National Insurance Crime Bureau
Technology

Report: Older Vehicles, Not New Ones, Common Theft Targets

If you drive a Honda Accord from the 1990s, we have some bad news for you from the National Insurance Crime Bureau, which placed the car atop its "hot wheels" theft target list. Newer cars do better because of stronger anti-theft technology.

If you drive a Honda Accord from the 1990s, we have some bad news for you from the National Insurance Crime Bureau: The car is at the top of its “Hot Wheels” theft target list. Newer cars do better because of stronger anti-theft technology.

As with car crashes, there’s a basic fact of life with vehicle thefts: The newer the car, the safer you are.

A new study underscores this point. According to research from the nonprofit National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB), the most common theft target for cars is the Honda Accord—but largely the older models.

The bureau, which reported the results from its 2013 “Hot Wheels” survey last month, notes that Accord models from the 1990s, built before modern anti-theft mechanisms became common, were significantly more likely to be stolen than a 2013 model:

Last year, 53,995 Accords were stolen, according to bureau statistics. Other common targets included the Honda Civic, Chevrolet pickups, and Ford pickups. More than 25,000 vehicles in each category were stolen.

Newer models still get stolen—the Nissan Altima was the biggest target from the 2013 model year—but at a fraction of the rate of older ones.

Thwarting Thefts

Although car thefts remain common, the problem is improving significantly, according to FBI statistics noted by NICB.

For one thing, although vehicle thefts were up slightly in 2012, the FBI estimates that the final statistics for 2013 will show a 3.2 percent decline—which could mean that, for the first time since 1967, vehicle thefts were below 700,000 last year. That’s less than half the 1.6 million cars reported stolen in 1991, when thefts peaked.

In a report on the bureau’s study, The Boston Globe suggests that the use of immobilizers, a technology that prevents a car from starting unless the vehicle’s internal computer recognizes the key, is a major reason for the decrease. In Massachusetts, it’s led to a 90 percent drop in auto thefts.

“Gone are the old days of two and three decades ago when a car thief could jimmy into the vehicle, use a screwdriver to defeat the steering column, connect the ignition wires, and take the car,” Massachusetts State Police spokesman David Procopio told the newspaper.

But NICB notes that organized vehicle theft is still a problem and that the financial loss remains significant.

“The drop in thefts is good news for all of us,” NICB President and CEO Joe Wehrle said in a news release [PDF]. “But it still amounts to a vehicle being stolen every 45 seconds and losses of over $4 billion a year. That’s why we applaud the vehicle manufacturers for their efforts to improve anti-theft technology and pledge to continue to work with our insurance company members and law enforcement to identify and seek vigorous prosecution of the organized criminal rings responsible for so many of these thefts.”

(National Insurance Crime Bureau)

Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is the social media journalist for Associations Now, a former newspaper guy, and a man who is dangerous when armed with a good pun. MORE

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