With a handful of easy-to-remove parts costing over $10,000, thieves can have a quick payday.

We all know modern vehicles are expensive. Anyone who’s had the misfortune of suffering a collision – not to mention the technicians who handle the repair work – also know that parts aren’t exactly cheap. A recent study from the National Insurance Crime Bureau puts that into perspective by listing average part prices on three of the most stolen cars in the U.S. in 2016, the last year in which such data is available. Mind you, these are just a handful of common “crash parts” – exterior items typically damaged in collisions. Safety systems such as airbags, electronics, or powertrain components aren’t included.

The study also suggests that the cost of these parts are behind the recent rise in auto theft. The numbers are actually way down from a peak in 1991, when 1.6 million cars were stolen. In 2016 that number was just 765,484, representing a drop of 46 percent according to the Insurance Information Institute. However, thefts have been steadily rising since 2015, and NICB believes expensive car parts are to blame. 

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

The vehicles mentioned in this study are the Toyota Camry, Nissan Altima, and GMC Sierra, all from 2016. How much money are we talking about? Crash parts for the Camry top $10,000, while parts for the Altima total just over $14,000. The GMC pickup puts them both to shame, however, with crash parts totaling $21,332. Again, these are only for the 15-20 or so exterior components like hoods, doors, and headlights, and most of these bits are usually easy to remove.

Of course, thieves stealing cars and selling the parts is nothing new. For that fact, the cost of individual parts has long exceeded the cost of a whole car, so at first glance this study seems to reveal nothing we didn't already know. However, whereas thieves in the past would need to completely gut a car to get a decent payday, simply spending a couple hours to yank a few high-dollar crash parts like headlights or wheels can make for a lucrative venture.

Source:  NICB, Insurance Information Institute