New Zealand's most frequently stolen car is the Honda Torneo, followed by Subaru Imprezas and the Mazda Premacy, according to AA Insurance data released this week.
However, a local scrap dealer says there are often "dead giveaways" that a vehicle brought in for scrap has been stolen.
The findings were based on AA Insurance claims between May 1, 2010 and April 30 this year.
The average claim for the top-10 most stolen cars was $4977.
Cars manufactured before 2000 were more than four times as likely to be stolen than those manufactured from 2005.
Police crime statistics show the annual number of car thefts in the Eastern police district dropped slightly over the last five years, from 734 in 2009 - a rate of 36.8 per 10,000 people - to 627 last year, a rate of 31.1 per 10,000 people.
Manager of Hawkes Bay Scrap Metal Peter Henderson said all registration numbers were entered into the police system to make sure the car hadn't been reported stolen.
"... a dead giveaway is it's got a broken ignition and [broken] quarter light [windows]."
The person trying to offload the vehicle was often a giveaway too, he said.
All sellers were rigorously checked for identification as part of a process to make sure the car was legitimately owned.
"You couldn't even give me a sheet of corrugated iron without photo ID and me recording all the details."
Those details could then be passed on to police should the car turn out to be stolen, he said.
In that case, the buyer was usually left out of pocket when the thief took off with the money, nearly always failing to pay it back once the police became involved.
AA Insurance head of customer relations Suzanne Wolton said older cars were easier to steal.
"New Zealand has a large number of ageing, imported cars, and our claims show that older models, which have less-advanced or no security features than newer vehicles, are easy targets for thieves."
Installing an alarm and using a steering lock in full view were effective ways to deter thieves.
"Thieves will always go for the easiest, fastest option, so if you make it just a little bit harder for them then chances are they'll lose interest in your car and move on to an easier target."
One AA Insurance customer had their older model Subaru taken from their driveway, and used in a robbery. Damage to the ignition, as well as mechanical, paint and panel damage cost more than $3300 to repair.
Nationally, vehicle thefts have dropped from 21,629 in 2009 - or 50.1 per 10,000 people - to 19,221 last year, or 43 for every 10,000 people.
Cars were most likely to be stolen in Auckland, followed by Northland, Wellington, Waikato and Christchurch.APNZ