Published: September 8, 2022Updated: September 20, 2022

You’re More Likely to Experience Car Theft If You Live Here

Rates of car theft vary greatly depending on where you live. Should you be concerned?

Picture this: You’ve just had a long day of shopping at the mall and you’re exhausted. With several bags in hand, you return to the parking lot and look for your car. Even though you remember the spot you parked in, your car isn’t there. You pinch yourself. No, this isn’t a nightmare — it’s very much your new reality.

Car theft can happen to the best of us, and if you live in certain states, you have an increased chance of your car being stolen. Here are the states where car theft happens the most, some risk factors to be aware of, and how you can avoid being a victim.

Most Common States for Car Theft

According to the most recent FBI data, Colorado has the highest rate of auto theft, at 524 thefts per 100,000 inhabitants. Washington, D.C., comes next, followed by New Mexico, California, and Missouri. Find where your state falls in the chart below.

Car theft rate in 2019

In contrast to Colorado, Vermont saw only 42 thefts per 100,000 residents, a rate 480 percent lower than the national average. In general, the Northeast has lower auto theft rates compared to the West. That’s because people in the Northeast have more access to public transportation and are less dependent on cars2.

Region of the U.S. Average rate of motor vehicle theft in 2019 per 100,000 inhabitants (high to low)
West 340
South 244
Midwest 222
Northeast 111

But why is there so much variance between states when it comes to car theft?

What Makes Car Theft More Likely?

If you took AP Statistics, you may remember that correlation does not mean causation. That said, these factors correlate with higher rates of car theft and may be why your state has an increased or decreased risk.

  • Vehicle density per square mile: More cars around means more cars to steal. That’s why states with more densely populated metropolitan areas have higher rates of car theft.
  • Vehicle type: Certain types of cars have higher rates of theft than others, particularly older cars. It makes sense: Newer vehicles often come equipped with built-in anti-theft technology, and thieves have had less time to figure out how to crack it. Older cars are less likely to be protected with high-tech security systems and are more familiar to thieves. When commonly stolen cars are parked in dangerous areas, it compounds the problem of auto theft, making them even easier to steal.

Here are the types of cars most stolen in 2020, according to the latest data from the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB).

 

Number of cars stolen in 2020 by model

DID YOU KNOW?

In 2020, the most common model year for stolen vehicles was 2007. Older cars are generally easier to steal compared to newer models because they lack modern anti-theft devices.

  • Proximity to major attractions: Street blocks with restaurants, bars, schools, theaters, arcades, retail stores, manufacturing or storage facilities, and apartment complexes are more likely sites of auto theft. Especially if you’re parked within a block of a bar or a high school, double-check that you’ve locked your doors.
  • Size of parking lots: Parking lots with more than 100 stalls and train station lots have higher rates of theft than smaller parking lots with attendants and security. Parking lots around big-box retail stores, malls, commuter and transit lots, and freeways have higher car theft rates as well. The reason? These lots tend to be large, and people leave their cars there for longer periods of time (especially if you’re watching a super-long movie, shopping for that perfect prom dress, or spending a day at the office), making them more attractive to thieves.
  • Type of neighborhood: Areas with a lower median household income and a higher amount of rental housing have more incidents of car theft than places with a higher median household income and high percentage of homeowners.4

Does Car Insurance Cover Theft?

Now you’re probably wondering: Does car insurance cover theft? The answer is yes, but only if you have comprehensive coverage.

Comprehensive coverage is an optional coverage that applies to vehicle damage from events other than collisions. Not only does it cover theft, but it also covers vandalism and weather-related events like hailstorms.

Note that comprehensive coverage isn’t legally required in any U.S. state. And even if you have it, it doesn’t include coverage for the following aspects.

  • Vehicle upgrades: Did you add any custom parts to your car? Unfortunately, comprehensive coverage applies to original equipment parts only. To cover any add-ons, you’ll need to purchase coverage for custom parts and equipment.
  • Personal items: Car theft insurance via comprehensive coverage applies only to the car itself and its parts, such as the increasingly common catalytic converter theft. It won’t cover any personal items taken from your car, like that MacBook Pro you left in the back seat. However, your homeowners or renters insurance may cover these personal items instead.

The best way to mitigate your losses in the event of car theft is to have the right insurance coverages in place as soon as you buy or lease your car. Of course, there are also steps you can take to lessen the chance of becoming a car theft victim in the first place.

3 Ways to Prevent Car Theft

Car theft isn’t inevitable, but you can increase your chance of avoiding it by taking a few preventive actions.

  • Park in the right places. Park in open spaces that are well lit. Avoid any parking spots that are visibly obstructed by, say, a dumpster, and park in private garages when you can rather than on streets or in driveways. If possible, try not to park in a public space for a long period of time5. That certainly makes public transit more appealing.
  • Install anti-theft devices. These days, many new cars have anti-theft devices built in. However, if your car doesn’t have the latest security technology, consider adding a steering wheel lock, horn alarm, flashing lights, or even a computer chip in the ignition key6 7. All of these measures make it harder for a thief to steal your ride.
  • Lock it up. The most obvious answer is sometimes the best. Make sure to lock your car, along with any garages or gates where your car is stored. Also, hide any valuable items in the trunk, where they won’t be visible, or better yet, take those belongings with you.

 

TIP

 Install motion-activated lighting around your home to catch any would-be car thieves in the act.

Whether you live in Colorado, Vermont, or somewhere where the rate of car theft falls between those highs and lows, the best defense is a good offense.

Citations

  1. Crime in the United States by State, 2019. FBI. (2019).
    https://ucr.fbi.gov/crime-in-the-u.s/2019/crime-in-the-u.s.-2019/topic-pages/tables/table-5

  2. The U.S. City Where Your Car Is Most Likely to Be Stolen. Reader’s Digest. (2022, Apr).
    https://www.rd.com/article/city-car-most-likely-stolen/

  3. NICB Releases Annual ‘Hot Wheels’ Report: America’s Top Ten Most Stolen Vehicles. NICB. (2021, Oct).
    https://www.nicb.org/news/news-releases/nicb-releases-annual-hot-wheels-report-americas-top-ten-most-stolen-vehicles

  4. Risk Factors for Auto Theft . NICB. (2010, Oct).
    http://www.rutgerscps.org/uploads/2/7/3/7/27370595/autotheftrisks.pdf

  5. Vehicle Theft Protection. NHTSA. (2022).
    https://www.nhtsa.gov/road-safety/vehicle-theft-prevention

  6. Does car insurance cover theft?. Allstate. (2019, Nov).
    https://www.allstate.com/resources/car-insurance/does-car-insurance-cover-theft