Stolen Car Study Shows Thieves Now Have Better Taste

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky

After an eternity of seeing the Honda Accord and Civic topping lists of America’s most-stolen cars, tastes have finally evolved. According to the Highway Loss Data Institute’s list of vehicles most likely to be stolen, Hemi-equipped Dodge Challengers and Chargers are now the ride of choice for automotive miscreants. Interestingly, bandits seem to prefer larger vehicles on the whole — with full-sized pickups and large-engined cars topping the charts.

However, there are a couple items that need to be sorted out before we progress. You’ll probably continue seeing Accords, Corollas, Civics, and F-Series pickups on subsequent most-stolen lists. Their volume alone makes them popular targets and any study going by sheer numbers is bound to include them. But the HLDI report quantifies automobiles by their relative risk using insurance data, suggesting its big-boy season for car thieves.

Isolating vehicles by the 2016-18 model years, the Highway Loss Data Institute said the Dodge Charger was the whip pilferers found most tempting. Song long as it was equipped a V8, the outlet said it had a claim frequency of 544 — over five times the 100-point average.

It was followed by Challenger SRT Hellcat (529) and Infiniti Q50 (525). But there’s a sizable dip in popularity after that, with the Infiniti QX80 (422) receiving a take rate four just times higher than the industry average. The rest of the at-risk pack shook down as follows:

GMC Sierra 1500 crew cab (393)

Dodge Challenger (358)

Nissan Maxima (351)

Chevrolet Silverado 1500 crew cab (320)

Chrysler 300 AWD (293)

Mercedes-Benz S-Class long wheelbase (291)

Dodge Charger AWD (274)

Dodge Durango AWD (271)

Land Rover Range Rover (271)

Chevrolet Silverado 1500 crew cab 4WD (269)

Dodge Charger (266)

Nissan Titan crew cab short bed (250)

Chevrolet Silverado 1500 double cab (248)

GMC Sierra 1500 crew cab 4WD (241)

Audi A7 AWD (239)

Infiniti QX80 AWD (236)

“The models most likely to be stolen tend to be powerful, pricey or pickups, but vehicle theft is also a crime of opportunity,” said HLDI Senior Vice President Matt Moore. “Better security features on all vehicles would be the best way to address the problem.”

Apparently, that did the trick for Cadillac’s Escalade. The study noted that the SUV previously dominated its rankings of vehicles popular with thieves, adding that General Motors implemented improved security features since 2015. Noteworthy additions were its glass breakage sensors, motion detectors and an inclination sensor that triggers an alarm if someone tries to take the wheels off, tow the vehicle or lift it onto a flatbed.

We think the HLDI is onto something about crimes of opportunity. Several of these are cars you wouldn’t be surprised to see sitting outside of someone’s garage or parked on the street in a bad neighborhood. I’m talking to you, Chrysler 300 and Nissan Maxima.

In fact, the study even mentions the low theft rate of Tesla vehicles and suggests it may have something to do with their being garaged overnight for charging purposes. But the Model S and X were only the second and third least likely to be stolen. Top honors actually went to the BMW 3 Series (netting an index score of just 4). The rest of the safe list was loaded with vehicles nobody would want to steal in the first place, with the only exceptions being the Honda Odyssey, BMW X5, and Mazda MX-5 Miata.

You may have a differing opinion, however, and are welcome to check out the study for yourself at the Highway Loss Data Institute’s website.

[Image: FCA]

Matt Posky
Matt Posky

A staunch consumer advocate tracking industry trends and regulation. Before joining TTAC, Matt spent a decade working for marketing and research firms based in NYC. Clients included several of the world’s largest automakers, global tire brands, and aftermarket part suppliers. Dissatisfied with the corporate world and resentful of having to wear suits everyday, he pivoted to writing about cars. Since then, that man has become an ardent supporter of the right-to-repair movement, been interviewed on the auto industry by national radio broadcasts, driven more rental cars than anyone ever should, participated in amateur rallying events, and received the requisite minimum training as sanctioned by the SCCA. Handy with a wrench, Matt grew up surrounded by Detroit auto workers and managed to get a pizza delivery job before he was legally eligible. He later found himself driving box trucks through Manhattan, guaranteeing future sympathy for actual truckers. He continues to conduct research pertaining to the automotive sector as an independent contractor and has since moved back to his native Michigan, closer to where the cars are born. A contrarian, Matt claims to prefer understeer — stating that front and all-wheel drive vehicles cater best to his driving style.

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2 of 26 comments
  • CapVandal CapVandal on Aug 03, 2019

    First, these are 2016 to 2018 model years. Whole cars, meaning no joy rides unless totaled. And rates, not numbers. The amateur car thief is outta luck. The old method would produce the old list. 20 year old Hondas and Toyotas. From the article, not my brilliance. Amateurs can presumably still defeat anti-theft on 20 year old cars. Amateurs wanting new vehicles have to hijack them. A scary thought.

  • ToolGuy ToolGuy on Aug 03, 2019

    I like this HLDI methodology, because it looks at "claims per insured vehicle year" (i.e., it adjusts for selling rates). Some of the ranking is explained by geography and anti-theft features. Still, it is useful data (potentially). If I ran a car company, I would have some bright staffer give me a list of the vehicles in my current product portfolio which: - Had low rates on this study (no one wants to steal them) - Had low 36-month residuals from ALG (they don't hold their value in the used car market) - Had low segment share (they don't sell that well as new) Then I would start asking some hard questions.

  • JK I grew up with Dodge trucks in the US, and now live in Turin, Italy, the home of Fiat. I don't think Italians view this as an Italian company either. There are constant news articles and protests about how stalantis is moving operations out of Italy. Jeep is strangely popular here though. I think last time I looked at stelantis's numbers, Jeep was the only thing saving them from big big problems.
  • Bd2 Oh yeah, funny how Trumpers (much less the Orange Con, himself) are perfectly willing to throw away the Constitution...
  • Bd2 Geeze, Anal sure likes to spread his drivelA huge problem was Fisher and his wife - who overspent when they were flush with cash and repeatedly did things ad hoc and didn't listen to their employees (who had more experience when it came to auto manufacturing, engineering, etc).
  • Tassos My Colleague Mike B bought one of these (the 300 SEL, same champagne color) new around June 1990. I thought he paid $50k originally but recently he told me it was $62k. At that time my Accord 1990 Coupe LX cost new, all included, $15k. So today the same car means $150k for the S class and $35k-40k for the Accord. So those %0 or 62k , these were NOT worthless, Idiot Joe Biden devalued dollars, so he paid AN ARM AND A LEG. And he babied the car, he really loved it, despite its very weak I6 engine with a mere 177 HP and 188 LBFT, and kept it forever. By the time he asked me to drive it (to take him to the dealer because his worthless POS Buick Rainier "SUV" needed expensive repairs (yes, it was a cheap Buick but he had to shell out thousands), the car needed a lot of suspension work, it drove like an awful clunker. He ended up donating it after 30 years or so. THIS POS is no different, and much older. Its CHEAPSKATE owner should ALSO donate it to charity instead of trying to make a few measly bucks off its CARCASS. Pathetic!
  • RHD The re-paint looks like it was done with a four-inch paintbrush. As far as VWs go, it's a rebadged Seat... which is still kind of a VW, made in Mexico from a Complete Knock-Down kit. 28 years in Mexico being driven like a flogged mule while wearing that ridiculous rear spoiler is a tough life, but it has actually survived... It's unique (to us), weird, funky (very funky), and certainly not worth over five grand plus the headaches of trying to get it across the border and registered at the local DMV.