State of Auto Theft – Episode 2: Emerging Pickup Theft Trends

  • February 14, 2019
  • DJ Thompson

LoJack® recently released our 10th annual Vehicle Theft Recovery Report. While Honda and Toyota compact cars comprise the majority of the top five most recovered vehicles, there is a new trend forming. Below is a list of the most recovered vehicles from our report and their respective unit sales for 2018. Today I want to examine the emerging trend and category that shows up at number five: pickup trucks.

  1. Honda Civic | 326k sold
  2. Honda Accord | 291k sold
  3. Toyota Camry | 343K sold
  4. Toyota Corolla |304k sold
  5. Chevrolet Silverado | 586k sold

Pickup trucks are stolen for many of the same reasons as passenger cars: the more units that are sold, the more availability there is for theft and the higher the demand for repair and replacement parts. As today’s pickups have become more connected and complex, containing more expensive parts, there is an increasingly strong profit motive for theft.

There is another reason pickup trucks are attractive to the professional thief: because they can handle all types of road conditions, haul large amounts of stolen property and even transport stolen construction equipment. Pickups are the vehicle of choice in crimes from burglary to human and drug smuggling. Add in the many models that have no anti-theft features, the pickup becomes a ripe target.

According to, pickups and crossover SUV sales are dominating the market—and theft of these vehicles follows that same trend: the 2017 full-size GMC, Ford and Ram pickup trucks made the National Insurance Crime Bureau’s 2017 top 10 stolen vehicle list. Although these late model pickup trucks are vulnerable often due to owner negligence, it is the older models that are more commonly stolen. Both the older models and the newer heavy-duty workhorses lack the immobilizing anti-theft features of the light duty trucks, allowing thieves to use a “universal key” (which is really just a screwdriver) to defeat the door locks and then to breach the ignition. We’ve even seen a case where a group of thieves use this method on a bait vehicle setup by police—even though the door was unlocked and the keys were in the cup holder!

Pickups are not immune to dealership fraud. In fact, Professional thieves often visit car dealerships posing as potential buyers. While one person distracts the salesperson, the other takes an impression of the vehicle’s key. They return later to the dealership with the newly minted key and steal the profiled truck. The thief is then free to illegally export the vehicle or obtain fraudulent documents to sell it to an innocent third party.

In addition, pickups travel in commercial work circles where they often contain valuable tools of the trade. Thieves target them for the equipment they are carrying or for a piece of machinery being pulled on a trailer. The pickup is often found a short while later, minus the valuable contents and stripped of its tires/wheels and other parts. The easier to steal heavy-duty pickups also have larger or diesel engines, heavy-duty transmissions and other components that are very valuable on the parts shadow economy.

The stolen pickup is the perfect platform for the commission of other crimes. The large framed, high profile body of the pickup makes it perfect for smashing storefronts to commit burglaries, ram pursuing patrol cars, jumping curbs or traveling off-road to avoid capture. The sheer size of the vehicle places the advantage on the thief’s side.

An important part of protecting your vehicle is understanding why and how thieves are targeting it in the first place. With this information, you can make a more informed decision on how to best protect your vehicle. As a general rule, make sure you always lock the door and consider keeping your wireless key fob far from where you are parked. Common sense measures like these can go a long way in thwarting opportunistic car thieves. For more theft prevention tips, read our blog from National Theft Protection Month here. To learn more about protecting your vehicle investment with proven technology, visit here.