As further proof that pickup trucks are becoming ever more dominant on the automotive landscape, the full-size Ford F-150 is now the most-stolen vehicle in the U.S. In fact, four our of the top 10 on the list of vehicles most-frequently driven off last year were pickups, That’s according to the annual “Hot Wheels” list compiled by the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) in Des Plaines, Ill.
On the plus side, auto thefts have been declining in recent years. The NICB reports that 794,019 cars were stolen in the U.S. last year, versus 819,998 in 2018 and 833,740 in 2017. This is due in large part to increased use of coded “smart” keys, engine immobilizers and locating systems, and other factors.
While conventional wisdom might suggest that flashy new sports cars and expensive luxury rides are most targeted by thieves, in fact the opposite is the case. Rather, the list of most frequently stolen vehicles is packed with what are largely among the most sedate rides on the road.
Generally, older high-volume vehicles are taken most often because they’re worth more than the sum of their parts, so to speak. They’re typically driven off, or even towed away 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 repair shops and consumers, often via the Internet. Some crooks are particularly talented at being able to strip a vehicle of its most valuable parts right where it’s parked.
The vehicles thieves are most attracted to tend to vary by state. Those have a preponderance of rural areas and wide-open spaces, like Alabama, Alaska, and Arkansas tend to have more pickup trucks stolen than in more urban-oriented states like California, Connecticut, and Delaware, where sedans like the Honda Accord and Civic top the list.
Here’s the NICB’s list of the 10 most stolen cars last year, with the “most popular” model years noted and the total number of units taken for each nameplate during 2019:
- Ford F-150 (2006): 38,938
- Honda Civic (2000): 33,220
- Chevrolet Silverado (2004): 32,583
- Honda Accord (1997): 30,745
- Toyota Camry (2007): 15,656
- Nissan Altima (2015): 13,355
- Toyota Corolla (2018): 12,137
- Dodge Ram (2001): 11,292
- GMC Sierra (2018): 11,164
- Honda CR-V (2001): 10,094
While new cars are becoming more difficult to steal, it seems motorists continue to make it easier to have their vehicles driven off. The NICB reports that 84,131 vehicles were stolen last year simply because the key was in the ignition or the remote entry keyfob was left inside while parked. This is up from 82.369 in 2018 and 78,345 in 2017. That’s nearly a quarter million cars, trucks, and SUVs driven off illegally simply because of sheer carelessness. What’s more, the NICB suspects those numbers are even higher, perhaps much more so, because many drivers do not admit to such slipshod behavior in police reports or insurance claims.
Beyond heeding obvious common sense – park in a well lit area, lock your doors, and never leave your keys or the remote key fob in an unattended vehicle – the NICB recommends using a visible or audible warning device to deter thieves. Having a simple hidden “kill switch” installed that disables the ignition system unless its activated generally affords the most bang for the buck in this regard.
For even greater protection, consider using a tracking device such as Lojack or an automaker’s telematics system that leverages GPS telematics to afford remote monitoring of a vehicle via a smartphone or personal computer.
Never leave packages or bags, mobile phones, or other portable devices within a car while it’s parked – always secure valuables in the trunk or hide them under seats or in the glove box to avoid catching a smash-and-grab artist’s eye.
For added safety, the NICB advises you should always remove the garage-door opener transceiver from your vehicle while parked (unless, of course, it’s built-in), and never keep the vehicle’s title, registration, and insurance information in the glove compartment. Instead, it’s best to carry photos of the documents stored in your cell phone. Should a thief break into your car and take both the opener and a document that gives your address, he or she could easily use the transceiver to gain entry to the garage and whatever valuables are stored inside. Worse, the crook could obtain access to the rest of the house if the garage is attached, especially if the inside door is left unlocked.