Car Stereo Theft Doesn't Pay What It Used To

from the driven-out-of-business dept

It seems like a decade or so ago, it was pretty easy to find a friend who had a story about their car window being smashed and their stereo stolen. But the FBI says that car-stereo thefts have dropped by about 60 percent since 1994, thanks mainly to technology and economics (via Engadget). Fewer people are replacing their car stereos these days, as the quality of factory units has improved, but also as features like CD players have diffused throughout the auto population. Most thieves won’t bother stealing factory stereos because their resale value is so low: they have to find a buyer who needs to replace the same model, and that’s much harder than reselling a radar detector or GPS unit that will work in any car. What’s more, the cost of aftermarket equipment has dropped significantly, squeezing stereo-stealers’ margins even more. Usually when we talk about unintended consequences, it’s in reference to something with decent intentions that delivers some negative unexpected outcome, but it’s nice to see sometimes things work the other way, too.

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Comments on “Car Stereo Theft Doesn't Pay What It Used To”

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Joseph Durnal (user link) says:

Back in the day

I used to be a car stereo enthusiast. Back when I was in high school mid 90’s, nearly all of my equipment was second hand, and knowing what I know now, I’d be willing to bet that some of the good stuff that I got cheap was ill-gotten. After graduating, attending some college, and getting a decent tech job, I bought all new stuff and spent many thousands of dollars. After a while, it just became more work to maintain than I was willing to do, so, I pulled it all out, and that car to this day (with 207,000 miles which I’ll keep driving until it dies) still has a hole where the head unit goes. When I was out of work a few years ago, I sold the stuff on eBay, none of it went for what I wanted to sell it for, but I got decent prices none the less, probably because I was willing to ship to Europe (and then listen to them complain about import duties).

While I still see a lot of shortcomings in factory systems, they are a lot better than they used to be, and a lot less work to maintain and they are already installed.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: no mp3?

Who would bother stealing a factory CD player…

What’s worse is for some makes/models (e.g. Honda Civic) the stock stereo has an activation code. If the radio is disconnected from the battery, or the battery dies, it disables itself until you enter the code. This is intended as an anti-theft device.
Since nobody in their right mind would actually steal the thing, it only prevents the owner of the car from using it.

hegemon13 says:


I am surprised that factory stereos have a lower resale value. In general, factory parts go for considerably more. My friend had his car, which had several modifications, stolen. He had a very expensive after-market intake and exhaust system. However, the thieves left it in lieu of headlights, taillights, etc. He expressed his surprise to the police, and they said it is pretty standard. After market parts, even expensive ones, don’t sell for as much as factory ones. I suppose the difference in stereos is that they are more universal, but it still surprises me.

another mike says:

Re: Surprising

not so surprising really. factory stereo mountings and connectors are pretty much only used by that one model and sometimes only for a few years. so if you yank one to fence it, your customer base is limited to pretty much just the one guy you robbed. he’s the only guy looking to buy a factory stereo for his make, model, and year of car.

aftermarket parts aren’t as generic so that makes them easier to trace but a factory part’s just a factory part. you wouldn’t notice a factory headlight driving past you like you’d notice your stolen custom cowling on someone else’s ride.

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