House Grail is reader-supported. When you buy via links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission at no cost to you. Learn more.

15 Car Theft Statistics and Facts (2022 Update)

car theft

Note: This article’s statistics come from third-party sources and do not represent the opinions of this website.

If you think car theft has been getting worse, you’re right. The last two years have seen a disturbing rise in crime. The scope has also changed, with an increase in catalytic converter theft and blatant car-jackings. Often, other offenses occur at the same type, which may blur the lines between this category and total crime statistics.

Our data includes numbers from the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reports. These are aggregated data, with the latest figures available from 2019. Part of the information contains arrests and cleared cases, neither of which always happens the same year that the offense was committed. Also, the FBI includes all vehicle types with their data, including motorcycles and trucks. Many refer to whatever they drive as a car.

divider 4

Top 15 Car Theft Statistics

  1. The cost of motor vehicle theft was $7.4 billion in 2020.
  2. The average theft cost is $9,166.
  3. The total number of vehicles stolen in 2020 was 810,400.
  4. The number one hot spot for theft was the San Francisco-Oakland-Berkeley, CA area, with 30,774 stolen in 2020.
  5. Colorado was the worst state for motor vehicle theft 524.3 cases per 100,000 inhabitants.
  6. Vermont was the safest place to own a vehicle with only 261 thefts in 2020.
  7. There were 14,433 catalytic converters stolen in 2020.
  8. Carjacking have skyrocketed in the last year with Philadelphia alone reporting an 80% increase.
  9. Other theft from the vehicle was the most common secondary offense associated with stolen cars in just over 17% of cases.
  10. The Tesla’s Model S is the least likely to be stolen.
  11. Nearly 40% of motor vehicle thefts occurred at a residence.
  12. About 22% of motor vehicle thefts occurred in a parking garage or lot.
  13. The most common vehicle stolen in 2020 was the 2006 full-size Ford pick-up with 44,014 stolen.
  14. The top 2020 model favored by thieves was the Nissan Altima at 1,732 offenses.
  15. Thefts most often occur on New Year’s Day with 2,320 reported in 2019.
CAR_THEFT_FACTS_&_STATISTICS
You’re welcome to use our images, but we require you link directly to this site for credit (ex. Image from House Grail)

divider 4

By the Numbers

1. The cost of motor vehicle theft was $7.4 billion in 2020.

(Insurance Information Institute)

Car theft is an expensive property crime. While it doesn’t usually top this category, it’s costly, nevertheless. That makes the 2020 figure of $7.4 billion a sobering one. California stands out with 89.2% of stolen vehicles being recovered. The national average is 56.4%. Nonetheless, it’s probably a safe assumption that if you get your car back, it won’t be in the same state before the theft.

man being carjacked
Image Credit: Gorgev, Shutterstock

2. The average theft cost is $9,166.

(Consumer Reports)

The average price for a new vehicle belies the cost of auto theft. According to Consumer Reports, buyers pay an all-time high of $47,000 for a new ride. However, it isn’t always new cars that get stolen. Also remember the FBI figures include other types. That brings the average cost to $9,166. These data have a direct impact on other stats in our list.


3. The total number of vehicles stolen in 2020 was 810,400.

(Insurance Information Institute)

The 2020 figure of 810,400 stolen vehicles spiked nearly 12% over 2019. The increasing price of cars is undoubtedly a factor. It’s not a stretch to say that it’s a more lucrative crime as a result of the subsequent rise in auto parts. According to the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB), surging theft is a national scourge, with 41 percent of states reporting spikes in crime over 2019 numbers.

car dealership
Image Credit: Pixabay

4. The number one hot spot for theft was the San Francisco-Oakland-Berkeley, CA area, with 30,774 stolen in 2020.

(PR Newswire)

Being named the top city for something is often an honor that towns strive to achieve. We’re willing to bet that San Francisco-Oakland-Berkeley, CA area would prefer not to be known for vehicle theft. Unfortunately, it’s a dubious distinction that it shares with two other California cities, Bakersfield and Yuba City.


5. Colorado was the worst state for motor vehicle theft 524.3 cases per 100,000 inhabitants.

(Statista)

In a report conducted in 2020, Colorado proved to be the worst state for motor vehicle theft. The national rate of motor vehicle theft is 246, whereas in Colorado it was over 520 cases per 100,000 inhabitants. Other states with a high motor vehicle theft rate were Washington DC, New Mexico, California, and Missouri.

man carjacking
Image Credit: photofriday, Shutterstock

6. Vermont was the safest place to own a vehicle with only 42.4 thefts in 2020.

(Statista)

The population also comes into play on the other end of the spectrum. According to the US Census Bureau, 645,570 people live in Vermont. However, its vehicle theft rate was only 42.4 per 100,000.

divider 4

The Changing Face of Crime

7. There were 14,433 catalytic converters stolen in 2020.

(National Highway Traffic Safety Administration)

Thieves don’t steal vehicles to get them or someone else a new ride. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), parts are the main reason cars get stolen. Doors and engines often top the list. However, another one is making headlines, catalytic converters. Thefts in 2020 increased four times over 2019 figures. The reason is the rare precious element rhodium inside of these parts.

Magnaflow catalytic converter
Magnaflow catalytic converter (Image Credit: Kim2480, Wikimedia Commons CC BY-SA 3.0)

8. Carjacking have skyrocketed in the last year with Philadelphia alone reporting an 80% increase.

(Fox29)

Often, vehicle theft occurs under the cover of night or in places where no one is watching. Recent years have seen a spike in a disturbing violent-property crime called carjacking. A car is often taken in broad daylight with many witnesses to the crime. Philadelphia isn’t the only city experiencing it, either. Major metropolitan areas across the country have also seen similar spikes.


9. Other theft from the vehicle was the most common secondary offense associated with stolen cars in just over 17% of cases.

(FBI Crime Data Explorer)

We often think that it’s only the vehicle that a thief wants when they take a car. However, it’s often the other things you keep in your vehicle that also are targets. Items such as GPS units, laptops, and smartphones, are also high on the list of stolen goods.

robber holding laptop inside car
Image Credit: LightField Studios, Shutterstock

10. The Tesla’s Model S is the least likely to be stolen.

(Auto Versed)

A distinguishing feature of a Tesla vehicle is its signature retractable door handles. It makes it more challenging for a would-be thief to get inside the car without drawing attention to themselves. The fact that it’s electric and has a limited range are undoubtedly other reasons why criminals avoid these models.

divider 4

Trends in Car Theft

11. Nearly 40% of motor vehicle thefts occurred at a residence.

(FBI Crime Data Explorer)

It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that a crime won’t occur on your doorstep. Unfortunately, that’s not always the case when it comes to vehicle theft. According to the FBI, offenses committed at a residence are by far the most common places for them to happen.

house with two cars
Image Credit: ArtisticOperations, Pixabay

12. About 22% of motor vehicle thefts occurred in a parking garage or lot.

(FBI Crime Data Explorer)

On the other hand, we often associate car theft with deserted places, such as a parking garage. While it’s the second most common spot, it’s a far cry from our previous statistic. One factor that may deter thieves is the presence of surveillance cameras these places often have to prevent crime.


13. The most common vehicle stolen in 2020 was the 2006 full-size ford pick-up with 44.014 stolen.

(State of California)

You’d think that a high-end luxury car would be at the top of our list. It turns out that it isn’t the case at all. Instead, it’s a workhorse of a vehicle, the 2006 Ford Pick-Up. It’s not surprising, seeing as it’s the best-selling vehicle and has been for years. What had us scratching our heads was the year. However, state trends exist too. The 2000 Honda Civic and 2001 Chevy Silverado get stolen most in California.

Ford F150 Pick up
Image Credit: Pixabay

14. The top 2020 model favored by thieves was the Nissan Altima at 1,732 offenses.

(Insurance Information Institute)

That doesn’t mean that car thieves turn their collective noses away from newer models. That explains the 2020 Nissan Altima’s place on our list. It is nearly half the price of the average new car at $24.995, according to the Kelley Blue Book price. It just goes to show that it’s hard to predict the value of a vehicle on the black market.


15. Thefts most often occur on New Year’s Day with 2,320 reported in 2019.

(Motor Biscuit)

It’s difficult to think that there’s a season or day for crime. Unfortunately, that is the case. New Year’s Day isn’t surprising when you think about it. If someone has celebrated too much, they might be careless about the little things that can protect your ride, like locking it. It’s worth noting that catalytic converter theft also has a pattern. December was the top month in 2020, accounting for over 16% of the offenses.

fire works on new year's eve
Image Credit: Piqsels

divider 4

Frequently Asked Questions About Car Theft

Why is car theft rising?

Undoubtedly, the pandemic has played a part in the increase in crime. The National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) also cites its fallout, such as the lack of juvenile outreach programs, inflation, and unemployment. Many things are outside our control, which makes it even more frustrating.

(National Insurance Crime Bureau)

How are manufacturers responding to the increase in crime?

Manufacturers have stepped up their game in response. The door handles of the Tesla are a perfect example of a simple modification making a difference. Anti-theft devices and GPS tracking are effective deterrents. The object is to make stealing cars a high-risk, low-reward crime.

(Auto Versed)

How can I protect myself from car theft?

Prevention is the best approach. Something as simple as locking your doors and not keeping valuables in your vehicle are common sense ways to avoid crime. You should also pay attention to where you park. Don’t make it easy for a thief to steal your ride unnoticed. The same precaution applies to your choice of vehicle. Stick with ones that have anti-theft technology, such as kill switches.

(National Highway Traffic Safety Administration-Prevention)

hand holding car keys
Image Credit: Pixabay

How can I protect myself from carjacking?

Carjacking is a scary crime that often ends in violence. One of the most effective ways to avoid it is to stay away from places where it’s more likely to occur, such as high-crime neighborhoods. You should also educate yourself about the common tricks criminals use, like a faked accident. The US State Department recommends that you don’t put up a fight. The price of your vehicle isn’t worth it.

(US State Department)

What are other things I can do to protect myself?

Too often, auto theft results in other crimes. For example, leaving a garage door opener in your car can give a thief access to your home. We suggest getting a smart device instead of relying on the standard type. That will provide you with more control over keeping you and your family safe. Staying current with the latest technologies is an excellent way to protect your home and stuff.

divider 4

Conclusion

Being the victim of any crime is upsetting. Even if you get your vehicle back, it’s not unusual for someone to feel violated. After all, a stranger has invaded your private space. However, you can make yourself a less likely target for thieves with commonsense measures and upping your security game with a vehicle that has the latest technology. Always remember that prevention is the best approach.


Featured Image Credit: Daniel Jedzura, Shutterstock

Contents

Related posts

OUR categories

Project ideas

Hand & power tools

woodworking

Garden

Automotive