You might expect a thief to steal a tricked-out Acura with sweet taillights, detailing and a spoiler over a run-of-the-mill Honda Civic but the truth is, the real money for car thieves is in snatching popular cars.

For one, parts are easier to move for highly common cars.

Sure, alloy wheels, body kits and window-tinting can make a vehicle slightly more enticing but the big money - it seems - lies in stealing 2000 Honda Civic SiRs, 2006 Chevrolet Trailblazers and 2002/2005 Cadillac Escalades according to the top four most stolen vehicles on the Insurance Bureau of Canada's frequently stolen automobiles list.

However, auto theft has seen a slight decline.

In 2012 there were 78,000 reported vehicle thefts, down 4,500 from 2011 and 57 per cent less than a decade ago.

But despite a waning over the past few years, auto theft is still a costly hazard of car ownership.

In Canada, vehicle theft costs nearly $1 billion a year between the costs for insurers to fix or replace stolen cars and costs procured by the court and correctional system to prosecute the perpetrator.

On the other hand, while upgraded cars come with more bells and whistles, their high visibility can detract thieves looking to make a quick getaway or slip behind the wheel inconspicuously.

In fact, cars with souped-up alarm systems and killswitches - hidden toggles that can disrupt the engine or fuel pump and make it impossible to start the car without knowing where to look for the button - can actually further deter even the savviest of robbers.

Insure your mods

While modified and souped-up cars aren't necessarily more susceptible to theft, you might end up paying higher premiums if you decide to add on to your ride. The cost to insure your modified vehicle will vary from insurer to insurer so it's always wise to shop around beforehand to make sure you're getting the best deal. Before you make any modifications to your vehicle, check with your insurance professional to ensure that you will not violate your policy conditions.

Mods that improve the performance or speed of your car - like nitrous oxide fuel injection systems or stray pipes that make your muffler sound like a jackhammer - are apt to drive up your premiums. The reasoning stems from the notion that a lot of these types of mods are done by young adult males who have a penchant for street racing. Pigeonholing, we know, but the statistics don't lie and they point to young adult males as high-risk drivers.

Body kits and modded wheels are considered thief magnets, and can also lead to boosted premiums.

If you plan to soup-up your ride, always chat with your insurer to see what's covered. New parts and add-ons usually aren't considered part of the initial quote and may not be protected under the policy.

Klepto-proof

Modded cars may not top the list when it comes to theft but there are several haphazard habits that scream "steal me" to potential thieves.

Leaving your keys in your car or your car idling while you "pop in" to grab a coffee or warm up your car in the winter make your car a target. According to the IBC, 20 per cent of stolen cars have the keys in them.

Vehicles parked in poorly lit areas or packed parking garages offer cover for thieves to get at them. Unlocked doors and slightly rolled down windows also act as thief magnets. Ultimately, if you plan on modding your ride, be sure to save a bit of cash to spend on upgrading the alarm system or your souped-up car could end up packed in a soup can-like cargo container and shipped overseas.

By Andrew Seale

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