Do you drive one of America's most stolen cars?

by John Egan
Do you drive one of America's most stolen cars?

If you drive an older Honda, be on the lookout for car thieves.

Two Honda models — the 1997 Honda Accord and the 1998 Honda Civic — were America’s most stolen cars in 2016, according to the National Insurance Crime Bureau. The Honda Accord was the most stolen car last year, too, with the 1997 model being the No. 1 target.

Hondas of all types accounted for four of every 10 car thefts last year in the U.S., the bureau says.

Why thieves target old cars

Why do thieves target 1997 Accords, 1998 Civics and other older cars, especially compared with new, more valuable cars? In many cases, they’re stealing the older cars to make a quick buck by selling the auto parts to “chop shops.”

Also, the 1997 Accords and 1998 civics are part of a generation of cars that were manufactured before the advent of “smart keys” and other anti-theft technology, the National Insurance Crime Bureau says. Therefore, it’s easier for thieves to steal these older cars.

“Since the introduction of smart keys and other anti-theft technology, Honda thefts have fallen precipitously,” the bureau said in a press release.

Keep in mind, though, smart keys and other anti-theft features don’t necessarily prevent your car from being stolen.

“Far too many thefts occur because the vehicle is left unlocked and the key or fob is inside,” Joe Wehrle, president and CEO of the National Insurance Crime Bureau, said. “Taking the time to lock it up every time you leave it can save a whole lot of headache and expense in the long run.”

The most stolen cars of 2016

Here is the bureau’s ranking of the 10 most stolen cars in 2016. Note: The first number represents the most stolen model of each vehicle.

1. Honda Accord

Number of 1997 Accords stolen last year: 7,527
Total number of Accords stolen last year: 50,427

2. Honda Civic
Number of 1998 Civics stolen last year: 7,578
Total number of Civics stolen last year: 49,547

3. Full-size Ford pickup
Number of 2006 full-size Ford pickups stolen last year: 2,986
Total number of full-size Ford pickups stolen last year: 32,721

4. Full-size Chevrolet pickup
Number of 2004 full-size Chevrolet pickups stolen last year: 2,107
Total number of full-size Chevrolet pickups stolen last year: 31,238

5. Toyota Camry
Number of 2016 Camrys stolen last year: 1,113
Total number of Camrys stolen last year: 16,732

6. Nissan Altima
Number of 2015 Altimas stolen last year: 1,673
Total number of Altimas stolen last year: 12,221

7. Full-size Dodge pickup
Number of 2001 full-size Dodge pickups stolen last year: 1,288
Total number of full-size Dodge pickups stolen last year: 12,128

8. Toyota Corolla
Number of 2015 Corollas stolen last year: 1,070
Total number of Corollas stolen last year: 11,989

9. Chevrolet Impala
Number of 2008 Impalas stolen last year: 1,013
Total number of Impalas stolen last year: 9,749

10. Jeep Cherokee/Grand Cherokee
Number of 2000 Cherokees stolen last year: 898
Total number of Cherokees stolen last year: 9,245

Does car insurance cover theft?

Car insurance is made up of multiple policies. The big ones are liability, personal injury protection, uninsured/underinsured motorist, comprehensive and collision coverage. (We know, it’s confusing. Fortunately, we’ve got a deep dive on how car insurance works here.)

The comprehensive portion of your auto insurance policy covers car theft. The coverage applies not only to the car but also to auto parts like airbags, according to the Insurance Information Institute. It also pays for fire, vandalism and weather-related damage.

Comprehensive coverage is not mandated by law but is required by many auto lenders. Bottomline: If you have comprehensive coverage, theft is covered. If you don’t, it’s not.

How stolen cars affect your auto insurance

The risk of loss — meaning the likelihood an insured car will be stolen or damaged — affects the cost of comprehensive coverage, the Institute says. That means buying a car that’s popular with thieves or living in an area with high crime rates can lead to higher premiums.
Plus, commonly stolen cars are considered prime candidates for gap insurance. Gap coverage, also known as "guaranteed auto protection"covers the difference between what your insurer will pay for a totaled or stolen car and the amount you still owe on the vehicle. There’s typically a gap between those two figures because cars lose value quickly.

How to prevent your car from being stolen

Want to avoid filing an auto insurance claim for a stolen car or, worse yet, avoid being left empty-handed because you lack comprehensive insurance?

The National Insurance Crime Bureau offers these theft-prevention tips.

  • It sounds like something everyone should do, but always lock your car when you’ve parked it and grab the keys. Many thefts occur because the driver has given ridiculously easy access to the car, almost inviting a crook to take it.
  • If your car doesn’t already have one, consider installing an immobilizing device — such as a “kill” switch or a fuel cut-off — that ensures your car can’t be started when the device is on.
  • Look into adding a tracking device if your car isn’t equipped with one. This device sends a signal to a law enforcement agency or monitoring station when your car is stolen; this can help authorities quickly recover your car.

Keep in mind, installing certain safety features on your car can sometimes net you a lower premium. You can learn more about common car insurance discounts here.

Image: Nikada