2021 Motor Vehicle Theft Statistics

2021 Motor Vehicle Theft Statistics

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By owning a motor vehicle, one is always at risk of the vehicle being stolen. The FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting Program lists the following vehicles as motor vehicles:

  • Sport utility vehicles (SUVs)
  • Automobiles
  • Trucks
  • Buses
  • Motorcycles
  • Motor scooters
  • All-terrain vehicles (ATVs)
  • Snowmobiles

Vehicles such as airplanes, boats and construction or farming equipment are not included in the FBI’s definition of motor vehicle theft.

Historical motor vehicle theft statistics

Since 1991, the overall level of motor vehicle theft has decreased by 55%. Motor vehicle theft cases dropped from nearly 1.7 million in 1991 to 748,841 in 2018. This could be attributed to a wide array of causes, such as better technology in vehicles that makes them harder to access for thieves, or increased focus and improved methods from law enforcement to prevent thefts from occurring.

On the other hand, accidents can happen — drivers forget their keys in their vehicles, for example. This has been a large contributor in recent years to the number of stolen vehicles. Between 2016 and 2018, there were 229,339 cases of vehicle theft as a result of keys simply being left in vehicles. This statistic is on an upward trend, having risen consistently since 2013.

The table below shows the total number of motor vehicle thefts in the nation since 1991:

Year
Motor vehicle thefts
Percent (%) change
2018748,841-3.1%
2017772,9430.7%
2016767,2907.6%
2015713,0633.8%
2014686,803-1.9%
2013700,288-3.2%
2012723,1860.9%
2011716,508-3.1%
2010739,565-7.0%
2009795,652-17.0%
2008959,059-12.9%
20071,100,472-8.2%
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Only comprehensive car insurance covers auto theft, so many people lose the full value of their cars, as the majority don’t have full coverage.

Geographical motor vehicle theft statistics

Research shows that motor vehicle theft is much more common in the Western half of the U.S. compared to the East and Northeast. Based on 2019 statistics, the 10 metropolitan statistical areas with the highest rates of motor vehicle theft are as follows:

Rank
Location
Motor vehicle thefts
Rate per 100,000 people
1Bakersfield, Calif.6,538726.28
2Albuquerque, N.M.6,399697.05
3St. Joseph, Mo.-Kan.770614.90
4Modesto, Calif.3,156573.13
5Odessa, Texas946569.11
6Topeka, Kan.1,293557.40
7Yuba City, Calif.959546.01
8Merced, Calif.1,483534.07
9Yakima, Wash.1,325528.16
10Springfield, Mo.2,420514.57
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The above table shows that there is a high rate of motor vehicle theft occurring in the western U.S., which aligns with the number of motor vehicle thefts across states. The following table breaks down motor vehicle thefts by state in 2018:

Rank (high)
State
Vehicles stolen
Rank (low)
State
Vehicles stolen
1California155,211
2Texas69,817
3Florida41,165
4Washington27,677
5Georgia24,760
6Colorado21,673
7Tennessee20,439
8Ohio19,909
9Missouri19,815
10Illinois19,593
11Arizona19,139
12North Carolina17,632
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Based on the data shown above, California is by far the state with the most motor vehicle thefts, whereas Vermont has the least motor vehicle thefts in the nation. Taking into account the population of both states, California had a motor vehicle theft rate of 0.004% in 2018, whereas Vermont had a rate of 0.0004% — approximately 10 times fewer motor vehicle thefts per capita.

When looking at vehicle ownership statistics, there are 37 registered vehicles per 100 people in California, with Vermont not far behind, at 34.9 registered vehicles per 100 people. **This shows that the population and vehicle ownership in both states aren’t factors to be considered when seeing the disparity of motor vehicle thefts across each state. **

Consequences of motor vehicle theft

With motor vehicle theft comes billions of dollars lost each year. In 2016, approximately $5.9 billion were lost to thieves as a result of motor vehicle theft in the U.S. The average loss per stolen vehicle was $7,680. This can be detrimental to the average car owner, as only those with comprehensive car insurance are covered in the case of a stolen vehicle.

Although motor vehicle theft has been on the decline since 1991, it has remained relatively steady since 2009, with the rate fluctuating between years but remaining above 700,000 thefts per year, with the exception of 2014’s historic low (since 1991) of 686,803 thefts.

Motorcycle theft statistics

In 2018, there were 41,674 motorcycle thefts across the U.S. Based on the data, the most stolen motorcycles in 2018 were from the following companies:

Rank
Motorcycle company
Motorcycles stolen
1American Honda Motor Co., Inc.8,260
2Yamaha Motor Corporation6,655
3American Suzuki Motor Corporation4,882
4Kawasaki Motors Corp., U.S.A.4,861
5Harley Davidson, Inc.4,769
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Furthermore, the state with the highest number of motorcycle thefts in 2018 was California. However, the city with the highest number of motorcycle thefts was New York City, having twice the number of motorcycle thefts as the runner up, Los Angeles.

Displayed below are the full list of states and the top five cities in terms of most motorcycle thefts:

Rank
State
Motorcycle thefts
1California7,035
2Florida4,279
3Texas3,073
4New York1,777
5South Carolina1,743
6North Carolina1,466
7Indiana1,229
8Missouri1,194
9Georgia1,174
10Colorado1,109
11Washington962
12Pennsylvania960
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Rank
City
Motorcycle thefts
1New York1,310
2Los Angeles628
3Miami595
4Las Vegas540
5San Diego527
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Statistics for the most stolen vehicles

According to 2018 statistics on auto theft in the U.S., the most stolen car was the Honda Civic, which includes all makes and models of the car. The most stolen 2018 car model was the GMC full-size pickup.

The table below shows the top 10 most stolen vehicles in 2018, as well as the top 10 most stolen 2018 models within the same year:

Rank
Car
Number stolen
Rank
Car (2018 models)
Number stolen
1Honda Civic38,4261GMC pickup1,170
2Honda Accord36,8152Ford pickup1,017
3Ford pickup36,3553Toyota Camry976
4Chevrolet pickup31,5664Nissan Altima912
5Toyota Camry16,9065Chevrolet pickup790
6Nissan Altima13,2846Hyundai Elantra775
7Toyota Corolla12,3887Ford Transit723
8GMC pickup11,7088Dodge Charger719
9Dodge pickup11,2269Toyota Corolla699
10Jeep Cherokee/Grand Cherokee9,81810Chevrolet Malibu698
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Methodology

The analysis above was created using a combination of motor theft rates from a variety of databases and sources. This includes the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) crime statistics yearly wrap-up, the Insurance Information Institute (III) and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

Nafis Zaman is an intern at ValuePenguin who has had various roles on the insurance and mortgage teams. He is currently attending New York University for a bachelors degree in Computer Science.

Editorial Note: The content of this article is based on the author’s opinions and recommendations alone. It has not been previewed, commissioned or otherwise endorsed by any of our network partners.