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Meet the Thief
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What Happens to Stolen Cars, the Victims and the Thieves

What Happens to Stolen Cars? 

Stolen cars usually end up in one of the following places: 

  1. In chop shops
  2. In shipping containers at ports in Canada or overseas
  3. At other crime scenes
  4. Abandoned in random locations
  5. In the hands of unsuspecting consumers

Chop shops

About 50% of stolen vehicles end up in "chop shops,” where stolen cars are dismantled into parts to be sold off separately, often to legitimate businesses unaware the parts are stolen. This is a big business that accounts for millions of dollars a year in profits for criminals.

Shipping containers

Each year, tens of thousands of cars are stolen for export to other countries where they can be sold for many times their original market value. In some cases, these cars are recovered at Canadian ports before they reach their intended destinations. IBC is actively working on having CBSA take a more active role in preventing these vehicles from leaving Canada.  

Crime scenes

Many stolen cars are taken to commit another crime. Thieves take advantage of owner negligence, grabbing the first vehicle they can find. Why would criminals risk using their own cars when they can very easily use a car that’s been left running in a driveway?


Sometimes, thieves take cars just because they can or because they want them for transportation. It used to be called “joyriding,” but that term takes away from the seriousness of the crime. Auto thieves have no regard for people or property and often vandalize then abandon the cars that they steal.

Unsuspecting consumers

Every year, hundreds of unassuming consumers buy stolen cars and face having their new cars seized by police. Stolen cars are often sold for a quick profit – sometimes to fund other criminal activity like drug smuggling and even terrorism. Thieves mask the true identity of a stolen vehicle by changing its vehicle identification number (VIN).

A consumer who unknowingly purchases a stolen car has no recourse, and no way to get his or her money back. 

What Happens to the Victims of Auto Theft?

Everyone is a victim of auto theft, whether they have had a car stolen or not.

  1. Owners are upset and inconvenienced when their cars are stolen.
  2. Unsuspecting buyers of stolen cars suffer financial loss.
  3. Those who steal because they can often damage the vehicles they steal and other property that may be inside it.
  4. There are significant time and expenses involved in reporting, processing and settling vehicle insurance claims.  This impacts many stakeholders, including policyholders, insurance companies and investigators, taxpayers, police and society.
  5. Stolen vehicles are frequently used while committing other crimes (e.g., break-and-enter robberies of homes) and in police chases when, owing to the thieves' reckless driving, they may be involved in the injuries or deaths of innocent people.
  6. Every year approximately 40 people die and 65 are injured as a direct result of auto theft.  A stolen car is just like a loaded gun when it’s in the hands of a thief.  Car thieves have absolutely no regard for public safety and the rules of the road. 

And What Happens to the Thieves?

Regrettably the courts still look at auto theft with more compassionate eyes.  Of course, some of their hands are tied by the restrictions within the Youth Criminal Justice Act.

IBC has been working to make the courts aware of the impact of auto theft – that it is not a victimless crime.  Additionally, IBC has also been actively advocating for changes to the criminal code to have auto theft treated as a violent and indictable offense.  

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