If you drive a pickup truck or a large SUV, you'd better watch out.
The top ten vehicles stolen in the U.S. between 2010-2012 were all trucks and SUVs, according to data released Tuesday from the Highway Loss Data Institute, an insurance industry backed research group.
The four-wheel-drive Ford F-250 crew cab pickup is the vehicle most vulnerable to theft, the group said. The Cadillac Escalade, which had previously topped the list, dropped to sixth.
But determining what vehicle is truly the most popular among thieves is not as cut-and-dry as some may think.
A Ford spokesman took issue with the HLDI findings. "Many pickup claims result from the theft of equipment from the truck bed, and that may be the case with some of the F-250 claims. HLDI's data don't distinguish theft of vehicle contents or components from theft of a whole vehicle," said Ron Hall, Ford Truck & Commercial Vehicle spokesman.
In fact, a separate survey from The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration indicates that the Dodge Charger is the most stolen vehicle. Rather than using insurance claims to measure theft, NHTSA cites the FBI's 2010 Uniform Crime Report which showed nearly 73% of all motor vehicles reported stolen were passenger cars.
Regardless, boosting cars has become tougher as automakers add anti-theft technology as standard features. For example, ignition immobilizers came standard in 89% of 2012 model vehicles sold in the United States, the HLDI said.
Thanks to the proliferation of new technology, hot-wiring -- the crook's tried-and-true method of stealing a vehicle -- has become more challenging. Still, auto theft continues to be a big money headache for drivers and insurance companies.
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Theft accounted for a disproportionate share of insurance losses. While theft claims comprised only 4% of all comprehensive claims made in 2006, they accounted for about 21% of all claim payments, NHTSA said. The estimated total value of vehicles stolen nationwide was more than $4.3 billion in 2010, according to NHTSA.
According to NHTSA's research, some of the most popular parts for thieves to steal include engines, transmissions, air bags and radios. But thieves also go after other valuable stuff that owners leave behind, such as GPS units, iPods, laptops and purses. Items stolen from pickup trucks, which are often used as work vehicles, include tools and job-site equipment.