The 1994 Honda Accord, 1998 Honda Civic and 2006 full-size Ford pickup were the most stolen vehicles in the country in 2011, according to the National Insurance Crime Bureau's (NICB) annual "Hot Wheels" report.
The report, released this week, draws on theft figures gathered from local, state and federal law enforcement. Car thieves targeted domestic and foreign models evenly, with five each in the top 10.
Here's the NICB's full list:
On a more positive note, the NICB says auto thefts continue to decline nationally. Preliminary 2011 FBI crime statistics indicate a 3.3 percent drop from the 737,142 thefts recorded the previous year, according to the report. (See: " Metro areas with the most stolen cars.")
Vehicle thefts tallied in 2011 are the lowest since 1967, according to the NICB.
NICB President and CEO Joe Wehrle did have a warning for owners of newer vehicles that use key codes to unlock and start them. Despite the sophisticated technology, he says criminals are increasingly stealing these late-model cars, vans and trucks (for more, see the bureau's video on key code thefts).
"Today's vehicle thieves are typically professional criminals who have figured out how to get the key code for a specific vehicle, have a replacement key made, and steal the vehicle within a matter of days," Wehrle said in a statement. "We are aware of nearly 300 thefts that took place in the first three months of this year in which we believe replacement keys using illegally obtained key codes were used to steal the vehicle."
There are several steps you can take to better protect a vehicle -- here are the NICB's suggestions, with estimated costs:
The NICB also recommends devices that immobilize a vehicle. Kill switches, fuel cut-offs and smart keys are among the devices that are extremely effective, according to the bureau.
Your car insurer looks kindly on anti-theft devices and will probably give you a discount on premiums if you have one. How much your discount will be depends on your insurer and where you live, but the National Association of Insurance Commissioners says motorists can usually expect a 15 to 20 percent discount on their comprehensive premiums. (See: "Anti-theft devices zap car insurance rates.")
Keep in mind that alarms and disabling devices are standard features on some cars and trucks. You can look at your vehicle's user manual or call the dealership to find out if you have any pre-installed anti-theft equipment. These factory-equipped models may also qualify for rate cuts.
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