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Top 10 Most Stolen Vehicles in Tennessee

Here's what you need to know...
  • Memphis is ranked 24th in car thefts out of all cities in the United States
  • The make, model, year, and color can impact the chances that your vehicle will be stolen
  • You can help prevent vehicle theft by taking several steps like removing or hiding your valuables, locking all the doors, and ensuring all the windows are rolled up completely
  • Tennessee laws provide strict penalties, such as fines and imprisonment for criminals who steal cars, take cars for a joyride, or commit the grave crime of carjacking

Every few minutes in America, another vehicle is stolen. Some cities are more prone to car theft such as Las Vegas, Phoenix, and Fresno.

The metro Memphis area ranks 24th on the National Insurance Crime Bureau’s list of cities where cars are most likely to be stolen.

You may think it is neighborhood misfits or someone desperate for money or a set of wheels that is stealing cars. However, research shows that many car thefts are connected to organized criminal activity.

If you are concerned for your car’s safety, start comparison shopping for the best auto insurance coverage Tennessee has to offer! Enter your ZIP code above!

Patterns of Car Theft

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Criminals involved in this type of activity steal cars mainly for their parts. After your car is in their possession, they chop it up for parts and sell the parts overseas or to unsuspecting buyers on our home soil.

One major risk factor for car theft is where you live. Many cities and suburbs in Tennessee experience high crime rates, including car thefts.

Based on data from the FBI and U.S. Census, some of the safest cities in 2016 in Tennessee included:

  • Belle Meade — Vehicle theft rate of 33 per 100,000
  • Signal Mountain — Vehicle theft rate of 3 per 100,000
  • Ridgetop — Vehicle theft rate of 39 per 100,000
  • Jonesborough — Vehicle theft rate of 34 per 100,000
  • Nolensville — Vehicle theft rate of 48 per 100,000

The makes, models, and years of stolen vehicles vary from state to state. One vehicle may be easier to break into due to better weather conditions overall, or it may be worth more in a particular area.

Since location can have a significant impact on how likely it is that your vehicle will be stolen, here are some tips before committing to a new place of residence.

What about my vehicle being burglarized?

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Unfortunately, the odds are that if you have items stolen from your vehicle, you will not get your belongings back.

According to data from the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, in Chattanooga alone, 98 percent of thefts from vehicles went unsolved in 2014. Statewide, only about eight percent were cleared by arrest in the same year.

Parking in a well-lit area, removing valuables from your vehicle, or hiding them at the very least, and always locking your car doors will help prevent your belongings from being stolen out of your vehicle.

Auto Theft Laws in Tennessee


As is the case in most other states, motor vehicle theft is serious business in the state of Tennessee. Auto theft includes carjacking, taking the car for a simple joyride, or taking if for financial gain.

According to Tenn. Code Ann. § 39-14-103, a person commits theft by taking or exercising control over property that does not belong to them without the owner’s permission with the purpose of depriving the owner.

These laws apply to both someone who steals a car and anyone who owns a chop shop and purchases stolen vehicles with the knowledge that they are stolen property.

The more expensive the vehicle, the more the punishment may be for car thieves.

However, joyriding, or taking a car that does not belong to you without the owner’s permission with the intent to return it falls under a different code of law and is not punishable as harshly as theft. If you do not return a rental car at the end of the rental agreement, you can also be prosecuted under the Tennessee theft law.

On the other hand, carjacking is taken much more seriously than either theft or joyriding. If you use force, intimidation, or a deadly weapon to take someone else’s vehicle, you have committed carjacking.

Taking property of less than or equal to $500 or joyriding is a Class A misdemeanors, earning you:

  • Up to 11 months and 29 days in jail
  • $2,500 in fines
  • Or both

Theft of property worth more than $500 but less than $1000 is a Class E felony. Class E is the least minor felony type in the state of Tennessee and is punishable by:

  • One to six years in prison
  • A fine of $3,000

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Stealing property worth more than $1,000 but less than $10,000 is a Class D felony and can earn you:

  • Two to 12 years imprisonment
  • Fines of up to $5,000

Theft of property worth more than $10,000 but less than $60,000 is a Class C felony and can be punished by:

  • A prison term of three to 15 years
  • Fines of up to $10,000

If you steal property worth between $60,000 and $250,000, or you commit a carjacking, you have committed a Class B felony, and you can face:

  • Between eight and 30 years in prison
  • Fines up to $25,000

10 Most Stolen Vehicles in Tennessee

Considering the possible, harsh penalties one can face if they steal a car in Tennessee, thieves are still not dissuaded from doing so. The following vehicles are the top ten cars thieves love the most in Tennessee.

Tennessee’s 10 Most Stolen Vehicles

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(Click here for an interactive chart)

#10 — 2000 Jeep Cherokee/Grand Cherokee

There were 178 thefts of these vehicles. The Grand Cherokee is a mid-size luxury SUV with a unibody chassis.

Most do not have immobilizers, making a thief’s job easier. Since it is older, its parts are often harder to find which increases their value.

#9 — 2007 Toyota Camry

188 Toyota Camrys were stolen. This coveted mid-size sedan retains its value well and can be sold for its parts by thieves.

With many Camrys on the road today, this model is sometimes ideal for theft as it will blend in with everyone else’s Camry and make it less likely to be found.

#8 — 1997 Nissan Maxima

There were also 188 stolen 1997 Nissan Maximas. These foreign sedans are an attractive target for thieves all across the nation because they:

  • Are older
  • Were not factory-equipped with immobilizers
  • Were only produced in limited color choices

#7 — 2000 Honda Civic

There were 198 2000 Honda Civics victimized by thieves. Honda Civics are another target for theft since they can be commonly found in parking lots around town.

Many of them also lack immobilizers which make it quicker and easier for thieves to take off with.

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#6 — 1996 GMC Pickup (Full-Size)

201 of these trucks were stolen in Tennessee. This vehicle can be easily re-keyed.

As an older model vehicle, it frequently lacks immobilizers, and it also depreciates at a slower pace than others.

#5 — 2007 Chevrolet Impala

As a luxury 4-door sedan, 213 2007 Chevy Impalas were stolen in Tennessee. The Chevrolet Impala is one of the most commonly stolen sedans in America. 

The fact that there are limited color options for this popular vehicle makes stealing one less likely to be noticed.

#4 — 2005 Nissan Altima

215 of these Japanese-made mid-sized vehicles were stolen in Tennessee. They are generally of higher value due to the aesthetics and high-value parts.

The Nissan Altima is also a common vehicle, making it an easy target as it is less likely to be found.

#3 — 1996 Honda Accord

The number of stolen cars jumps to 267 with the 1996 Honda Accord. This sedan features stylish and classic design.

However, as an older model Honda, it can be easy for experienced thieves to re-key and is also in high-demand for its parts.

#2 — 2004 Ford Pickup (Full-Size)

468 of these were stolen in Tennessee. These hardy vehicles are also an easy target for thieves as not many of them having immobilizers installed.

Additionally, this is a popular truck with many of them on the road, making a stolen one more difficult to find.

#1 — 1997 Chevrolet Pickup (Full-Size)

Topping the list with more than 200 more thefts than #2 is the 1997 Chevy Full-Size Pickup with 694 thefts. Since this is an older model, fewer of these vehicles have immobilizers.

They also retain their value better and have parts that can sometimes be hard to find, making them a favorite target for criminals.

Steps You Can Take to Avoid Car Theft

While car theft is not 100 percent preventable, there are steps –simple enough to only take a few seconds– that drivers can take to significantly reduce their chances of becoming a victim of this type of theft.

You can use the NICB’s website to find out how likely it is that your car will be stolen based on the make and model of your car as well as your location. NICB will also recommend steps you can take to prevent your car from being stolen, such as:

  • Locking your car doors
  • Not leaving your vehicle running while unattended, also known as puffing
  • Not leaving your keys in your car
  • Installing steering wheel locks and alarms
  • To protect against hot wiring, install fuel disablers and cutoff switches
  • Install tracking devices in your vehicle
  • Lock your trunk or tailgate
  • Make sure all of your windows are rolled up completely
  • Avoid parking in unattended lots, especially for long periods of time
  • When parking on a curb, turn the wheels sharply towards the curb, making it difficult for thieves to tow your vehicle
  • Use an electric engraver to put your driver’s license number with on your cassette/cd player or other valuable items in the vehicle
  • Keep your registration in your wallet and do not store it in your car

Unfortunately, carjacking crimes are on an upward trend.

These often violent and serious crimes can happen to anyone, at any time of day, and at any location. To prevent becoming a carjacking victim, consider the following tips:

  • Keep your doors locked while driving
  • Park in busy areas with plenty of light
  • Be aware of your surroundings and anyone who may come close to your vehicle
  • Keep separate key chains for your car and your home
  • Store your garage door opener in your purse or briefcase
  • Travel on high traffic roads when possible, especially after dark
  • If you are threatened with a weapon, give up your car; your own life is worth more than any vehicle you will ever own

What to Do If Your Car Is Stolen

You may be tempted to panic if you come to the realization that your vehicle has been stolen.

However, now is not the time to do so. Gather information and call your local authorities and your insurance agent as soon as possible.

You should have the following information available before calling:

  • Year, color, make, and model of your vehicle
  • VIN (Vehicle Identification Number)
  • License plate number
  • Insurance carrier and your policy number

A Note About Auto Insurance

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You may be surprised to learn that your basic, liability auto insurance policy will not cover your car in the case of theft or vandalism. To get adequate protection against car theft, you will need comprehensive coverage.

Although comprehensive coverage will come with an additional price tag, you can comparison shop to find the best rates available to you by using an online price comparison tool.

Try our FREE online quote tool and start comparison shopping today for better auto insurance rates in Tennessee! Enter your ZIP code below to begin!

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