Older autos are "hot" and car thieves love 'em

Park your old 1990s model car on the street next to your shiny new one and guess which one will be stolen? It's more likely to be the dented and aged auto you've commuted in for 20 years, according to the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB).

This week the NICB, which monitors the "most stolen" vehicles in the country, published its annual "Hot Wheels" list of the 2015 cars and trucks that were, as the saying goes, "Gone in 60 Seconds."

Heading the unfortunate list was the 1996 Honda Accord followed by the 1998 Honda Civic, with both models combined having more than 100,000 cars stolen last year. Nothing else came close. The third runner up, the 2006 full-sized Ford pickup, went missing 29,396 times. In fact, one out of every seven vehicles stolen was an aging Honda.

The NICB pointed out that the newer models, especially those sold during the last few years, were harder to steal because of anti-theft devices installed by the manufacturer. As a result, car thefts have declined since the 1990s. (The 2015 Nissan Altima was the most stolen new model, with 1,104 of the cars purloined last year.)

The average car on the road is now 11 years old, while 44 million vehicles are 16 to 24 years old. But these cars are easy pickings for boosters who then chop them up for parts and engines, particularly the Hondas, which didn't change much from year to year.

But don't become complacent because you're driving a new car.

"While older vehicles still dominate our Hot Wheels most stolen list, the number of late model vehicles with anti-theft protection on the list goes to show that technology isn't foolproof," said NICB President and CEO Joe Wehrle.

The NICB recommends four "Layers of Protection":

Common Sense: Lock your car and take your keys. It's simple enough, but many thefts occur when owners make it easy for thieves to steal their cars.

Warning Device: A visible or audible warning device can help ensure that your car remains where it was parked.

Immobilizing Device: If your vehicle can't be started, it can't be stolen. "Kill" switches, fuel cut-offs and smart keys are among the devices that prove to be extremely effective.

Tracking Device: This device emits a signal to police or a monitoring station when the vehicle is stolen and is very effective in helping in its recovery.

Here is the list of the 25 most stolen 2015 calendar year vehicle makes and models.

For 2015, the most stolen vehicles* in the nation were (total thefts in parentheses):

1. 1996 Honda Accord (52,244)

2. 1998 Honda Civic (49,430)

3. 2006 Ford Pickup (Full Size) (29,396)

4. 2004 Chevrolet Pickup (Full Size) (27,771)

5. 2014 Toyota Camry (15,466)

6. 2001 Dodge Pickup (Full Size) (11,212)

7. 2014 Toyota Corolla (10,547)

8. 2015 Nissan Altima (10,374)

9. 2002 Dodge Caravan (9,798)

10. 2008 Chevrolet Impala (9,225)

Here is the list of the 10 most stolen 2015 vehicles during calendar year 2015:

1. Nissan Altima (1,104)

2. Chrysler 200 (1,069)

3. Toyota Camry (923)

4. Toyota Corolla (776)

5. GMC Sierra (670)

6. Dodge Charger (666)

7. Hyundai Sonata (632)

8. Chevrolet Malibu (629)

9. Chevrolet Impala (594)

10. Chevrolet Cruze (586)

  • Ed Leefeldt

    Ed Leefeldt is an award-winning investigative and business journalist who has worked for Reuters, Bloomberg and Dow Jones, and contributed to the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times. He is also the author of The Woman Who Rode the Wind, a novel about early flight.