While some of the best-selling cars in the U.S. also top the most frequently stolen list each year because of their sheer numbers, another look at the statistics reveals which cars by percentage sold are the most likely to by targeted by thieves.
According to data recently released by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the car most frequently stolen, based on the number of thefts per 1,000 vehicles sold during 2009, was the $92,000 Audi S8 sport/luxury sedan, with 8.81 thefts per 1,000 vehicles produced. That comes out to just two out of the 227 S8s that were sold in the U.S., so it’s hardly a widespread epidemic.
Still, NHTSA’s statistics prove the point that the flashiest cars on the road can also be the most popular — for the wrong reasons.
The Ford Shelby Mustang GT had the next highest theft rate for 2009, with 8.61 vehicles per 1,000 stolen. Also in the top five were the sportiest variant of BMW’s midsize sedan, the M5 (7.58/1,000), retro-flavored Dodge Charger full-size sedan (6.47/1,000) and the no longer produced Honda S2000 roadster (5.60/1,000).
The remainder of the top 10 list of cars with the highest theft rates for 2009 included the midsize Mitsubishi Galant sedan (5.11/1,000), the full-size Chrysler 300 sedan (4.57/1,000), the Infiniti M luxury sedan (4.32/1,000) the Cadillac STS luxury sedan (4.28/1,000) and the Mercedes-Benz CL-Class luxury sport coupe (3.91/1,000).
By brand, the most frequently stolen cars per 1,000 sold, were Chrysler products, with the Chrysler Sebring, Sebring Convertible and PT Cruiser, and the Dodge Avenger and Dodge Caliber making the top 20 in addition to the aforementioned 300 and Charger.
General Motors came in second, with four vehicles among top 20, with the Pontiac G5 and G6 and Chevrolet Impala joining the STS.
While the Toyota Camry was the most purloined model overall in terms of sheer numbers, at 781 stolen in 2009, it ranked 50th as a percentage of sales at just 1.74 per 1,000 cars. The least-stolen model per capita in 2009 was the since-discontinued Mercury Mariner SUV, with a theft rate of 0.08 per 1,000 units, or a mere two vehicles out of 25,682 sold that year.
Fortunately, NHTSA reports that the number of auto thefts reported each year is on the decline. “The agency believes that the theft rate reduction could be the result of several factors including the increased use of standard antitheft devices, vehicle parts marking, increased and improved prosecution efforts by law enforcement organizations and increased public awareness,” according to a NHTSA statement.
So what can you do to ensure that thieves won’t target your vehicular pride and joy? Start by correcting bad habits, such as leaving the keys in the ignition when the vehicle is unattended. Keep the windows and sunroof closed, and don’t hide a spare key where an astute crook might find it.
If you have a garage, park inside it, not merely out on the driveway, and make sure both entry doors are closed and locked at all times. If you park on the street, choose a spot close to other vehicles, turn your wheels toward the curb and engage the emergency brake to make it more difficult to be towed. Away from home, park in a well-lit or well-traveled area after dark, and avoid using long-term parking lots–take a taxi to the airport instead.
Experts also advise having your car or truck’s vehicle identification number (often called a “VIN,” it’s found on the driver’s side of the dashboard at the bottom of the windshield, as well as on the model’s title) etched on the windshield and major components to make them more difficult for chop shops to sell as replacement parts.
Beyond the common-sense basics, use an antitheft device, which will often also warrant a discount on your car insurance. A steering-wheel lock like the popular “Club” is simple, inexpensive and can be as effective as costlier alarm systems. A thief wants to get a vehicle as quickly as possible, and anything that might slow him or her down can be enough of a deterrent to instead choose another model on the block. Having a simple ignition “kill switch” installed in a hidden location makes it more difficult for a crook to start a car or truck and drive it away.
Advanced vehicle recovery devices like LoJack and General Motors’ OnStar system use technology similar to that employed in satellite navigation systems to help police departments locate cars and trucks if they are stolen. They can be pricey and require a monthly subscription, but if you own an expensive high-profile car, the cost is usually warranted.