Auto Theft Myths versus Facts



For more information contact:
Carolyn Gorman, Vice President
Insurance Information Institute

Washington, D.C., November 1, 2006 In 2005, a vehicle was stolen every 25.5 seconds in the United States, based only on data for the 1,235,226 stolen vehicles reported to the National Crime Information Center (NCIC). Using the FBI's average valuation of $6,173 per stolen vehicle, this amounts to over $7.6 billion in losses in 2005 - just in vehicle value alone. ( see press release at )

"Auto theft is an expensive crime, so it is important to be prepared in advance to handle your vehicle being stolen. But all too often, consumer attitudes about preventing vehicle thefts are based on misconceptions, which can lead to expensive consequences for the unprepared victim," says Carolyn Gorman, Vice President of the Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.), a nonprofit consumer education organization.

Impossible to Totally Avoid Being a Victim
Victims like Stephen Cox say it can be nearly impossible to avoid being the victim of an auto theft, even for those who install anti-theft devices or park in a secure area. Speaking from personal experience, Cox, who is Vice President, Communications for the Council of Better Business Bureaus, says, "Car thieves, like home burglars, are not usually deterred by a single layer of protection." Cox had two vehicles stolen in a three-year period when he was living in California, both of which had manufacturer-installed security systems that were disabled by the thieves. These included a Pontiac Firebird with a CLUB anti-theft device that was stolen in daylight and a Nissan 300ZX that was stolen at night from a gated community.

Robert Bryant, President and Chief Executive Officer of the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB), the insurance industry's theft and fraud fighting organization, suggests the more layers of protection on your vehicle, the more difficult it is to steal. "Motorists driving theft-prone vehicles need to take additional steps such as installing a visible deterrent like a steering wheel lock, alarm or other type of disabling device."

While it is important for consumers to know how to help prevent vehicle theft, the "Wiser Drivers Wise Up" program is focused on educating drivers to be better prepared to handle a vehicle theft when it does occur ( ), with information provided by a team comprised of the Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.), Council of Better Business Bureaus and the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB).

Myth: Most Thefts Occur in Unprotected Areas. Despite conventional wisdom, parking in an unprotected area does not mean your vehicle is more likely to be stolen. An FBI report on "Crime in the United States" indicates that more than one-third of all vehicle thefts occur at a home or residence, compared to only two of every 10 vehicle thefts occurring at a parking lot or parking structure. Vehicles that are stolen from highways, roads or alleys, including carjacking, account for the least number of thefts.

Myth: Stolen Vehicles Are Usually Found. Drivers who believe their stolen car will eventually be found also may be making a false assumption, especially if their vehicle has been missing for more than six days. Although about one-half of all stolen vehicles are recovered, the first few days are critical. Even if the vehicle is recovered, it may be completely totaled. The longer the vehicle is in the possession of criminals, the less chance of recovery. Interestingly, Fridays and Saturdays are the days with the highest frequency of motor vehicle theft and Mondays and Tuesdays have the highest recovery rates.

Myth: Insurance Always Provides a Rental Car. Another common misconception many insured drivers have is that once they report a stolen car, their auto insurance will automatically cover a rental car until their vehicle is found or they are authorized by their insurance company to buy a new one, which can take several weeks. Unfortunately, although insurance for theft is included in the comprehensive part of an auto insurance policy, this coverage may not automatically include coverage for a replacement rental car for a stolen vehicle. Since replacement rental car coverage is only a couple dollars a month, it can cost more for a one-day car rental than for a full-year of coverage.

Myth: Anti-Theft Devices Are Easy to Install. Pay a competent professional to wire, install and test the anti-theft system because there is too much complexity in today's vehicles for an untrained person to cut into a vehicle's electronics. Don't select the installer on price alone; check with the Better Business Bureau ( for a report to see if the business is reputable. Also, ask if the alarm system technician is certified by the Mobile Electronics Certification Program (MECP). If not, you may want to look elsewhere. And, make sure the shop provides a written warranty and will take the time to show you how the anti-theft system works so that you are comfortable with its operation.

Myth: Thieves Are Not Interested in Older Vehicles. Those who believe that older vehicles are of no interest to thieves should think again. In 2005, the top five model years stolen were 1991, 1995, 1989, 1994 and 1997, respectively, according to The National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB), which combats auto theft by investigating cases referred to it by insurers and through its online databases.

"Older vehicles are most often taken for their parts which are no longer manufactured and are too difficult or expensive to obtain," said Robert M. Bryant, president and chief executive officer of NICB. Unfortunately, motorists with older vehicles who have dropped comprehensive coverage to save money are not covered for theft and do not qualify for replacement rental car coverage. NICB also publishes annual lists of the top thefts by region and by year, make and model, as well as most popular colors stolen and other information, including tips to help avoid theft using its "Layered Approach to Protection" at .

The bottom line is not to wait until after your vehicle is stolen to find out you don't have the coverage you think you have. Consumer Reports ( advises drivers to review their auto insurance policy once a year, including coverage you must have, coverage you'll probably need, and additional types of coverage, including roadside assistance and rental reimbursement.

Supported by 1,000 major property and casualty insurance companies, the National Insurance Crime Bureau ( ), based in Chicago, is a not-for-profit organization dedicated exclusively to fighting insurance fraud and theft through criminal investigations, industry training and public education programs. For more information on fraud and how it affects everyone, please visit

The Insurance Information Institute ( ) is a nonprofit, communications organization supported by the insurance industry.

The Council of Better Business Bureaus, based in Arlington, VA, is the umbrella organization for Better Business Bureaus (BBBs) which are supported by 380,000 business members nationwide. The Council and all local BBBs are private, non-profit organizations funded by membership dues and other support. BBB reports on insurance companies, agents and agencies and other types of businesses can be accessed at .

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