Rising Cost of Parts Fuels Interest of Car Thieves

DES PLAINES, Ill.—If you own a late model car or truck, and you’ve been in a wreck, you may still be shaking your head over the repair bill. The National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) says today’s vehicles are loaded with expensive parts and technology that increase the costs of repairs, even in what may be considered a minor accident.

And those expensive parts will continue to drive car thefts as criminals steal cars and trucks to strip them and sell the parts on the black market.

Thefts of vehicles in the U.S. rose again last year by more than four percent, according to preliminary 2017 crime data from the FBI. Many of the vehicles that are recovered are missing wheels and rims or other key parts, while ones that are never recovered end up in chop shops where they are quickly dismantled and sold piece by piece.

The NICB looked at the cost of replacement parts for the top 10 stolen 2016 models. Average original equipment manufacturer (OEM) part prices were pulled from a database of over 24 million vehicle damage appraisals generated for insurance claims from 2016 and 2017. Parts such as bumpers, doors, fenders, hoods and headlights were on the list. Major components like the engine and transmission were not included.

See our video here. Download an infographic here.

The 2016 Toyota Camry, the most stolen 2016 model in our latest “Hot Wheels” report, had 15 commonly replaced components valued at nearly $11,000. That’s not including labor.

The 2016 Nissan Altima had 14 standard components worth more than $14,000, including a single headlamp assembly valued at more than $1,000.

And the 2016 GMC Sierra pickup truck included a $1,100 headlamp and a rear bumper worth more than $1,100. The 20 standard components rang in at more than $21,000.

“For the professional theft ring, stealing and stripping vehicles for parts has always been a lucrative business,” said NICB Senior Vice President and COO Jim Schweitzer. “On today’s cars and trucks, the parts are often worth more than the intact vehicle and may be easier to move and sell. That’s why we see so many thefts of key items like wheels and tires and tailgates…there’s always a market for them.

“We support law enforcement efforts, especially the auto theft task forces that focus on these kinds of theft rings. Shutting down a theft ring and a chop shop can have a major impact on reducing thefts in a community.”

Insured Tailgate Thefts Post Slight Decline

DES PLAINES, Ill.—The National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) reports today that insured tailgate thefts have stabilized since 2014. NICB analysis shows that in 2016, there were 1,877 claims for tailgate theft identified in ISO ClaimSearch®, an insurance industry claims database. That number decreased to 1,788 in 2017. There were 17 fewer thefts noted in this report when compared to the 2014-2015 theft figures.

This table shows the annual tailgate theft claim numbers from 2014:

2018 Tailgate Chart

This report is based on insurance claims. Therefore, the actual number of tailgate theft incidents reported to law enforcement agencies may be considerably higher since many thefts do not generate an insurance claim.

The top five states for tailgate thefts—2016 and 2017 combined—were: Texas (1,360), California (1,039), Florida (240), Arizona (156), and Nevada (107). The top five cities for tailgate thefts during these years were: Houston (277), Dallas (242), San Antonio (196), Los Angeles (97), and Fresno, Calif. (79).

See the complete report here.

The incentive for tailgate thefts is consistent with other thefts; the cost to replace an item legitimately far outweighs the risk to acquiring one by stealing it. With new tailgates retailing around $1,300, with even higher costs for some variants, the demand contributes to a thriving underground market for vehicle parts–a market fed with parts removed from stolen vehicles.

New vehicles now have locking tailgates that help deter thefts, and owners of older models can purchase tailgate locks to make their vehicles less attractive to thieves. A minimal investment in security can go a long way in saving owners lots of money and inconvenience should they become victims of tailgate theft.

More Resources
NICB ForeCAST Report: Pick-Up Truck and SUV Tailgate Theft Claims (2016–2017)

If you have a question, want further information on the NICB, or to discuss insurance fraud or vehicle crime, please contact:

Frank Scafidi
Director of Public Affairs
916.979.1510
fscafidi@nicb.org

Or, if you are a reporter and have a request or question, please complete the Media Request Form.

Mississippi Acts to Protect Buyers from Flood of Flooded Vehicles

DES PLAINES, Ill.–The Mississippi Insurance Department and the Mississippi Collision Repair Association have teamed up to protect residents from buying cars damaged by Hurricanes Harvey and Irma.

Following the two storms, officials say thousands of flood-damaged vehicles have made their way from Texas, Louisiana and Florida into Mississippi to be eventually sold to unsuspecting buyers. Many of the cars have been sold to unscrupulous dealers or dismantlers who will clean them up, retitle them and sell them for a quick profit. According to the Mississippi Insurance Commissioner, Mike Chaney, the biggest threat is from cars that were not insured for flood damage.

“While those insured cars may show up in NICB’s VINCheck® database, the ones that didn’t have insurance are likely to be sold by the original owner for a few hundred dollars and then cleaned up and retitled by an unscrupulous dealer who will resell it for a few thousand dollars with no indication that the vehicle suffered any flood damage,” said Chaney. “It’s truly a buyer beware situation.”

In an effort to stop these kinds of sales, the Insurance Department and repair shops that are members of the state’s Collision Repair Association are working together to offer free inspections for potential buyers.

“If you’re thinking about buying a used car, let one of our members check the car to verify that it has not been in a flood,” said John Mosely of Clinton Body Shop and the Mississippi Collision Repair Association. “In addition to checking the hidden areas of the car for signs of damage, we can also run a scan of the car’s computer system to look for any codes that might indicate it had been exposed to water.”

“We applaud this cooperative effort to keep consumers from being scammed,” said NICB President and CEO Joe Wehrle. “Far too many vehicles that were flooded were not insured and if they go undetected, they can end up being a financial disaster for the buyer as well as a potential safety hazard.”