The Honda Accord and Civic sedans were the two most stolen cars in the U.S. in 2014 for the second year in a row, according to the latest Hot Wheels report from the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB).
The Des Plaines-based nonprofit helps prevent insurance fraud and vehicle theft.
Thieves stole 51,290 Honda Accords last year, 43,936 Civics, 28,680 Ford full-size pickups, 23,196 Chevrolet full-size pickups and 14,605 Toyota Camrys.
The top five most stolen vehicles have also been perennial best-sellers in the U.S. for years, and the Accord consistently has ranked in the top five since the NICB began issuing the annual Hot Wheels report in 1995.
Rounding out the top 10 of most vehicles reported stolen in 2014 were the Dodge (Ram 1500) pickup, Dodge Caravan, Nissan Altima, Acura Integra and Nissan Maxima.
The 712,786 vehicles stolen in 2014 represent an estimated 5.7 percent drop in vehicle thefts from 2013, says the NICB.
The reason for the drop is apparent.
"It's technology," said Scafidi.
Scafidi cites the smart key, which came into being in 1998 and made hot-wiring a thing of the past, as being the single most effective theft prevention device by automakers. Smart keys have a microchip that connects with the vehicle's on-board computer to enable starting.
One 2014 Honda Accord is stolen for every 25 model year 1997 Accords. The NICB cites the smart key as the reason for the dramatic drop.
Technology on the law enforcement side has also improved. In high theft areas, police plant bait cars, which are models popular with thieves. The car is baited with a key left in plain view.
Bait cars are wired "nose-to-tail with police monitoring it in real time," Scafidi said.
"If someone hops in and steals a bait car, they're on live TV in a police station somewhere," Scafidi said. "Bait cars provide the kind of evidence that prosecutors love to have."
Police also are using license plate readers side-mounted on patrol cars. The cameras capture every license plate they pass to determine if it's on the National Crime Information Center database used by the FBI and other local law enforcement agencies.
The NICB says theft is a severe economic and psychological hardship for people who lose their vehicle, not to mention the great inconvenience of recovering the car.
Four simple tips, or what NICB calls "layers of protection," can minimize the risk of vehicular theft: lock your car and take your keys; use an audible warning device, which isn't available on most older cars; consider adding kill switches such as fuel cutoffs and smart keys to prevent it from being started; and use tracking devices, which are becoming more popular on new cars, to allow remote monitoring of a vehicle.
Model year 2014
While the bulk of the top 10 most stolen cars are Japanese makes, the majority of the top 10 model year 2014 vehicles are American. Three Chevy 2014 models and three Ford 2014 models made the top 10 most stolen vehicles.
There's no empirical evidence to explain why new American models are hotter than others, Scafidi said.
"So many of these thefts are opportunity acts, where owners leave the keys in the car," he said.
The most stolen model year 2014 vehicle was the best-selling Ford F-150. The 2014 F-150 was reported stolen 964 times. It was followed by sedans such as the 2014 Toyota Camry (869), Ford Fusion (819), Chevrolet Impala (746) and Nissan Altima (687). The 2014 Chevy Silverado (380) ranked 12th most stolen vehicle. The 2014 Honda Accord (307) ranked 18th.
In Illinois, the 2000 Dodge Caravan was the most stolen vehicle in 2014. It makes sense if you accept Car and Driver's report that the Caravan is the most popular car in Illinois, based on how often Illinoisans buy a Caravan compared with the national average.
Even Midwestern thieves love the minivan.
There were 1,059 model year 2000 Caravans stolen in Illinois in 2014, followed by the 1999 Chevy S-10 small pickup (780), 2000 Honda Civic (596), 1997 Honda Accord (537) and the 2006 Ford F-150 (510).