30 Car Theft Statistics and How to Avoid Becoming a Victim

Wait. Didn’t I park right here? Maybe a block further down…? No. The car’s not here.

You have just joined the ranks of car theft statistics. But it’s not only your car that has disappeared. The paperwork for tomorrow’s client meeting is missing, as well as your company laptop. The only thing you can do is dial the police.

Somewhere in the United States, a car is stolen once every 40.9 seconds. Experts say that only about 46% are recovered, and most of them are damaged. You will probably never see the contents of your car again.

It didn’t have to happen. A few simple precautions could have made your car safer and the risk of theft smaller.

Auto Theft Statistics in America: Editor’s Choice

  • Auto theft is reported every 40.9 seconds in the United States.
  • In the first half of 2018, the auto theft rate decreased by 3.3 percent.
  • In just 10 years, motor vehicle thefts dropped by 19.4 percent in the US.
  • The average rate of stolen vehicle recovery is 46%.
  • The most frequently stolen car is the Honda Civic — the target of choice in nine states.
  • 74% of carjackings involve some kind of weapon, according to the National Crime Victimization Survey.
  • 56% of Americans don’t worry that their cars could be stolen.
  • 75.4% of stolen vehicles are cars.

Car Theft Statistics in the United States

1. There were 773,139 motor vehicle thefts nationwide in 2017.

(FBI)

Grand theft auto crime is 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 other types of vehicle thefts, which are more like joyriding. Automobile theft can be grand theft auto with or without the use of weapons. It is a felony in every state.

2. One auto theft is reported every 40.9 seconds in the United States.

(NHTSA)

Stolen car data shows that you should worry. Auto theft is a very profitable business, and despite new car alarm systems, national crime statistics demonstrate that any vehicle can be a target for thieves.

Every day, these offenders find new and sophisticated ways of stealing vehicles. Most cars are stolen for transportation, but many are stripped and sold for parts, which means that even older cars are not safe.

3. The rate of stealing a motor vehicle decreased by 19.4% from 2008 to 2018.

(FBI)

Auto theft stats show a 0.8% growth in 2017 compared to 2016, followed by a 3.3% drop in 2018. The long-term forecast is optimistic, but you shouldn’t take the figures lightly. A lot of cars are stolen every day, so make sure to protect your vehicle properly.

4. Statistics reveal an automobile theft rate of 219.9 per 100,000 population.

(Statista)

Stolen car reports show an unchanged rate of stolen cars per 100,000 residents in the US for 2016 and 2017. FBI statistics are somewhat encouraging, indicating that the auto theft rate has dropped 24.7 percent since 2008.

5. About $6 billion was lost due to motor vehicle thefts in 2017.

(FBI)

Having your car stolen is quite costly. As the figures suggest, $7,708 is the average amount lost per stolen vehicle. Apart from direct losses, there are also costs associated with the time you spend dealing with the police when reporting the crime or the time off from work.

However, you lose more than just your money and car. You also waste your time and even your nerves, jeopardizing your overall mental health state.

6. Motor vehicle theft in America reached a peak of 1.7 million in 1991.

(Insurance Information Institute)

Yes, 1.7 million. Luckily, recent reports suggest that the number of auto thefts fell by about 55% since that high point. The 2010s are somewhat more secure than the previous decades.

7. Police forces have reduced auto thefts by about 5% nationally.

(Insurance Institute for Highway Safety)

In the last two decades, law enforcement agencies have done an amazing job of preventing motor vehicle thefts. However, the first and foremost line of defense against car theft is an owner.

If you possess any kind of motor vehicle, you should protect your property. Lock the doors and remove car keys, use smart keys or kill switches, and set the alarms and tracking devices.

8. 147,434 vehicles with the keys in them were stolen between January 1, 2013, and December 31, 2015.

(NICB)

Automobile theft statistics show that thousands of cars were stolen with their keys inside them. The number of thefts in this period was 135 per day. Auto theft was the highest in California, with 22,580 stolen vehicles, followed by Texas with 11,003, and Florida with 9,952.

9. Nationwide, the average recovery rate for car thefts is 59.1%.

(Carsurance, Fox Business)

The car recovery rate varies by state. The stolen car recovery rate is the highest in Washington (71%) and Utah (63%). The lowest rate is in Alabama (28%).

There are a lot of things you can do to improve the chances of finding your car. The first one is to report the missing car to the police immediately. The second is to contact your insurance company.

10. The best chance of stolen car recovery is within the first 72 hours after the vehicle is stolen.

(The Motley Fool)

Grand theft auto statistics indicate that the best chances of recovering a stolen vehicle are in the first three days. Still, stolen car recovery rates reveal that many people lose their cars forever.

Instead of sitting and waiting for the police to find your car, make yourself useful by collecting valuable information for police officers. Use your GPS locator to track the car and check a security camera. Talk with cab drivers — they are observing, reliable witnesses.

11. Teslas had a recovery rate of 100% in 2016.

(MarketWatch)

There is a very low crime rate for Teslas. In fact, there was only one Tesla car theft in 2011. Besides, according to stolen car statistics, the number of recovered Tesla cars is quite amazing — almost every Tesla stolen from 2011 to 2018 has been recovered.

12. Every year, there are 38,000 carjackings.

(Bureau of Justice Statistics)

Carjacking is the occupied car theft, and it often includes weapons and the threat of violence. From 1993 to 2002, carjacking victims totaled 1.7 per 10,000 people, based on carjacking statistics. Carjacking happens mostly in urban areas, often at traffic lights.

Oddly enough, men are more likely to be carjacking victims than women, but that doesn’t mean that women shouldn’t at least equip themselves with the best pepper spray for self-defense.

13. $1.255 billion — that’s the value of personal items stolen during car break-ins, statistics show.

(CNN)

The target of auto thefts is usually a car. Still, reports show that a large number of burglaries are committed only to steal valuable personal items such as wallets, handbags, and smartphones, according to car break-in statistics.

14. 56% of Americans don’t worry that their cars could be stolen.

(Gallup)

Although there are 156 auto thefts daily in the United States, according to the FBI, car owners think that their vehicles are safe. About 40% of drivers feel comfortable leaving valuables in their cars.

15. 47% of car drivers feel comfortable leaving their cars parked on dark streets.

(Security Today)

Surveys show that about one-third of drivers are comfortable leaving their running vehicles for a short period. Although police recommend parking in busy, well-lit areas to prevent thefts, 47% of people say they are comfortable leaving their cars in dark neighborhoods.

30 Car Theft Statistics and How to Avoid Becoming a Victim

Stats on Auto Theft Characteristics

16. 75.4% of stolen vehicles are automobiles.

(FBI)

Thieves steal trucks, buses, motorcycles, and other vehicles, but national crime statistics reveal that cars are at the greatest risk. In 2017, 544,944 cars, 108,936 trucks and buses, and 68,589 other vehicles were stolen. This can’t be stressed enough — whatever type and brand of a vehicle you have, secure it as much as you can!

17. Approximately 40% of all vehicle thefts occur around ports and border communities.

(The Auto Channel)

The authorities suggest that residents of these areas take extra care of their vehicles, as the auto theft rate here is among the highest. In fact, the NICB car statistics reveal that more than 200,000 cars exported illegally from the United States were stolen near international borders or ports.

18. In 2012, more than 4,000 vehicles were stolen on New Year’s Day and New Year’s Eve.

(KFOR-TV)

Motor vehicle theft statistics reveal that there are more car thefts around New Year than during any other time of year. Celebrations turn daily life upside-down, and that works to thieves’ advantage. Burglaries are common around the holidays because the police are busy with rowdy parties.

Hence, auto thieves have more freedom to steal. Owners tend to be a bit careless during the holiday season, which increases the automobile theft rate.

19. The most frequently stolen car by the state is Honda Civic.

(NICB)

Motor vehicle thieves seem to have their favorite car model, and it’s not a Range Rover, Ferrari, or Lexus. Believe it or not, thieves target older models for quite a simple reason. The National Insurance Crime Bureau says older models that lack modern anti-theft technology are easy to steal.

Thus, the most frequently stolen car in the US is the Honda Civic, according to car theft rates by model. According to the police, 45,062 Civics have been stolen. Not only is it an older model but there are also plenty of Civics on the road, so its parts have a high value on the black market. They’re the most commonly stolen cars by the state across the US.

20. 93% of carjackers are male.

(Bureau of Justice Statistics)

Carjacking statistics show that men committed 93% of carjacking incidents. Women committed about 3%, and mixed-sex groups committed the remaining 7%.

21. Silver is the most desirable car color among offenders.

(CCC Information Services)

The top five car colors favored by car thieves are silver, white, black, gold, and green. Do car thieves actually care about colors? No. The reason is absolutely practical — those colors are the most common, which helps thieves blend in and avoid capture.

22. GTA vehicles are mostly stolen by people aged 15–20.

(US Department of Justice)

The Department of Justice points out that young people make the largest group of car thieves.

23. For every 2,000 cars stolen, only one is an Audi.

(Canadian Broadcasting Corporation)

Car theft statistics by model show that Audi has the lowest rate of stolen cars per year. If you are an Audi model owner, you can relax. According to CBC research, this is the brand car thieves don’t like even though there are plenty of Audis on the road.

24. 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.

30 Car Theft Statistics and How to Avoid Becoming a Victim

Auto Theft Statistics By State

25. There were 79 carjacking arrests in Chicago in 2018.

(Chicago Tribune)

According to reports on stolen cars, the number of carjackings is decreasing. However, the number of juvenile carjackers is growing. In 2016, suspects aged 18 and younger were arrested in about 36% of all automobile thefts that included violence. In 2017, that number rose to 52.4%, and in 2018 it was as high as 59.5%.

26. More than a third of car thefts happen in the Southern States — 35%.

(NCJRS)

As auto theft statistics reveal, the Western States come second with 28%, followed by the midwest with 20% and the northeast with 17%. Unfortunately, reports may be disturbing for those who live in big cities since the auto crime rate is notably higher in metropolitan areas. Smaller towns are relatively safer, but it doesn’t mean they are free from thefts.

27. In 2013, New York City had a car theft rate of 88 vehicles per 100,000 residents.

(The New York Times)

In 1990, there were 2,000 stolen cars per 100,000 residents in the Big Apple. However, that figure is significantly lower today. Burglary statistics show that car theft had an impressive 96% drop in only 13 years, highlighting that significant progress has been made to lower this crime’s rather high occurrence.

28. A state-by-state comparison of the number of cars stolen in the US during 2017 reveals that California is the first with 168,391 automobiles stolen in 2017.

(Michigan.gov)

Would it ever occur to you that California takes the lead in auto theft statistics by the state? Well, it’s true. California ranks first, which makes sense as it is the epicenter of America’s car culture. The stats show that the states that follow California are Texas (68,041), Florida (42,914), Washington (28,796), and Georgia (26,263).

29. There were 9,989 confirmed vehicle thefts in Albuquerque in 2017.

(National Insurance Crime Bureau)

Albuquerque suffers the highest auto theft rate, according to stolen cars statistics. Sadly, it’s not the only town wherein the theft rate is high. Albuquerque is followed by three cities in California: Bakersfield (6,560), Stockton-Lodi (4,575), and Modesto (3,870).

30. In Alaska, car theft rates are 575.6 vehicles per 100,000 residents.

(Forbes, Alaska’s New Source)

According to car theft statistics, Alaska has a smaller population than other states, but it ranks at the top regarding the highest number of annual vehicle thefts per capita.

Alaska is a land of mountains, lakes, rivers, and glaciers, but car thieves don’t care too much about nature. They are occupied with the theft. According to the Anchorage Police Department, there were 3,122 stolen car statements in 2017.

Frequently Asked Questions

What cars are most likely to be stolen?

Car thieves seem to prefer some car models over others, primarily because of their age and the chance to sell them and their parts. According to the National Insurance Crime Bureau, these were the 10 most stolen cars in 2017:

  1. Honda Civic
  2. Honda Accord
  3. Ford pickup
  4. Chevrolet pickup
  5. Toyota Camry
  6. Nissan Altima
  7. Toyota Corolla
  8. Dodge pickup
  9. GMC pickup
  10. Chevrolet Impala

According to NICB, 45,062 Civics and 43,764 Accords were stolen in 2017.

What percentage of stolen cars are found?

This data varies depending on the state, but the average is 46%. According to stolen car statistics, about 71% is recovered in Washington state. The best chances of recovering a stolen vehicle are in the first 72 hours.

However, not all recovered cars are in good condition. Namely, 30% of vehicles returned to their owners are damaged. The degree of the damage may vary, but on average, it amounts to $1,490. Thus, even though they get their cars back, nearly one-third of owners have to invest approximately $1,500 to repair them.

How many cars are stolen each year?

The 1990s had a flabbergasting auto theft rate. In just one year, 1.7 million cars were stolen. The 2000s and 2010s saw a decrease of about 55% so that in 2018, 773,139 vehicles were seized. In the US, an average of 2,118 is stolen every day. In the last several years, car thefts in America have averaged approximately 700,000. That figure has remained the same for more than 10 years, with very little fluctuations.

What city in the US has the highest rate of car theft?

The highest auto theft rate belongs to Bakersfield, CA — 726.28 per 100,000 citizens, amounting to 6,538 annually. The second to come is Albuquerque, with a rate of 726.28 per 100,000 residents. That’s 7,146 vehicles stolen each year. The third place is held by St. Joseph that has a rate of 614.90 stolen cars per 100,000 residents.

States with the highest rate include California with an immense 141,757 stolen cars, Texas with 77,489 taken vehicles, Florida with 39,048, and Washington with 24,402 stolen automobiles.

What is the penalty for stealing a car?

Stealing a car is a felony that is punished by imprisonment in all states. The penalties depend on state law and the circumstances of the theft. Thus, thieves who commit an inexpensive car theft (up to $1,500) will be sentenced to up to 1 year of county jail imprisonment. However, stealing an expensive car valued at $200,000 will be charged and punished as a second-degree offense. A perpetrator may be sentenced to 5 to even 99 years in prison.

Cars of what color get stolen the most?

Car thieves tend to steal cars of five particular colors. According to the stats, those are silver, white, black, gold, and green. They tend to avoid striking colors such as yellow, orange-red, or purple.

Out of those five colors, silver cars are the most desirable to thieves. Contrary to what you may think, the reason is not that silver is their favorite color, but something completely different. Namely, as car theft statistics allege, thieves prefer stealing silver cars primarily because this is the most widespread color. Thus, it becomes more difficult to spot the stolen car and arrest the perpetrator.

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