Car theft has been on the rise in recent years and car thieves are getting better. You would think thieves only steal old cars, but they’ve gotten better and can steal new cars as well.
But we know they don’t steal them for personal use. So why do they steal these cars and most importantly, what do they do with them after they’re stolen? We also explore ways to prevent your car from being stolen and how to recover a stolen car.
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What Do Thieves Do with Stolen Cars?
When cars are stolen, they are either sold off immediately for quick cash or have parts taken out to be sold independently. Thieves steal cars for one reason only, and that is money. Cars are valuable, and so are their parts.
They may be a variety of reasons to steal cars, but here are the 3 most common ones:
- Steal cars for parts: Car parts are very valuable when sold individually as opposed to being sold a whole vehicle. Doing so would turn a sub $10,000 vehicle into a $15,000 profit in parts sales.
A great example of this is the recent rise in catalytic converter thefts, especially on the Toyota Prius. Replacing one of these would cost you between $2,700 and $4,100. Stolen converters can easily fetch a thief $2,000, imagine how much could be made by stripping the entire car.
- Sell for cash: Now, you may think who would be dumb enough to sell a stolen car if it is now reported stolen. But thieves have gotten smarter, 54% of stolen cars in the US never get recovered.
Thieves can get away with stolen cars via a few illegal means like title washing and VIN alteration. These involve altering vital documentation of the vehicle to be able to sell them.
Title washing is a means of erasing the former details and history of a vehicle. New papers are forged and entered the vehicle registry and made to seem like a legitimate vehicle being sold.
VIN (Vehicle Identification Number) alteration goes in hand with title washing. This is a unique set of numbers used to identify your specific vehicle. It is given by the manufacturer and should never be changed no matter what, even during restoration.
Thieves can alter this number to hide the true identity of your vehicle. It is highly illegal and considered a felony, a conviction can carry up to 5 years in jail, and $250,000 in fines. Unfortunately, there are many more ways stolen cars are sold without being recovered, including exportation.
- Commit crimes: Criminals do not want to be caught while committing crimes. So they temporarily steal cars to go on heists, transport illegal goods and break laws in stolen vehicles without the vehicle being traced back to them.
What Cars Do Thieves Steal the Most?
Hondas are the most stolen vehicles in the United States. The Accord and Civics are the most stolen, with over 64,000 vehicles stolen in 2020. These are the cars of choice because they hold their resale value both as whole vehicles and parts vehicles.
Older vehicles are usually the target for thieves as they’re easier to break into. Hondas aren’t alone, as many other vehicles make the list of most stolen cars. Here’s a list of the top 10 most stolen vehicles in the US.
|1. Ford Pickup (Full Size)
|2. Chevrolet Full Size Pick-Up
|3. Honda Civic
|4. Honda Accord
|5. Toyota Camry
|6. Nissan Altima
|7. GMC Full Size Pick-up
|8. Toyota Corolla
|9. Honda CR-V
|10. Dodge Full Size Pick-up
What Cars Do Thieves Steal the Least?
New cars with advanced security systems are the cars thieves stay away from. Cars like Tesla are the kind of vehicles you do not want to steal due to their advanced security systems. Thieves may be getting better, but so are manufacturers.
Some cars listed here are so advanced that thieves don’t bother, as some do have the ability to reveal the thief’s identity. But on the flip side do not lose your keys as you may not have access to your car which may be an expensive fix. Here are a few:
- Tesla Model S
2. Jaguar XF
3. Tesla Model X
4. Land Rover Discovery
5. BMW X3
6. Nissan Leaf
7. Audi A4
8. Volkswagen Tiguan
9. Hyundai Tucson
10. Toyota Prius
11. Lexus HS 250H
What’s the Probability of Finding a Stolen Car?
The probability of finding your stolen vehicle is 46%. This is an average and varies greatly depending on where you live. Over 870,000 vehicles were stolen in 2020 which was a 9.2% increase over 2019 which had over 799,000 cars stolen.
These increased numbers were also due to the pandemic, which saw security loosen a little. The response rate from local law enforcement also plays a big role in vehicle recovery.
Where you live also plays a huge role in your vehicle being recovered. An example, Utah has a recovery rate of 63%, Alabama is 71%, while Alabama is low at 23%.
Using security measures like a GPS tracker built-in could also help with the speedy recovery of your vehicle.
What’s the Way Thieves Steal Cars?
The easiest ways thieves steal cars are by picking your locks. But with new cars, this isn’t so easy, so they’ve devised new means. Signal Jamming, reprogramming keys, and hacking the car are a few ways they do it.
If a thief wants to steal an old car, they simply pick the lock, get in the car, hotwire it, and they’re gone. But newer cars aren’t so simple, so these thieves use more sophisticated means.
With keyless car fobs, this makes stealing a car harder, as you can’t hotwire it. This has made thieves evolve to use smarter measures to steal your vehicle. There are numerous ways a car can be stolen, a few are highlighted below:
- Signal relaying: Your car is always emitting a signal from the key fob, which communicates with your vehicle. This system allows you to simply pull on your car’s door to unlock it when it is in the range.
Thieves use high-frequency wireless transmitters which when held close to your house can transmit your key’s signal. This fool’s the car into thinking you are close by and allows the car to be unlocked. Once in, this process is repeated to start the car and quickly reprogram another key to work.
- Signal jamming: Similar to relaying, but this instead blocks your key’s signal from reaching your car. When the owner locks the car remotely the signal is prevented, leaving your car still unlocked for the taking.
- Reprogramming: In older cars, the key is duplicated but n newer cars the fob is reprogrammed. Once inside your car, these guys can reprogram your car to use another key. This is done via your On-Board Diagnostics (OBD/OBD II) port.
Once plugged in, your car can be fully unlocked, reprogrammed, and driven away with no hassle. These tools cost only $20 and programming can take as little as 14 seconds.
- Stealing Codes: Just like stealing the pin to your ATM card, thieves could obtain the code used to unlock your vehicle. Fords were popular for using this locking method.
- Hacking Car Apps: A lot of cars now can use smartphones as keys. These apps allow you to have access to various functions of your car beyond the capabilities of your key. Owners can share digital keys between smartphones to allow friends or family members to use the car with just their phones.
If thieves get the login details of such vehicles, they can access the car just as easily as you or your friend.
- Luck: Yes, some thieves get lucky, believe it or not. Some owners simply leave their vehicles unlocked. This can just be forgetting to lock the vehicle or thinking the car would automatically lock itself, but it doesn’t.
A thief can simply pull handles to see if a car is unlocked until he gets a lucky steal. In scenarios like this though, most thieves can’t drive away with your car, but they can steal your valuables.
What Can You Do to Prevent Your Car from Getting Stolen?
Preventing car theft can be as simple as making sure your car is locked to installing a GPS tracker or even a simple wheel lock. These steps though simple are an extra layer of work that thieves don’t want to deal with as it wastes time.
Thieves are looking for the easiest cars to steal, and a few simple precautions can deter them from your vehicle. They’re all applicable in different scenarios.
- Make sure your car is locked: As simple as this sounds, a thief will easily pick an unlocked car over a locked one. Make sure you see the lock lights flash or hear the car lock before leaving.
- Switch off key fob: Some fobs can be turned off. Do this at night when not in use, the car won’t transmit any signal and the relay method can’t be used.
- Use locks: A steering wheel lock or tire lock can be bought to lock your steering wheel or tires. Seeing this would make the thieves’ job harder, so they’ll most likely pick another car.
- GPS Tracker: Your car may eventually be stolen, and this is where a GPS is handy. GPS trackers relay the location of your vehicle no matter where it is. A stolen vehicle can easily be found if the GPS is functioning by showing its current location in real-time.
- CCTV: Just like GPS, this will not prevent your car from theft, but you’ll at least have footage of the criminal.
- Proper Storage: If your car is parked outside, it’ll be seen as a target. Garage parking keeps your car safe from thieving eyes.
Auto Theft Statistics
- California has the highest auto theft rate with 141,757 stolen vehicles. While Vermont has the least auto theft rate with 298 vehicles.
- New Year’s Day is the holiday with the most vehicle theft rate with over 2400 stolen cars
- Over $6 billion is lost in Auto theft
- 10 seconds, this is how long it takes to break into some new cars.
- A million cars were reported stolen in 2007
- Most cars are stolen between 10 am and 3 pm, when there are more crowds and distractions.