Older-model Hondas and newer-model Toyotas were among the country’s most-stolen vehicles in 2016.
And almost half the stolen Japanese cars were grabbed in California.
The National Insurance Crime Bureau reported in its annual “Hot Wheels” survey that Honda’s Civic and Accord were the most-stolen vehicles last year, followed by pickup trucks made by Ford and Chevrolet, and then by the Toyota Camry and Nissan Altima. A Dodge pickup, the Chevy Impala, the Toyota Corolla and the Jeep Cherokee rounded out the top 10.
But thieves aren’t stealing just any Civics or Accords. The bureau’s report said that Hondas from the late 1990s were the most targeted models — specifically the 1997 Accord and 1998 Civic. That's because those models were sold in very high volume, were built well enough to still be on the road, and did not include the “smart key” technology that makes newer Hondas much more difficult to steal.
“It is, in a weird way, a backhanded compliment to the endurance of those models,” said the bureau’s public affairs director Frank Scafidi.
In total, thieves made off with 50,427 Accords and 49,547 Civics, compared with 32,721 Ford trucks, 31,238 Chevy trucks and 16,732 Camrys.
California accounted for 26,792 of those Civics and 25,065 of the Accords.
It’s not that thieves are more active here, Scafidi said, but that there are simply more cars on the road in California than elsewhere.
“California alone accounts for 48% of all Accord thefts and 54% of all Civic thefts that were stolen nationally last year,” Scafidi said, adding that the state always leads the nation in vehicle thefts.
The insurance bureau said in a report earlier this year that, although car thefts are nowhere near their early 1990s highs, the total number of vehicles stolen rose about 6.6% from 2015 to 2016.
What can vehicle owners do to protect themselves against car thefts? First, the bureau said, stop making it so easy by leaving the keys in the ignition — which renders the vehicle’s anti-theft technology useless.
“Technology is working, but complacency can defeat it,” the report said. “Thousands of vehicles continue to be stolen each year because owners leave their keys or fobs in the vehicles, and that invites theft.”