly as popular as you would think. My roommate's friend was a dealer and drove a Countach to one of our parties. The dealer said there was some risk of joyrides but serious theft wasn't a real problem. There are so few cars the factory knows who has all of them and if a parts order comes in from a new location the factory will soon find out which vehicle it is. Kind of useless to steal a car if the seller can't drive it much or get it serviced...

The report was misleading, they should have focused on rate, not total number of thefts. There are ~8 million Accords per the report numbers so you would expect a high total number with a low rate.

The numbers showing a 1 in 100 chance my GMC truck would be stolen is much more interesting to me.

drjim said...

Ah, forgot ECU's. Add to that airbags and catalytic converters.

Many cars are worth far more as parts than as running cars. Glass was worth big $$, IIRC, along with doors, hoods, deck lids/hatches, and basically anything that can get quickly unbolted.

I have stories most people wouldn't believe about the underground "used parts" business......

HMS Defiant said...

I remember watching the San Diego news about 30 years ago when it was still fairly honest and they embarked on police chopper #1 and flew along the border and the cop pointed out the hundreds of LoJack signals coming from stolen cars that were basically ordered stolen by the cops and federales in Mexico to be used as their personal vehicles. There was zero chance of getting any of them back. Oddly, about a month later, one of the federale idiots motored over the border in his stolen LoJacked car and was outraged to be arrested for auto theft.

Unknown said...

My next-younger brother retired not so awfully long ago after 30-or-so years as a County cop in Northern Kentucky (just South of Cincinnati, OH), having started in straight out of the Air Force (where he'd trained and worked as an AP)and gone all the way up to Chief, and was intimately-familiar for quite a few of those years with (Not-So)Grand Theft, Auto and where the stolen "product" generally ended-up. He told me - when I asked once - that their biggest volume, by far, ran straight through the "chop-shops". Therefore - the most-stolen was always whatever was in greatest demand as parts...generally, among the "crash-parts" suppliers. The great bulk of such replacement parts carry only inventory or "service" numbers - there are no serial numbers, generally-speaking, so in a real-world sense most such parts are kinda-"generic", and many of them will work on a rather-surprisingly-large range of vehicles - so...they're often rather easy to sell - without too many questions being asked about just exactily where they came from - especially many of the larger plastic pieces, which are nearly impossible to repair, but are pretty easily repainted/refurbished and therefore re-used.

Ergo: Whatever gets stolen the most often, is whatever there's the most of in any part of the country, and therefore has the highest-potential for demand as crash/collision replacement parts, especially the higher-profit stuff like bigger, more-complex-to-make molded/built-up plastic stuff.

Once upon a time - years ago - Chevvys and Fords, especially the full-size ones,were the commonest cars around; these days, the Hondas - Civics and Accords, mostly - and the Toyotas - like the Corollas - are the commonest, closely-followed by Chevy/GMC, Dodge and Ford pickups...

Just as simple as that -

Aesop said...

Pros are going to get your car. Amateurs can be dealt with.
The best thing you can do is make it take more time, which increases heir risk.

1) Lock the doors.
1a) Don't leave anything visible that impulse thieves would want to steal. Jackholes will break you $500 window to get to a $50 burner-level cell phone, etc. Lock your stuff up out of sight.
(This goes double at Christmas shopping time.)
2) Get a pro-applied window film applied to the side windows, which are tempered (made-to-be-shattered) glass. There are simple-application films which will make it near impossible to shatter or puncture side windows even with baseball bats. (This is also handy for mobs, or overzealous law enforcement types.)
3) If it doesn't roll, it doesn't steal: have a hidden kill switch installed that leaves a trickle for your electronics and such, but prevents the starter from operating, even if they punch the steering lock. Finding that switch takes time, and time means getting caught.
4) Nobody else listens to car alarms. Try having the alarm horn mounted under the driver's seat, or in the headrest. Just don't set it off on yourself.
5) GPS that sucker. Cops don't give a damn about stolen cars, unless you can tell them exactly where it is. Time is critical.
If you have a hard-wired GPS, including a movement alarm, with a back-up power supply installed, and can track your car's location in real time, you can direct the po-po right to it. Which also may get them the local chop shop, and arrests they can use. Or let you and a back-up buddy find it in public place, and steal it back. (Use caution in that case.)
5a) If you can get a remote kill installed that you can control, do that. If, along with a hard-wired kill switch, you can turn off the fuel line via a hidden in-line valve, do that. Having your car stolen, and run out of gas a block or two away will solve a lot of problem for you, and create plenty for would-be thieves.
6) If you can get your registration addressed to a P.O. Box or mail drop, do that. Someone steals your car, and the registration points to home, with your garage and/or gate opener clipped to the visor, and the next theft - or worse - may be your home. Don't make it easy to do, starting with not leaving a trail of breadcrumbs right to it.
6) Alternatively, get a cheap, junky-looking but well-maintained and serviceable p.o.s. that's not the Top Ten Steal Mobiles, and simply take the hit when it gets broken into or stolen.

Will said...

One of the reasons that chop-shops exist is that a vehicle is worth about 3X it's regular sale value when broken up for parts. Add in that the manufacturer may not make some of the parts available while it is still being produced, or may not have stocked much of it separately, and the result is "stolen to order".

That 3X figure comes from adding up the cost of buying the parts separately from a dealer. Seems odd that assembling the parts adds up to a much cheaper item. Economics at work, apparently.

Unknown said...

If you want a good, effective and relatively-quite-cheap immobilization setup for your everyday-driver, you might want to try the kind of setup I rigged on my old Triumph sports-car years ago. The second time I had to replace the original-equipment fuel pump, instead of putting another OEM (mechanical/diaphragm) pump on it, I bought and installed a Bosch electric fuel pump, wiring it in so that it ran whenever the ignition switch was turned on. I got a bit worried about the possibility that something might go a bit awry, and keep the electric feed to the pump "live" even when the engine was off, and the key was removed - so, I wired-in a relay to control the on-off of the pump, and put a light-duty toggle switch in the relay's "hot"-side feed wire. The toggle switch was then hidden away inside the glove box, and I would just flip the toggle as the last step in shutting down the car. When I thought about it, I realized that I had also basically theft-proofed the car, as well, by doing this, as it was highly-unlikely that even somebody knowledgeable-enough to be able to try to start a Triumph sports car (the ol' thing had a separate starter-button on the instrument panel, along with a hand-choke, fercrapsake!) would never imagine that the fuel would run out before they could roll it more than about ten feet, because those old side-draft carbs had no float-bowl, so the only fuel that would be available would be the wee bit in the short length of fuel-line between the pump and the carb-line...which I had kept deliberately quite short...

I'm not all that familiar with present-day car fuel systems - but I'd think that kind of setup might be useful for at least some vehicles. Something to think about, anyway -

Eruditionastic said...

I suspect race has something to do with it. Impalas are driven by blacks, so of course in Michigan/Detroit it's the most stolen car. Mexicans love Dodge Caravans, so in IL and WI, most stolen car. The Honda Civics in California where "ricer" culture was born. White folks drive pickups, so all across the Midwest, it's pickups.

Jonathan H said...

There are many good points mentioned here, particularly the parts vehicles.
One thing that hasn't been mentioned is that some vehicles are easier to steal than others; this is the reason that most vehicles have gone to some kind of chip key - it prevents hot wiring the car since the computer won't cooperate without the right key.

I wonder if the flip side to harder to steal cars is an increase in carjackings?

Regardless, the best thing you can do to avoid either car theft or carjacking is to lock your doors, both when parked or moving. I read one claim that 80% of thefts from cars are from unlocked cars.
I know people in my area who not only leave their cars unlocked - they leave the keys in them too! That is PURE crazy!