Bashing in the steering column and hot-wiring the ignition is so
uncivilized. The modern thief simply makes a key for himself.
The National Insurance Crime Bureau (NCIB) notes the new trend
in its annual look at most-stolen vehicles, released today. To no
one's surprise, half the "
" list consists of old Japanese sedans that are hard to kill and
easy to steal. The most stolen, again, is the
1994 Honda Accord
The other half of the list is newer American iron with
computer-chipped keys. That technology is no guarantee of safety
anymore, if it ever was.
"Today's vehicle thieves are typically professional criminals
who have figured out how to get the key code for a specific
vehicle, have a replacement key made, and steal the vehicle within
a matter of days," says NICB President and CEO Joe Wehrle. "We are
aware of nearly 300 thefts that took place in the first three
months of this year in which we believe replacement keys using
illegally obtained key codes were used to steal the vehicle."
Criminals can lift a vehicle identification number (VIN) and
forge the paperwork needed to obtain a new key code from a dealer
or locksmith, the NICB says, or they can work with an inside
While thieves' tactics are changing, the overall trend is
positive. Preliminary data from FBI reports for 2011 indicate a 3.3
percent drop in thefts from 2010, the lowest number since 1967.
And the losers are ...
For 2011, the most-stolen vehicles in the nation were:
- 1994 Honda Accord
- 1998 Honda Civic
- 2006 Ford Pickup (Full Size)
- 1991 Toyota Camry
- 2000 Dodge Caravan
- 1994 Acura Integra
- 1999 Chevrolet Pickup (Full Size)
- 2004 Dodge Pickup (Full Size)
- 2002 Ford Explorer
- 1994 Nissan Sentra
As a whole, the Hot Wheels list highlights a crucial question
for owners of aging cars and trucks: When is dropping comprehensive
coverage -- the part of the policy that replaces your stolen car --
a smart move rather than a dumb one?
Nearly two-thirds of cars older than 10 years are not insured
against theft, according to insurance analyst Quality Planning.
And even among cars as new as 2009, according to data
gathered from CarInsurance.com customers, one in five drivers skips
comprehensive coverage. (See "
Is it time to drop collision and comprehensive?
is usually the cheapest part of a car owner's policy," says
CarInsurance.com consumer analyst Penny Gusner. "Some
insurance companies will insist you buy collision coverage as well,
but not all. It pays to ask, especially since comprehensive covers
other things such as fires and vandalism."