- Despite new anti-theft devices, the car theft industry costs motorists and insurers $6 billion a year
- Older Honda Civics are the most likely to be stolen, but Nissan Altimas are the most-favored new model by thieves
- Alaska is a new hot spot for car thieves, with thefts in the state jumping 40 percent in one year
The Nissan Altima is billed as an intelligent, all-wheel vehicle, but it doesn't stand a chance against car thieves who are intent on stealing it. The Altima is the most stolen new model car, according to a study by driving-tests.org.
Despite a diverse array of anti-theft devices – horn alarms, flashing lights, wheel-locking, immobilizing and electronic tracking technology – car thieves stole 773,139 vehicles in 2017, or about a 1 percent increase from the prior year, driving-tests.org found in its review of the latest available data. Driving-tests.org helps drivers get their state motor vehicle licenses by taking practice tests and working with an online simulator.
Those car thefts cost motorists and their insurers about $6 billion, driving-tests.org found, citing data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the FBI and the National Insurance Crime Bureau. The study also pinpointed which models of cars were likely to be stolen, as well as the states and cities in which drivers are most likely to see their cars taken.
The Honda Civic surpassed all other models in terms of overall thefts, at more than 45,000 annually, followed closely by the Honda Accord. Accords and Civics tend to have the same design each year, so an auto part from one year can be substituted for another, making them popular with both legitimate mechanics and illegal chop shops. Older model Hondas, such as 1998, are particularly prized by thieves since there wasn't much anti-theft technology in the car at that time, according to the study.
Even so, thefts of Civics and Accords are on the decline, dropping about 10 percent and 13 percent, respectively, in 2017. By contrast, Ford full-sized pickups are more valued in the chop shop trade, with thefts rising 7 percent to 35,105 in 2017.
Altima, the new favorite of thieves
The Nissan Altima is the favorite new model among car thieves, the study said. Thefts of all Altimas, not just new models, rose 9 percent in 2017, according to the data. Other popular new cars with thieves are Toyota Camrys and Corollas, as well as GM and Dodge pickup trucks. Two Hyundai models also made the list.
Chevrolet and Ford pickup trucks tend to be the "most stolen" in Southern and Midwestern states, while Honda Accords are favored in East Coast states such as Massachusetts and New York.
But Alaska is the state with the highest rate of car thefts, and the study says the problem is only worsening. "Between 2016 and 2017, motor vehicle thefts went up nearly 40 percent, and 2018 is on pace to be even worse," the study noted. Things are so bad that Alaskans are taking it into their own hands and becoming "vigilante car theft investigators," it added.
Among U.S. cities, the worst for car thefts is Albuquerque, New Mexico, which had the highest rate of stolen cars in the country in 2017, a title it has held for two years running. The runner-up was Anchorage, Alaska.
So, what is the best state to own – and keep – your car? Park it in rural Vermont, where car thefts declined by nearly one-third in 2017.