For many people, a vehicle is their second most expensive purchase behind buying a home. Unfortunately, auto thefts have risen in the last few years due to several factors, including the pandemic, economic problems, and law enforcement realignment.
While you can’t prevent every theft, it makes sense that you’d take reasonable precautions to prevent your car from being stolen. You might even decide on your next car based on how likely a thief is to try to steal it.
Below we look at some of the most stolen vehicles in the country, trends in vehicle theft, and practical ways you can prevent your car from being taken.
- Chevrolet full-size pickups topped the list of most-stolen vehicles in 2021, moving the Ford full-size pickup to second place.
- There were 880,595 vehicle thefts across the U.S. in 2020, up from 794,019 in 2019.
- In 2020, Japanese model sedans claimed six of the ten spots available for the most stolen cars.
- A car was stolen every 36 seconds in 2020.
- Chevy pickups saw the highest uptick in thefts, rising 26% in 2020 from 2019.
- Honda vehicles made in the 1990s are popular among car thieves because they were some of the last models without anti-theft devices installed.
The ten most stolen vehicles in 2021
1. Chevrolet pickup (full size)
2. Ford pickup (full size)
3. Honda Civic
4. Honda Accord
5. Toyota Camry
6. GMC pickup (full size)
7. Nissan Altima
8. Honda CR-V
9. Jeep Cherokee/Grand Cherokee
10. Toyota Corolla
Source: National Insurance Crime Bureau Hot Wheels Report
1. Older model pickups are easier targets for thieves
Coming in at the top of the list, the Chevy full-size pickup was stolen 48,206 times in 2021. The model year that was stolen the most was 2004. The GMC full-size pickup was the sixth most stolen vehicle, with 15,599.
While the Dodge full-size pickup didn’t make the 2021 list, it took the last spot at number 10 in 2020. There were 11,991 full-size Dodge pickup trucks stolen in the U.S. in 2020, a 6.2% increase from 2019. The most popularly stolen model was from 2001, the oldest truck model on the list.
While there’s no definitive reason why trucks are stolen more often than other vehicles, it might come down to their popular use as work vehicles. In that capacity, they don't typically have the trim levels that would include common safety and anti-theft features that trucks purchased for leisure or recreation often have. There were 11 million trucks sold in the U.S. in 2020; in 2021, truck sales accounted for 78% of the approximately 15 million light vehicles sold.
TipOlder trucks and cars may be popular targets because they lack the anti-theft technology that is in newer vehicles.
Source: National Insurance Crime Bureau Hot Wheels Report, Motor Biscuit, Statista
2. Ford full-size pickup was the second-most stolen vehicle in 2021
Number two on the list of most stolen cars in 2021 was the Ford full-size pickup truck, and it topped the list of the most stolen vehicles in the U.S. the two previous years. There were 44,014 thefts in 2020, an increase of 13% from 2019.
Ford F-150 has been the best-selling vehicle in the U.S. since 1982, so it’s not surprising that it’s also one of the most stolen. The 2006 F-150 model was the most frequently stolen in 2020, possibly because it had fewer factory-installed anti-theft devices, like electronic vehicle immobilizers, now found in newer vehicle models.
Source: National Insurance Crime Bureau Hot Wheels Report, Motor Biscuit, Canadian Underwriter
3. Honda is the most stolen manufacturer on the top ten list
Honda had three of the most stolen car models on the 2021 list. There were 31,673 Honda Civics taken in 2021, which earned the brand third place in the rankings. The Honda Accord came in at number four, with 30,274 of these vehicles swiped, and the Honda CR-V was number eight, with 13,308 vehicles taken.
The most commonly stolen model of Civic and CR-V was from 2000, while the most commonly stolen Accord was from 1997.
While these cars prove popular among commuters and families, they are also clearly popular with thieves.
WarningIf you drive one of these vehicles and live in a high-theft area, you may wind up paying more for car insurance, so it's important to keep that in mind as you search for the best car insurance rates in your area.
Source: National Insurance Crime Bureau Hot Wheels Report, Autoinsurance.org
4. Nissan Altima is one of six Japanese models commonly stolen
The Nissan Altima was number seven on the NICB’s list. In 2021, 14,108 of these vehicles were stolen, and the 2020 model proved to be the most popular among thieves, one of just a few newer model vehicles to appear on the top ten list.
According to automotive media brand Motorbiscuit, theft of the newer models may be partly due to a relay attack, where a device is used to pick up the signal from a key fob to the vehicle. If a thief can get close enough to a house to pick up the key fob signal with the handheld device, they can transmit that signal to the car. Once the car identifies the signal as legitimate, the thieves can unlock the doors, remotely start the car, or perform other commands.
Source: National Insurance Crime Bureau Hot Wheels Report, Motor Biscuit
5. Two Toyota models top the list in popularity and vehicle theft
Toyota has produced two of the best-selling cars in the world, which makes them a popular target for thieves. The Corolla became the best-selling car in history in 1997, and in July 2021, Toyota announced that the ten millionth Camry had been produced at a plant in Kentucky.
The Toyota Camry came in at number five on the list of most stolen cars in 2021, while the Corolla ranked at number 10. In 2021, 17,270 Camrys were stolen, and 12,927 Corollas were stolen in the U.S. The most commonly stolen model was the 2007 (Camry) and 2020 (Corolla).
Source: National Insurance Crime Bureau Hot Wheels Report, Kelly Blue Book, Toyota
6. Washington D.C., Colorado, and California led auto thefts in 2020
The highest theft rates, by population, in 2020 were in the nation’s capital and several western states. Washington D.C. had the highest theft rates (562.98 out of 100,00 residents), a 40% increase over 2019. Colorado came in second, with a theft rate of 502.12, or roughly 37% from 2019. California came in third, with a theft rate of 475.24.
Other states in the top ten included Missouri (453.63), New Mexico (426.19), Oregon (385.08), Oklahoma (371.28), Washington (368.46), Nevada (365.84), and Kansas (325.28).
California leads the states in total thefts, with 187,094 across the entire state. Texas came in second, with 93,521 thefts, and Flordia was third with 44,940. The combined totals of all three accounted for 37% of all national thefts.
Source: National Insurance Crime Bureau Hot Spots Report
7. Vermont has the lowest number of 2020 vehicle thefts
Vermont leads the pack of states with the fewest vehicle thefts in 2020. The Green Mountain State only had 264 vehicles reported stolen in 2020. At a distant second place was Maine, with 862 vehicles taken, and Wyoming came in third with 964 vehicles stolen.
New Hampshire and Rhode Island rounded out the top five with 1,044 and 1,509, respectively. Delaware (1,665), Idaho (1,767), Alaska (1,969), North Dakota (2,074), and West Virginia (2,271) completed the top ten states with the fewest number of vehicle thefts in 2020.
Source: National Insurance Crime Bureau Hot Spots Report, Insurance Information Institute
8. Puerto Rico saw the biggest decline in car thefts in 2020
Although there was an overall increase in car thefts in 2020, some places saw a decline. Puerto Rico had the largest theft decrease, with 1,894 fewer thefts from 2019 to 2020. Florida saw a decline of 1,525 car thefts, even though they were third in the nation for overall thefts. Georgia came in third, with 939 fewer vehicle thefts, followed by Alabama and Nevada, with 916 and 688 fewer thefts, respectively.
Completing the list was Maryland with a decline of 471, New Mexico with 414, Alaska with 407, New Jersey with 218 fewer losses, and West Virginia, which declined by 141.
Source: National Insurance Crime Bureau Hot Spots Report
9. Vehicle thefts are trending upward but still under the 1990s peak
Although cities across the country are seeing a surge in car thefts, the past 26 years have seen a decrease in vehicle thefts overall, down as much as 56% from 1991 to 2019. There were 1.7 million auto thefts at the peak in 1991, down to only 724,872 in 2019.
Past motor vehicle theft data shows that from 2011 to 2020, there were decreases in thefts or only minor upticks. For example, in 2011, car thefts were down 3.1%, for 716,508 vehicles stolen. In 2012, numbers were up slightly, .9%, or 723,186 total stolen. In 2020, thefts were up 11.8%, or 810,400 total.
Source: Insurance Information Institute
10. Keys left in the car led to 229,339 vehicle thefts between 2016 and 2018
Of the 2.2 million cars stolen between 2016 and 2018, 229,339 thefts happened because keys or fobs were accessible in the car. This is a 56% increase for this type of theft from prior periods and works out to 209 vehicles stolen daily during the three years. The top five states with thefts due to keys or fobs left in the car were California (31,185), Florida (17,300), Texas (15,511), Ohio (12,596), and Nevada (11,391).
According to NCIB, 376,773 vehicles were stolen between 2013 and 2018 because either keys or keyless entry fobs were left in the car, an increase of 88% from previous years.
WarningIt is believed that leaving the vehicle unattended to warm it up played a part in these thefts since most of them happened in the winter, with December and January having the most reported thefts.
Source: Insurance Information Institute, National Insurance Crime Bureau
11. Motor vehicle thefts amounted to $7.4 billion in 2020
According to the FBI, $7.4 billion was lost in 2020 to motorized vehicle theft (which includes cars, trucks, motorcycles, ATVs, buses, scooters, snowmobiles, and others), up from $6.4 billion in 2019, and an 11.8% increase.
Each theft resulted in an average dollar loss of $9,166, according to the Insurance Information Institute (III). In 2020, vehicles were stolen at a rate of 246.0 per 100,000 people, the highest rate since 2009, when it was 259.2.
In 2019 there were 724,872 estimated vehicle thefts, compared to 810,400 in 2020. This is the highest number of vehicles stolen since 2008 when 959,059 were taken. There has been a 16.5% increase in car thefts from 2019 to 2021.
Source: National Insurance Crime Bureau, Insurance Information Institute, Federal Bureau of Investigation
12. Catalytic converter thefts increased to 14,433 in 2020
According to NICB, in 2018, there were 1,298 catalytic converter thefts, which more than doubled in 2019 when there were 3,389. In 2020, thefts exploded further to 14,433, with 2,347 converters stolen in December 2020 alone, nearly 16% of the yearly total in one month.
From the middle of 2020 to the middle of 2021, catalytic converter theft grew 293% nationwide according to data on the number of claims filed by customers of insurance company State Farm, resulting in more than $33.7 million in claims paid to customers.
Source: National Insurance Crime Bureau, State Farm Insurance Company
13. Some large cities experienced a triple-digit increase in carjackings
The NCIB states that carjackings, which are either motor vehicle thefts that include violent confrontation or the perceived threat of violence that could cause serious bodily injury or death, have risen dramatically from 2019 to 2021. Some of the most significant increases occurred in New York (up 286%), Philadelphia (238% increase), Washington, D.C (up 200%), and New Orleans (up 159%).
This is in line with rising violent crime overall, up 5.6% between 2019 and 2020, although property crime decreased by 7.8% during the same period. Between 2019 and 2020, murders increased by 29.4%, although compared to 1991 peaks, reported violent crime was still down 49.2% in 2020.
Source: National Insurance Crime Bureau, USA Facts Crime & Justice
14. Two California cities saw the highest auto theft rate in 2020
Bakersfield and Yuba City, California, had the highest auto theft rates per metropolitan statistical area. Bakersfield was number one for the second year (2019 and 2020) and had a theft rate of 905.41 per 100,000 residents. Yuba City was second, with a rate of 724.46 per 100,000. Coming in third was Denver, Colorado, with a theft rate of 705.80.
Odessa, Texas, and San Francisco, California rounded out the top five with theft rates of 664.28 and 655.20, respectively. Alburquerque, New Mexico (theft rate of 631.75), Pueblo, Colorado (602.39), Billings, Montana (564.75), St. Joseph, Missouri (564.64), and Tulsa, Oklahoma (551.76) completed the top ten list.
Source: National Insurance Crime Bureau Hot Wheels Report
15. Motorcycle thefts are at a record high
Motorcycle thefts are also on the rise, with 2020 seeing a 30% higher theft rate than 2019, or 13,000 more bikes stolen during that time. According to NCIB, the top ten motorcycle manufacturers sold in the U.S. account for 80% of all thefts. Honda leads the pack with 11,030 stolen in 2020, followed by Yamaha with 8,621 and Kawasaki at 6,340.
Most thefts occur during summer, especially in August (6,214) and July (5,855 thefts). February has the fewest bikes stolen (2,701), which means that weather and opportunity play a large part in the crime.
Source: National Insurance Crime Bureau
16. California, Texas, and Florida saw the highest motorcycle theft rates
In 2020, 53,111 motorcycles were stolen, compared to 40,830 in 2019 or 46,467 in 2016.
Less than half of motorcycles, or 42%, are recovered when stolen. Motorcycles are expensive and often difficult to store securely, especially in public places or when parked on the street. California had the highest theft rates, with 9,483 bikes stolen, followed by Texas at 4,448 and Florida at 4,223.
Source: National Insurance Crime Bureau
How to lower the risk of your vehicle being stolen
Although it seems like thieves always have a new way of stealing a car, the National Insurance Crime Bureau offers some tips to help reduce the likelihood that your car becomes the next statistic. Some of these solutions are free or relatively cheap, while others may involve additional costs to ensure your vehicle is secure.
- Common sense is the easiest and most cost-effective way to prevent your car from being stolen. This might include:
- Not leaving your keys in the ignition
- Locking your doors and closing your windows
- Parking in well-lit areas when in public
- Parking your car in a garage or secured location if possible
- Removing valuables from your vehicle
- Warning devices can be both visual and audible, letting thieves know your vehicle is protected. Some popular devices include
- Audible alarms, either factory-installed or aftermarket
- Steering column collars, which prevent the steering wheel from turning
- Brake and brake pedal locks
- Wheel locks
- Theft-deterrent decals
- VIN etching, so your vehicle identification number can’t be easily removed or replaced
- Micro dot marking
- Immobilization devices prevent thieves from hot-wiring or otherwise moving your car. These may include:
- Smart keys, which may have a computer chip in the fob that prevents the car from being hot-wired
- Fuse cut-offs
- Kill switches
- Starter, ignition, or fuel pump disablers
- Wireless ignition authentication through an app or fob
- Tracking Devices can offer a final layer of protection and may notify the police or a monitoring service if your car is stolen. These may include:
- GPS or onboard vehicle monitoring, which may help the police recover your car faster
- Telematics devices combine GPS and wireless technology, which monitor your vehicle remotely. The device can alert the police and the owner when the car is moved and provide its location.
It’s important to note that comprehensive car insurance should help cover the theft of a car, car parts like a catalytic converter, or any damage done in an attempted theft, like broken windows or door locks. A lender usually requires comprehensive coverage if you lease or have financed your vehicle, but it may be optional in your state if you own your car.
TipRemember that comprehensive coverage limits are usually for your car’s depreciated value (often called the actual cash value). If you file an insurance claim for a stolen car, you’ll likely see a check for the current, depreciated value of your car (or your policy limit, whichever is lower), minus your deductible, rather than what you paid to purchase the car.
Car and motorcycle thefts can be frustrating. They are highly inconvenient and can cost you a lot of time, money, and mental anguish to file a police report and insurance claim.
While you can’t necessarily prevent someone from stealing your vehicle, there are things you can do to lower the chances of your vehicle being stolen. Use common sense and ensure you leave your vehicle in a secure, well-lit space, use installed alarm features and anti-theft devices, and most importantly, lock your doors and keep your keys with you.
1. National Insurance Crime Bureau - Chevrolet and Ford Full Size pickups Most Stolen Vehicles For Second Year in a Row
2. National Insurance Crime Bureau - 2020 Hot Spots
3. National Insurance Crime Bureau - 2021 HW Takeaways
4. National Insurance Crime Bureau - NCIB Releases Annual ‘Hot Wheels’ Report: America's Ten Most Stolen Vehicles
5. National Insurance Crime Bureau - 2021 HW pickup Thefts By State
6. Kelley Blue Book - Ford F-150 Tops the List of Most-Stolen Cars
7. Motor Biscuit - This Dodge Ram Model Year Has a Surprising Problem You Should Know About
8. Canadian Underwriter - Why thieves Love the Older Models of Ford Pickup Trucks
9. Statista - U.S. Light Truck Retail Sales from 1980 to 2021
10. AutoInsurance.org - Will Auto Insurance Pay Me if My Car is Stolen?
11. Motor Biscuit - Why Are So Many Nissan Altimas Stolen?
12. Kelley Blue Book - Best-Selling Car in History: Toyota Sells 50 Millionth Corolla
13. Toyota Newsroom - Toyota Celebrates Production on 10 Millionth Camry in Kentucky
14. National Insurance Crime Bureau - 2020 Hottest States for Auto Theft by Theft Rate
15. Insurance Information Institute - Facts + Statistics: Auto Theft
16. National Insurance Crime Bureau - 2020 States and Territories with Declining Thefts
17. National Insurance Crime Bureau - Thefts of Vehicles with Keys Left Inside Continue to Rise
18. Federal Bureau of Investigation - 2019 Crime in the United States
19. National Insurance Crime Bureau - Catalytic Converter Thefts Skyrocket Across the Nation
20. State Farm Newsroom - Auto Claims Analysis Reveals Explosion In Catalytic Converter Theft
21. National Insurance Crime Bureau - NCIB Testifies Before Senate Judiciary Committee on Unprecedented Rise in Auto Thefts, Carjackings
22. USA Facts
23. National Insurance Crime Bureau - 2020 Hittest Spots for Auto Thefts by Theft Rate Cities
24. National Insurance Crime Bureau - Motorcycle Thefts Surge by 30 Percent in 2020
25. National Insurance Crime Bureau - Top 10 Most Stolen Vehicles By State 2020
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