Want some good news? For 2009, the FBI reports a 17% decline in auto thefts compared to 2008. In fact, reported auto thefts in 2009 were at their lowest level in 20 years, with just 794,616 cars reported stolen across the United States. For insurance companies and car owners, the net cost for all those vehicles stolen was roughly $5 billion, or $6,505 per vehicle.
Now for the bad news: the recovery rate for stolen vehicles has also dropped, falling to just 42%. This represents the lowest recovery rate in twenty five years, and indicates that most vehicle thefts are now the work of professionals. Car thieves generally “shop by order”, and target specific makes and models for their export or parts value. Anti-theft measures like ignition immobilizers and car alarms have little effect, since the pros generally tow or flatbed the vehicles they steal. As we told you here, their favorite target is the Cadillac Escalade, but full sized pickups are also high on thieves lists.
If a pro wants what you drive, it’s probably just a matter of time before it gets snatched. Common sense goes a long way in preventing amateur car theft, so always lock your car (with the windows up) whenever you leave it unattended. I shouldn’t have to tell you this, but a running car is an open invitation for amateur theft; no matter how hot (or cold) it is outside, turn off the ignition and take the keys with you, even if you’re only gone for a few seconds. Finally, if you really love your car and want to keep it forever, Lojack is far better than any alarm system at aiding in recovery.