Car Buyer Labs

Car Buying Advice, Tips and Reviews

A hooded man is stealing a car near one of the dealerships in Philadelphia.

Hey, Philadelphia. Don’t Want Your Car Stolen? Read This…

Inevitably, there’s going to be a lot on the mind of anyone walking the pavement of dealerships in Philadelphia (or just about anywhere for that matter). Prospective car buyers come in all forms. Some arrived well-researched, fully-informed and well-qualified with the intention of getting the exact deal they want on the car, truck, or SUV of their choice. Others are there to kick the proverbial tires, or rely simply on their gut instincts, rolling the dice when it comes to selection, pricing, or financing options available to them.

But whether you’re the type who leaves a dealership inside the ‘wheels’ of your dreams, empty-handed, or even wondering what the hell just happened, one thing is certain – the vehicle that you leave in, could leave you the victim of theft.

It’s one of those gambles we take all-the-time but downplay in our minds: the fact that any time we leave our vehicle(s) unsupervised, it might not be there when we come looking for it. And there are all sorts of things that we tell ourselves in order to feel more assured. From ‘I lock my doors’ to ‘I have a security system’, or ‘it’s safe running in my driveway’ to ‘who’d want my old car?’ we delude ourselves into thinking that it simply can’t happen to us.

But as an example (since we already mentioned them) Philadelphia has experienced a recent climb in car thefts. By mid-October of 2018 Philly’s Police Department was reporting a six percent increase over the prior year, with the expectation that those numbers would climb further during the winter months. The reason? Over 25% of vehicle thefts reported ‘leaving the keys in the ignition’ as the root cause. And with the tendency of those in the northeast to leave their vehicles idling in an attempt to warm them up on winter days, it’s all but an invitation to thieves.

But vehicle theft is far more than an ‘opportunity-based’ crime. As with any industry, it is demand-based, looks to explore certain economies, expand its efficiencies, and improve its profitability. Older vehicles, equipped with parts more highly sought after for repairs, can be stolen more easily and in larger quantities, scrapped for quick cash and quick turnaround. Theft of performance, import, and higher-ticket vehicles creates more of a specialized market where exclusivity escalates the individual payout. And on top of these entrepreneurial types, there’s even the joy riders, who steal such high-end vehicles for the thrill of a temporary spin behind the wheel.

So, if we’re going to pick on Philly, let’s go all out with it and explore the vehicles most commonly stolen in the City of Brotherly Love (and Sisterly Affection).

Makes & Models in the Crosshair

When you’re at a dealership (or even choosing which one to do business with) you’re probably far too distracted to consider the likelihood of your next vehicle being stolen. And while we agree that you can’t live in a constant state of fear, it’s important to understand which makes and models prove most popular to thieves within your geography.

In Philadelphia, the list hasn’t changed that much over the past couple of decades. Sure the model years fluctuate a bit (with older models proving easier targets in the absence of anti-theft technology) but there are certain brands and styles that seem to endure in their popularity. Here’s a breakdown (in ascending order) with some context provided in comparison to the national rankings.

  • 10. Chevy Malibu – while the Chevy Malibu doesn’t make the Top 10 in terms of national rankings, it manages to round out the list of most commonly stolen vehicles in Philly, along with…
  • 9. Jeep Cherokee / Grand Cherokee – an enduring favorite, especially in the northeast, both the Cherokee and Grand Cherokee also place higher in Philly.
  • 8. Chevy Silverado – #4 nationally, the Silverado’s lower placement in terms of Philly’s numbers provide some interesting insight as to geographic popularity (considering how high its competitor the F-Series places…)
  • 7. Toyota Corolla – #7 nationally, the Corolla’s appearance introduces a clear trend towards economically-priced import sedans, which repeats throughout both Philly’s list and the national rankings.
  • 6. Chevy Impala – #10 nationally, the Impala’s longevity and low-profile nature make it an easy choice for many thieves.
  • 5. Nissan Altima – #6 nationally, we begin to see more alignment with national rankings from this point on. Nissan, Toyota and Honda all rank among the most favorite of targets.
  • 4. Toyota Camry – #5 nationally.
  • 3. Ford F-Series – #3 nationally.
  • 2. Honda Civic – ranking nationally as the ‘Most Stolen’ vehicle, the Civic (and its sibling the Accord) have a pretty exclusive stranglehold on the top spots in almost every state. Which brings us to….
  • 1. Honda Accord – nationally, the 2nd most popular among stolen vehicles, the Accord rates as the most popular in Philly.

A red 2019 Honda Accord is taking a corner in a city.

In addition to providing insight as to high-risk vehicles (buyer beware), it’s interesting to see how consistently Philly’s list compares to the national rankings. With all but the last two models appearing in the Top 10 of both lists, this information might certainly prove useful to prospective buyers both in and outside of the Philadelphia area.

Tips to Avoid Theft

While we have yet to reach a point where we can offer 100% assurance against the risk of theft, there are a number of steps you can take. Some are a bit obvious, while others you might not have thought of. Either way, we hope they help.

Consider vehicles that aren’t found on the above list (or the respective list for your town or city).

Install an anti-theft device, or subscribe to an anti-theft service.

Keep your vehicle locked at all times. Whether you’re in, or out of the vehicle. Whether it’s parked or in motion.

Never leave a vehicle unattended, while its engine is running.

If leaving the vehicle unattended (i) close all windows and sunroofs (ii) do not leave the keys inside of the vehicle.

Also, refrain from leaving any valuables (or items of interest) visible within a vehicle.

When parking, opt for a well-lit area (ideally one that’s visibly monitored by cameras).

If parking on an incline (with the vehicle in park, or left in gear) turn your wheels against the curb. This increases the difficulty of simply towing the vehicle away.

Restrict access to either a vehicle’s registration/title by storing it in a secretive location. This minimizes the chances of a thief being able to pass off their possession of your vehicle to law enforcement, by presenting such documentation.

Know where you’re going, and avoid the risk of driving through high-crime areas.

On higher-end vehicles (more likely to be resold in their entirety) have your vehicle’s VIN# etched into each section of window glass. A thief is likely to recognize this as an unnecessary expense, as they’ll have to replace all the glass in the vehicle in order to make it a profitable turn.

These are just a few ideas, but certainly good ones to take into consideration in the hopes of protecting your vehicle (and in turn, yourself) from theft. Considering how many unnecessary chances one person is capable of taking, it’s imperative to recognize that we all play the primary role in theft-prevention. While we can’t prevent every occurrence, smarter habits on all of our parts will work in our collective (and individual) favor.

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