Commonly Stolen Cars Are Worth Less Than The Sum Of Their Parts

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Most car thefts don’t involve a list of secret supercars and Nicholas Cage hitting jumps in a Mustang. Late-model Toyota Camrys, Nissan Altimas and GMC Sierras are apparently stolen because just a few easily-removable parts are almost worth more than the entire vehicles.

Last week the National Insurance Crime Bureau, which describes itself as “the nation’s premier not-for-profit organization dedicated exclusively to fighting insurance fraud and crime,” published a report highlighting just how expensive some physically large but quickly-gettable components are worth relative to the market value of an entire car.

For example, the NICB points out that while a 2016 Camry might worth about $15,000, its doors are worth $3,027, the wheels are $1,642, the hood and trunk are $1,251 and headlights are $575 a pair. The NICB’s research indicates that those plus a few more accessible parts total up to $10,695 on a Camry that might fetch $15,438 if sold outright.


It’s pretty interesting, and to me, counterintuitive that a car should be worth more money in pieces than it is as a functioning vehicle. But there are some key things to keep in mind while we consider this information.


First of all, the NICB explains that these “part prices were pulled from a database of over 24 million vehicle damage appraisals generated for insurance claims from 2016 and 2017.”

Without launching a major investigation of my own, I think it’s fair to assume that very few criminal car part slingers will be getting the same premium price that a dealership or bodyshop charges consumers for any of these things.


Secondly, though Autoblog reports that vehicle thefts in the United States increased 7.6 percent in 2016 and again by 4 percent in 2017 “based on preliminary FBI data”, the overall trend of car theft is still down from a 1991 peak. So I wouldn’t necessarily conclude of “rising parts costs equal more car theft.”

All that said, it is interesting to see a breakdown of just how valuable all your car’s components are. I think the biggest practical takeaway from all this is that you should treat your car well, and ideally get a good insurance policy on it.