Pedro Garcia, 17, of Pasadena, Texas, woke up to a nightmare that’s all too common.
“Woke up,” the teen told KPRC2 News. “My car was gone.”
Pedro had worked long, hard hours to save up for the car, a 1998 Honda Civic.
“I try to support myself so my mom won’t have to worry about it,” he said. “[The car] is not the best, but it gets me from point A to point B. It’s just the car I could afford.”
In August 2017, a thief made off with the car in the night. Pedro eventually got the vehicle back—but it was torn to bits, wasn’t drivable, and the tow lot hit him with a bill for $445.71. Even though Pedro reported his car stolen, that news never reached the lot, and no one called him to tell him to come pick up his car. Pedro discovered its whereabouts when he got the bill in the mail one week after the theft.
“It’s something that’s really hard to pay for, for me, because I don’t make much,” Pedro said. “It sets me back a lot on things that I would hope to buy in the future, like things that would help me with college. I was planning on buying a computer, a laptop, for college, but now I have to step back on that.”
Pedro’s story illustrates the pain and hardship that can come with a stolen car (although there’s more story to tell—more on Pedro later). And he’s not alone. Thousands of other Civic owners have been dealt the same misfortune.
In fact, the Honda Civic landed second on the National Insurance Crime Bureau’s (NICB) Hot Wheels list, a document that identifies the 10 most-stolen types of cars and trucks in the United States each year.
Civics like Pedro’s seem to get stolen all the time—of the 49,547 of them taken in 2016, 7,578 were ’98s. It’s as if they’re cursed cars.
So, how does your vehicle measure up? Here are the results of the NICB Hot Wheels list, along with a few tips on how you can fend off would-be car thieves yourself:
10. The Original Sport Utility Vehicle
In 2016, car thieves across this nation managed to make off with 9,245 Jeep Cherokees and Grand Cherokees (the Jeep’s oversized cousin).
But if you have a model year 2000, you’ve got even more to worry about. More year 2000 Cherokees were stolen than any other model-year, with a total of 898 thefts.
9. The Perpetual Full-Size
Thieves stole 9,749 Chevy Impalas in 2016 alone.
More than 1,000 of them were 2008 models.
8. The Best-Seller
If you’ve never driven a Toyota Corolla, you’ve probably at least ridden in one.
These cars are everywhere, which might help to explain how 11,989 of them got stolen last year. Most of them were 2015 models, which just hurts to think about.
7. The Classic Work Truck
Not even your work truck is safe. Full-size Dodge pickups landed third on this ignoble list.
In 2016, thieves stole 12,128 of them, with 1,288 being model-year 2001.
6. Safe, Standard, Stolen
If you’re going to buy a used Nissan Altima, you might want to avoid 2015 models—they’re the most-stolen among the sixth most-stolen car in the country.
Last year, people lost 12,221 Altimas to theft; 1,673 of those were from 2015.
5. King of the Mid-Size Sedan
The 2016 Toyota Camry is really popular among thieves.
In 2016, they made off with 16,732 of these things—1,113 of which were brand-new at the time.
4. Unlucky Trucks
Full-size pickups occupy slots No. 3 and 4 on NICB’s Hot Wheels list. Thieves stole 31,238 full-size Chevy pickups in 2016.
More than 2,000 of those trucks stolen were model-year 2004.
Even more full-size Ford pickups were stolen, which will make some purists grimly happy.
A total of 32,721 Fords were stolen last year, with 2,986 being 2006 models.
2. The Car for Everyone
The car Garcia worked so hard for was a 1998 Honda Civic. Thieves stole a whopping 7,578 of those cars last year.
Taking all model-years into account, 49,547 Honda Civics were stolen in 2016, placing it second on this list of most-stolen cars.
1. The Most-Stolen Car in the Country
If you guessed the Honda Accord was the No. 1 most-stolen car last year, you win a pony.
About 50,427 Honda Accords ended up stolen in 2016, and 7,527 of them were 1997 models.
How to Protect Your Car, No Matter the Make or Model
Don’t panic if you own a 1997 Honda Accord.
The NICB lists four simple tips that will make thieves leave your car alone. At least, they’ll make them think twice before going for the steering wheel. Remember these:
1. Always keep your doors locked. Also, never leave your keys inside your car. These may seem obvious, but they’re also common mistakes.
2. Anti-theft devices really work. Even a decoy, like a flashing light on the dash, might be enough to convince a thief to look elsewhere.
3. Newer anti-theft functions like kill switches and smart keys are making it much more difficult for thieves to get away with their targets. After all, the car has to drive in order for someone to drive away in it.
4. Finally, NICB recommends placing tracking devices into your car. Some newer automobiles offer this as an option, but you can also install a third-party version.
Sadly, there’s no evidence that manual transmissions actually help deter thieves. There are thieves out there who drive stick, at least according to car site Carbuzz.
If your car does get stolen, be sure to file a police report. Not every story of a stolen car ends in sadness. In fact, the story that opened this article, the one about Pedro Garcia, has a happy ending.
Pedro’s Story Concluded
When we left off, the teen was despairing over the loss of his car and the exorbitant fee the tow lot charged him.
“It’s just hard because that’s so much money for something I didn’t do,” Pedro told KPRC2 News. “It wasn’t my fault.”
The station ran a news story about Pedro and his plight, and phone calls began to pour in. Some viewers who saw the story wanted to help. One couple, Rene Reynolds and Dennis Woleben, volunteered to pay the entire storage fee.
“I hope it lets him know there are good people out there, there are generous people out there,” Woleben told KPRC2 News. “Not everyone wants to ‘get ya.’ I hope he uses [the money] for something—he wanted a laptop for college—I hope he uses it for that.”
Pedro told the station that he was astounded by the generosity.
“I really appreciate it,” he said. “We need more people like them, very loving, and I hope something great happens to them, also.”
Pedro told the station that he would, in fact, buy a laptop to help him in his studies.
So, if you own any of the cars on this list, take the precautions listed above. There are worse things in life than losing a car, but it’s always best to hang onto your stuff. If thieves end up stealing your car anyway, just think about the story of Pedro Garcia and the kindness of strangers that helped him through a tough spot.