The Car Models Thieves Are Really Looking For

Everyone who owns a car has grappled with the fear of it being stolen. Sometimes we forget where it was parked and immediately jump to that conclusion, while other times we just get a sneaky suspicion that has us checking the driveway again and again just to be sure. Automobiles are a significant expense and in many parts of the country, they are an absolute necessity just to get to work and back. For some, the connection to the auto goes deep, as enthusiasts often passionately devote their weekends and extra dollars to automotive projects. In short, we don't want to lose our cars. Auto theft is a scourge that has been around as long as the automobile itself, though fortunately, we now have dozens of options and accessories meant to prevent car theft. 

Cars are generally stolen for three reasons. They can be stolen and stripped for parts. Another common method is to steal cars whole and export them to developing nations with scant regulatory authorities. Stolen cars in some nations can fetch a premium price from the right buyers. Perhaps the most insidious thief is the one who takes your vehicle on a joyride, destroying it along the way. However, if you own any of the models listed below — in no particular order — you, unfortunately, have a higher chance of being a victim because these are the cars thieves are really looking for.

Ford F-150

The Ford F-150 has been the best-selling vehicle in the U.S. for much of the last several decades since its introduction. From its humble roots as a rugged and sturdy work truck, it has evolved into a workhorse with creature comforts. The newest model offers sophisticated technology and an array of options, including an onboard generator powered by a generator that is stout enough to run a table saw at a work site. After the work is done, the F-150 greets its occupants with supple leather, touch screen infotainment, and a slew of electronic driving aids. It has come a long way.

However, over the decades the truck has been sold, an awful lot of them have made it a long way from home. Ford Authority reported in July 2022 that the F-150 is one of the most commonly stolen vehicles in America. Sadly, as long as a particular vehicle remains the top-selling, it will also likely be among the most stolen. The sheer numbers on the road make them stand out in statistics. They are also easy targets as so many are kept at businesses overnight where there is little activity and fewer eyes to keep the thieves away.

Honda Civic

While Honda made inroads into the American market with small and friendly motorcycles followed by small and efficient cars, the entrance of the Civic turned Honda into genuine competition for the big three in Detroit. The Civic showed up in 1972 just before an oil crisis occurred, sending fuel prices up sharply and giving American buyers good reason to snap up the diminutive, gas-sipping hatchbacks. Once drivers were behind the wheel, their experience with legendary Honda reliability kept them coming back to Honda showrooms. The engineering was so good that the CVCC engine did not require a catalytic converter as did its American counterparts (via Car and Driver).

Having sold millions of Civics over the years means there are a lot of them in our driveways and garages. With so many to choose from, thieves are going to grab what they can. It's what thieves do. The National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) puts the Civic in its 2020 list of top ten stolen cars in 41 states. The list does not account for particular year models, although Motor Biscuit says that of all the many Civics roaming the country, the 1998 model year is the biggest target. It probably does not help that theft prevention on those cars is weak compared to modern vehicles, but their reliability means plenty of them remain on the roads.

Chevrolet Silverado

The rivalry between Ford and Chevy runs deep in the American psyche, with loyal fans of both vying to proclaim truck supremacy for their brand. That is all well and good, but thieves don't appear to care much either way. In any given year when the F-150 is not the most stolen vehicle in the country, the Chevrolet Silverado is sure to take its place (via GM Authority). They also swap places for the best-selling vehicle. Being plentiful makes for easy pickings and plenty of Silverados are left overnight in desolate industrial districts where thieves like to hunt.

Perhaps part of thieves' preference for the Chevy trucks stems from their amenities. Like the F-150, the Silverado has been well-refined over the years. Chevrolet makes a reliable and solid truck for getting work done while continually upgrading the driving experience to be on par with nice automobiles. Chevy truck options are also highly versatile and you can order one to fit your exact needs. If your needs involve a lack of pavement, the Silverado ZR2 is perfect. Slashgear spent time in one and found it to be a more than capable beast tackling all manner of difficult terrain, all while swaddling the driver in gentle luxury with an impressive array of tech to enhance the drive. The ZR2 can handle just about anything — so long as it remains in your hands.

Honda Accord

With the Honda Accord being one of America's best-selling sedans for many years, it should be no surprise they are among the most often kidnapped by nefarious car thieves. Honda brought the Accord to our shores in 1977 and has been building a legion of Honda fans ever since. Coupling good reliability with excellent fuel economy made the car a sales success, becoming the first import to be the best-selling car in America in 1989. Motor Trend notes that Honda started manufacturing the Accord in Ohio in 1988 and the Marysville plant produced all Accords for Honda, including export models sold in Japan.

As great a car as the Accord is, not everything is so rosy. The NICB 2020 list puts it on the top ten stolen list in 45 states. Perhaps thieves appreciate reliability as well. Accords have long been targets for those wanting to steal them outright, though a new plague is descending upon owners of late model cars. USA Today reported as recently as 2018 that thieves are targeting Honda Accords and Civics for their airbags to resell on the black market. It is suspected this is targeting cars under recall for the airbag with shops installing stolen ones and submitting fraudulent claims. Estimates suggest that up to 50,000 airbags are stolen annually. Accord owners should take measures to ensure they do not become victims as their cars are prime targets.

Toyota Camry

The Toyota Camry is a top seller that regularly jockeys for position with its Japanese counterpart from Honda. Also known for its reliability, the Camry is a favorite among consumers who want a solid and comfortable no-frills car that they can count on. The Camry has never been known as the most flashy or extravagant car but it still offers a good driving experience and handles as well or better than most cars in its class. It excels at being adequate. The exception to the adequacy is the TRD version of the Camry, which provides an exceptionally thrilling, powerful, and engaging ride — though this could make it even more susceptible to theft, particularly a joyride.

The Toyota Camry shows up in the NICB list in 45 states, on par with the Accord. It may be another victim of its own success. There is no shortage of Camrys to choose from in many parking lots across the country if you are out to boost one. However, Camry owners face a different threat from the Accord. It is one of the top cars targeted for catalytic converter theft, according to Car and Driver. This trend is just as insidious as airbag theft and it is past time for metal recyclers to scrutinize what is being brought to them and by whom.

Nissan Altima

A more recent addition to the Asian commuter car market, the Nissan Altima showed up at dealers in 1993, according to The News Wheel. It sits in between Nissan's standard-bearer, the Maxima, and the down-sized Sentra, and has been with us through six generations. It offers more room than the compact while being more affordable than the full-size sedan. The current Altima is a solid car that offers plentiful amenities for a car in its class and the retail price sits at around $24,000, so it is a fair value for a competent ride if you can keep it.

Other nameplates have been around longer, selling more units than the Altima, yet it places in the top ten stolen cars in 34 states, according to the NICB. It is hard to pinpoint what makes this a popular car to take, but Japanese cars do appear to be popular among thieves.

Honda CR-V

The CR-V made its first appearance in the '90s and, at the time, looked as if it was the Civic's big brother. Being heavily based on the Civic platform, this is a reasonable inference. It also appeared at a time when the shift to SUVs and crossovers was in full swing. Motor Trend tells us it went on sale in the U.S. with the 1997 model year, although it debuted elsewhere in 1995. Although it rode high like a truck or SUV, the CR-V is front-wheel-drive and has a monocoque chassis, unlike the popular Explorer, Cherokee, and S10 Blazer that dominated the market at the time. It was the beginning of what came to be known as the crossover.

Being a crossover doesn't stop it from getting lifted. The CR-V sits in the top ten most stolen vehicles in 18 states. It may have lower stats for theft than its Accor and Civic stablemates, but it has also been in production a fraction of the time. Regardless, it is a good idea to keep it secure, especially as it is another popular target for converter theft.

Toyota Corolla

The Toyota Corolla is the best-selling nameplate worldwide, having sold more than 50 million cars since its 1966 debut. Corolla is among the longest-running nameplates in the auto industry and has been known for being a plucky little car that is good on fuel and utterly dependable. Toyota saw immediate success with this car such that it surpassed the VW Beetle in sales by 1974, according to Toyota Magazine UK. Toyota partnered with GM to produce the Toyota stateside with its rebadged twin, the Chevrolet Nova. The partnership turned GM's worst-performing plant into its best by implementing Toyota production standards, according to a post on Medium.

While Corollas around the country continue their relatively trouble-free driving year after year, they are also being ripped away from caring homes and sent to far-off lands and unscrupulous scrapyards. In the NICB list of top ten stolen cars, Corolla shows up in 27. Furthermore, it is another car that is targeted for its converter. Curiously, police in the Dallas suburb of Frisco saw a string of police reports of wheels being stolen off of Toyota Corollas. At the time of the report from WFAA news, the police had at least six reports, all for the same model car. If you own a Corolla, keep a close eye on it.

Chevrolet Malibu

Malibu is one of the longest-running nameplates for an American carmaker. It has been around on and off since 1964 when it was affixed to a fully optioned Chevelle. It later became a stand-alone model for several generations, although it went on hiatus from 1983 through 1997, when it was revived for a new front-wheel-drive platform (via Motor Trend). Although early Malibus were tire-shredding muscle cars, the modern car is one of Chevrolet's standard sedans, has been a good seller, and remains one of the few sedans still produced by American firms.

While the current generation of Malibu is a fine vehicle – the 2016 model received relatively high marks — Malibu lands on the NICB list in 27 states. The NICB list does not offer reasons for cars being stolen, but the high production numbers mean there are simply more to choose from. Malibus are also a good seller for Chevrolet fleet vehicles, often being sold to rental companies, government agencies, and companies that maintain a fleet of cars for business use. These cars are often stored in places that give cover to thieves.

Another threat to Malibu owners reported by GM Authority is the targeting of these cars for their airbags. Thieves will break the rear window to avoid tripping the alarm and then remove the whole wheel for its airbag. News like this can make it feel as if nobody is safe from becoming a victim, a disheartening feeling.

Dodge Ram

Like the Ford and Chevrolet pickups, the Ram is a top-selling vehicle in North America (via Hot Cars). Dodge's first foray into truck production happened during WWI when supplying vehicles to the war effort. The Ram moniker is the oldest among the cars in this article, having been first used by Dodge in 1921. It has since been a staple of work trucks in the US and continues today, although it has since been spun off into a stand-alone brand known as Ram and is no longer a Dodge model (via Allpar).

Trucks are prime targets for thieves. Ram trucks have always been slightly behind Ford and Chevy in sales, but there are still millions of them on the roads, which makes them prime pickings for nefarious characters. Trucks will always be a target, even when they are still at the factory waiting to be shipped to dealers, where Autoblog reported that thefts have been increasing. This reinforces the notion that security equipment is worth investing in, whether the truck is for personal or business use. No matter what you do to protect your property, there will always be those willing to  cheat, lie, and steal to take it. We must remain vigilant and deny them the opportunity however possible.