Car thefts rose a full 8% in the U.S. last year, according to the National Insurance Crime Bureau, and ongoing shortages of vehicles and parts appear to be contributing to the problem.
The list of the 10 most stolen products is revealing. The most popular nameplates were, on the whole, more likely to be stolen. And pickups topped the list — older model Chevy Silverados and Ford F-150s, in particular, with thieves often targeting vehicles using old fashioned keys that make those vehicles easy to jump start and drive away in.
The list also included SUVs, like the Honda CR-V and Jeep Cherokee. While sedans might be losing ground with new car buyers, they remained popular with thieves last year, Honda’s Civic and Accord models, ranking third and fourth on the list.
Rising prices encourage thieves
A variety of factors played into the car theft surge. Among other things, there’s been a global shortage of both new and used vehicles and that’s driven up the price buyers are willing to pay. But there’s also a growing need for repair parts, whether body panels, engines or other components needed by owners hoping to keep their vehicles running, the NICB noted.
“Used car values are at historical highs,” said David Glawe, president and CEO of NICB. “We have seen a nearly 35% increase in used car values over the last two years due to supply chain issues and inflation. Stolen cars can be shipped overseas and resold or broken down for valuable used car parts here in the U.S.”
What thieves target can vary from region to region, in part reflecting what people already own. The Dodge Charger was the most stolen vehicle in Michigan, with the Subaru Forester tops with thieves in Vermont and New Hampshire. The Honda Civic was the number one model in California, though third nationally.
Pickups top the list
But, on a national scale, pickups were the most frequent target, accounting for 14% of the roughly 1 million passenger vehicles stolen in 2021. Chevrolet’s full-size trucks led the list, accounting for 48,206 of the stolen vehicles, with Ford full-size pickups coming in second, at 47,999. GMC’s trucks ranked sixth on the list, with 15,599 of them heisted last year.
A closer look by the NICB found thieves particularly enamored of trucks — and other models dating back as much as two decades, to a time when most vehicles still used conventional keys and had ignitions that were easy to hot wire.
The top 10 list does appear to reflect changes in the overall U.S. car market — though it may lag a bit behind. The Jeep Cherokee/Grand Cherokee models collectively made their first appearance, ninth on the most stolen list, and just behind the Honda CR-V.
There was a modest decline in where passenger cars rank, though the Honda Civic, Honda Accord and Toyota Camry still ranked third through fifth. The Nissan Altima was the seventh most-stolen vehicle, the top 10 rounded out by the Toyota Corolla.
All told, the list included four domestic models — the NICB combining the two Jeeps — and six imports.
Keeping away the thieves
While it’s not always possible to keep thieves away from your vehicle, NICB officials stress that it’s possible to make you car, truck or crossover at least a little less appealing.
“Drivers should practice good personal security hygiene and take precautions to protect themselves,” said Glawe. “An insistent thief may still find a way through even the best security plan.”
Among the organization’s keep recommendations:
- Roll up your windows, lock your doors, and take the keys or fob;
- Park in well-lit areas and, when possible, areas staffed by security personnel and further protected by surveillance cameras;
- Remove valuables from your car or keep valuables locked in your trunk or out of sight under a rear deck cover;
- Consider adding an immobilizing or tracking device for your vehicle.