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Car thieves aren't always targeting newer cars, statistics show

The Honda Civic, like this 2001 model, is

The Honda Civic, like this 2001 model, is the most stolen car nationwide according to the National Insurance Crime Bureau, and the second-most stolen vehicle in New York State Credit: WIECK / Honda

If you think driving an older vehicle is going to make your car less attractive to car thieves, you may want to think again.

Many of the most stolen vehicle models in 2017 were at least a decade old, if not more, according to a new report from the California-based National Insurance Crime Bureau.

The Honda Civic was the top target for thieves nationwide in 2017, with 45,062 Civics reported stolen in 2017, and of those, the 1998 model year had the most thefts – 6,707 total, or roughly 15 percent of all Civics stolen. The second-most stolen car nationwide was the Honda Accord with 43,764 taken, and the 1997 model – a full two decades old – led all Accord thefts with 6,301 reported stolen.

Hondas are equally as coveted by thieves in New York State, according to the report. The Accord was the most stolen vehicle model last year, although the then-current 2017 model year had the most reported thefts. The Civic ranked second most stolen in the Empire State, with the 2000 model year being the most popular among thieves.

So, why are many car thieves targeting older cars instead of eyeing on new models? Frank Scafidi, director of Public Affairs for NICB, said it’s a combination of the popularity of those models and the less-advanced anti-theft technology in those vehicles.

“For years, Hondas and Toyotas have shared the most stolen title and a lot of it has to do with the sheer numbers of those vehicles produced and sold — and still operating — over the years,” he said. “More targets, more potential to get stolen, especially when drivers make it easy for thieves by leaving their cars running or leaving the keys in them.”

The introduction of smart keys in 1998 caused Honda thefts to drop substantially, Scafidi noted.

The age and relative lack of care an older car typically gets compared to a newer model also contributes to their popularity with car thieves, New York State Police said.

“By virtue of their age and the evolution of technology these vehicles have relatively basic ignition and electronic/auto theft prevention technology,” a statement provided to Newsday by the state police said. “As such, car thieves have figured out how to circumvent these and steal the vehicles. 

Older vehicles are also less likely to be stored in garages, the state police statement said, where an owner’s newer vehicle is likely to reside, leaving the older vehicles on the street or in the driveway where thieves have a much easier time breaking into them.

With the improvement in anti-theft technology, the newer models are harder for thieves to target, and even old-school theft deterrents can help your vehicle from becoming a statistic, according to Scafidi.

“The smart key is in its 4th or 5th iteration and today, a vehicle equipped with keyless ignition cannot be hot-wired like older models,” he said. “And there are after-market security items available that provide even more protection and can be managed using a smartphone app. Even old favorites like ‘The Club’ are effective against a certain kind of auto thief.”

And if you don’t want to find your car stolen? The state police have some simple advice.

“Safeguard your belongings within the vehicle, especially the keys,” they said. “It is still common for people to leave vehicles unlocked with the keys or key fob in close proximity to the car.”

Most stolen cars nationwide:
1.) Honda Civic - 45,062 overall, 1998 model most stolen with 6,707
2.) Honda Accord - 43,764, 1997 most stolen with 6,301
3.) Ford Pickup (full size) - 35,105, 2006 most stolen with 3,151
4.) Chevrolet Pickup (full size) - 30,058, 2004 most stolen with 1,970
5.) Toyota Camry - 17,278, 2017 most stolen with 1,100
6.) Nissan Altima - 13,358, 2016 most stolen with 1,450
7.) Toyota Corolla - 12,337, 2016 most stolen with 1,012
8.) Dodge Pickup (full size) - 12,004, 2001 most stolen with 1,242
9.) GMC Pickup (full size) - 10,865, 2017 most stolen with 957
10.) Chevrolet Impala - 9,487, 2008 most stolen with 991

Most stolen cars in New York State:
1.) Honda Accord - 2017 model most stolen 
2.) Honda Civic - 2000 model most stolen 
3.) Toyota Camry - 2017 model most stolen 
4.) Nissan Altima - 2015 model most stolen 
5.) Honda CR-V - 2016 model most stolen 
6.) Ford Econoline E350 - 2006 model most stolen 
7.) Jeep Cherokee/Grand Cherokee - 2014 model most stolen 
8. tie) Ford Econoline E250 - 2006 model most stolen 
8. tie) Hyundai Sonata - 2017 model most stolen 
10.) Dodge Caravan - 2003 model most stolen 
Source: National Insurance Crime Bureau

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