What’s Hot in Hot (As in: Stolen) Cars

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You may have reason to worry that your car will be ripped off even if it isn’t on the recent “Hot Wheels” report, listing the most stolen vehicles in the U.S.

Every year, the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB), a nonprofit supported by the insurance industry, publishes a report about stolen cars, based on data collected by law enforcement agencies. The report notes trends—in 2011, for instance, there was a rise in thefts of newer cars, even though they’re more likely to have sophisticated anti-theft technology—but the biggest takeaway is the top ten list of most stolen cars. For the country as a whole, here’s the list issued by the NICB:

1. 1994 Honda Accord
2. 1998 Honda Civic
3. 2006 Ford pickup (full size)
4. 1991 Toyota Camry
5. 2000 Dodge Caravan
6. 1994 Acura Integra
7. 1999 Chevrolet pickup (full size)
8. 2004 Dodge pickup (full size)
9. 2002 Ford Explorer
10. 1994 Nissan Sentra

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A literal reading of the list might give the idea that it’s just these specific model years that are being targeted by thieves. But that’s not how criminals work. Car thieves don’t go hunting strictly for, say, ’98 Honda Civics, while skipping past easily stolen Civics just because they happened to hit the market in 1996 or 2000.

In fact, it’s not the 1998 Civic but the 2000 model that the NICB cites as the most stolen vehicle of all in Delaware, New Hampshire, and New York last year. The 2000 Civic is also in the top ten in Pennsylvania, Oklahoma, Nebraska, Montana, Maryland, Georgia, Florida, Virginia, Texas, Tennessee, and Washington, D.C. So how in the world did the 2000 Civic not make it somewhere into the top ten list for the nation?

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When asked about its curious rankings, the NICB replied that its top ten doesn’t actually list the vehicles that were stolen the most last year. “Our ‘Hot Wheels’ reports lists only one make/model for each state and the nation—and that was decided so that there would not be multiple entries of the same make and model year after year,” Frank G. Scafidi, NICB director of public affairs, said via e-mail. Because it’s “not very exciting to see the Honda Accord in 5 of 10 spots,” the NICB gets rid of the “repeat offenders” in order to put ten different models in lists.

The point is that if you own a car model from a year anywhere near one that’s in the top ten—and especially in the top five or so—it’s far more likely than the average vehicle to be stolen. “The ultimate purpose of this report,” Scafidi explained, “is to generate awareness about auto theft and to get people thinking about protecting their vehicles and property.”

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It’s arguable, however, that the report is somewhat misleading. For a more helpful and accurate picture of what cars are truly being stolen the most, the report could perhaps group model years together, with the result being that, for example, the mid-’90s Honda Accord would top the list.

Brad Tuttle is a reporter at TIME. Find him on Twitter at @bradrtuttle. You can also continue the discussion on TIME’s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIME.