Do You Drive a Car That Thieves Target?

Contrary to popular belief, the vehicles that are most targeted by thieves aren’t high-end luxury brands or new sports cars. Instead, they are often are older models without theft protection that are both easier to steal and desirable for parts, according to the National Insurance Crime Bureau’s (NICB) latest annual auto theft report.

Key Takeaways

  • Pickups and popular Japanese cars are top theft targets today, according to the National Insurance Crime Bureau’s annual tracking of most-stolen vehicles.
  • Auto thefts reached record levels in 2020, NICB statistics show—with a vehicle stolen about every 36 seconds in the U.S.
  • While claims experience drives your auto insurance cost, theft-related factors can also come into play.

Auto Theft Hits Record Pace

For the second year in a row, the industry group found the Ford full-size pickup truck was the model most frequently stolen, followed by the Chevrolet full-size pickup. Rounding out the top 10 are the Honda Civic, Honda Accord, Toyota Camry, Nissan Altima, GMC full-size pickup, Toyota Corolla, Honda CR-V, and Dodge full-size pickup.

Ford, Chevy, and GMC pickups and the Honda CR-V in particular saw double-digit theft increase percentages in 2020 compared with 2019, says David Glawe, president and CEO of the NICB. Those trends follow other NICB data showing that overall auto thefts spiked to their highest level in a decade in 2020, and catalytic converter thefts were more than four times higher in 2020 than in the prior year.

“Auto thefts saw a dramatic increase in 2020 versus 2019,” Glawe says, “in part due to the pandemic, an economic downturn, law enforcement realignment, depleted social and schooling programs, and, in still too many cases, owner complacency.”

Overall, the NICB reports that there were 880,595 vehicle thefts nationwide in 2020, about one stolen vehicle every 36 seconds, up from 794,019 in 2019.

Top 10 Stolen Vehicles
 Rank  Make & Model 2020 Thefts Most Common Model Year Stolen
 1 Ford Full-Size Pickup  44,014  2006
 2 Chevrolet Full-Size Pickup  40,968  2004
 3 Honda Civic  34,144  2000
 4 Honda Accord  30,814  1997
 5 Toyota Camry  16,915  2019
 6 Nissan Altima  14,668  2020
 7 GMC Full Size Pickup  13,016  2005
 8 Toyota Corolla  12,515  2020
 9 Honda CR-V  12,309  2000
 10  Dodge Full Size Pickup  11,991  2001
Source: Hot Wheels: NICB Annual Auto Theft Report, National Insurance Crime Bureau, October 2021.

The Impact on Insurance Costs

Vehicle theft rates play a role in determining the cost of the comprehensive portion of auto insurance coverage. And car insurance rates vary based largely on the insurer’s claims experience, in particular how often claims are filed and how big the claim payments are, notes Insurance Information Institute spokesperson Loretta Worters.

“While your auto insurance isn’t going to automatically rise because your make and model is the most frequently stolen,” she says, “if you have claims—say, your car has been stolen a number of times in your driveway, for example, your rates would likely increase.”

Related to theft, and in addition to make and model, two other risk factors may also impact auto insurers’ losses—in turn potentially affecting the premium you will be charged and discounts you may be eligible for:

  • Whether you live in an area with a high rate of auto theft. Bakersfield, Calif., for example, currently ranks as the metropolitan area with the highest vehicle theft rate in the country, according to the NICB’s most recent “Hot Spots” report, which compares the number of thefts per 100,000 residents in cities across the U.S.
  • Whether your vehicle has security features, such as anti-theft devices and engine cut-off systems, and whether it’s parked in a protected garage or on the street.

Insurers treat an auto theft claim as if the vehicle was totaled. Comprehensive coverage will typically pay the actual cash value of your car, minus your deductible.

Car owners nationwide currently pay an average annual comprehensive insurance premium of $167.91, according to the latest data available from the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC). The combined average auto premium nationally (which includes liability, collision, and comprehensive) adds up to $1,189.64, the NAIC reports.

What You Can Do to Thwart Theft

To prevent auto theft, the NICB recommends common-sense measures, including always taking your keys or fobs with you, locking doors and windows, and parking in well-lit areas. It also emphasizes the value of alarms, immobilizing devices, and tracking technology to help thwart thieves, alert the car owner, and aid police in recovering the vehicle. The NICB offers a list of ways to prevent auto theft on its website.