This year's list of the top stolen cars has come...

Dear Car Talk

Dear Car Talk | Jul 01, 2002

Dear Tom and Ray:

This year's list of the top stolen cars has come out. However, the list seems to correspond to the most-sold cars. Is there a list of stolen cars that is weighted to the number of each model on the road? Toyota Camrys are more likely to be stolen BECAUSE there are more Camrys on the road, right? But wouldn't my Lamborghini be more likely to be stolen than my Toyota Camry? -- Jon

TOM: Yes. When you look at it on a weighted basis (thefts per the number of those cars on the road), I suspect that a higher percentage of Lamborghinis are stolen than Camrys. And they're stolen for different reasons.

RAY: There are two basic reasons why thieves steal cars. One is for illegal export. Let's say a guy in Bogota, Columbia, wants a fancy sports car. A theft ring in the United States might go out and steal one for him, and then sneak it out of the country and sell it to this guy. That's the scenario under which your Lamborghini would be stolen.

TOM: The other reason for stealing a car is to strip it and sell the parts at a huge markup. In this case, you need a huge demand for parts. And the most popular cars on the road are the ones for which there is the greatest demand for parts. That's the scenario under which your Camry would be stolen.

RAY: While we don't have actual numbers for Lamborghini, we did get numbers for some other models from the Highway Loss Data Institute for 1998-2000.

TOM: Looking at the limited list it provided, the rate of theft claims (that is, the number of cars stolen per 1,000 vehicles) for so-called "fancy cars" is higher than average. The average theft rate for all cars is 2.6 per thousand. The Chevy Corvette, for example, has 3.3 theft claims per 1,000 cars registered. The Cadillac Escalade, a currently desirable luxury sport utility vehicle, had 6.5 per 1,000. There's also the inexplicable chart-topping Acura Integra, which had 20.6 per 1,000.

RAY: By comparison, Camrys are stolen at a rate of 1.83 per thousand, which is below average. That's still a lot of cars, though, because there are lots of Camrys out there. But the chances of YOUR Camry being stolen are lower than the chances of your Lamborghini being stolen.

TOM: Of course, the chances of your Lamborghini getting stolen just got higher, now that you've written to us and told us you have a one in your driveway ... and included your return address in the letter, Jon.

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