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The boom in the popularity of big pickups is taking place among thieves as well as ordinary buyers.

Full-size trucks have the highest insurance claim frequency of any group of vehicles, the insurance industry Highway Loss Data Institute reports. The HLDI data cover claims for 2010 through 2012 models.

Thieves' favorite: Ford F-250 Super Duty crew-cab with four-wheel drive (4x4). It's a heavy-duty model used more of

On a scale where the average for all vehicles is 1.2 claims per 1,000 insured vehicle years, the F-250 has a claim frequency of 7, HLDI says. That' index is used to account for the fact that there are lots more of some vehicles on the road than others. An insured vehicle year is one vehicle insured for a year, or two vehicles each for six months, or any similar combination.ten by tradespeople and owners doing serious towing or hauling than the gentrified truckers who buy many of the standard-duty pickups.

Despite the F-250's dubious crown, General Motors full-size trucks and SUVs own most of the list of highest claim frequency -- taking eight of the top 10 spots.

HLDI data don't distinguish between thefts of entire vehicles and thefts from those vehicles.

But the data do provide the average amount paid out per claim. That lets you take an educated guess whether the bad guys took the whole vehicle because it's easy to resell, or has parts that "chop shops" covet because they fit an array of other models -- or snatched the cell phone or accessory navigation left in plain sight. Or, in the case of trucks, made off with tools and other items from the cargo bed.

The average amount paid by an insurance company for an F-250 claim is $7,060, so it appears to be more thefts from the truck than thefts of the truck. A 2010 F-250 4x4 crew cab with the diesel engine common in such models, is about $33,000 on the open market, according to kbb.com.

F-250's sudden popularity with thieves ended a decade run at the top by the Cadillac Escalade. HLDI speculates that's because Escalades' anti-theft systems have gotten more sophisticated and sales have declined, "so there may be less of a market for stolen Escalades or Escalade parts," says Matt Moore, HLDI vice president.

Interestingly, the two Ford pickups on the top 10 list are heavy-duties, while the GM models -- Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra -- are standard-duties.

The 10 vehicles with the lowest claim frequency mainly are small SUVs and some premium models, "which spend their time in suburban garages where theft likelihood is low," HLDI notes.

But the average amount an insurer paid per claim on those often is higher than for the big trucks, suggesting some of the low-claim models are being yanked as entire vehicles more often than big trucks are.

Here are HLDI's 10 most and least popular vehicles for thieves, with the claim frequency in claims per 1,000 insured years and the average amount paid per claim. Note: the average for all 2010-2012 passenger vehicles is 1.2 claims per 1,000 insured vehicle years.

Thieves Top 10 favorites (all pickups or SUVs):

Ford F-250 crew cab 4x4, 7, $7060
Chevrolet Silverado 1500 crew cab,6.7, $5,463
Chevrolet Avalanche 1500, 6.1, $6,163
GMC Sierra 1500 crew cab, 6, $6,366
Ford F-350 crew cab 4x4, 5.6, $7,517
Cadillac Escalade 4x4, 5.5, $6,508
Chevrolet Suburban 1500, 5.4,4,468
GMC Sierra 1500 extended cab, 4.7, $5,908
GMC Yukon, 4.5, $6,276
Chevrolet Tahoe, 4.4, $5,367

Top 10 least popular with thieves (five were alll-wheel-drive versions):

Dodge Journey AWD, 0.4, $5,016
Volkswagen Tiguan AWD, 0.4, $10,352
Audi A4 four-door, 0.4, $13,803
Acura RDX, 0.4, $8,701
Toyota Matrix, 0.4, $7,782
Lexus S 250 hybrid, 0.4, $2,226
Honda CRV, 0.4, $4,630
Hyundai Tucson AWD, 0.4, $4,134
Toyota Sienna AWD, 0.5, $13,038
Jeep Compass AWD, 0.5, $5,527

By James R. Healey and Fred Meier

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