Wait. Didn’t I park right here? Maybe a bit further down the block? No. The car’s not here. If this has happened to you, you’re probably part of the car theft statistics.
However, in this case, it’s not just your car that has disappeared. The paperwork for tomorrow’s client meeting is missing, and your company laptop is gone too. You have the sudden urge to cry, but instead, you dial 911.
Unfortunately, this is a frequent occurrence considering that a car is stolen every 36 seconds in the US. It’s important to note that you can take some steps to reduce the risk of your car getting stolen.
However, for now, let’s look at the statistics for one of the most common property crimes in the United States and hopefully raise some awareness.
Auto Theft Statistics in America (Editor’s Choice)
- The national average car theft rate in 2020 was 246 per 100,000 residents
- The number of car thefts increased by 10.9% in 2020
- There were 880,595 motor vehicle thefts nationwide in 2020
- New Year’s Day is the holiday with the most number of vehicle thefts
- Ford Full-size Pick-up Truck is the most frequently stolen car in the US
- 1% of car thefts are committed by the owners’ grandparents
- About a third of the US car thefts in 2019 happened in California, Texas, and Florida
- Teslas are almost 90% less likely to be stolen than the average car
Car Theft Statistics in the United States
1. The number of car thefts increased by 10.9% in 2020 over 2019.
(USA Today, NICB)
The number of car thefts spiked in 2020. From 794,019 in 2019, it increased to 880,595 in 2020. Authorities believe it was primarily due to the economic downturn, depleted social and educational programs, and law enforcement realignment.
However, owner complacency remains one of the biggest risk factors. Even though a car is a significant investment, owners don’t always do enough to protect it.
2. There were 880,595 motor vehicle thefts nationwide in 2020.
(Kelley Blue Book)
Grand theft auto statistics show that it’s one of the most common property crimes in the US. The definition of such an offense is stealing a motor vehicle with no intention of returning it to the owner.
It differs from theft for joyriding, wherein the perpetrator handles the vehicle without the owner’s permission but has no intention of stealing it. Grand theft auto is the theft of motor vehicles with or without the use of weapons. It’s a felony in every state.
3. The national car theft rate in 2020 was 246 per 100,000 residents.
In 2019, the rate was 220.8, and it was around 230 the year before. Even though these car theft rates seem high, they are a significant improvement from 658.9 in 1991. Since then, the rates have been steadily declining, primarily due to advanced car alarms and other anti-theft equipment.
4. Car thefts caused $7.4 billion in losses in 2020.
(Insurance Information Institute)
The average loss per incident of theft was $9,166. It’s evident that car theft is a significant burden, both for victims and the economy in general. With car prices increasing in 2022, the average loss is bound to rise as well.
5. The average stolen car recovery rate in 2020 was 56.4%.
Contrary to the common belief that stolen cars never get found, more than half of them are actually brought back to their owners. Out of all stolen properties, cars have the best recovery percentage. In comparison, household goods are recovered in only 39% of cases, while TVs and jewelry have an under 5% chance of being found. Unfortunately, although the vehicles are recovered, they don’t always come back in one piece.
6. The best chance of recovering a stolen car is within 72 hours after it gets stolen.
(The Motley Fool)
Automobile theft statistics indicate that the best chance of recovering a stolen vehicle is within three days after the theft. Still, statistics reveal that many people never see their stolen cars again. Instead of sitting and waiting for the police to find your car, you can help them by collecting valuable information.
If you have one of the best GPS trackers on your car, you can find out its location and have the police check corresponding security cameras. Talk with cab drivers — they are observing, reliable witnesses.
Carjacking and Car Burglary Statistics
7. In 2020, almost half of the stolen cars in New York City were stolen while they were left running.
(The New York Times)
The Big Apple saw 6,858 vehicle thefts in 2020, up from 3,988 the year before. Remarkably, 3,450 of them were stolen with the keys left inside or with the engine running. NYPD’s records show that there were 1,634 instances of such auto theft in 2019, which was around 40% of the total figures.
Car theft statistics show that the percentage has risen significantly. The authorities believe that it’s due to the pandemic, where people were in a hurry to pick up or drop off supplies, thereby forgetting their keys inside the car.
8. Teslas are almost 90% less likely to be stolen than the average car.
Great news for Tesla owners — they are not very popular among car thieves. Looking at car theft rates by model, you’ll see that this applies to all-electric vehicles in general. Experts believe that it’s because these cars are mostly parked near the owner’s home and very often in garages for recharging.
Additionally, thieves can’t know how much of the battery power is left and how far they can go before it runs out, and they can’t really make a quick stop at a gas station. Lastly, many of them have advanced GPS tracking devices that are interconnected with the system and can’t be disabled.
9. The number of carjacking cases in Minneapolis rose by 537% in 2020.
(PEW, Chicago Tribune, ABC News)
Unfortunately, carjacking facts show that Minneapolis is not the only city affected. Chicago PD reported a 135% increase, while Washington DC and New Orleans reported an increase of 116% and 126%, respectively.
Unfortunately, no national data is available yet because many police departments list this crime differently (violent crime, robbery, auto theft, etc.). This problem also prevents the authorities from centralizing data and generating carjacking statistics by state.
Experts believe that one of the reasons for this spike is that wearing masks on the street is the new normal, and victims no longer react when they see a masked person approaching their car. With crime spikes like this, having the best pepper spray for self-defense might be a good idea.
10. In 2020, the total number of thefts from cars in LA surpassed the number of stolen vehicles by about 20%.
LAPD reported 40,678 stolen vehicles and 51,731 total thefts from vehicles in 2020. Car break-in statistics show that this is a widespread crime. For instance, it accounts for 11% of all crimes in Cincinnati.
Police say this is one of the most preventable crimes, as simple precautions like locking the doors and hiding valuables can dramatically reduce one’s chances of becoming a victim.
11. 57% of Americans don’t worry that their cars could be stolen or broken into.
Even though a car is stolen every 36 seconds in the US, car owners generally think that their vehicles are safe. Only less than half of Americans find auto theft statistics worrying and fear their car might be stolen or burglarized. Americans seem to worry more about cybercrimes and identity theft. A little over 70% of US residents fear these crimes the most.
12. Every 36 seconds, a motor vehicle is reported stolen in the United States.
Stolen car data shows that you should worry. Auto theft is a very profitable crime, and despite new car alarm systems, statistics show that any vehicle can be a target for thieves. Every day, these offenders find new and sophisticated ways to steal vehicles. Most cars are stolen for transportation, but many are stripped and sold for parts, so even older cars are not safe.
Interesting Motor Vehicle Theft Statistics
13. 74.5% of stolen vehicles are cars.
Thieves steal trucks, buses, motorcycles, and all other types of vehicles, but FBI statistics reveal that cars are at the greatest risk, accounting for 74.5% of all vehicle thefts. Considering that cars make up only about 60.5% of all registered vehicles in the US, the percentage of stolen cars is very high.
14. The number one stolen car in America is the Ford Full-size Pick-up Truck.
Motor vehicle thieves seem to have their favorite car model, and it’s not the Range Rover, Ferrari, or Lexus. For the second year in the row, the Ford Full-size Pick-up Truck tops the list, with the Chevrolet Pick-up Truck as the runner-up.
Of the ten most stolen vehicles, six are Japanese models. The Honda Civic, once the most common stolen car, is now in the third spot, closely followed by the Accord.
15. New Year’s Day is the holiday with the most number of vehicle thefts.
(Insurance Information Institute)
The latest statistics recorded 2,320 car thefts during New Year’s Day, making it the US holiday with the most instances of vehicle thefts. Celebrations turn daily life upside-down, and that can work to the thieves’ advantage. Burglaries are common around the holidays because the police are busy breaking up rowdy parties.
In addition, owners tend to be a bit carefree during the holiday season, which increases the theft rate. According to auto theft stats, other US holidays with the most vehicle thefts are Labor Day and Presidents’ day, with more than 2,000 motor vehicle thefts reported during each of these days.
16. 3% of car thefts are committed by boyfriends and girlfriends.
The FBI analyzed more than 91,000 car theft cases in 2020 and concluded that romantic partners are responsible for 3% of car thefts. However, other people close to us can also be responsible because the FBI also discovered that 6% of car thefts in 2020 were committed by parents and friends (3% each).
Furthermore, stolen car statistics show that 8% of vehicles were taken by the owner’s acquaintance. Even grandparents are not an exception, with 1% of all car thefts in 2020 being committed by them.
17. 74% of carjackings involve some kind of weapon.
(Bureau of Justice Statistics)
Auto thefts that include violence are still happening. According to gun violence statistics, 45% of carjackings involve firearms. Additionally, 11% involve knives, and 18% involve other weapons. In such a dangerous situation, the police say that the proper course of action is to hand over your keys.
Auto Theft Statistics By State
18. Colorado has the highest car theft rate in the US.
Per 100,000 residents in Colorado, 524.3 cases of auto theft were recorded in 2020. The state is closely followed by the District of Columbia and New Mexico, with theft rates of 476.8 and 427.6, respectively.
In comparison, the national average is 246, and when it comes to car theft statistics by city, Bakersfield, California, has the highest cases at 905.41 per 100,000 inhabitants.
19. Vermont has the lowest car theft rate in the US.
The state has a car theft rate of only 42.4 per 100,000 residents. That’s pretty low compared to the national average of 246. The other safest cities are Maine and New Hampshire, with theft rates of 63.8 and 76.4, respectively.
20. In 2020, New York had a car theft rate of 101.7.
(The New York Times, Statista)
Car theft data from 1990 shows that there were 2,000 stolen cars per 100,000 residents in New York. However, that figure is significantly lower today. Burglary statistics show that car theft had an impressive drop in the last 30 years, mostly due to new car models that are more difficult to steal and traffic jams that make a quick getaway almost impossible.
21. New York car thieves love Hondas the most.
Data from 2020 show that around 1,850 Honda Civics, Accords, and CR-Vs were stolen in the state. Pick-up trucks are thieves’ favorites on a national level, but the most stolen cars differ by state. For example, in states where most residents live in urban communities, thieves primarily target sedans and family cars.
Results from New Jersey show similar trends—Honda Civics and Accords were the most stolen models there too. The explanation is simple: pick-up trucks are less common in these states, so they’re less likely to be stolen. They also don’t blend in easily, are faster for the police to track down, and are generally harder to resell.
22. Car theft statistics by state show that nearly a third of US car thefts in 2020 happened in California, Texas, and Florida.
(Insurance Information Institute)
Of the 810,400 motor vehicle thefts reported nationwide in 2020, 290,870 happened in these three states. California holds the highest number, with 168,323 recorded car thefts that year. It’s shocking to think that this figure is even greater than the combined numbers from Texas and Florida (84,276 and 38,271, respectively).
23. California has had a surprisingly high car recovery rate—89% in the last two years.
Another interesting car statistic from California is that even though it’s the state with the most recorded incidents of car theft, it’s also the state with one of the highest car recovery rates. For example, data from 2019 and 2020 show that law enforcement agencies managed to recover more than 89% of stolen vehicles. Furthermore, about two-thirds of them were recovered intact or in drivable condition.
According to Consumer Reports, the average price of a new car in the US is $45,000. Meanwhile, the prices of used vehicles are also on the rise. So, we can all agree that a car is a significant investment.
However, when it comes to car thefts and car break-ins, statistics still show that a large percentage of them could have been easily prevented by simply locking car doors, rolling down windows, and taking the keys out of ignition. Car theft is most often a crime of opportunity, and if we don’t give thieves a chance, it will significantly reduce the number of thefts. So, the next time you park your car, go through the safety measures you can take to avoid theft.
People Also Ask
There are plenty of reasons cars get stolen. In 2020 and 2021, a large percentage of vehicles were stolen just for joyriding. Car theft is a crime of opportunity, and we provide thieves with the chance when we leave our key fobs in the car or hop out to do some errand and leave the engine running.
The New York Police Department stated that half of the vehicles stolen in 2020 had their engine running. The less “benign” reasons are stripping for parts, resale, and export (especially in the border states). Sometimes cars also get stolen to be used in another crime later.
The chances of your car being stolen depend on where you live. Colorado has the highest car theft rate in the country, with around 524 stolen vehicles per 100,000 residents. This means that your chance of becoming a victim of car theft in Colorado is 1:2,000. On the other hand, people in Vermont are much better off, as theft rates are much lower—just 42 per 100,000 residents. That’s 13 times lower than Colorado’s rate and six times lower than the national average.
Thieves steal bikes, buses, and other vehicles, but the latest data show that cars are at the greatest risk. Even though they account for only 60% of all registered vehicles in the US, they account for almost 74.5% of all vehicle thefts. A large percentage of thefts are just for the purpose of joyriding, and large trucks and buses are not that tempting. Also, most thieves don’t know how to operate them.
The police have several ways of tracking stolen cars. The most obvious one is GPS tracking. Some smart thieves, however, have ways of disabling and removing GPS trackers. Other methods include tracking devices the victim might have left in the car. Phones, tablets, and other digital devices can be tracked even when they are turned off. Whenever they pass a local base station, they ping their location. Non-Wi-Fi equipment can also be helpful. For instance, the police can also use toll detectors to track down stolen vehicles.
In general, electric cars with advanced autopilots are the hardest to steal. They are mostly parked in home garages for recharging. They have advanced GPS features that are closely intertwined with the car’s system and are hard to disable without disabling the car, making them very easy to track. Also, electric vehicles have fewer parts than traditional cars, which makes chopping them for parts unprofitable.
Theft rates vary depending on the state. The national average car theft rate is 246 per 100,000 residents. This means that one car is stolen per 406 residents. If we look at the numbers, we can see 109 million registered cars and over 537,000 car thefts in 2019. This means that one in 202 cars was stolen that year. Car theft statistics also show that about a third of US car thefts in 2020 happened in California, Texas, and Florida.