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Thieves' favorite vehicle

By Barbara Marquand on August 7th, 2013

The Ford F-250 pickup is the No. 1 target of thieves looking for newer vehicles, according to the Highway Loss Data Institute.

The four-wheel drive crew cab replaces the Cadillac Escalade as thieves' favorite, the first time since 2003 that a version of the Escalade hasn't had the highest theft rate.

"General Motors has put a lot of effort into new antitheft technology, so that may help explain the decline in the Escalade's theft rate," HLDI Vice President Matt Moore said in a prepared statement. "On the other hand, sales of the Escalade have fallen in recent years, so there may be less of a market for stolen Escalades or Escalade parts."

Big pickups and large SUVs continue to have higher theft rates than other vehicles, according to insurance claim data. The F250 has a theft claim rate of 7 per 1,000 insured vehicle years, almost six times the average for all vehicles. An insured vehicle year is one vehicle insured for one year.

Small and mid-size SUVs, meanwhile, dominate the list of vehicles with the lowest theft rates. The Dodge Journey four-wheel drive midsize SUV, for instance, has a theft rate of 0.4 per 1,000 insured vehicle years.

Technology thwarts thieves

Theft rates overall are falling largely because of anti-theft technology built into new vehicles. Ignition immobilizers, which prevent vehicles from being hot-wired, were standard in 89 percent of 2012 models, the institute said. Fewer pickups and SUVs have the feature as standard.

However, the F-250 does have a standard immobilizer, so it's unclear why its theft rate is so high. One reason is that many pickup theft claims stem from equipment theft from the truck bed. The institute's data does not distinguish between theft of the vehicle and theft of vehicle contents or components.

An ignition immobilizer has always been standard on the Escalade, but new features added in recent years have made it harder to load the vehicle onto a flatbed truck. A steering column lock was added in the 2010 model year, and an inclination sensor, which sets off an alarm when the vehicle's angle is changed, was added in the 2012 model year, the institute report noted. Meanwhile the average insurance payment for Escalade theft claims fell to $6,508 for 2010 to 2012 models from $11,934 for 2007 to 2009 Escalades. The decrease suggests fewer whole-vehicle thefts, the institute said.

Here are the 2010-2012 vehicles with the highest theft claim rates, according to HLDI:

1. Ford F-250 crew four-wheel drive very large pickup

2. Chevrolet Silverado 1500 crew large pickup

3. Chevrolet Avalanche 1500 very large SUV

4. GMC Sierra 1500 crew large pickup

5. Ford F-350 crew four-wheel drive very large pickup

6. Cadillac Escalade four-wheel drive large luxury SUV

7. Chevrolet Suburban 1500 very large SUV

8. GMC Sierra 1500 extended cab large pickup

9. GMC Yukon large SUV

10. Chevrolet Tahoe large SUV

Here are the 2010-2012 vehicles with the lowest theft claim rates:

1. Dodge Journey four-wheel drive midsize SUV

2. Volkswagen Tiguan four-wheel drive small SUV

3. Audi A4 four-door midsize luxury car

4. Acura RDX midsize luxury SUV

5. Toyota Matrix small station wagon

6. Lexus HS 250 hybrid four-door midsize luxury car

7. Honda CR-V small SUV

8. Hyundai Tucson four-wheel drive small SUV

9. Toyota Sienna four-wheel drive very large minivan

10. Jeep Compass four-wheel drive small SUV

The institute's theft ranking is different from others because it's based on the number of newer insured vehicles. The National Insurance Crime Bureau lists the most frequently stolen vehicles, insured or not, and is based on total number of thefts, rather than theft rates. According to the bureau's most recent data, the 1994 Honda Accord is the most frequently stolen vehicle.

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