Looking at the list of most-stolen cars in the United States is a bit like looking back in time. Vehicles are constantly being loaded up with new anti-theft measures, GPS locators, and emergency response connections, but the sliding scale of time means eventually even the most modern theft deterrents eventually face defeat.
That timeline seems to be, on average, fifteen to twenty years. So, looking at last year’s most stolen cars will give you a view of what Americans were driving around two decades ago — after all, the more cars of a given make and model were out on the road in their heyday, the more are around to steal.
A glance down last year’s list from the National Insurance Crime Bureau, however, throws an interesting wrench in that idea. Auto theft spiked during the pandemic, and that increase seems to have shifted the demographics of the vehicles stolen. From NICB:
At first glance, these make sense. The early aughts just barely predate the rise of the crossover, so the list is still replete with family sedans. Each of the Big Three gets at least one full-size pickup (and General Motors gets two), and the Honda CR-V points to the world of the crossover yet to come.
Delving slightly deeper into the data, however, shows off the twist. Most vehicles on the list had their most-stolen model years during the late ‘90s and mid ‘00s, but three notable exceptions pop up:
The Nissan Altima and Toyota Camry and Corolla all had most-stolen model years far more modern than the rest of the list. The Camry’s biggest model year for theft was 2019, and the Altima and Corolla both had 2020 in their top spot.
While thefts of modern cars aren’t unheard of, having three cars within a model year or two of the present day is a new one for NICB’s reporting. Generally, these reports have only one or two vehicles coming from the two most recent model years gracing the top ten.
NICB doesn’t speculate as to why 2020 saw so many current cars stolen, and it’s unclear what makes latest-generation Japanese family sedans such a target. Even the “GMC Full Size Pickup,” usually a late-model theft stalwart, pales in comparison to Toyota and Nissan’s three-box offerings.
With 30 percent of the top ten theft attractors being modern cars, one thing is clear: Current connected anti-theft measures aren’t the deterrent they’re cracked up to be. While it’s reassuring to know that OnStar, Starlink, and other automaker-endorsed celestial bodies can track your car down in the event of a theft, they can’t seem to do much to stop your car from walking off.