Facts + Statistics: Auto theft

Motor vehicle theft

The FBI includes the theft or attempted theft of automobiles, trucks, buses, motorcycles, scooters, snowmobiles and other vehicles in its definition of motor vehicle theft. The FBI reports that $7.4 billion was lost to motor vehicle theft in 2020. The average dollar loss per theft was $9,166. In 2020, 810,400 vehicles were stolen, the highest annual number of vehicles stolen since 2008, when 959,059 vehicles were stolen. In 2020, the number of vehicles stolen was up 11.8 percent from 724,872 in 2019. Motor vehicles were stolen at a rate of 246.0 per 100,000 people in 2020, the highest rate since 2009, when the rate was 259.2. The 2020 rate was up from 220.8 in 2019. The National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) counts the pandemic, economic downturn, loss of juvenile outreach programs and public safety budgetary and resource limitations as contributing factors of the motor vehicle increase in 2020.

Vehicle thefts had been trending downward in the 26 years since they peaked at 1.7 million in 1991, falling 56 percent to 724,872 in 2019, according to the FBI. The National Insurance Crime Bureau credits law enforcement efforts, along with the creation of specific antitheft programs, technology and insurance company-supported organizations such as the NICB for contributing to the theft reduction.

Despite the reduction in vehicle thefts over the past two decades, industry observers caution that thieves constantly devise new and sophisticated means of stealing autos. Tactics include acquiring smart keys, which eliminated hot-wiring to steal cars; switching vehicle identification numbers; and using stolen identities to secure loans for expensive vehicles. Also alarming is the finding that there were 229,339 vehicle thefts with keys or fobs left in the vehicles between January 1, 2016 and December 31, 2018. According to the NICB, this represents a 56 percent increase in vehicle thefts with keys or fobs in the vehicle from the 147,434 vehicles stolen in this manner between January 1, 2013 and December 31, 2015. The 2016 to 2018 vehicles stolen works out to 209 vehicles every day during those three years. The top five states with the most thefts with keys or fobs left in the vehicle during this period were California (31,185), Florida (17,300), Texas (15,511), Ohio (12,596) and Nevada (11,391).

The NICB also reports that thefts of catalytic converters, devices that convert the engine's environmentally hazardous exhaust into less harmful gasses, have been rising significantly. In 2018, there were 1,298 catalytic converter thefts reported, more than doubling to 3,389 in 2019. By 2020 they grew more than four-fold, soaring to 14,433 thefts, with December leading the way with 2,347 thefts, or roughly 16 percent of the yearly total. Catalytic converter theft repairs could cost thousands of dollars.

Motor Vehicle Theft, 2011-2020

 

Year Vehicles stolen Percent change
2011 716,508 -3.1%
2012 723,186 0.9
2013 700,288 -3.2
2014 686,803 -1.9
2015 713,063 3.8
2016 767,290 7.6
2017 772,943 0.7
2018 751,904 -2.7
2019 724,872 -3.6
2020 810,400 11.8

Source: U.S. Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Uniform Crime Reports.

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Top 10 U.S. Metropolitan Statistical Areas By Motor Vehicle Theft Rate, 2020

Rank Metropolitan Statistical Area (1) Vehicles stolen Rate (2)
1 Bakersfield, CA  8,161 905.41
2 Yuba City, CA  1,279 724.46
3 Denver-Aurora-Lakewood, CO  21,112 705.80
4 Odessa, TX  1,114 664.28
5 San Francisco-Oakland-Berkeley, CA 30,774 655.20
6 Albuquerque, NM  5,835 631.75
7 Pueblo, CO  1,023 602.39
8 Billings, MT  1,038 564.75
9 St. Joseph, MO-KS  692 564.64
10 Tulsa, OK  5,553 551.76

(1) Metropolitan Statistical Areas are designated by the federal Office of Management and Budget and usually include areas much larger than the cities for which they are named.
(2) Rate of vehicle thefts reported per 100,000 people based on U.S. Census Population Estimates.

Source: National Insurance Crime Bureau.

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  • The Bakersfield, CA, Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) had the highest theft rate in the country for the second consecutive year.
  • Three of the top ten U.S. Metropolitan Statistical Areas for motor vehicle theft measured by theft rates were in California in 2020. Two were in Colorado, and the remainder were in Texas, New Mexico, Montana, Oklahoma, Missouri and Kansas.

Top 10 States With The Most And The Fewest Number Of Motor Vehicle Thefts, 2020

 

Most motor vehicle thefts Fewest motor vehicle thefts
Rank State Vehicles stolen Rank State Vehicles stolen
1 California 168,323 1 Vermont 264
2 Texas 84,276 2 Maine 862
3 Florida 38,271 3 Wyoming 964
4 Colorado 30,452 4 New Hampshire 1,044
5 Washington 27,399 5 Rhode Island 1,509
6 Georgia 25,506 6 Delaware 1665
7 Missouri 24,189 7 Idaho 1,767
8 Illinois 21,332 8 Alaska 1,969
9 Tennessee 21,098 9 North Dakota 2,074
10 North Carolina 20,520 10 West Virginia 2,271

Source: U.S. Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Uniform Crime Reports.

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Motor Vehicle Thefts By State, 2020 (1)

 

State Vehicles stolen State Vehicles stolen
Alabama 10,926 Montana 2,676
Alaska 1,969 Nebraska 5,048
Arizona 17,937 Nevada 10,556
Arkansas 7,933 New Hampshire 1,044
California 168,323 New Jersey 10,278
Colorado 30,452 New Mexico 9,006
Connecticut 8,422 New York 19,656
Delaware 1,665 North Carolina 20,520
D.C. 3,399 North Dakota 2,074
Florida 38,271 Ohio 20,077
Georgia 25,506 Oklahoma 15,047
Hawaii 5,344 Oregon 16,585
Idaho 1,767 Pennsylvania 15,474
Illinois 21,332 Puerto Rico 1,978
Indiana 15,435 Rhode Island 1,509
Iowa 6,235 South Carolina 14,718
Kansas 7,229 South Dakota 2,315
Kentucky 11,497 Tennessee 21,098
Louisiana 12,400 Texas 84,276
Maine 862 Utah 10,288
Maryland 10,469 Vermont 264
Massachusetts 6,835 Virginia 10,853
Michigan 18,385 Washington 27,399
Minnesota 14,146 West Virginia 2,271
Mississippi 6,083 Wisconsin 9,393
Missouri 24,189 Wyoming 964

(1) Includes Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia. Does not include a total for the United States because data in this chart is compiled on a different basis than the national totals released by the FBI.

Source: U.S. Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Uniform Crime Reports.

Motorcycle Thefts, 2019

 

Top five motorcycle makes stolen Top five states by motorcycle thefts Top five cities by motorcycle thefts
Rank Make Thefts Rank State Thefts Rank City Thefts
1  American Honda Motor Co., Inc.  8,122 1  California  6,913 1   New York, NY   1,195
2 Yamaha Motor Corporation  6,495 2 Florida  4,085 2 San Diego, CA  767
3 Harley Davidson, Inc.  4,737 3 Texas  3,165 3 San Francisco, CA  671
4 American Suzuki Motor Corporation  4,686 4 South Carolina 1,601 4 Miami, FL  561
5 Kawasaki Motors Corp., U.S.A.  4,641 5 New York 1,573 5 Los Angeles, CA  534

Source: National Insurance Crime Bureau.

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Most stolen vehicles

The Honda Civic was the most frequently stolen passenger vehicle in 2017, with 45,062 thefts among all model years of this car, according to the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB).  The bureau notes that most of these thefts were older models that lack the anti-theft technology of today’s models.  In fact, there were 6,707 thefts of the 1998 model year Civic, but only 388 of the 2017 Civics. The Honda Accord ranked second, with 43,764 thefts. Among 2017 model year vehicles, the Nissan Altima was the most frequently stolen vehicle in calendar year 2017, with 1,153 thefts, followed by the Toyota Camry with 1,100 thefts.

Top 10 Most Frequently Stolen Vehicles, 2020

 

  All model years (1)     2020 model year vehicles only
Rank Model Thefts Most common
model year stolen
Rank Model Thefts
1 Ford Pick-up (Full size) 44,014 2006 1 Nissan Altima 1,732
2 Chevrolet Pick-up (Full size) 40,968 2004 2 Chevrolet Pick-Up (Full size) 1,447
3 Honda Civic 34,144 2000 3 Toyota Corolla 1,295
4 Honda Accord 30,814 1997 4 Chevrolet Malibu 1,175
5 Toyota Camry 16,915 2019 5 Ram Pick-Up (Full size) 1,118
6 Nissan Altima 14,668 2020 6 Toyota Camry 1,041
7 GMC Pick-up (Full size) 13,016 2005 7 Hyundai Elantra 989
8 Toyota Corolla 12,515 2020 8 Jeep Cherokee/Grand Cherokee 876
9 Honda CR-V 12,309 2000 9 Ford Pick-Up (Full size) 875
10 Dodge Pick-up (Full size) 11,991 2001 10 Dodge Charger 738

(1) Includes all model years for each vehicle.

Source: National Insurance Crime Bureau.

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Holidays Ranked by the Number of Vehicle Thefts, 2019

 

Rank Holiday Number of thefts
1 New Year’s Day 2,320
2 Labor Day 2,222
3 Presidents' Day 2,204
4 New Year’s Eve 2,201
5 Halloween 2,191
6 Valentine’s Day 2,174
7 Memorial Day 2,162
8 Christmas Eve 2,011
9 Independence Day 1,995
10 Thanksgiving 1,683
11 Christmas Day 1,580

Source: National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB).

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