NICB: Theft Figures Low, Recovery Rates High for Toyota Prius

It’s been a little over 12 years since the first Toyota Prius was stolen. And since then, the nation’s best-selling hybrid has proved to be an unpopular item among car thieves, according to a recent report on the car model from the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB).

Theft rates for the Prius are well below rates for all vehicles, according to the report, which compared theft rates between all 2008-10 model year cars and Prii. The findings showed that 1 in 606 Prii have been reported stolen, far below the rate for all other 2008-10 model year cars, which was 1 in 78.

There were 2,439 Prii stolen in the U.S. between September 2000 and July 2012.

Thieves Could Be Put Off by Prius’ Looks, Low Demand for Its Parts

Bureau spokesman Frank Scafidi said that the NICB’s report did not pinpoint a specific reason for the Prius’ unique theft figures but stressed a number of factors that could have produced them.

The bureau’s annual Hot Wheels listing, released this past summer outlining the nation’s most-stolen vehicles, showed that the 1994 Honda Accord, 1998 Honda Civic and 1991 Toyota Camry ranked first, second and fourth in the number of stolen cars in 2011, respectively.

Unlike the Prius, thefts of the aforementioned models are typically linked to the “illicit parts market” where demand for those models’ car parts is high, according to Scafidi. Scafidi also said that the exceptionally high recovery rates for stolen Prii can be attributed to thieves’ unfamiliarity with the car model and a relatively low demand for its parts.

The NICB report found that a whopping 96.7 percent of stolen Prii were ultimately recovered with an average recovery time of 23.6 days.

“Cars stolen for parts typically disappear and are rarely recovered intact,” Scafidi said in an email to Online Auto Insurance News (OAIN). “A high recovery rate suggests that the thief just used it for a single purpose and abandoned it. It could also mean that they couldn’t figure out how to drive a hybrid and just left it where their knowledge—or charge—ran out.”

Scafidi also offered an even simpler answer to why thieves have steered away from the Prius: how it looks.

“It could be that the Prius is just unattractive as a theft target,” he said. “Thieves have taste too, and the Prius just might not do it for them.”

Theft rates are falling nationwide, with the FBI reporting in June that the number of cars stolen last year dropped 3.3 percent compared with 2010.

California a Magnet for Prius Thefts

California showed the highest number of Toyota Prius thefts by far, with 1,062 stolen since the model was first introduced. California’s theft volume outpaces the state with the next-highest figures, Florida, by a massive 736 percent and accounts for nearly half of all Prius thefts since the model was introduced.

The high theft numbers of Prii in California is “likely due” to a bulk of those models being sold in California, where Toyota has made about a quarter of all its Prius sales, according to the California New Car Dealers Association (CNCDA).

Scafidi said he was unsurprised by the model’s highest sales figures landing in California, which he called a “car culture state without comparison.”

“There are lots of conservation-minded people in California who find the Prius as an acceptable alternative to gas-only vehicles,” he said.

But it’s not just Prii that are being stolen in the Golden State.

In the NICB’s annual Hot Spots report detailing theft figures across the U.S., California was highlighted as a hotspot for car thefts. In 2011, according to the report, 7 of the top 10 metropolitan areas for auto theft rates across the nation were in California; of the top 50 metropolitan areas, 18 were in the state.

“For car thieves, there is no better hunting ground than California. Period.” Scafidi said.

California has long been infamous for high vehicle theft rates because the state simply has more cars, “more targets, and more people” than other areas of the U.S., Scafidi said.

“It has led the auto theft category forever,” he said about the state.

How Your Policy Can Protect You Against Theft

The comprehensive portion of a driver’s insurance policy protects them against instances of car theft. Comprehensive coverage is optional, but the Insurance Information Institute (III) estimates that about 3 out of every 4 drivers have such insurance coverage, which also secures a policyholder against vandalism, weather damage and other non-collision situations.

One of the most widely known factors that determines insurance rates is where a motorist lives and drives, and an OAI analysis highlighted the links between location, theft rates and the price of insurance coverage.

Using NICB’s Hot Spot rankings, OAI took a look at average comprehensive insurance coverage rates at nine car insurance providers in California, comparing the state’s metro area showing the highest theft rate, Fresno, and its metro area showing the lowest theft rate, Santa Maria.

The analysis found that, in Fresno, the average insurance policy with comprehensive coverage was 52 percent pricier than the same policy in Santa Maria. Fresno recorded 1 stolen car for every 124 residents, compared with Santa Maria’s rate of 1 stolen car for every 752 residents.

About Charles Nguyen
Charles Nguyen is an enterprising journalist who reported for and the Desert Dispatch and was the editor in chief of the Guardian (the twice-weekly newspaper at the University of California, San Diego) before coming to Online Auto Insurance News.

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