A vehicle is pilfered approximately every 40 seconds. While that may seem like a somewhat depressing statistic, vehicle theft worldwide has fallen 50% during the last 25 years. Looking further back through history, it seems that as long as there have been cars, there has also been people looking to boost them.
The first automobile was invented in 1885 but The Motor Vehicle Theft Act wasn’t passed until 1919. In fact, the first car theft occurred way back in 1888 and the thief had hijacked the very first car. It was later discovered to be a publicity stunt, but nonetheless, the seed had been sown. If someone had a car, it was able to be taken.
For a while, the process of starting a car made it difficult to pilfer, coupled with the fact that not many people owned them. But as cars became easier to start and their popularity boomed, they began getting lifted on a very regular basis. This peaked in the late 1980s and early 1990s, when car manufacturers began improving the anti-theft measures on their products.
Throughout automotive history, some cars have required minimal effort to hijack. And although we have listed these cars and given a summary of the methods used to lift them, we have avoided going into too much detail. If you find your car is on this list, you can learn exactly what puts it at risk of getting targeted and take preventative measures to ensure it never happens to you.
20 1998 Honda Civic
Honda Civics from the 1990s are not only incredibly easy to take, they’re also a favorite target for car thieves. The weak spot in Honda Civics was their locking mechanisms. Throughout the 90s, Honda made their locking mechanisms (and locks) from the cheapest material they could. These wore down rapidly through frequent use and over time, became ineffective. As the locks wore down, they were able to be opened with other Honda keys—that didn’t even need to belong to a Civic. Whilst this isn’t a trait that is unique to Hondas, it does seem to happen to them more frequently due to the quality of materials used.
19 1954 Jaguar XKD
Although the Jaguar XKD was not a car that was taken often, it deserves a place on our list because it is missing one important security feature: a roof. The XKD was a factory-built racecar based on the road going C-Type, but Jaguar gave them a more powerful engine and improved aerodynamics. The idea behind the XKD was that Jaguar wanted a LeMans winning car which could eventually be developed as a sports car for mass production. Although getting edged out by Ferrari in 1954, Jaguar eventually developed the XKSS, which was a street version of the XKD. The XKSS did come with a soft-top roof, but it looked awkward and out of place and was therefore rarely used.
18 2006 Ford F-150
The Ford F-150 could have been any number of early model Ford Super Duty Trucks, as they all shared the same locking and starter design. Regardless, the 2006 F-150 is one of the most commonly lifted vehicles. These pickups were lacking in even basic anti-theft measures, therefore it was a simple and quick task to punch out the door lock and break the ignition tumbler. Ford eventually rectified this in 2008 with their Passive Anti-Theft System (PATS), which is still in use today. The key has a radio frequency transponder embedded in it that must match the code that the onboard computer sends out and then transmits a return code, authorizing it to enable the fuel pump and start the vehicle.
17 Dodge Aries K
When Dodge and Chrysler developed the K-car platform in the 1980s, they were facing financial ruin. This meant that their cars had to be built to a budget, using the cheapest parts available. Therefore the K cars became famous for its rectangular aerodynamics, its fake wood paneling exterior, and horrific build quality—which was extended to its abysmal security. The ignition was able to be turned with a person’s finger, meaning that after the door was opened using the standard coat hanger method, it could be started with no key and driven off. Dodge finally said goodbye to the dated engineering and aerodynamically inefficient shape when the last K ars rolled off the production line in 1995.
16 2004 Chevrolet Silverado
Chevrolet is known for its pickup trucks, which make a pretty popular choice for criminals. Unfortunately for Chevrolet owners, they are also relatively easy to break into. These were some of the last trucks before Chevrolet significantly upgraded their security systems with features including antitheft panels around the lock and engine immobilizers. At the height of the Silverado's popularity, it was possible to buy master keys which would open any similar model pickup. However, because there was no alarm system and no passlock codes in the 2004 Silverado, it also made it easy for thieves to load it up onto a flatbed truck and drive away.
15 2017 Toyota Camry
It’s true that vehicle security systems have been beefed up over the last decade but for some car manufacturers, that has done little to slow down car thieves. The Toyota Camry is another car that it is easy to get a master key for but even without the master key, the Toyota Camry locks can be easily bypassed with a bit of jiggling. The ease of theft, along with how popular the 2017 Camry is, means it is one model car that is particularly targeted by criminals. The fact that most of these cars were sold as automatics also increases the likelihood of it being boosted.
14 2012 Jeep Wrangler
Some cars are easy to get into due to their design flaws, others are easy to take due to lax security systems. The Jeep Wrangler is one car that is disadvantaged by both. When a manufacturer makes the doors and roof removable, it can be a blast to drive—but it also makes it incredibly easy to break into. Aside from that, due to Jeeps effort to turn their Wrangler into a smartphone, the Uconnect feature included in Jeeps software makes it incredibly easy to hack into and control wirelessly. The Uconnect system allows anyone who knows the car's IP address to gain access from it remotely.
13 1895 Karl Benz Motorwagen
The Motorwagen made its debut in 1895 and was the first production automobile powered by an internal combustion engine. It came with no doors, no roof, no windshield, and trembler coil ignition. This ignition system was also used in the model T Ford until eventually being phased out in 1927. The lack of any anti-theft systems whatsoever meant the Motorwagen could just be pushed away. Starting it, however, was an exercise in extreme patience and good luck. The owner had to hand crank a horizontally mounted wheel and wait for the engine to fire, which, due to its low compression, always took a while.
12 2008 Nissan Altima
The Nissan Altima makes its way onto our list ironically because of one of Nissan's Intelligent Key System. The intelligent key is a wireless transponder that transmits codes to the car. Once the ignition has been activated or the engine start switch pressed, the car transmits a code to the intelligent key. Once this has been received, the transponder in the key returns the code and gives the car permission to start. The problems began when people discovered that they could leave their intelligent keys quite some distance away from the car and yet, it was still able to be started. So all an enterprising criminal had to do was get into the car, press the engine start button, and drive away
11 2003 Lada Riva
It’s said that the hardest thing about boosting a Lada is driving away without it breaking down. This was the case in 2008, when a car thief tried unsuccessfully to take three Ladas, only to have every single one fail during his getaway. However, it’s still possible to get a Lada in seconds, so the thief probably wasn’t too inconvenienced. Lada uses an old locking mechanism design from the 1980s, which means it can be unlocked with a common coat hanger. Once inside, a switch just needs to be removed and replaced in the opposite direction to activate the ignition. A pair of scissors can be used to crank the starter and all that’s left is for the car to break down during the getaway.
10 Tesla Model S
Now, normally you would think that an ultra-modern car with more gadgets than James Bond's cars would be fairly theftproof. But you would be wrong. The Tesla Model S can be taken in just a few seconds, thanks to its technology. Like most automotive manufacturers nowadays, Tesla also uses key transponders to transmit signals to the car and allow it to be unlocked hands-free. But it didn’t take long for people to discover that the encryption of the transponder on the key is much weaker than the cars, meaning it is very simple to hack. Using basic radio equipment, it’s been demonstrated that the signal can be picked up by the transponder, cloned, then transmitted back to the car, getting it to unlock itself.
9 1988 Holden Commodore
The VL Commodore was sold in Australia between 1986 and 1988. It was easily one of Australia’s bestselling cars thanks to its (at the time) sleek styling, and Nissan 3-liter motor. A turbocharged version was available and with some basic modifications, 800 horsepower was not difficult to achieve. Unfortunately for all 1980s Holden owners, the car took literally five seconds to unlock without a key. Once the locking mechanism was punched out with a screwdriver, the car could then be unlocked using one finger. Because there was no engine immobilizer, once the plastic shroud was removed, the Commodore was easy to hotwire. These cars are quite rare nowadays due to the high number of thefts and because they didn’t like to go around corners.
8 1995 Subaru Impreza
Subaru has been employing some pretty clever anti-theft technology for a while now. Their STARLINK system alerts the owner by telephone if the car alarm is activated. It also allows the police to track the car using GPS technology. Prior to STARLINK, they had started to encode the VIN number into individual car parts via microdot technology that was invisible to the naked eye. But prior to this technology, the 1993 Subaru Impreza was a breeze for the more criminally minded to take. By breaking the window and defeating the ignition with a hammer, Subaru Imprezas could be hijacked in under 60 seconds. Owners started getting around this problem by fitting their own hidden GPS tracking devices.
7 1963 Chrysler Turbine
The Chrysler Turbine is an interesting car. It was Detroit’s first car to be powered by a turbine engine. Chrysler had been researching and developing turbine engines for planes since the 1930s but by the early 1960s, they thought they had refined the technology enough to put it in a mass-produced car. Only 50 cars were ever produced and Chrysler eventually stopped developing the technology in the 1970s after continually failing to meet government emission standards. The Chrysler Turbine was designed to be extremely easy to start and that meant it was even easier to break into because the designers never gave it door locks out of fear of ruining the sleek design.
6 1995 Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme
This 1995 Oldsmobile was a fairly popular sedan in the 90s, loved by many for its reliability and its 3800 V6 motor. Unfortunately, it was also popular with car thieves because it was relatively easy to boost. What caused this was the classic ignition switch and basic key that GM used. The key was cut on one side only and lacked any immobilizer technology that more modern cars have. It wasn’t difficult to remove the keyway from the steering column and arrange the wires into a hot circuit. Tapping the ignition line to the hot circuit would then cause the car would start
5 1967 Chevrolet Corvette
Somewhat surprisingly, more than 10% of Corvettes have been targeted at least once. And when it comes to the most-lifted classic collectibles, the 1967 Corvette tops that list, too. Vintage Corvettes are especially desirable because of their high value, collectability, and ability to be parted out, if needed. These cars feature ancient door-locking mechanisms and no anti-theft systems, however, they aren’t boosted in the conventional fashion. Once a car thief gets inside, they are loaded onto flatbed trailers and driven off. If you own one of these classic autos, it is worth the time and effort to invest in a layered security system because the statistics simply aren’t in your favor.
4 2008 Chevrolet Impala
The third Chevrolet to make it into our list is the 2008 Chevy Impala. In 2008, Chevrolet made anti-theft security systems available in their cars, but it was listed as an option. However, these were very easy to reset and even disable, in a similar manner to how door remote unlock pads are coded. Most earlier model Impalas were able to be started with other Chevrolet keys, even those from different models. Breaking in to the 2008 Impala is also a breeze and although you need a specific tool to activate the power door lock, these can be handcrafted.
3 1995 Chrysler Voyager
Early Chrysler Voyagers suffered from the same problem that so many early and mid-90s cars shared. From the fourth gen onwards, Chrysler did improve their security and although the cars are still easy to break into, they are much less likely to be taken thanks to the improvements. Still, the problem remains that early model Chrysler Voyagers could be opened and taken with a popsicle stick. Chrysler fixed this by upgrading their ignition locks and now also uses key-fob technology, which, as we’ve seen, isn’t infallible but will prevent someone looking for an easy target. And its effectiveness is greatly increased when incorporated as part of an overall security system.
2 1912 Cadillac
The 1912 Cadillac was the first car to have an electric starter motor. Prior to that, the car had to be manually cranked and whether it started or not required good luck and a bit of witchcraft. The started motor changed all of that, although there were some pre-checks (mostly fluids) that needed to be carried out before the car was started. This was a simple but a lengthy process, however, and the 1912 Cadillac neither had locking doors or an ignition key. Therefore, if a car thief was familiar with the starting procedure and was uninterrupted for a couple of minutes, they could take the car fairly easily.
1 Mazda Familia
Rounding out our list of the easiest to take cars is the humble Mazda Familia. This car has older door locks that take seconds to remove with the appropriate tools. The locking tumblers also wear down easily due to age and when this happens, locks can be opened with Mazda keys from different models. The problems for the little Mazda don’t stop there, however. While some of the later models have anti-theft systems, they are very easy to disable by cutting the wiring or even unplugging. The alarm can also be deactivated by activating and deactivating the locking mechanism, giving enterprising car thieves several options.
Sources: Esurance, Quora, Forbes, and What Car.