Many of the statistics you read regarding the most stolen cars can be misleading. It's not that they are incorrect or manipulated in some way, but the chances of a particular vehicle being stolen have as much to do with its model year as with its nameplate.

Where you park it and how carefully you secure it probably have a much bigger impact on whether your car, regardless of whether it's new or used, will be stolen. A 1998 Honda Civic probably doesn't spend its nights in a garage or a gated community. According to the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB), which compiles auto theft data, the 1998 Civic (5,807 thefts) was the most stolen Civic in 2012 -- the most recent year for which statistics are available. Civic (47,037 total thefts) was the second-most stolen nameplate that year.

Basing your buying decision on auto theft stats probably isn't the best strategy. If they are going to factor into your decision-making, take care that you know what the numbers mean. A nameplate's theft rates vary by model year -- typically older models are stolen at a greater rate than newer ones.

In its Hot Wheels 2012 report, released in August 2013, NICB cautioned that newer models of a nameplate may hardly be stolen at all; their nameplates may appear on the top-10 most-stolen list each year because older models are still very popular with thieves. In 2012, for example, only 393 model-year 2012 Civics were among that 47,037 total.

Contributing Factors

  • Demand for spare parts drives thefts. Cars with high sales numbers from seven to 10 years ago are still being stolen to harvest parts.
  • Low security makes older cars easier to steal. Advances in security technology, such as engine immobilizers and smart keys, often motivate thieves to move on to easier prey.
  • Theft numbers of any nameplate are difficult to interpret unless you also know the total number of units of that nameplate that were sold over the years. Over the years, Honda has sold far more Civics than Subaru has Imprezas, so it makes sense that more Civics than Imprezas are stolen each year.

NICB's Top 10

For 2012, the most stolen vehicles in the United States were:

  1. Honda Accord -- 58,596
  2. Honda Civic -- 47,037
  3. Ford F-Series -- 26,770
  4. Chevrolet Silverado -- 23,745
  5. Toyota Camry -- 16,251
  6. Dodge Caravan -- 11,799
  7. Dodge Ram -- 11,755
  8. Acura Integra -- 9,555
  9. Nissan Altima -- 9,169
  10. Nissan Maxima -- 6,947

For 2012, the most stolen 2012 model-year vehicles in the United States were:

  1. Nissan Altima -- 921
  2. Chevrolet Impala -- 778
  3. Chevrolet Malibu -- 727
  4. Toyota Camry -- 665
  5. Ford Fusion -- 655
  6. Ford F-Series -- 595
  7. Ford Focus -- 523
  8. Chrysler 200 -- 449
  9. Dodge Charger -- 416
  10. Dodge Avenger -- 412

What It Means to You

Although it may be interesting to see the most stolen cars each year, you really need to dig deep into the numbers for them to have any value in your car-purchase decision. Parking your car in a safe place, locking it and hiding items of value in the car from plain sight will do more to secure it than will purchasing a car based on most- or least stolen-statistics.

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Russ Heaps began covering the automotive industry in 1986, first overseeing the automotive pages of the Boca Raton News and then the Palm Beach Post in Florida. In 2001 he became managing editor of AMI Auto Week and NOPI Street Performance Compact magazines. Since leaving AMI he has freelanced his auto reviews and industry analysis to the Washington Times, Hispanic magazine, Journal-Register Newspapers, Bankrate.com, MyCarData.com, Interest.com, and others. He resides in Greenville, SC.

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