Own a Toyota or Honda? New insurance data shows soaring theft rates

× Own a Toyota or Honda? New insurance data shows soaring theft rates By Doreen Hemlock, CNN Money (CNN) — When it comes to vehicle theft, stolen Honda and Toyota cars had some of…

Own a Toyota or Honda? New insurance data shows soaring theft rates

× Own a Toyota or Honda? New insurance data shows soaring theft rates

By Doreen Hemlock, CNN Money

(CNN) — When it comes to vehicle theft, stolen Honda and Toyota cars had some of the biggest jumps last year — which is quite a turn of events, considering theft is largely associated with cars made in California and other hot spots of hipster cool in the United States.

According to data recently released by NHTSA, the rate of car theft has doubled over the past decade in the United States. It now averages about 9,000 vehicles per day.

According to insurance data, the biggest jumps in stolen vehicle theft occurred in the states with the highest rates, such as California, Texas, Illinois, Arizona, Tennessee and Florida.

In 2010, 10.4 vehicles were stolen every hour in the U.S. That includes for insurance companies, not governments.

The fastest-growing stolen vehicle, in terms of the number of stolen cars, was Toyota Corolla. There were about 1,600 more Corollas stolen in the United States last year than in 2009. That was the most out of any car, up about 39%.

Toyota RAV4, Honda Civic and Honda Accord also saw jumps, though smaller. All totaled, there were about 4,500 more RAV4s, Civics and Accords stolen in 2010 than in 2009.

NHTSA said vehicle thefts typically go up after a recession ends, since people are more likely to buy less-expensive cars that they think can get them by.

However, NHTSA noted that theft peaked between 2002 and 2003.

These thefts in the states with the highest numbers do not account for other types of theft, such as pick-pocketing, said NHTSA spokesman Morgan Magness.

The reasons for the surge in vehicle theft may explain why a Toyota car gets so little good press in the United States. More than 99% of auto thefts happen on private property, not on the highways.

Plus, the vehicle that gets stolen the most often is not a Toyota or Honda. It’s a Chevrolet Cobalt or other sporty, noisy subcompact. The Ford Escort, Chrysler Sebring, Mercury Topaz and Ford Econoline nameplates are among the biggest car thieves.

By contrast, bigger luxury SUVs, pickups and more serious automaking gets high marks from accident-prone people.

Because major automakers produce millions of vehicles worldwide, NHTSA’s definition of stolen cars includes non-Californian vehicles that are part of an import brand in that state.

The analysis excludes the same-make vehicles in other states. For example, the Honda Accord and Toyota Corolla make the list only because they are imported, said Magness. And if consumers order a new Prius from Honda, it is not necessarily a stolen vehicle. That car is made in Japan, but it isn’t a “built in the U.S.A.” brand.

The Honda Civic, another popular car among thieves, is more difficult to catch and repair than most other sedans. For example, Honda does not electronically pad the fuel systems to prevent theft. Also, the car’s theft-resistant paint is only protected against accidental rusting.

According to Roger Lanctot, an analyst at the University of Michigan’s Transportation Research Institute, insurance companies used to rate vehicles by how secure they are. But they don’t now, because they find that in the absence of ignition locks, they’ll take the riskier Honda Civic over the safer Toyota Corolla.

And while the bottom line may not be obvious, for people driving cars, it matters.

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