Why older cars get burglarized the most
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Worried about car theft? Certain cars get stolen more often than others, but your behavior can greatly reduce the likelihood of your car getting stolen. Simple things like locking your doors and rolling up windows can have a huge impact, and more subtle tricks like parking close to a guardrail can lower your risk even more. There are various other ways to prevent car theft and burglary so you don’t end up a statistic.
Many people believe that thieves want to steal the newest cars, but the truth is older cars are stolen more often, as they often lack the built-in anti-theft technology of newer models.
Here are some common targets for auto theft and burglary:
These are some factors that affect the likelihood of car theft:
Here are the major ways that thieves break into cars, according to auto theft investigator Marc Hinch:
Car theft is preventable with the right tools and tricks. Follow these steps to avoid getting burglarized:
If you’ve had a vehicle stolen, you may or may not be able to recover it. However, it’s still worth contacting the police and your auto insurance provider to file an auto insurance claim under theft coverage. How long the auto insurance claim takes depends heavily on your provider.
All car insurance covers theft under property damage coverage. Learn more about what car insurance covers in our car insurance guide.
Older cars are stolen more frequently than more recent cars, as they lack anti-theft devices and GPS tracking. Here are the cars stolen most frequently in 2020, according to the NICB.
|Vehicle make and model||Number of thefts in 2020||Increase from 2019 (rounded to the nearest whole number)||Most common model year stolen|
|Ford Full-Size Pickup||44,014||13%||2006|
|Chevrolet Full-Size Pickup||40,968||26%||2004|
|GMC Full-Size Pickup||13,016||17%||2005|
|Dodge Full-Size Pickup||11,991||6%||20013|
The average model year of the top 10 most stolen cars in the U.S. in 2020 was 2007, making the cars an average of 13 years old.
Why are 40 percent of the top 10 most stolen cars pickup trucks? The parts of pickup trucks are easier to disassemble and sell for parts, particularly tailgates and wheels. Older pickup trucks have particularly rare parts, which makes them more profitable to sell.
Here are the items that car thieves steal from cars the most:
If you see a motor vehicle theft in progress, follow these steps:
Here are the most recent statistics on car theft in the U.S. and beyond.
The country with the highest car theft rates in 2018 was New Zealand, which had 80 percent more car theft than the U.S. in the same year.
|Selected countries||Car theft rate in 2018 per 100,000 inhabitants (rounded to the nearest whole number)|
|United States of America||229|
|United Kingdom (England and Wales)||203|
|United Arab Emirates||6|
|Republic of Korea||5|
Motor vehicle theft rates in the U.S. have decreased by over 60 percent from 1990 to 2020. We believe this decrease is due to increases in anti-theft technology like keyless entry and GPS tracking.
|Reported motor vehicle theft rate in the United States from 1990 to 2020||Number per 100,000 of the population (rounded to the nearest whole number)|
Colorado had the highest rate of motor vehicle theft in the U.S. in 2020, 53 percent higher than the rest of the U.S. The safest state in terms of motor vehicle theft is Vermont, with only 42 motor vehicle thefts per 100,000 inhabitants.
|U.S. location||Motor vehicle theft rate in 2020 per 100,000 inhabitants (rounded to the nearest whole number)|
|District of Columbia||477|
If you live in a big city like New York City, you’re about 53 percent more likely to get your car stolen than someone in a rural area, according to FBI data. Crime rates are always highest in cities versus suburban or rural areas across all types of crime aside from motor vehicle theft, such as homicide, other types of robbery, property crime, and assault.6
|Area||Motor vehicle theft rate per 100,000 inhabitants (rounded to the nearest whole number)|
|Metropolitan statistical areas||235|
|Cities outside metropolitan areas||159|
The city in the U.S. with the most motor vehicle theft is Bakersfield, California, with 905 car thefts per 100,000 inhabitants, according to the NICB’s 2020 Hot Spots Report. Aside from auto burglary in California, here are the top 25 metropolitan statistical areas for car theft:
|Metropolitan statistical area||Number of car thefts in 2020||Rate of car thefts per 100,000 inhabitants in 2020 (rounded to the nearest whole number)|
|Yuba City, CA||1,279||724|
|San Francisco-Oakland-Berkeley, CA||30,774||655|
|St. Joseph, MO-KS||692||565|
|San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA||10,867||551|
|Kansas City, MO-KS||11,837||545|
|Salt Lake City, UT||6,717||542|
|Louisville/Jefferson County, KY-IN||6,418||506|
|Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario, CA||23,316||498|
|Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim, CA||63,235||482|
Interestingly, the biggest cities for car theft in the U.S. tend to be on the West Coast and in the Midwest. One reason for this may be the superior public transportation on the East Coast, which allows people to leave their cars safe at home when commuting to work.
Here are some other interesting motor vehicle theft statistics from the FBI’s 2019 data:
To avoid grand theft auto and the crime of burglary in general, your safest bet is to park in private garages whenever possible.
While your auto insurance coverage should reimburse you for the stolen items or vehicle, motor vehicle theft is still a headache you want to avoid. Learn how deductibles work, as you’ll need to pay your entire deductible before your insurance will kick in. Sometimes the extra features, like keyless entry, are worth the money to make your car harder to break into.
Keep reading to learn even more useful information about car theft.
Stealing a car is known as motor vehicle larceny/theft under the FBI.
A vehicle burglary is when someone steals something valuable from the car rather than the car itself.
The legal penalty for stealing a car depends heavily on the state and the specifics of the crime. For example, in Alabama, the theft of a motor vehicle is considered property theft in the first degree; in Delaware, it’s considered a Class G felony. The classification of the crime, among other factors, will determine the sentence.
The No. 1 most stolen car in America in 2020 was a 2006 Ford Full-Size Pickup, according to the National Insurance Crime Bureau.
18 Things Car Thieves Won’t Tell You. Reader’s Digest. (2021, Jul 23).
Vehicle Theft Prevention. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. (2022).
NICB Releases Annual ‘Hot Wheels’ Report: America’s Top Ten Most Stolen Vehicles. National Insurance Crime Bureau. (2021, Oct.12).
How to Report a Crime. New York Police Department. (2022).
Car theft: 2018. United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. (2018).
Urban Crime: Are Crime Rates Higher In Urban Areas? Law JRank. (2021).
NICB ‘Hot Spots’: Auto Thefts Up Significantly Across the Country. National Insurance Crime Bureau. (2021, Aug 31).
2019 Crime in the United States: Motor Vehicle Theft. Federal Bureau of Investigation. (2019).