Are You Driving One of the Most-Stolen Cars?

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Think your old Honda Accord or Civic isn’t worth much? It could be to auto thieves.

Last year, Accords and Civics were the most-stolen vehicles in the United States, with more than 58,000 Accords and 47,000 Civics swiped, according to the National Insurance Crime Bureau’s Hot Wheels 2012 report.

While you may consider your car from the 1990s to be an old clunker, Accords and Civics from that era are auto thieves’ dreams, accounting for the vast majority of the Hondas stolen last year.

It could be they’re such a hot commodity because thieves take them to chop shops, where they’re dismantled and sold for parts, says NICB spokesman Frank Scafidi.

Full-size pickups also were prime targets in 2012, with more than 26,000 Ford pickups and 23,000 Chevrolet pickups stolen, dating from both the 1990s and 2000s.

While the exact number of cars stolen last year is still being calculated, the FBI estimates that more than 724,000 vehicles were snatched, up 1.3 percent from 2011. But that’s a far cry from the peak in 1991, when more than 1.6 million vehicles were stolen.

Here’s the top 10 list for 2012:

  1. Honda Accord, 58,596.
  2. Honda Civic, 47,037.
  3. Ford pickup (full size), 26,770.
  4. Chevrolet pickup (full size), 23,745.
  5. Toyota Camry, 16,251.
  6. Dodge Caravan, 11,799.
  7. Dodge pickup (full size), 11,755.
  8. Acura Integra, 9,555.
  9. Nissan Altima, 9,169.
  10. Nissan Maxima, 6,947.

The average dollar loss per stolen vehicle in 2011 reached nearly $6,100, according to the FBI.

There are steps you can take to reduce your chances of becoming a victim of auto theft.

Take precautions

The NICB lists various ways to protect your vehicle from theft, ranging from the simple to the high tech. The most basic step is using common sense: Don’t leave your keys in the car. Often auto theft is a crime of opportunity. Leaving your car running as you dash into the house for two minutes could make you a target.

If your aging auto isn’t equipped with an anti-theft device, you can use something as low cost as The Club, which Scafidi says will deter some thieves because of the time it takes to remove it.

Other options are installing an alarm to scare off thieves, and etching your vehicle identification number or VIN on the windows and other major parts, making them less desirable for a chop shop.

A newer vehicle may come equipped with a kill switch or smart key to prevent your vehicle from being started and stolen.

It also may come with a tracking device, or you can get one installed, which will help authorities track it down quicker if it’s stolen. The sooner it’s found, the better the chance thieves won’t have time to dismantle it for parts.

Evaluate your insurance

Often owners of older vehicles are advised to drop the comprehensive portion of their auto insurance to save money on their premiums. But comprehensive coverage is what kicks in if your vehicle is stolen.

Before dropping comprehensive coverage, you should consider the cost of the coverage, the value of your vehicle, its appeal to auto thieves, and the resources you have to replace it if your car is stolen.

Secure your vehicle, save money

Many insurance companies will give you a break on your comprehensive coverage if your vehicle has an anti-theft device, but the discounts vary from company to company and state to state.

Only a handful of states require your auto insurer to give you a discount, but regardless of the state, many insurers will cut you a break to encourage the use of anti-theft devices.

For example, Esurance advertises discounts of 5 percent to 25 percent on your comprehensive coverage for anti-theft devices, while Nationwide advertises discounts of up to 5 percent.

A combination of high- and low-tech solutions can help keep your car out of thieves’ hands.