Bling is still the rage among car thieves

Escalade owners, make sure you buy rental-car coverage.

One out of every 100 of you will lose your car to a thief this year, and if we can hazard a wild guess about your lives, it's that fans of $60,000 Cadillac SUVs probably don't have a bus pass.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), an industry association that tracks these sorts of things, today released its 2011 list of most-stolen models, gauged by the frequency and size of their insurance claims. The 2008-2010 Escalade topped the list, stolen at a rate six times that of the average vehicle. The average claim against the owner's comprehensive coverage, the part that covers theft, was $10,555.

The Escalade has topped the IIHS list for a decade.

High-dollar pickup trucks dominate the rest of the top 10, despite the rise of anti-theft technologies such as engine immobilizers that prevent hot-wiring.

“Immobilizers are a good deterrent against joy-riding teenagers, but professional thieves can easily haul away an SUV on a flatbed truck,” says HLDI senior vice president Kim Hazelbaker. “A pickup that can't be driven away is still vulnerable to having tools and cargo snatched from its bed.”

The list of least -targeted (or most-shunned, depending on your point of view) vehicles is topped by the Audi A6 luxury sedan and the Mercury Mariner, a now-defunct small SUV. Each has a claim frequency of 0.5 per 1,000 insured vehicle years.

You'll find the most- and least-stolen cars overall, plus the most- and least-stolen passenger cars, sports cars and luxury cars, below.

Affects your rates? Not that much

The IIHS says its list highlights the models specifically targeted by thieves because it compares the numbers of insured theft claims for a particular model against how many were sold. The National Insurance Crime Bureau's similar-sounding “Hot Wheels” list goes by raw numbers and is led perpetually by some kind of older, ubiquitous Honda or Toyota, the vast majority of which are not insured for theft.

We're not sure that ranking on either list is much of an honor, but it's also not necessarily a red flag for car buyers. Among the dozens of moving parts that make up your car insurance rate, theft isn't a particularly good indicator of how much you'll pay to insure one car versus another.

When we ran the numbers on rates for a 37-year-old driving an Escalade EXT in Fresno, Calif. (long a hotbed of car thievery), the comprehensive portion of the quotes ranged from just $132 to $440. Rather than shopping for a less theft-prone vehicle, Escalade owners are far better served by shopping for another insurance company: We found full-coverage quotes from $1,389 to $2,133 a year.

Comprehensive coverage just isn't a major killer; your own driving record and the specific model's collision history (do they fall apart when tapped?) are much bigger factors.

Below is a peek at the most- and least-stolen vehicles in several categories.

IIHS measures claims frequency in insured vehicle years; one car insured for one year is one insured vehicle year. The claims frequencies below are thefts per 1,000 insured vehicle years.

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