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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)
- Motor scooters
- All-terrain vehicles (ATVs)
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:
Motor vehicle thefts
Percent (%) change
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:
Motor vehicle thefts
Rate per 100,000 people
|3||St. Joseph, Mo.-Kan.||770||614.90|
|7||Yuba City, Calif.||959||546.01|
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:
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:
|1||American Honda Motor Co., Inc.||8,260|
|2||Yamaha Motor Corporation||6,655|
|3||American Suzuki Motor Corporation||4,882|
|4||Kawasaki Motors Corp., U.S.A.||4,861|
|5||Harley Davidson, Inc.||4,769|
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:
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:
|10||Jeep Cherokee/Grand Cherokee||9,818|
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).