Lock up your Dodge Challengers but don't sweat your Mazda MX-5 Miata.
Despite the massive advances in security equipment for cars, SUVs, and trucks, the rate they are stolen at is still staggering. According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, a vehicle was stolen every 42.2 seconds in 2018. It's not just old cars that get taken, although the most stolen vehicles in America are still the 2000 Honda Civic and 1997 Accord, just before immobilizers became standard.
That information comes from the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) "Hot Wheels" list of most stolen cars. NICB also releases a list each year of the previous year's most stolen cars while new, and we now have the list for 2018 and its dominated, as usual, by GMC and Ford pickups, and the Toyota Camry.
What we wanted to look at though, was the probability of the most likely vehicles to be stolen right now. The Highway Safety's Highway Loss Data Institute (HLDI) takes data from 2016 to 2018 to find out what the most stolen cars in America currently are using the "relative claim frequency" of "whole vehicle theft" of vehicle model years.
According to the data, the first three vehicles on the list have five times the average claim rate for 2016-18 models, with the Hemi-equipped Dodge Charger topping the lot. 100 is the baseline for Relative Claim Frequency and the Charger logs in with a score of 544. The system here isn't based on theft reports. Instead, HLDI uses "whole-vehicle theft" claims. HLDI explains that as: "If the payment associated with a theft claim is around the same as would be expected for a total loss under collision coverage for the same vehicle of the same age, it is considered to be a whole-vehicle theft claim." In this case, it seems thieves like a big four-door sedan with a big, powerful engine. The Charger also features on the NICB's most stolen list of 2018 in 8th place, with 719 total thefts.
Clocking in just behind its four-door and, in this case, less powerful sibling, the 707-horsepower Challenger SRT Hellcat gets the dubious honor of second place here. To get an idea of just how many are stolen, it's worth noting that only 6,113 Hellcats were built in 2018, 4,865 in 2017, and 16,020 in 2016. That means there's a high rate of theft here for something so specific. Often, new car theft is a crime of opportunity, but in this case, it's likely the Hellcat is being targeted as a model.
This one is a big surprise. Infiniti's sales slumped in 2018, but criminals still want them. In 2016, Infiniti sold 44,007 of its mid-size four-door sedan in the US, in 2017 it sold 40,739 units and in 2018 just 34,763 models found new homes. From what we can gather, part of the Q50's appeal to car thieves is that it's relatively easy to swap in a control module from a scrapped Nissan car and simply use that key to start it. That could also explain the next vehicle on the list.
Infiniti's full-size luxury SUV is also, apparently, quite easy to steal. It also fits the common theme of this list, which is cars that come with premium price tags or big engines that make plenty of power. The Infiniti QX80 is not just expensive, but it comes with size enough to challenge the Cadillac Escalade as well as a 5.6-liter V8 engine under the hood. Some vehicles you just need to make sure you keep in the garage, and anything built by Infiniti is looking like a good case study for that.
By reported thefts, the GMC Sierra 1500 truck is the most stolen vehicle of 2018, but only comes in at number 5 over a three-year period. Trucks are repeatedly the best selling vehicles in America, so it's no surprise they feature heavily in these lists. Parts are also heavy in demand, and breaking a vehicle for parts is less risky for criminals than trying to sell a stolen one. Curiously, one of the reasons given for the rise in vehicle theft, despite the added security systems, is lazy drivers dropping their high-tech security-laden key fobs in the console or cupholder when they run into a store.
It's not just the Hemi-powered Challenger model that features on this list based on the probability of vehicles being stolen, the Charger also features on the NICB's most stolen list of 2018 in 8th place, with 719 total thefts. The Dodge Challenger is doing incredibly well for sales considering it's effectively a dinosaur on the modern car market. In 2019, it outsold the more compact and maneuverable Camaro and Mustang in the third quarter. Its excellent sales mean there's plenty out there for enterprising or opportunistic thieves to steal. On top of that, the Challenger has been around for eleven years now, so there's a lot of older ones out there needing cheap parts to stay on the road.
While it's outsold by many other full-size sedans, the fact the Nissan Maxima is on this list along with the two Infiniti SUVs is concerning. At the same time, the Nissan Altima features on the NICB list and suggests that Nissan might need to pay some attention to its security measures or how its customers use them. Perhaps Nissan should talk to Cadillac as the Escalade regularly made the top spot in this list but managed to avoid it completely for the 2018 model.
This is definitely something Chevy pickup owners will want to keep quiet form their Ford-owning nemeses. The two-wheel-drive version of the Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Crew Cab is the specific model car thieves tend to favor, with the 4x4 version languishing in 17th place. However, it could just be simply because 2x4 is the more common configuration.
However, this logic seemingly doesn't apply to the next car on the list.
It's big, it's powerful, it's also curious that the all-wheel-drive version of the Chrysler 300 is higher up the list than the rear-wheel-drive. In fact, we had to sit and think for a minute to remember it's only an option with a V6 engine. We've celebrated the Chrysler 300 as a car you can become a baller on a budget with, but it has made this list, which means some people clearly don't want to pay anything for their 300.
Not only is the S-Class an exclusive breed of Mercedes, but the designation of the long-wheel-base model and all-wheel-drive is remarkably specific. We have to wonder why this is a high-risk car for theft; after all, they are not common outside of big cities and are owned by people that tend to have adequate and secure parking facilities. And, of course, chauffeurs that tend to stay with the car while the owner goes about their business.
There's, understandably, not a massive market for used parts either, so we can only assume that when they are stolen, it's generally to order. Quite possibly to go to countries with strict trade embargoes and despotic leaderships that want to keep up appearances.