Owners of Toyota Land Cruisers and Mitsubishi Monteros are paying more in theft insurance because of the popularity of the sport-utility vehicles among thieves, according to a report released Tuesday.
Eight out of the 10 vehicles from model years 1995-97 with the worst losses were sport-utility vehicles or luxury cars, say researchers at the Highway Loss Data Institute in Arlington, Va. The institute is backed by insurers.
Owners of Land Cruisers are paying about $530 annually on average for theft protection under their comprehensive insurance coverage, the report said. Drivers of the Mitsubishi Montero, ranked second, pay about $248 while drivers of the Lexus GS 300, a mid-size luxury car ranked third, pay about $228.
"Even if your vehicle is not stolen, you still have the pain of payment," said Kim Hazelbaker, the institute's senior vice president.
The average insurance premium payment to cover theft losses was $22.80, the institute said, meaning the Land Cruiser owner paid an average of 23 times more money in insurance losses.
Toyota Motor Sales spokesman John Hanson said luxury sedans and sport utilities are popular with thieves because both the vehicles and their replacement parts command the highest prices on the international black market.
"The Land Cruiser and most luxury utility vehicles are very high on the hit list with thieves," Hanson said. The 1998 Land Cruiser, unlike its predecessors, has an alarm system that shuts off the engine if a thief gains entry, Hanson said.
Hanson said only about 12,000 Land Cruisers were sold in the United States each year, making the insurance loss higher per vehicle.
A Mitsubishi Motor Sales of America spokesman did not answer messages left at his office.
The frequency of theft claims has steadily diminished over the years to about one-fifth of the claims submitted to insurers in 1980, institute data show.
But the institute says insurers now recover only one out of every three stolen vehicles. A decade ago, two out of three vehicles were recovered. The poor recovery rate is driving up the average amount of money lost per vehicle, Hazelbaker said.
The vehicles with the most annual claims were: Chrysler's 1997 Jeep Wrangler sport utility, with 20.6 claims per 1,000 insured vehicles; the 1995-97 two-door Suzuki Sidekick sport utility, with 18.6 claims; and the 1995-97 Land Cruiser, with 17.4 claims. The average auto had four claims per 1,000 insured vehicles.
Topping the list of most costly thefts were the Mercedes S-Class four-door luxury car ($38,500 loss per vehicle), the Land Cruiser ($30,600) and the Lexus LS 400 ($25,900).
The average payment for theft loss was about $5,700 per vehicle.
(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)
The Price of Protection
The 10 vehicles with the highest average insurance payments by consumers for theft protection:
Vehicle Annual payment Toyota Land Cruiser $530 Mitsubishi Montero 248 Lexus GS 300 228 Mercedes S-Class four-door with long wheelbase 168 BMW 3 Series, two-door 141 Lexus LS 400 138 Lexus SC 300/400 133 BMW 3 Series convertible 103 Acura Integra, two-door 93 Acura Integra, four-door 84
Source: Highway Loss Data Institute