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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 52%. Motor vehicle theft cases dropped from 1.5 million in 1991 to 727,921 in 2020. 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 2017 and 2019, there were 244,845 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 during each year from 1991 to 2020:
Motor vehicle thefts
Percent (%) change
Only comprehensive 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 U.S. compared to the East and Northeast. Based on 2020 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
|6||San Francisco-Oakland-Berkeley, CA||28,575||604.2|
|7||Yuba City, CA||1,039||594.2|
|8||Salt Lake City, UT||6,785||544.4|
There's 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 2020:
Based on the data shown above, California is by far the state with the most motor vehicle thefts, whereas Vermont has the fewest motor vehicle thefts in the nation. Even adjusted for population, California's rate of vehicle thefts, 42.8 per 10,000 residents, is 10 times that of Vermont.
When looking at vehicle ownership statistics, there are 77 registered vehicles per 100 people in California, with Vermont considerably ahead at 97 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.
Cost of motor vehicle theft
With motor vehicle theft comes billions of dollars lost each year. In 2020, approximately $7.4 billion was lost to thieves as a result of motor vehicle theft in the U.S. The average loss per stolen vehicle was $9,166. 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 630,000 thefts per year.
Motorcycle theft statistics
In 2020, there were 46,467 motorcycle thefts across the U.S. Based on the data, the most stolen bikes in 2020 were from Honda, followed by Yamaha in second place.
Furthermore, the state with the highest number of motorcycle thefts in 2020 was California.
Based on the most recent data on cities, from 2019, New York had 56% more motorcycle thefts than the No. 2 city, San Diego.
Statistics for the most stolen vehicles
According to 2020 statistics on auto theft in the U.S., the most stolen cars were Ford full-size pickups, which include all makes and models of the car. The table below shows the top 10 most stolen vehicles in 2020:
|1||Ford full-size pickup||44,014|
|2||Chevrolet full-size pickup||40,968|
|7||GMC full-size pickup||13,016|
|10||Dodge full-size pickup||11,991|
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 National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).