Why thieves find the 1994 Honda Accord so irresistible

Aug. 5, 2011 at 7:29 AM ET

1994 Honda Accord

By Jessica Mintz, contributor

Reading the 2010 top stolen cars report from the National Insurance Crime Bureau got me to wondering: What is it about the 1994 Honda Accord that thieves find so irresistible?

Certain Accords and Honda Civics from the 1990s, along with the 1989 Toyota Camry, have dominated the list for the past eight years. For the sake of variety, the NICB cuts duplicates from its top-10 lists, says public affairs director Frank Scafidi. It’s possible, then, that another vintage of Accord could have bumped another contender from the list. (The 1996 version was also a very popular target in 2010.)

The 1994 Accord was special, however. That year, Honda revamped the design of the Accord and changed details under the hood. That kind of full model change, as it’s called, would have been accompanied by a big publicity push, said Chris Martin, a Honda spokesman, in an interview.

Thieves are likely interested in mid-90s Accords simply because there are so many of them still on the roads, Martin said. Demand for replacement parts may be keeping shady actors in business.

 “I think a lot of vehicles are stolen to tear them apart,” Martin said.

Honda hasn’t stopped selling Accords, but it has made them a lot harder to steal. In 1997, Honda started putting tiny microchips into car keys. If someone tried to hot-wire a car without the key, the car simply wouldn’t start. (Hot-wiring may be obsolete, but other methods, such as driving up with a tilt-bed tow truck, still work, notes Scafidi.)

The NICB report breaks thefts down by state, offering an abundance of opportunities to draw ties between car thieves’ preferences and the way we live today. For example:

  • Texas is the only state where the full-size Chevy Tahoe makes the list, and five of the remaining nine vehicles on the list are pick-up trucks;
  • In Michigan, the top-10 list was comprised exclusively of American cars;
  • Minivans — mostly Dodge Caravans — were among the most frequently stolen cars in Delaware, Kansas, North Carolina, North Dakota and Vermont. In Missouri, the Caravan was the No. 1 choice for thieves.
  • 1990s Subaru Legacy wagons are prized primarily by thieves in Montana, Oregon, Maine and Vermont;
  • New York’s claim to fame: it’s the only state with the Ford Econoline E350 passenger van on its list.
  • In Maryland, the 1999 Ford Crown Victoria — the iconic law enforcement vehicle — made the list.