Car thieves are scum, and this is what they steal...
As technology improves, fewer cars are getting stolen. Unfortunately, unless you’re buying a new car then the anti-theft technology is going to be dated and the older the car, the easier it is to steal. That’s pretty obvious, but there are ways to improve the chances of an older car not being stolen.
The bottom line with car theft is that if car thieves really want your car, they’re going to take it. Thieves are constantly figuring out how to defeat the security technology automakers come up with. The latest technique is to stand in a driveway and use a signal booster to grab the signal from a keyless remote in the house and use it open up and start the car. Most car theft is a little more opportunistic though, and building simple habits like parking in well-lit areas, where there are a lot of windows overlooking the spot, or in well-trafficked areas, and not leaving valuables in plain sight help. For those older cars, its all about making it longer to steal as well. The longer it takes to steal a car, the more likely a thief will move on to something easier.
So, the question is, what cars shouldn't you buy if you're not parking in a garage or driveway overnight or do have to park in a high-crime area? The answer is definitely not one of these...
The Honda Civic didn’t get comprehensive anti-theft protection until 2001, so the 6th generation is the most commonly stolen and there's plenty still around. The 1998 Civic is the softest target and the 6th generation hatch is sought after by tuners. That’s not to suggest tuners are stealing them, but there’s probably a few being driven around by people not realizing they're car is hot in a way they didn't intend. Mostly though, chances are they’re being broken down for parts.
The 1997 Honda Accord has been at the top end of the most stolen list for a long time, and the reason usually given is that its because they are so common. Honda reliability from that era means plenty are still on the road. But why not the 1998 or 2001 Accord? Surely there’s more of those on the road? There are, but the 1997 model year was the last year the Accord didn’t come with an immobilizer and little nuggets of information like that get passed from criminal mouth to criminal mouth.
Ford trucks tend to lead a long life and have a reputation for being hard wearing and reliable, and older ones are often pressed into service as work vehicles. That means a demand for cheap trucks with a Ford badge but parts do wear out and accidents happen. That means there’s a healthy market for used parts for criminals to exploit.
The same applies to the Chevy Silverado as the F-150, and Chevy has its own high-level of brand loyalty. The first generation ended in 2007 and the mid-aughts is around the point where standard anti-theft technology was becoming ubiquitous, but Chevrolet wasn't as quick to update their equipment as other companies.
As we said in the intro, if thieves really want your car then they will take it whatever the level of on-board security. The Toyota Camry was the second best selling car in 2017, but the first place Honda Civic doesn’t crack the top ten here. A lot of these were likely stolen when people leave their keys in them with the engine running to warm up in winter mornings or simply to dash inside a store.
Hopefully, now that remote starts that keep cars locked while they warm up are becoming more common, fewer cars will be stolen like that.
What’s more inconspicuous on the road and almost as easy to shift used or break down for parts as a Camry? That’s right, a Nissan Altima. 2017 is still too early to expect to sell all the used parts quickly but cheap mid-sized used sedans out of their initial depreciation curves and with the perception of reliability will always sell quickly.
The Corolla is smaller and cheaper than the Camry, but the same applies. It's more low key than the newer Civic body styling, but for people that want cheap wheels that are economical to run, the Corolla fits the bill and there's plenty of this generation around needing parts.
2001 was right at the tail end of the second generation of the Ram, and chances are that when these disappear they go straight to the chop shop. However, there's likely a few that have made it over one of the borders or has been put to work on a big farm as a workhorse.
The Sierra isn’t the most obvious truck you would assume is stolen a lot. However, a surprisingly amount get stolen in Arizona to go into Mexico for the cartels. Apparently hardened gangsters appreciate a little luxury in their trucks while they're toting around their drugs.
This is a curious one. Everything else on this list makes sense, but the Impala isn’t a particularly desirable or well selling car and parts are plentiful and cheap already. Curiously, for a couple of recent years, the 2008 Impala was the most stolen car in Detroit. Our theory is that as they are particularly plentiful there and were fleet cars for a long while, so that makes them about as nondescript as you can get for the area. So, for joyriding and stolen transport it's a car the cops won’t look at twice.