What's The Most-Stolen Vehicle? It May Surprise You

People shop for cars in Los Angeles in 2009. i i

hide captionPeople shop for cars in Los Angeles in 2009. Brand new cars are not the most attractive to car thieves, though. The most-stolen vehicle in 2009 was the 1994 Honda Accord.

Nick Ut/AP
People shop for cars in Los Angeles in 2009.

People shop for cars in Los Angeles in 2009. Brand new cars are not the most attractive to car thieves, though. The most-stolen vehicle in 2009 was the 1994 Honda Accord.

Nick Ut/AP

Car thefts were down 17 percent in 2009 compared with the year before — the largest drop in a six-year decline, according to the FBI's most recent crime statistics. That's the good news.

The bad news is, if you're driving an older car — even a plain-Jane, no-frills model — you may be a target.

The National Insurance Crime Bureau, a group that keeps track of car thefts nationwide, published its list of the most-stolen vehicles on Monday. And the No. 1 model is about as old as some of the people driving it.

In a full parking lot at a South Los Angeles strip mall, complete with sushi, Starbucks and a beauty nail shop, not every motorist can accurately guess what's popular with car thieves these days.

Nigel Palmer guesses a Cadillac Escalade.

Amber Sheek says Corollas "because there are so many."

She's getting warmer. But Jared Huggins gets it right: Honda Accord.

Top 10 Most-Stolen Cars In 2009

1.  Honda Accord ('94)

2.  Honda Civic ('95)

3.  Toyota Camry ('91)

4.  Ford F-150 Pickup ('97)

5.  Dodge Ram Pickup ('04)

6.  Dodge Caravan ('00)

7.  Chevrolet Pickup (Full Size) ('94)

8.  Acura Integra ('94)

9.  Ford Explorer ('02)

10. Toyota Corolla ('09)

Source: NICB

The most-stolen car in the United States last year was a 1994 Honda Accord, according to the National Insurance Crime Bureau.

"This car, I've slept in it, lived in it ... done all kinds of stuff in it ... you know, we've been through a lot together," Huggins says of his own Accord.

His car is even older than the '94 model, with 194,000 miles on it, and yet was a target for thieves. On a recent night, he was sleeping in his car when two guys tried to steal it.

"And I jumped up and freaked out and woke up and they took off," he says.

Huggins, who is employed now and hopes to be off the streets soon, says he never knew his old car was so popular.

Mid-1990 Hondas and Toyotas frequently dominate the yearly top-10 stolen car list. Because they are so popular, there is always a market for parts. Thieves like to steal them and chop them up, which can bring in more money than selling the car whole.

Despite the popularity, auto thefts dropped in every state in the country last year. So why the decline?

Police say it's due to better policing. On a recent day, detective Mike Lewis with the auto theft task force in Riverside, Calif., was definitely busy.

Web Resources

A summary of the FBI's 2009 Crime Statistics, released Sept. 13.

The NCIB's most recent Hot Wheels Report on stolen vehicles.

The team searched the home of a suspected motorcycle thief. They scoured a quiet neighborhood for a suspected chop shop — that's where the cars are dismantled and sold for parts. And they were unsuccessful in getting fingerprints off a stolen truck at a local junkyard.

Police and other law enforcement officials say plenty of new technology is now available to also help thwart the thieves. Many newer model cars come equipped with high-tech keys coded to match ignition switches or remote systems that use specific radio signals to start a car.

And Frank Scafidi of the National Insurance Crime Bureau says recovery systems like OnStar and LoJack are great in helping police retrieve stolen autos.

"There will be developments I am just confident in the next few years that will make this auto theft problem a thing of the past," Scafidi says.

And he says the cost of all these new bells and whistles, like all technology, will soon come down too.

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