Car theft is big business. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates the value of vehicles stolen in 2016 was nearly $6 million, up nearly a billion from the year before. Summers are prime time for car thieves, so NHTSA designates July National Vehicle Theft Prevention Month.


Car Theft Prevention Infographic by NHTSA


NHTSA urges you to take several common-sense steps to prevent your vehicle from becoming a statistic. First and foremost, take your key. Never leave it in or on your vehicle. Close and lock all windows and doors when leaving the vehicle and park in well-lit areas if possible. Also, don’t leave any valuables in plain sight.

Thieves are also looking not only to steal whole vehicles, but are also interested in parts, like mechanical components, sheetmetal including doors and fenders, air bags, audio and navigation systems, cell phones, iPads, laptops and purses. You can protect yourself by equipping your vehicle with an anti-theft system, a vehicle immobilizer, and accessory safeguards like locking lug nuts. Also, there are a number of vehicle recovery systems either incorporated in satellite radio or concierge systems that can help locate your vehicle in the event of a theft.

What’s stolen

It's not necessarily the hottest performance cars or luxury models that top the list of most stolen vehicles. Instead, professional thieves concentrate on popular cars, especially for components used by repair and body shops. Here are the top 10 most stolen vehicles:

  1. Honda Accord
  2. Honda Civic
  3. Chevrolet Silverado
  4. Toyota Camry
  5. Ford F-150
  6. Nissan Altima
  7. Toyota Corolla
  8. Ford F-250
  9. Ford Econoline
  10. Chevrolet Impala

Where they’re stolen from

Naturally, states with the largest population and therefore the largest number of vehicles top the list of car thefts. The only notable exception is Washington, which cracks the top 5. They are:

  1. California
  2. Texas
  3. Florida
  4. Washington
  5. Georgia
  6. Illinois
  7. Ohio
  8. Colorado
  9. Missouri
  10. Arizona

What to do if your car is stolen

Contact the police immediately to file a report. This police report or case number will be necessary when making an insurance claim, which you should do within 24 hours. Keep a copy of your license plate number and vehicle identification number separate from the car. You’ll also need to provide make model and color as well as any other distinguishing characteristics of the vehicle itself.

NHTSA also recommends that if you find your vehicle before the authorities, notify both the police and your insurance company immediately.

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