Auto Insurance

The 10 Worst Cities For Auto Theft

The 10 Worst Cities For Auto Theft

We surveyed 326 metropolitan statistical areas (MSAs) to find out which cities had the highest rates of auto theft. Across the cities we looked at, there were 646,719 vehicles stolen in 2016, amounting to a national average of 266 thefts per 100,000 residents. However some regions were particularly prone to high rates of auto theft, with all of the top 10 worst cities for auto theft being located in western states.
Rush hour traffic jam on the freeway
Rush hour traffic jam on the freeway Source: Getty Images

Cities With the Highest Auto Theft Rates

1. Albuquerque, New Mexico

1,018 thefts per 100,000 residents

Albuquerque is the largest city in New Mexico and has the highest rate of auto theft in the country. The ABQ's auto theft rate is over four times greater than that of Santa Fe. And in 2016 there were more car thefts in Albuquerque than there were in the Baltimore, Maryland, metropolitan area, which has more than three times the population.

2. Pueblo, Colorado

810 thefts per 100,000 residents

Pueblo, Colorado, has one of the highest rates of car theft in the country, at more than 200% greater than the national average. Furthermore, according to our study, drivers in Pueblo are 75% more likely to have their car stolen those in Denver — which ranked as the city with the second-highest rate of auto thefts in Colorado.

3. Bakersfield, California

732 thefts per 100,000 residents

Though there are 11 California MSAs in the top 20 worst cities for auto theft, Bakersfield had the highest theft rate in the state. Bakersfield's theft rate is 74% higher than that of the nearby Los Angeles and 13% higher than Modesto, which had the next highest rate in California.

4. Anchorage, Alaska

679 thefts per 100,000 residents

Anchorage is the largest and most densely populated city in Alaska, with approximately 300,000 residents living in and around the city. It is also home to the state's largest airport, Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport, and major Alaskan thoroughfares, the Seward and Glenn highways. Anchorage's auto theft rate was more than 155% greater than the national average.

5. Modesto, California

648 thefts per 100,000 residents

Located in California's central valley, Modesto is known as a hub for agriculture and as the setting for the Academy Award-nominated film "American Graffiti." In 2016 there were roughly 3,500 car thefts in the metropolitan area, making Modesto's auto theft rate 77% higher than nearby Sacramento's.

6. San Francisco, California

602 thefts per 100,000 residents

San Francisco is one of the most densely populated cities in the U.S. and, as such, has a variety of public transit options, which include the Muni and the BART. However, in the city, there are still plenty of car owners, as San Francisco also has one of the highest rates of auto theft in the nation. In 2016, there were 96 more cars stolen in San Francisco per 100,000 residents than there were in nearby San Jose.

7. Salt Lake City, Utah

590 thefts per 100,000 residents

Salt Lake City is the most populous city in Utah, with nearly 1.2 million people living in the SLC metropolitan area. The city has one of the highest rates of car theft in the country and by far the highest in Utah. In fact, of the Utah MSAs we surveyed, SLC is the only one to have a theft rate greater than the national average.

8. Salinas, California

580 thefts per 100,000 residents

Salinas — known as the Salad Bowl of the World — has long struggled with crime, which some have theorized is a result of its proximity to the Salinas Valley State Prison. Salinas' auto theft rate is 15% higher than that of nearby San Jose.

9. Seattle, Washington

560 thefts per 100,000 residents

The Seattle area is the largest MSA in the Pacific Northwest, with 3.8 million residents — 1.3 million more residents than nearby Portland, Oregon. This city also had a theft rate 44% greater than that of Portland (560 thefts per 100,000 residents for Seattle compared to 390 per 100,000 for Portland).

10. Spokane, Washington

541 thefts per 100,000 residents

Located on the opposite side of Washington State from Seattle and just 18 miles south of the Canada‒U.S. border is the city of Spokane. This city's auto theft rate is over three times higher than that of nearby Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, and more than twice the national average.

Breakdown of the Worst Cities for Auto Theft by Region

A Chart of the Average Theft Rate For Cities In Each Region in the U.S.

According to our study, auto thefts vary greatly by region, with western cities having the highest theft rate — averaging 336 thefts per 100,000 residents. On the other end of the spectrum, northeastern cities averaged only 85 thefts per 100,000 residents, which is 68% less than the national average.

Five worst cities in each region for auto theft

Western States Also Have the Highest Theft Rates by Registered Vehicles

Though it is true that generally Western cities have a higher proportion of car owners than other parts of the country — which could contribute to their higher theft rate — even when you adjust for vehicle registration, Western states rank as having the highest rate of auto theft. In other words, even when you account for the fact that the West has a higher proportion of drivers, it still ranks as the worst region for car theft. The five states with the highest rate of theft relative to vehicle registration are located in the Western region.

Chart of the Top 5 States With the Highest Rate of Auto Theft

How Comprehensive Coverage Can Protect You From Car Theft

Having an auto insurance policy that includes comprehensive insurance helps protect you in the event that your car is stolen. This coverage will pay to replace your vehicle if it is stolen. It also covers repairs for damage caused by natural disasters, fire and falling objects.

If your car is stolen, comprehensive coverage can pay to replace your car up to its market value minus your deductible — which is the amount you have to pay for a covered claim before your insurance kicks in. Choosing a high deductible will result in lower premiums, however, if your vehicle is stolen you will have to pay more out of pocket to replace it.

Purchasing a car insurance policy that includes comprehensive coverage will be more expensive than a policy that only includes basic liability coverage. However, the actual cost will depend on a variety of factors — such as what vehicle you're insuring and which insurance company you go with.

To get the lowest car insurance rates, we recommend that you shop around and compare quotes from multiple companies. Additionally, where you live can have a large effect on your rates. For example, if you live in an area with a high rate of auto theft, you are likely to pay more for comprehensive coverage than those living in areas with a low theft rate.

Complete List of Cities and Their Auto Theft Rates


2016 thefts
Thefts per 100,000 residents
155Abilene, TX M.S.A.298175
197Akron, OH M.S.A.1,013144
270Albany-Schenectady-Troy, NY M.S.A.72082
195Albany, GA M.S.A.220144
121Albany, OR M.S.A.257211
1Albuquerque, NM M.S.A.9,2351,018
69Alexandria, LA M.S.A.485315
317Altoona, PA M.S.A.5544
41Amarillo, TX M.S.A.1,027390
262Ames, IA M.S.A.8587
4Anchorage, AK M.S.A.2,143679
220Ann Arbor, MI M.S.A.438121
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We compiled vehicle theft data for 326 metropolitan statistical areas from the FBI's Uniform Crime Reporting Program for the most recent year data was available. Population figures are based on data from the U.S. Census Bureau. We excluded those areas that were determined by the FBI to be under- or overreporting thefts. Vehicle registration data for each state was collected from the Bureau of Transportation.