In Florida, Luxury Cars Vanish as Thieves Export Vehicles

Drivers of luxury vehicles in Florida should watch out. Their cars are the least likely in the U.S. to be returned if stolen.

More than 25 percent of luxury cars taken from the beginning of 2010 through 2013 were never returned to their Floridian owners, the National Insurance Crime Bureau said today in a report. Cars that go unrecovered are frequently dismantled and sold for parts in the U.S. or abroad. Nationwide, about 17 percent of stolen luxury vehicles in the period were never found, according to the data.

“Florida is surrounded by water and surrounded by ports,” Jason Mayberry, a Tampa-based trial lawyer who represents clients in theft cases, said in an interview. “It’s easier for them to be stolen and shipped overseas in a cargo box.”

Luxury cars comprise a small percentage of all the cars stolen, according to the NICB. There were 5,570 luxury vehicles reported stolen in the U.S. from 2010 to 2013. Only vehicle models from 2011 to 2013 were included in the NICB report.

More than 700,000 vehicles of all types and ages were stolen nationwide last year, a decline of about 50 percent from the mid-1990s, said Frank Scafidi, an NICB spokesman.

California had the most luxury vehicle thefts in the three-year period with with 1,390, about 25 percent of the total, followed by Florida with 863 and New Jersey with 570, the report shows. New York was fourth with 462 thefts.

Neither Vermont, Alaska, nor North Dakota had a single theft meeting the criteria in the period. Improved security technology, like key fobs, make it harder for common criminals to steal cars.

Theft Rings

Luxury cars are often targeted by rings of auto thieves who are skilled at breaking through the protections in more expensive cars. While premium and mid-sized luxury vehicles are stolen less frequently than compact ones, they have a lower recovery rate.

“The higher you move in the vehicle food chain, the lower the recovery rate,” Scafidi said in an interview. “People who are stealing those cars are something other than the people who can’t figure out the bus schedule and need a way to get from point A to point B.”

The NICB is a nonprofit organization that works to prevent insurance fraud. Its report is based on data provided by the National Crime Information Center.

Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal.